Are we being fair to our au pair?
November 16, 2021 11:27 AM   Subscribe

We are having challenges with scheduling with our au pair and wanted to get some feedback on this, especially from others that have had an au pair and understand the au pair program in the US.

We have an au pair (let’s call them Sam). Sam has been with our family for about 2 months. Our circumstances changed and we need to adjust Sam’s hours (not more hours - shifting the day start from 3pm to noon). We tried to discuss with Sam and it got messy. Are we being reasonable?

We have two autistic children below age 10 (let’s call them Bob and Tim - both very high functioning autistic but Bob is more challenging as he is super smart and manipulative and can be aggressive - verbally mostly. Tim is on the spectrum but is far more neurotypical - though he has has PTSD from interactions with the older Bob ). Both kids have ADHD. Sam knew all this before arriving (including reading multiple medical reports we sent and reviewed with Sam, us having multiple discussions, and Sam coming in on a National Interest exemption (NIE) visa during the pandemic specifically because of Bob and Tim’s special needs). We have also been paying for 18-20 hours a week for a more experienced existing nanny to help Sam / train Sam for the last two months and will for another month, until that nanny moves away from our town.

We had planned on Sam working 3pm - 8pm Monday to Friday - so about 25 hours a week - adding maybe a half day on two weekend days a month - so call it 25-30 hours a week maximum. Basically we’d get the kids to school then Sam would handle after-school through bed time. We work from home so we’d also be around for difficulties at home.

Then the situation changed. Bob was admitted to a neuro-pysch facility shortly before Sam arrived in the US, and has been either in that facility, or for the last few weeks been at home and attending an outpatient day program. When that program ends Bob will be going back to school for half-days in the morning and then needing to be taken to various appointments and “classes” in the afternoon……which means we need Sam to change to a noon to 5pm schedule. Because for us after-school is now noon…..

Sam has pushed back saying they expected to have most of their day free based on the discussions before arrival. My spouse had the conversation without me and it didn’t go well - ny spouse doesn’t like conflict and didn’t feel they could push. My spouse also has diagnosed anxiety and blood pressure issues, and had an anxiety attack caused by the discussion.

I am going to have to revisit the discussion with Sam and be more direct about our need to adjust but am trying to do a sanity check.

From my perspective (and I understand it’s my perspective and hence biased, plus Sam is a 19 year old from another country who has never had a near full time job before or been away from their country/family for an extended period so I’m trying to walk in their shoes as well as trying to be aware of and sensitive to the power differential in this situation) we have

- Told Sam throughout the process that flexibility would be important to us (because hospitalization has occurred before and, hey these are special needs kiddos). Now is the time we had flexibility - my spouse and I work so us doing 12-3 isn’t an option.

- Becuaee we have the other nanny for a few more weeks we are effectively giving Sam a f
Months notice if our need to change tbe schedule.

- We will go back to 3-8 if and when Bob goes back to full time school (which we expect sometime in late January if his therapy continues to work - but this is not guaranteed)

- Not worked Sam more than 25 hours a week / and most weeks so far more like 20. For reference au pairs may be asked to work up to 45 hours - we never envisage doing that outside of extreme emergency - like my spouse or I being hospitalized sort of emergency

- Paid for another nanny to help/train Sam - which by the time that arrangement ends will mean Sam will have had a full third of their year with us with support - something we originally had told Sam would likely be only for a few weeks to transition

- Have specifically made sure Sam got 1:1 training from Bob’s therapists (probably 10+ hours so far and will be ongoing during Sam’s time with us)

- We have tried to be exceptionally good host parents (host parents is the term Sam uses - we aren’t trying to be Sam’s parents) We redecorated Sam’s room to their liking before arrival, got a new iPhone and MacBook for them to use while here, got them a full unlimited ski pass for the upcoming ski season - we live near major ski towns, got them season ski rentals etc, and we are getting Sam a trip to a large coastal city they want to go to (we are in a state around the Rockies), and paying for some accommodation for another coastal city trip they are doing to the East Coast. We’ve of course let Sam use our cars whenever and wherever. We’ve basically tried to make them feel as welcome as possible and treated Sam with respect and kindness - we appreciate part of the au pair program is giving the au pair a great experience in the US and feel we have really tried hard to give that

- We also - for what it’s worth - have been paying Sam significantly more than the base au pair stipend (which to be fair is ridiculously low) for significantly less than the maximum hours - because we acknowledged and agreed with Sam that our kids would be challenging and we didn’t want to overwork Sam. Plus we knew agin that we needed some flexibility and goodwill with the au pair.

Does asking Sam to adjust hours this way seem reasonable or off base? What should we be factoring here?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A substantial change in working hours from what you were hired to do yourself at your own job might be something you'd consider quitting over, yes? If I were hired for a 9-5 and then told two months in I needed to switch to starting at 6 am, that would be...not good. So I don't think it's necessarily either of you being unreasonable as having apparently incompatible needs.

