How to become an au Pair in France.

March 24th, 2010

Hello People!

Sorry for my absence here ! I assure you though, I haven’t been lounging ;-)
This week I felt the desire to extend my networks, and so I decided to publish an article at Hubpages. I felt motivated to talk about How to become an au Pair in France. …If you find the topic inviting, feel free to read it and to give your comments (to get there, just click on the heading or the coloured print above). See you there and have a great week!


Au Pairs Working Overtime.

March 8th, 2010

Hello Dear Readers!

It is yet another Monday, and I feel inspired to continue talking about what au pairs and host families do not expect of each other in an au pair arrangement. Last time we exposed an undesirable character trait present among a minority of au pairs: Au pair Princess behaviour. So today, let us do the same with host families.

Today’s chat is on au pairs working overtime. More specifically, it concerns au pairs who find themselves working overtime on a regular basis. A recent post by CV Harquail, a person who runs an American au pair-host family related blog (www.aupairmom.com), generated mixed reactions from au pair host parents, au pairs, former au pairs and persons directly or indirectly familiar with the au pair- host family world.

The post in question titled, “Extra Hours: What’s fair pay when you break this taboo?” was a response to one US based host father’s enquiry on what would constitute fair pay for his au pair, who has been working overtime (52 to 55 hours a week).
Of course, this host father explained that when interviewing

prospective au pairs, we discussed our longer work week and also discussed how we would compensate her monetarily for this. We also discussed what other ‘perks’ we would offer an Au Pair – things such as:

* Full car use on weekends
* Her own private bathroom and tv room (for the most part)
* Cell phone and texting plan
* A computer for her use only
* Almost never having to work weekends (unless she was off a bit during the week – and we always try to clear this with her first)
* Only one really sweet baby to watch — our now 10 month old daughter, who lucky for all of us is an angel, never crying, fussing, etc. Compared to the many au pairs we know who are in charge of two or three hyperactive 6-10 year olds, our one baby seems to be easier work

It is worth noting that the maximum number of weekly hours that an au pair is legally allowed to work varies from one country to another. For example, in France the upper limit is 30 hours/ week; Germany:30 hours/week; Belgium: 20hours/ week; Australia:35 hours/ week; Denmark: 30 hours/ week; USA: 45 hours/ week. Yes, you probably noticed that the higher weekly limit is already highest in the US.

From her line of argument, CV Harquail, appeared to be in favour of the practice and went as far as to suggest different ways in which au pair host parents (who cross the overtime line) can somewhat ensure that their au pairs’ overtime work remains fair: “Best practices for asking your au pair to work overtime”. Put differently : How can au pair host parents ensure that they engage in ethical cheating when it comes to overworking their au pairs?
Also, there was an overwhelming response from host parents, many of whom were from the US, and who were OK with asking their au pairs to work overtime, on a regular basis. Sadly, only a few au pairs expressed their opinions.
With most host parents’ lines of argument being: “au pairs are happy when you ask them to work overtime since they get to earn some extra cash” and “It is OK to ask the au pair to work extra hours if in exchange we offer her material comforts”, I felt the need to express my opinion, which is situated on the crossroads of currently being a parent and having lived and worked as an au pair in a previous life. As you can tell from the post, I was REALLY into it and missed out a few typos :-)

Tulai- www.aupair2be.com February 28, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Currently a mother and au pair in a former life, I think having an au pair look after your children overtime on a REGULAR basis, is plain and simply unethical (not to mention a violation of legal regulations).
Many parents here and elsewhere put forth a number of arguments to justify this behaviour :

1. “we compensate her financially”, “we buy her gifts”…
Some parents are justifying the extra hours by claiming that au pairs are always eager to make extra money and gladly welcome the overtime hours. What I wish to point out in relation to this is that firstly, it is wrong to generalize across au pairs. Like anyone else, au pairs have different personal and different family backgrounds; some are socially privileged, others are not, or much less. Some have dependants in their home countries, some are financially independent, while others still depend and can count on the financial support of their parents and families in their home countries. Some are extroverted, others are introverted. Some enjoy going out regularly, others prefer to stay in. Some are ambitious, others are not… But the baseline here is, nobody, no au pair I know or knew is/was thrilled to have his or her host family overwork her in exchange for money and other material perks. Quite the contrary: they complain(ed), because they were exhausted and it deprived them of opportunities that were meant to be part of the cultural exchange – free time and leisure activities attending language class, interacting with fellow au pairs or other people, beyond the family… Secondly, let us not forget that as in any employer employee host- hosted relation a POWER RELATION exists between the host family/ parents and the au- pair, and this no matter how free you are with your au pair and no matter how much you effort you put in to make her “feel at home.

