AP Q & A

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Here is a post from an Au Pair on aupairmom.com
How should an Au Pair handle travelling with the Host Family, for 5 weeks?
by CV HARQUAIL

Au Pair Somebody posed this question on a different post, and I’m repositioning it here, along with the responses from the APM community. Please join the conversation!

Well this is my situation and I am so pissed off because it took me by surprise!

My host family decided to move from Colorado to Virginia in road trip. We are suppossed to leave colorado the first week of June. I did not know this as it just happened suddenly as a better job opportunity for my host family.

I have 2 months left to finish my 2 years as an ua pair and I had practically planned my travel months already.

My concern — what makes me angry — is that they not only told me this when I had everything booked, but also they told me that they “hope” I can pay for my own hotel room and have one of the kids with me while we are on our way to Virginia. It is going to be aprox. 5 weeks travelling because they want also to sightsee the national plarks around and have me on duty.

Also, 5 months ago we went on a family trip to Utah for vacation. I did not really work but I helped some with stuff. I had to share my room with one of the boys and pay 30% of the room cost. Was that fair? Can I still complain…? about the flexibility PFFFF hahaha what does that word mean? I think flexibility only works for host families we ap or at leats me are treated like slaves, I am pretty sure that If my host mom could have me working 24/7 she would do it… dont even ask about extra payment.. that is a paralel universe for me

I can not consider rematch because no family will want an au pair for 55 days, I do not know what to do and I do not think is fair to pay for my hotel room when I will vto work, we will not be on family vacactions, I will share room with the kids, I have almost all my flights and hotels for my travel month booked, my flight back home already booked, and I still have a vacation week left to take.

Please how can I wisely deal with my horrible situation?

LuvCheetos:
I’d call your LCC. They have an obligation to provide you with housing. Presumably, if they have no house and are living in a hotel, they need to provide you with a room.

Dorsi:

I would never consider having the AP pay for any portion of housing unless the trip was truly optional. In 4 years of hosting, I can’t think of a single instance where it would have been fair for them to contribute to the cost — and I have travelled a lot with the APs.

What somebody describes is really unfair. I hope the LCC can help her sort it out, though I would worry that a family that would do that (and hasn’t been so kind, according to your description) would elect to just finish the program early and not worry about you.

HRHM:
So this trip and the UT thing are 2 totally different cases. In the UT trip, it was a vacation week for you, you knew that when you decided to go and I presume they told you before you got to UT that you would need to pay your own way? As far as the HC sharing your room and you getting some money for that, I would assume that that was negotiated as well? I would say you had a choice to say no, I’ll pay for the whole room and have it to myself, or if you want HC to stay with me, we need to split 50/50 (or 66/33 if 2 kids with AP). If these things didn’t happen this way, it was likely due to you not asking for what you needed. I understand the imbalance of power in the relationship, but you can’t expect to get something unless you ask for it, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

As for the move, I agree that it is pretty lousy to tell you about this move after you’ve made final travel arrangements. Hopefully they really didn’t know about it until it was too late to accomodate your flights. If this is the case, and they can afford it, it would be nice if they helped you changed your flights and tried to cover the cost difference.

If they want you to work during this 5 week trip, they are obligated to provide you with a place to live. Not only do they have to pay for your hotel, but technically, the state department rules require that the Au Pair has her own room. I wouldn’t nit pick this detail normally on vacation, but 5 weeks is a long time to have no privacy. If I were you, I would also get a written schedule in advance since it is very easy to fall into the trap of not being on duty but being expected to help 24/7 because you are there.

Talk to your LCC

TACL:
I agree with you – if they are asking you to work during the move, then they should pay for the hotel room. If they cannot afford to bring you along, then they should make other arrangements (e.g. pay for your flight from Colorado to Virgina). They absolutely cannot ask you to pay for your room and have you share it with a child!