But, stress "apparently." Can you find out from Sam what it is that he was planning to do from 12-3 that the change interferes with? Or what other problem this causes for him? Honestly, I'd expect a teenager to be enthusiastic about having more evening rather than day hours and being free by dinnertime, without having to do bedtime. Do you live somewhere that shuts down completely at night, or that has bad off-hours transit? Are there other adjustments you can make in his schedule to compensate? If you approach it as two adults trying to meet everyone's needs rather than you arbitrarily imposing a change on his working hours, it might go better.
posted by praemunire at 11:43 AM on November 16 [8 favorites]

It’s sounds like you have been very welcoming and kind to Sam, but also being a good employer and providing the materials and training needed to make the job go well isn’t some wildly amazing thing, it’s just being a halfway decent employer.

Can you not have an open conversation with Sam? Generally au pairs use the experience for language learning or taking courses so I could see how a day that started at 3 and changed to 12 can affect a language school schedule or something similar. If you live near ski resorts perhaps that now means that Sam would have to drive mountain roads in the dark with the schedule change and that’s not something they are comfortable with? Perhaps they think their day have just had 3 hours added to it rather than shifted? They wanted to go ski during the day and now would have to be back by noon? There’s probably some reason behind it and it’s not really Sam’s fault that the two of you aren’t able to have that conversation.

On preview: I came across a bit harsh, but I think you’re forgetting that you’re dealing with a 19 yo in a foreign country. I’m sure you’re very kind people doing your best
posted by raccoon409 at 11:58 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]

I haven't had an au pair but I have had a nanny and I also manage a whack of people around Sam's age.

So first, is the change reasonable? Well, it kind of doesn't matter unless you have an alternative or want to end the au pair relationship. It might change how you approach it but if the reality is these are the hours you need and if Sam can't meet them, you have to end the au pair relationship then that's the reality. I would be sympathetic to Sam's decision if he chose to leave. But from what you described it doesn't sound like 3-8pm will work so it doesn't really matter what people's feelings are. It's sort of like retail/restaurant/anything 24/7, the shift parameters suck.

That said, just because Sam expressed negativity doesn't mean it won't work out. Lots of us would have a bad reaction to that kind of schedule change and then on sober reflection might be like "well okay, I think this can work." I would also approach the conversation with a positive firm tone like you expect this to work out, you sincerely hope Bob will be back in school next year at some point, and you also see the up side for Sam which means extra evening time. And maybe you can work out some creative approaches once things settle down.

For the anxiety from your spouse, that's on your spouse - they are the grown up. It's a lesson learned, they shouldn't have had the conversation until they were ready or you were there. You cannot put that on Sam unless he was over the top.

For the training and perks you've provided, that's great, but let me tell you about 19 year olds. They are amazing, capable creatures who will surprise and delight you, no joke. At the same time, they, and to be a little sexist, especially ones who are male, are not really wired to see all the training and time and effort and perks that you, the Employer-Adults have put in, as a quid-pro-quo deal. They just don't have enough experience. Some of us were kind of born with white collar middle-class sensibilities, or trained in it, but in my line of work I can say - lots were not!

On some days I think this is a delightful thing that capitalism desperately needs and on the rare day, like having someone walk out with a smelly mess behind them that would take 5 minutes but the clock says 6:00pm, I think of all the ways I stayed late and changed my own life around for my work and sigh.

I share my honest ambiguity so you know it's rough but -- you cannot expect that Sam will absorb changing conditions of employment without complaint because of the ski pass etc.

Finally, my thought is that you have been kind of optimistic about an 19 year old in this situation. I have staff that age and kids with autism that they work with and it totally can work but it takes a good deal of support. So it would be good to check in with Sam about that as well. It may be some of the push back is simple anxiety about managing Bob's situation that Sam may be perceiving as way more complex than anticipating. Having 19 year olds read reports and extrapolate can also be a reach. But the good news is, if it's anxiety, you may be able to address it and have it all work out.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:58 AM on November 16 [19 favorites]

If I were Sam and I had been planning on having a large block of time each day to do with as I wanted, which has now been split into two smaller blocks, I would be disappointed. However, I don't think you are mistreating Sam by changing the hours, as you did warn Sam that they would be flexible. Schedules change, that's part of working, especially if your work involves caring for humans with variable needs. Sam is not watering plants or building widgets, Sam is providing care for people.

So, Sam has every right to express disappointment in the schedule change but I don't think rolling back the change is necessary. And I second warriorqueen's idea above, that this pushback may be around anxiety about Bob's needs, that you can address directly.
posted by rogerroger at 12:15 PM on November 16 [5 favorites]

please stop gendering Sam. OP never specified a gender.
posted by hydra77 at 12:16 PM on November 16 [46 favorites]

You've clearly gone above and beyond to create safe and supportive working conditions. Mega kudos, seriously.

