Can I give my au pair a curfew?
The quick answer is that the word “curfew” has negative connotations to some. What we would recommend is telling your au pair that they need to be well rested and alert before caring for your children. This means that you need them home and settled in no later than 8 hours before their work start time. For example, if you need them at 8 a.m. – He or she needs to be home by midnight the night before. This is something you’ll want to have in writing as part of your household rules and your agreement with your au pair right from the beginning of your relationship. Make sure it is understood and acknowledged before the au pair’s first official day of work. This can save confusion or misunderstandings later. Also, as parents, we all know or have learned that it is easier to start off a little strict and relax as time goes on, than it is to start off relaxed and try to tighten rules up later.
That was the quick answer and in a perfect world that would be the end of matter. Rules are rules. But, the reality is, the quick answer doesn’t work for everyone.
Consider this: Au pairs are young adults aged 18 to 26 and are often well past the time of imposed curfews in their own homes. Some may even already live independently from their parents. Enforcing a curfew on someone who is already very independent in life is likely to cause a little friction. How do you prevent this? Approaching it the way we already recommended, by stating they need to be rested before their work day begins, is the best way show an au pair that your children and their safety is your number one concern and that you expect their caregiver to understand that the children’s safety is dependent on their attentiveness, responsiveness and alertness. Someone who is tired, drowsy or worn out is not going to be as attentive as you need them to be. This helps an au pair understand that they have a professional responsibility to the childcare portion of their cultural exchange.
This also means that you need to give thought to how you are going to handle the evenings where the au pair is NOT needed early the next day, or the au pair’s days and weekends off. Are you okay with later hours on those evenings? Will the au pair, arriving home at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. or later disrupt you and the household? Can you accept those later hours on those evenings? How late is “too late”. Does the au pair have permission to spend the night with a friend, as long as you know in advance that he or she won’t be coming home that evening?
Some families use a little trick we suggest for those au pairs who have use of a car. You can tell your au pair that they don’t have a curfew on those nights… but the CAR does. They can stay out with friends, etc. but the car needs to be home by 1 a.m. (or whatever time you choose). Chances are, the au pair will come home, and STAY home, when the car does.
Families also get to choose if the car can be used for out-of-town road trips or getaways during the au pair’s scheduled time off. To reduce wear and tear on a vehicle, host families will often not allow car usage during those times or will give au pairs a mileage limitation. Remember, as already mentioned, easier to be strict at the beginning and relax a rule later as an exception or reward.
It seems like so much to think about considering it all started with one little question, “Can I give my au pair a curfew?” And it really is just one little piece of choosing an au pair. But we are here to help navigate the process and make it as easy and comfortable as possible.
This all begins during the interview process. You can learn a lot about an au pair by reading their essay / introduction letter. They normally tell you how social they are, if they still live at home with parents, if they take care of siblings to assist their family, if they have held jobs outside of the home in addition to being a childcare provider and how independent they consider themselves.
You can ask an au pair, during your interviews with them, to describe their typical week and weekend to you. Do they get up early? Do they stay up late? How often do they go out with friends? Do they go out dancing? Do they eat dinner with their family? Do they consider their parents strict? Do they have a curfew at home?
This will help you find an au pair who already has a schedule or family life comparable to what you expect them to experience as a part of YOUR family.
You may also look at this from a different point of view. You may actually want a more independent au pair. While being a part of your family and engaging in cultural exchange is a big component of this program, some host families, especially host families who aren’t much older than the au pair may be, aren’t looking for a homebody or an au pair with a strong desire for the family portion of the program. Some host families enjoy a little extra privacy or family one-on-one time and are very supportive of an au pair who is social, likes to be with friends or in classes for most of his or her time off, but is an excellent and attentive caregiver when “on the clock”.
If that sounds like it is more like you and your family’s needs, you can still require an au pair to be home and rested 8 hours prior to needing to work, but you may be just fine with an au pair who otherwise has their own life, interests and activities.
There is a perfect au pair for every family, and we can help you find them. If you have any questions or need more tips and tricks, please leave a comment or contact us!