Sit down with them after the kids have gone to bed and negotiate. Don’t whine, calmly explain that you do not have the resources to pay for hotel fees for 5 weeks (it would be an unreasonable request under any circumstance). While I personally would not ask an au pair to share a hotel room with one of my children (and have wedged DH, myself and 2 kids into a tiny room to prove it), I understand that not all HF can afford a separate room when they travel.

Negotiate. If you travel with them from Colorado to Virginia then you understand that you are trapped and do not have down time. You will be pitching in and helping on a daily basis (mainly because you’re trapped in the car with them) and because you’ll be sharing a room with at least one child. In return, you want them to pay for your hotel room and 100% of your meals.

This is a good time to negotiate down time. Obviously your 1 1/2 days off a week go out the window, but be good humored about it. Are there any places between Colorado and Virginia you would be interested in seeing? Now’s the time to put in a request. Is it possible that the kids could have a movie in their room for a couple of hours so you could have some quiet time to yourself, say 1 or 2 nights a week?

I am not telling to put cash into this trip, but to be flexible and adventurous. Also, don’t think of it as a vacation. That you get in your travel month. It’s a family trip.

What else can you offer? Think about your options.

Somebody:

Thanks you very much I called my LCC today as after the talk with my HF they seemed dissapointed that I am not “willing to be flexible” with them. As for the utah trip, well those were they vacactions not mine, while they were hiking at Arches National Park, I was doing kids laundry at the hotel, when I complained about it because I was also paying they told me we were gonna do something I like to do after that, but Gues what?? we got out of time :S …

kat May 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm
oh, what a situation to be in. i think the family are beeing very cheeky asking you to pay for a hotel and to share with the children. even if they give you a separate room and pay for it and make sure you have the normal amount of time to yourself, its still not a very good situation to be put in. and the fact that it happens to fall on you last months in the us just makes it worse. i really do feel for you. i hope you have an understanding coordinator who helps you to solve the situation so that you dont end up totally unhappy.
I agree with one of the posters above that the family should put you up somewhere until your year is over, if they dont want or cant take with them and perhaps in case YOU dont want to do the roadtrip too.
good luck!

kat May 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm
thinking about it, if a family i worked for wanted to do a raod trip like this, layed out fair conditions and ASKED me whether i was happy to come along i probably would. but if i was treated like you i would be inclined to say i am just not willing to do such thing. sorry, that is not very helpful to you, is it.

HRHM May 14, 2012 at 10:53 am
I’m curious – do the APs who come here with their problems ever send their HPs back to this site to read our replies? As a HM, I think if my AP and I disagree about an issue and she came to me and said, “Well, all these other HPs think that I am right and you are being unreasonable” I’d be compelled to come take a look! LOL Just makes me wonder if it’s possible to have a positive impact via AP referral.

Angie Host Mom May 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm
Wow!

You mean I could ask my au pair to be with us 24/7 for 5 weeks on the road, have her share a room with my kids and make her pay for the room herself? On short notice? Cool!
Wow!

You mean I could ask my au pair to be with us 24/7 for 5 weeks on the road, have her share a room with my kids and make her pay for the room herself? On short notice? Cool!

OK, not so cool.

As a host mom currently considering a 4 week vacation with our au pair, I can say this is how we as the host parents try to do this fairly:

1. Inform the au pair as soon as possible about any trips. Maybe they did this.

2. Give the au pair an option to take vacation time during the trip – even if it is only a week, be flexible to allow her to take that time and meet you somewhere else. If she is not going to be working on the trip, cut her free for the duration of the trip – it’s not her fault when we’re taking a longer vacation.

3. We are at #3 because she is working during the trip. She gets time to herself, every day on the trip. Whether it is dropping her at a mall for a couple of hours if that is the only option or letting her bus around or letting her sightsee on her own, she gets her own time without the family. She won’t always take it, but it will be planned into the schedule so that we don’t forget she needs a break from us sometimes!