However, you still can't expect Sam to just say "sure". It's be great if they could, but it's perfectly reasonable for them to have their own set of expectations and needs. You're still going to need plan B, and hopefully it doesn't come down to basic job incompatibility.

and I second everything warriorqueen says about 19 year-olds.

spouse is ungendered here too
posted by Dashy at 12:23 PM on November 16 [11 favorites]

Schedules change, that's part of working, especially if your work involves caring for humans with variable needs. Sam is not watering plants or building widgets, Sam is providing care for people.

Care workers are not any less entitled to a reliable and consistent schedule than other workers are.

(OP, sorry, I read carelessly and should not have gendered your spouse.)
posted by praemunire at 12:28 PM on November 16 [18 favorites]

Your change to the working hours is in no way unreasonable, and it also would not be unprecedented or unreasonable for Sam to not like the situation and ask for a family rematch. In my experience with Au pairs, expecting them to be mature enough to be the primary caregiver from after school to bedtime for two young, special needs children is a lot to ask. Some are able to do it, but many are not.

Before you invest any more resources into training Sam, you need to have a very honest conversation where the exact expectations are laid out. Also, is it possible for Sam to do a trial run alone with the kids before the nanny leaves? Sam may not understand gravity and intensity of caring for the kids and it would be better to find that out before the nanny leaves to give yourselves some time to figure out another childcare solution.

I would be happy to discuss further privately.
posted by defreckled at 1:02 PM on November 16 [6 favorites]

to be honest, if i was told i would need to be flexible, i would think sometimes i might need to work later or change my schedule every now and then.. I would not probably see a total schedule switch up for the foreseeable future. Sam may have made arrangements to do other things during that time and you have thrown them for a loop.

I don't think asking is unreasonable. You have a very legitimate reason for needing the change. they may have a legitimate reason they are hesitant also. Maybe you can meet in the middle maybe not.
posted by domino at 1:02 PM on November 16 [23 favorites]

Sorry about the gendering, that was stupid (and out of thinking about my team.)
posted by warriorqueen at 1:04 PM on November 16

The only thing I have to add is the possibility that Sam might have been expecting their early afternoon free as it may line up with a time from their home country when they can talk to parents/friends/whoever, especially if they are from a European or African time zone. They may have planned on this block of time being free most days. The only way to know is to talk to them about their reluctance to shift their hours.
posted by Short End Of A Wishbone at 1:06 PM on November 16 [6 favorites]

I don't think it is unreasonable to need your au pair to meet your scheduling needs. It wouldn't be unreasonable for your au pair to decide to quit their position over this either.

They are young and had strong emotions to the change, but that doesn't necessarily mean it won't work out. I think you should reaffirm your own needs and better understand theirs.

I would go back to the au pair with a message stating the facts and concrete consequences for you concerning the situation.

I.e. When my spouse announced the new hours to you, you said it would be difficult/impossible/whatever. (Make sure you stick to the facts). I am worried about that because we need an au pair who can adapt to this new schedule.

Then take a beat and listen, really listen to their response. Forget your own needs for a sec and figure out theirs. If you don't understand what poses a problem about the new hours, ask them to clarify.

Once you've done that, reaffirm your message (you need someone available after school) and ask if they think you both can find a solution together. Take a pen and paper and write down any solutions they propose and propose your own. Next, evaluate them together.

Chances are you can come up with something that works for both of you. In the very least, you will both understand whether you are compatible professionally.

Good luck!
posted by Blissful at 1:15 PM on November 16 [5 favorites]

Thank you praemunire, that was bias on my part, and I appreciate you correcting that.
posted by rogerroger at 2:10 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]

We're on our 6th AP. Your childcare situation seems more difficult than average but the working hours and conditions are way better. You should loop in the LCC to be the heavy and explain to Sam that if Sam goes into rematch the new family will probably want Sam to work the full 45 hours at the base pay. That will probably help Sam to see the benefits in the current situation.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 2:29 PM on November 16 [7 favorites]

One thing that stands out in the OP is that you list all the nice (and they are nice!) things you've done for Sam as though they are relevant to the problem at hand. But buying a ski pass or agreeing to require less than the maximum hours (which I assume was part of the agreement worked out before their arrival) does not entitle you to change the agreed terms without negotiation. And all of the training you've given Sam is really for you, as this is helping Sam be a better Au Pair for your family. Unless Sam is hoping to go into childcare, this isn't training that's relevant to their long-term goals.

Told Sam throughout the process that flexibility would be important to us (because hospitalization has occurred before and, hey these are special needs kiddos).