2. “she has access to a fully fuelled car”, “she has a nice room and bathroom to herself, a computer and full time internet access, and TV in her room”,
In the part of the world that you and I live in, having a TV, a computer and internet access in our homes has become banal; there’s nothing super exceptional about it. If you can afford to hire an au pair, a nanny, a live in house help etc, then it goes without arguing that you are expected to provide a decent room for your au pair . That she has her personal bathroom, TV, and computer is fine, but not absolutely indispensable. And let’s face it, in as much as it is convenient for her to have private access to these commonly shared household spaces and facilities, it is also convenient for the parents and the family.
Moreover, what is the use of offering her all these when she hardly has the time and energy to enjoy them??

3. “Only one really sweet baby to watch — our now 10 month old daughter, who lucky for all of us is an angel, never crying, fussing”

That your child or children are the easiest and the most fuss-free to look after in the entire world, does not in anyway justify you regularly overworking your au pair. As Anon-y-Mom and others have pointed out, having your au pair look after your child or children for so many hours a day is not good for any of the persons involved. Not for her, not for your child, and not for you.
An au pair is expected to have a cultural exchange which involves meeting people beyond her host family and beyond the confines of her working hours, interacting with other au pairs. Working for over 45 hrs a week barely leaves her the energy and time for that! Memories of my exhaustion as an au pair are still fresh: and I was not an abused au pair, since I worked 30-35 hours a week. But I can still remember how exhausted I was after 5-6 hours of looking after three children aged below 5 years. I can only imagine what those overworked au pairs are going through! Needless to say, the quality of child care offered by an exhausted and overworked au pair, always takes the downward direction.

It is my opinion, (one that is shared by many au pairs and former au pairs I know) that : No, it is NOT OK to have au pairs work overtime on a regular basis in exchange for financial or material compensation, or whatever arguments you put forth.

An au pair is neither a nanny, nor a house helps. She should not be the one to carry our parental responsibilities. Her working hours and responsibilities assigned to her should reflect her au pair status.

Possible solutions could involve having two au pairs (as one parent here is doing ); employing a (full time/ part time ) nanny and an au pair; you and your spouse cutting back on your working hours etc.

Au pairs! What have been your experiences with working overtime?
Serve up your opinions!



“Princess Au Pair”

March 1st, 2010

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s Monday, which on  Au pair 2 be is a  new post day!

For some time now, I’ve been thinking of writing about  au pairs’ and host families’  general expectations of each other.  If you ask either party they are bound to give you their short (or long) list of expectations.
Generally speaking,  an au pair  may expect to have a private room; a welcoming family that respects her and respects her privacy; pays her adequately and on time and respects the working hours initially stipulated in au pair’s contract.
The  family on the other hand may generally expect the au pair to be a mature person who is responsible and caring towards the children; they would also expect her/ him to be among others, relatively flexible…

All that sounds so much like the kind of  information au pair agencies give to prospective au pairs. It is without any doubt important; but it is also oh so banal. So, I figured, it would be more interesting to write about the “what au pair host families and au pairs do not expect of each other”. And today I would like to chitchat about a particular kind of au pair behaviour and profile, that although not the norm, does indeed exist. I’ll call it princess like behaviour, and the subject of my banter (let’s give her a big round of applause :-) ) is none other than “Princess Au Pair”!

“Princess Au Pair”,  is a host family’s worst nightmare.  She does not know how to vacuum clean the house, neither does she know how to do laundry,  iron nor cook …And it is not because she comes from a poor country where vacuum  cleaners are to be found in 0.0001% of households countrywide. No.  It is simply because she just does not know how to and and if she were to be honest, she could not be bothered to learn!