4. She does NOT pay for her room. If it is a long trip, I priceline 2 hotel rooms really cheap and we stay where we can afford 2 rooms. Or book a 2BR if I can get one at a reasonable rate. Kids sleep with her sometimes if she doesn’t mind, all the time if she prefers it (half of my au pairs haven’t liked to sleep alone), never if she minds.

5. She really does get to do stuff she likes, too. Maybe not everything, but everyone gets to pick just one trip “must do” – and they get it if at all possible.

6. She gets to bring a friend au pair to sleep in her room if she wants, if we trust her judgment, and if it works. An au pair traveling with just a host family on a long trip can feel put upon and isolated despite best family intentions. Now for 4 weeks this won’t work – but for a week or two out of the 4 weeks it will. If the original au pair with the issue were allowed to fly to meet the host family in a week and bring a friend with to join the drive for a week I bet she would feel differently about being asked to suck it up for the remaining 3 weeks.

Some host moms do want APs to basically work 24/7 with no extra compensation – but most of us are frankly pretty fair.

NoVA Twin Mom May 14, 2012 at 3:16 pm
One idea keeps tapping me in the back of the head – Can the host family even DO this? I thought the au pairs “had” to be able to attend a cluster meeting a month. If they’re going to be MOVING for five weeks, where is she going to go to a cluster meeting?

Seriously, I know au pairs skip cluster meetings all the time. But I thought we had to make that time *available* to them, and make it possible for them to attend (up to and including giving them a ride to the event if they don’t have access to a car) – then it’s up to the au pair to choose to go. So why isn’t the LCC jumping all over this?

Of course, the flip side is that if this becomes a problem, the host family will find a reason to rematch, causing an even bigger problem for the au pair. And unfortunately for her, moving out of the area is a pretty good reason to “leave the program”/cause your au pair to go into rematch.

But I keep coming back to that this might be a bargaining chip and a definite discussion point for the LCC. Could the fact that it’s really not allowed to bring your au pair to another part of the country be a way to convince the host family to (1) PAY for her room, as we’ve all agreed is necessary, (2) maybe let her join them “in transit” at their expense “to keep them in good standing with the program” – maybe let her stay for a week or two with a friend and VERY accommodating friend’s host family (or LCC) to attend a cluster meeting, then join the family?, and (3) in general, “shape up?”

If they’re planning on having an au pair at their new location through the same company, don’t they have to stay “in good standing” with their current cluster?

Or maybe I’m just too idealistic and think the host family would “shape up” if they realized how “unsportsmanlike” (for lack of a better word) this sounds?

I dunno, I’m “anon this time” that had the problem with the au pair that didn’t lock the door. 55 days with a soon-to-depart au pair would have sounded like a great idea when we first were hit with the “rematch” discussion by our au pair – maybe see if the LCC knows of anyone in that situation in her (or a nearby) cluster? I was assured that a “gap” au pair was highly unusual, but this seems like the perfect situation to allow it (nice au pair, host family acting outside normal bounds, so try to help the au pair – and a family in a pinch – out…)

NoVA Twin Mom May 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm
Sorry – I didn’t mean it’s not allowed to bring your au pair to another part of the country.

I meant that it’s not really allowed to drag your au pair along while you “vacation move” your household to another part of the country while not planning for her to have any down time.

We bring our au pairs to other parts of the country, but usually only for two weeks at a time and usually to “vacation destinations” rather than five weeks of driving!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm
I don’t know, based on “Somebody’s” previous family trip, for which she had to pay, it sounds like this is a “have your cake” kind of family.

Regardless of whether or not “Somebody” has been a fantastic AP or not, she should not have to pay for a hotel for 5 weeks while her HF moves. If they call her inflexible for not ponying up for what could add up to more than a week’s salary, then the LCC needs to intercede. I understand that that “Somebody” feels like she is between a rock and a hard place. After all, if the HF decides to go into rematch (after their move – because after all what AP would sign up to travel across country with a HF she’s just met – and foot the bill for a hotel room?), then she gets to go home in 2 weeks and loses all the money she put into booking her travel month, unless by some miracle a HF needs an AP for only 2 months.

