Tips for Avoiding Au Pair Burnout
Au pair burnout is real. This month we received a statistically high volume of feedback from au pairs who are feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. COVID has created a strain on all of us, especially exchange visitors who are far from home without their loved ones. Together we can support your au pair and give them the boost they need to successfully complete their program and avoid any gaps of childcare coverage in your home.
We acknowledge that many of you are already doing some or all of these things on a regular basis. Thank you for making your au pair feel appreciated, supported and loved. If any of these tips are new to you, adding a few into your routines can only help boost morale and minimize placement issues that could otherwise result in Au pair rematch or transition.
Here are 31 suggestions from au pairs for hosts to help prevent au pair burnout in October:
- Limit the time she spends wearing her “teacher hat” to 2 hours a day. Au pairs weren’t intended to navigate “school” so the time they do spend doing this is a wonderful compromise on their part.
- Take the lead on making sure school assignments are done and communicating with teachers. Make sure that your children’s remote learning station and supplies are organized and ready to go each day before your au pair steps in.
- Minimize the time she has to take to get organized and plan her day. Provide clear, structured instructions with daily schedules and checklists posted in highly visible areas. Are there any tasks listed that you can cross off and do yourself so your au pair can focus on your children or have a coffee break? Relieving your au pair of just one or two daily tasks can be a huge weight lifted off of her.
- Keep her workplace clean. Do the dinner dishes before her morning shift, remove your laundry from the machines and tidy up after yourself in common areas of the home that will be used by her and the children during the day.
- Working from home? Give her a paid 15 minute break while you tidy up or help finish a task for her. Her days are long and this 15 minutes means a lot.
- Prep your children’s lunches ahead of time so she can focus on helping your child navigate remote learning or managing behavioral issues.
- Pick a day to have a meal delivered for her and the kids.
- Give your children age-appropriate chores to clean up after themselves, make their own beds, pick up their own toys, or put away their own laundry.
- Get on the same page with discipline for the children. Set up a meeting with all adults involved and take the lead on mapping out a behavior plan that everyone can follow. Do not leave your au pair to navigate behavioral issues on her own. Have a family meeting with your au pair and children when behaviors persist.
- Reinforce that your children respect your au pair. Speak highly of her in front of your children and make sure they see that you consider her an authority figure and family member. Do not undermine your au pair in front of the children.
- Offer to let your au pair go to the grocery store for a mental break while you watch the kids. Throw in an $10 extra for the au pair to pick out an extra special, nonessential treat she wouldn’t normally ask for, like her favorite icecream or fancy organic juice.
- Relieve her of her duties early if you are free to take over or sneak some kids-free, self-care time into her schedule Of course, you can work your au pair the full 45 hours when you need to, but this extra free time might be just what she needs to show up for her next shift feeling rejuvenated and ready to give 100%.
- If she works full 10-hour days, give her the full weekend off so she has time to relax and recover at the end of a long week before doing it all over again. That 1.5 days off goes by so quickly and she may benefit from extra time to decompress at her friend’s house or hibernate in her room.
- Relieve her of her duties 5 minutes ahead of her end time. Spend this last 5 minutes asking her how her day was, if there were any behavioral issues you need to address, and if you can do anything to help make tomorrow a better day.
- Thank your au pair for everything she accomplished each day and make sure she is off right on time even if she didn’t get around to sweeping the cheerios off of the floor or emptying the dishwasher.
- Smile and offer her a compliment when you greet her at the start of the day regardless of how yesterday went.
- Save 5 minutes in the morning to ask her how she slept or if you can help her with anything before you head to work.
- Send her a text ½ way through the day to thank her for taking care of your children and ask how things are going.
- Ask for a list of her favorite foods from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy). Add these items to your weekly grocery list and make an effort to keep them in the home even if your family doesn’t eat them. Splurge and buy her avocados or raspberries even if they aren’t on sale. Write her name on them with a little “thank you”and let her know that they are just for her.
- Prepare a meal with her preferences in mind, get a babysitter and take her to dinner or offer her a glass of wine (21+ au pairs only) after the kids are in bed. Ask her for feedback and allow her to speak freely without getting defensive.
- Schedule her for a coffee date with you during her work hours and ask her if there is one thing you can do to make things easier for her this week. Do that one thing for this week even if you have to pull some strings.
- Show an interest in her and get to know her. Ask her about her life back home, what she misses most, what she does / doesn’t like about her time in the U.S.A. If she is comfortable in your home, what things she would like to see or do while she is here, goals she has for the week/month/year. Really listen and make small gestures in the coming days and weeks to help her accomplish her goals or bring her comfort.
- Give her a bonus paid day or ½ day off when you’re able to swing it and pay for her to see a movie, get her nails done, get a haircut or go to lunch with a friend.
- Surprise her with a gift basket of calming bath products. If she shares a bathroom, scrub it clean for her and insist that she enjoy a paid midday break or late start morning.
- Slip a thank you card under her bedroom door for a midweek morale boost. Include a gift card. It is a wonderful gesture no matter the monetary amount. Even $10 makes a difference to an au pair who might be working to support her family back home.
- Surprise her with hand made thank you cards from your children. Plan a day for your children to spoil her while she is on-duty. They can make her breakfast, have her kick her feet up on the sofa and pitch in to help with household chores.
- Invite your au pair to join your family activities as a family member, not just as an au pair. Keep extending invites even if she declines. If you’re out to dinner without your au pair, text her a link to the menu and ask if you can bring something home for her.
- Contribute to her vacation expenses or give her a few extra days of paid vacation. Assist with transportation. Buy her a Groupon for a cool activity at her destination. Slip her a “have fun” card with some cash in it. If she is compromising with you and agreeing to staycation instead of traveling due to COVID, offer to pay for a couple of nights at a local airbnb for her and her friends. Have local take-out delivered for her as a special treat.
- Learn to sing happy birthday or a favorite holiday song in her language. Give her a paid holiday/birthday off. Learn about her family’s holiday/birthday traditions and add them to your family’s practice. Include her comfort foods in your holiday spread this year. Invite her family back home to video call with your family in celebration. Welcome her closest friends or romantic partner into your home to celebrate the holidays. If you hang stockings, add one to the mantle with her name on it. If you give presents, make sure there are meaningful gifts for her under your tree. Offer to cover the shipping costs if she is planning to send gifts home to her family. Invite her to family gatherings outside of your home so she doesn’t spend the holidays alone.
- Make a few upgrades to her bedroom, it is her refuge after all. Adding some new amenities, a technology boost, or a cozy nook is an investment your next au pair will surely appreciate as well.
- Make sure she has a social outlet and access to community outside of your home. Let her visit a friend’s home or welcome her close friends or romantic partner to visit your home while taking precautions. If you are not comfortable with her social activities, compromise and offer alternative solutions so her social needs are being met.