“Princess Au Pair”  loves  to go out with her friends on a regular basis and is often unwilling to accept unexpected requests from the host family. If the parents are stuck in traffic jam somewhere on their way home, they should not expect her to look after the children beyond  her usual working hours. If they are late and she misses her friend’s ride and does not make it to the Friday Au pairs’ Party,  then yes, she will sulk all weekend and all week long. The family has no right to disrupt her plans! In other words, as far as  her au pair duties are concerned, rigidity is the key word and the family is expected to adapt to her plans and schedule.

Ok, I can sense your mounting disbelief…I can hear  your  ” Mmm come on, what a mythomaniac!”  So,  here is  a post you can read . It concerns an au pair who does  not know how to cook  but she also does not want to eat what her host parent prepares for the rest of the familyWacko: http://www.findaupair.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5819

Bedrooms are also a good place to identify princess like behaviour, and the typical “Princess Au Pair” would have a super messy room. Ok, I guess one would argue that the state of the au pair’s room should not be of any concern to the host  family… The issue is, ideally, it should not, but the reality is it does bother host parents. Here’s a link where au pair host parents express themselves on the state  and their expectations of their au pairs’ bedrooms: http://aupairmom.com/your-au-pairs-room-how-much-mess-can-you-take/2009/12/14/celiaharquail/)

Why would the messy state of the au pair’s room bother the host parents? Simply because despite it being the au pair’s space, it is above all a part of their home. Also, if the parents are keen on having their children learn how to tidy up after themselves, assigning the Messy-Bedroom-Au pair the responsibility of transmitting this much desired value may come across as a total contradiction, if not hypocritical.

Lastly ( although the list is endless), on numerous occasions, “Princess Au Pair” will  pick up the children late from  school , not because the family car she drives broke down while she was on her way to get them, but rather because she did not wake up from her after lunch siesta…Which leaves the host parents little choice but to always  find an excuse to call her sometime before she is due to go pick the kids up from school .

Long Live “Princess Au Pair!”  :-)



How to avoid falling for Au Pair Scams.

February 22nd, 2010

First things first.  Any prospective au pair who is actively searching for an au-pair host family on line has a very high probability of receiving a fake au pair job offer from a fake au pair host family. The offer usually comes in the form of  an e-mail. To a hopeful or despairing prospective au pair, the offer usually comes across as a gift from heaven!

It is not unusual to have prospective au pairs post samples of such  letters, asking forum members to tell them whether they are authentic offers.

Here’s an example of such a post with its accompanying fraudulent mail :

Hello is this true cant find there name here in find Aupair…im looking a host family in almost 1year still don’t have host family they are all SCAMMMm….grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr they always ask me money Cry

Dear Aupair,

We are Haggin’s family from The United State of America , We are a nice and fun loving family but we are currently based in London (UK).

I work for Continental corporation united kingdom; a Multinational Tyre Company based in UK as a production engineer. My wife Mary also works with the same company as an Administrative Assistant. We were posted on contract to ( UK ) where we currently reside but we would be returning back to ( USA ) after our contract expires.

You could visit our company website www.conti-online.com

Our busy schedule prompted us to seek the assistance of an aupair, we searched for potential nannies on www.findaupair.com and we found your profile and liked it. Your basic duties would be to take care of our kid. Our son Hudson goes to school 5 days a week from 8.45am to 2pm and we all love the outdoors, this effectively means that we mainly hang out in the garden at home or sometimes go out on day trips to just about anywhere; beaches, country parks, adventure parks, activity farms, seaside towns, forest walks… you name it. Hudson is very easy going and as such you can get along with him easily.

Indicate your interest by sending us your picture, phone number and some character references for us to evaluate and consider you for the position.

On the issue of travel documents, we would take care of the cost by undertaking care of your traveling cost. In saying this we would be paying for your flight tickets and visa procurement charges.

Let us hear from you so that we can discuss more on the offer. You can contact me on this same e mail portal or via my direct mobile phone number +44 702 406 4990

Best regards

David Haggin,

For the family.