However, in my opinion, it is immoral to put an AP in the position of having to pony up for a room for 5 weeks.

It would be interesting to hear from one of the many LCCs who have participated here on what advice they would offer in this dilemma – and how they would present their opinions to the HF.

Seattle Mom May 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm
I’m not adding anything constructive here, but I just have to say something… along the lines of…

WTF???!!! This is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard of!? How could any HF think this is OK??? It is really abusing the AP relationship, and as some have pointed out above is definitely in violation of the rules. It sounds like they took advantage of the AP on the Utah trip, and since that worked now they are going to take even MORE advantage of the AP.

I really want to hear what happens with this one. And I would not want to be that LCC! (Of course I’d rather be that LCC than that AP.. sheesh!)

kat May 15, 2012 at 6:03 am
i am now curious how this situation ends up, it looks that everyone is going to be upset /rightly or wrongly/.

DarthaStewart May 16, 2012 at 11:00 am
I’m sitting her in slack-jawed amazement. I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories in my time (leaving the au-pair with the kids while the parents went to Mexico for a week?.. Check..). But this one takes serious ……

This just isn’t right on so many levels.

Anna May 17, 2012 at 2:06 am
When we went into rematch with our 1st Au Pair I would have gladly taken someone with 55 days left. It takes me a little longer than most to choose my Au Pair and having to decide in 24 hrs on a rematch was too much pressure. Having someone like you would have given me time to find a perfect fit while still filling my gap in child care. So don’t sell yourself short. I’m sure plenty of families would match with you.

As for your current family….I would rematch immediately. They aren’t being fair and will continue to take advantage of you. I travel often with my Au Pairs and I have only made 1 pay for a hotel. This was because she demanded!!! her own room and refused to share with my daughter. I understand the need for privacy but making demands the night before an all expense paid 10 day cruise was just too much for me to take.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 17, 2012 at 7:09 am
I wouldn’t rematch unless you have a pro-active LCC willing to go to bat and find you another family or find another means for you to stay in the US and have your travel-month trip. If your LCC is not helpful, then call your agencies’ headquarters and ask for assistance.

We had this issue come up with AP #5. DH and I decided not to extend with her, but a potential HF didn’t want her for 2 weeks after the end of her year with us. Her visa did not allow her to have a 2-week gap in employment, so the decision was to have her stay at our home until her new HF was ready for her, but that she would be officially working for (and paid by) them and using her 2-week vacation at the start of her year.

For other APs – this is when face time with your LCC counts. I know not all are great – but if you don’t attend meetings then she won’t know who you are. She is your first line of intervention when you have a crisis with your HF.

DCMomof3 May 17, 2012 at 11:13 pm
I’ve known some families who have happily taken an AP in a similar situation to fill in a gap. One very helpful LCC that I heard of even sought out au pairs in these situations to place with families while their AP went on vacation. Not sure how that worked out in terms of pay, but the families were thrilled to just get an experienced AP in there for a week or 2 while their AP was gone.

DCMomof3 May 17, 2012 at 11:14 pm
Oh my. I would have gotten on the boat without her.

LuvCheetos May 17, 2012 at 9:40 am
I totally agree with TACL. Face time with the LCC is key for the AP. Our LCC LOVED our old AP (a APs ago) and would have done anything for her. Conversely, our LCC does not like our current AP because she doesn’t attend the cluster meetings and the one she did attend, she was anti-social and only talked to one person. Our LCC would not go out on a limb for her if need be (no need, we’re ok limping her along until she leaves). In fact, when she had her second car accident, our LCC actively encouraged us to rematch (which we didn’t do becuase we had rematched several months before and our kids like the AP).

I think it’s smart for APs to get along with their LCC and learn to “manage up.” They never know when they need the LCC and she can be a great advocate for them.

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