In my video series, Au Pair Answer Mom, I answer families’ frequently asked questions about au pair childcare such as, “How much time should I be spending with my au pair?”
Many parents wonder how much time they should be spending with their au pair. The truth is, there is no magic formula to determine how many hours you should be spending together each week. Each situation is different.
Because the au pair program is a cultural exchange as well as a childcare program, it is true that au pairs arrive to the U.S. with the expectation that they will become part of an American family. For that reason, host families should invite their au pairs to participate in family events that take place on a regular basis like family meals, movie nights, and weekend activities. You should also always invite your au pair to celebrate holidays with your family and extended family. What you invite her to do beyond that is up to you but it is always nice to include her as much as possible.
How much time au pairs actually spend with your family doing these things will vary. Some au pairs will want to go to their rooms or go out to meet friends as soon as they are “off-duty.” I once had an au pair who left almost every weekend to visit her friends on Cape Cod and that was ok with us because we knew that was what she wanted to do and she came back on Sunday feeling happy and refreshed. I have also had au pairs who spent a lot more time hanging out with us at home. That also worked out really well because we always had a lot of fun with our au pairs, and they really did feel like an extended part of our family.
At the very least, au pairs and host families should sit down each week for coffee or a snack to discuss how the previous week went, what’s on the agenda for the upcoming week. And, just to catch up. Regular time together like this is critical to feeling connected to one another and resolving small issues that arise.
Most often, host families and au pairs settle into a pattern that works for both of them. If that’s not true…if you find your au pair isn’t home as often as you’d like or if you feel like you don’t have enough privacy, communication is the solution. Sit down with your au pair and explain how you’d like things to see things change. More often than not, host families and au pairs can find a balance of time spent together and apart that works for both of them!