**************                               **************                                          ************

Ok, so perhaps you’re thinking, this really does sound like a genuine family searching for an au pair…How on earth am I going to tell apart the hoax from the genuine?! How do I  avoid falling for such Au Pair application Scams

The answer to that one is pretty simple. It all lies in your capacity to critically analyse the content of the e-mail.

I’ll give you an example of an analysis of this very same e-mail, that I did in response to a prospective au pair’s post on an au pair forum (http://www.findaupair.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=6059) :

Hello, I’m sorry, to disappoint you, but that one is without any doubt a hoax.

Here’s why:
Firstly, notice the “Dear Au Pair”? It is impersonal. If it were a real family who got your details on Find Au Pair, then, they would have made a tiny winy bit of effort to address the mail to “Dear Your Name”
The point is, the same letter is sent to different people and in large numbers, so they dare not personalize.

Second:

Do you see the logic behind the “but” in the sentence below.

“We are Haggin’s family from The United State of America , We are a nice and fun loving family but we are currently based in London (UK).

Can’t one be “a nice and fun loving family”  from America, AND be ” based in London”?

Third:
You could visit our company website www.conti-online.com

That’s a not-so-bright scammer, who thinks that a despairing au pair 2 be would be impressed.
Honestly, I know absolutely nobody,  NO ONE, who would invite a  prospective au pair  to visit the website of their employer or of the company that employs them!
(If they owned the company, it may make a tiny winy bit of sense, but even then, it would still be very WIERD…)

Fourth:
“Your basic duties would be to take care of our kid”.
There’s something about the use of the word “kid” that’s just not right. I mean, that’s not how you introduce your most precious being to a prospective au pairDisapprove .

Fifth:
“Our son Hudson goes to school 5 days a week from 8.45am to 2pm and we all love the outdoors, this effectively means that we mainly hang out in the garden at home or sometimes go out on day trips to just about anywhere; beaches, country parks, adventure parks, activity farms, seaside towns, forest walks… you name it. Hudson is very easy going and as such you can get along with him easily.”

How does one just move from talking about the son’s school hours to the families leisure activities, and all that in one sentence!! A parent would at least mention their child’s age, and what he likes to do….

Clearly, in the the first three paragraphs one notices that the writer had one main preoccupation to impress you the recepient (living in London, but that later you will go to the united States; there’s the see -where-we-work link;  family is always doing fun stuff…no need for them to talk about the child…He himself would be funWacko ; we’ll cater for all your travel and travel related expensesWacko

The last three paragraphs also expect that you have been SOOOO impressed by the description of the wonderful life they have to offer and that you’ll hurry to send them your e-mail and other personal info, hence allowing them to move to stage two of the scam.

Also, notice the tone of the last three paragraphs? They use the imperative mood/tone. A genuine prospective family would not employ such a tone Ermm

Don’t despair!Smile

********                                         ********                                         *******                           ********

And why should you avoid falling for such au pair scams  in the first place? It’s  plain and simple: there’s ALWAYS  extortion involved!  For such occasions, I always keep the good old line in perspective.  I’m sure you’ve heard the line that goes:  ” If  it  sounds too good to be true,  it probably is. ”

My personal adaptation of it is:  “If it  sounds too good to be true:  Think! Not just twice, but many times and seek advice.”



Hello there!

February 15th, 2010

Welcome to the Au pair 2 be blog. It is nice to have you here ! If you’ve already been to the mother website Au pair 2 be , you  no doubt noticed that there are a number of important au pairing issues that I did not tackle.   I have in mind a range of issues such as  au pair scams; questions to ask your potential au pair host family before accepting the job offer;  how and where to build your au pair social life;  how to select an au pair agency, be it virtual or physical… and so much more! Nope, this omission was not due to any sort of oversight on my part. It was all part of a plan ;-) ; the plan being to have it all in this interactive blog.

So, you are about to plunge into a blog that tells it as it is when it comes to everything and anything related to au pairing. Be sure to get my RSS updates , so that you’ll never miss out on any of the posts :-) . And of course, do feel free to share your comments, reactions and experiences!



About

February 8th, 2010

Au Pair 2 be is NOT an au pair-host family agency. It’s a place where prospective au pairs and au pairs alike, come for information and tips on ‘everything au pair-ish’. And why not for a few laughs as well ;-) ?