Without having overheard your whole conversations with Sam, if I was entering into an arrangement like this I'd assume flexibility meant sometimes the hours might be different. Is it possible that an indefinite schedule change 5 days a week is more than Sam was led to expect?

I've never had an Au Pair, but I have one friend who was an Au Pair abroad, and for them the appeal was getting to live in another country where they'd be able to work on the language they studied in college. I'm assuming this is the main draw for Sam, so I could see why maybe Sam would find appealing having the daylight hours of morning/early afternoon to go out and explore, work on conversation skills, etc.

It's also tricky since what is Sam supposed to do if they don't agree to your new terms? Be sent home? They are in a somewhat vulnerable position, far from family and friends - they are quite dependent on you, and I can see why they'd want to stick to the contract you hammered out in advance.

In short, I agree that you should figure out why the time change upsets them, and then consider seeing if you can compromise somehow - maybe they could only work the 12-3 hours two-three days a week?
posted by coffeecat at 2:30 PM on November 16 [11 favorites]

Often, when we are in a normal, reasonable, perfectly negotiable conflict, we seem to forget about the fact that normal, reasonable conflicts are perfectly negotiable. It seems to plumb drop out of our minds.

When we forget about the possibility of resolving a a problem via investigation and collaboration, the conflict begins to feel purely personal. We tend to hyperfocus on our feeling that we've been accused of doing something terrible, or of being terrible people (or, if we are of a more aggressive bent, accusing the other person of doing something terrible or of being terrible). We feel sure that this conflict is purely about whether we (or they) are immoral or unprofessional or *wrong*. Why else would they be in conflict with us? We cannot recall any other possibilities for why this conflict exists.

Here's your gentle reminder that the other possibilities exist.

You need to stop thinking about this conflict in terms of "but our request is so reasonable!" and "but we warned them very clearly in advance!" and "but we have been such thoughtful and kind employers!" and "but we gave them ski passes!" and "how could they give us pushback when we've been so fair to them?" and "what do they expect us to do?" All of these concerns are framing your conflict as a conflict over who is the terrible one, who is the reasonable one, who is right, who is wrong, who is fair, who is unfair, and who deserves to "win". It's pointless to think like this if you're interested in solving the problem. Proving to the world that you objectively did everything right and that you're objectively reasonable will not resolve this conflict.

Instead, start thinking about this conflict in terms of how you can collaborate and negotiate and resolve the issue. Stop focusing on proving that you're good, and start focusing on concrete issues that you wish to resolve.

You need this person to provide care between noon and 5 pm. That is not negotiable (if I understand you correctly). Can they do it, as in, can they physically and logistically make this work, and are they willing to do it?

If not, then that's where your relationship with this au pair ends. Your concrete concerns at this point become, "How can we find a new au pair who can work with us?" and perhaps "Can we recoup some of the costs we invested in this au pair in good faith, given that we made all the terms of our relationship clear from the start?"

If they say yes, then you are satisfied with your end of the outcome. Now all that remains is for you to make a good faith attempt to address their dissatisfaction with your new timings. What would they need from you in order to feel completely satisfied with this outcome?

- It may be that the reason they're pissed off is because they were planning to take certain classes at the local college which are only offered around noon, and so now the only way they will be satisfied is if you can help them find an equivalent course at a different time, and perhaps pay any difference in cost, or offer them the use of your car to drive the extra distance. That's the most uncomplicated scenario, a real problem with a clear solution. The only question you need to answer then is, can you do that?

- It may be that they were planning to sleep until past noon and now they're being forced to wake up earlier than they prefer. Maybe they are willing to grudgingly wake up earlier but they're going to remain dissatisfied because there's nothing you can do to fix this dissatisfaction for them. This is tricky. Do you think you can take the risk of engaging an au pair who is dissatisfied for immature but age-appropriate reasons, and hope that they'll continue to do the age-appropriate thing and grow up reasonably quickly, i.e. realize how ridiculous they're being throwing a tantrum over having to wake up at 11:30 am instead of 1 pm? Or is this au pair's reason making you have second thoughts about engaging them altogether, perhaps because they've just revealed that the reason for them sleeping so late is they have an utterly consuming gaming habit and they routinely stay up all night gaming and only go to bed at 6 am, which means your children will be in the care of someone who is bound to be tired and sleep deprived on a regular basis?

That sort of turned into a tangent on its own, but I hope you can see the point I'm making. For as long as you're stuck in the thought loop of "look how GOOD we're trying to be", you are failing to be curious about what the conflict really is, you're failing to evaluate the actual concerns at play, and you aren't going to find a resolution.
posted by MiraK at 3:29 PM on November 16 [41 favorites]

I don't really think "is this reasonable?" is the most helpful question here, because it could be completely reasonable but also not what Sam wants to do.

It really seems like what you need to do is sit down with Sam and see if you can figure out something that works for everyone. It's hard to suss out what happened between your spouse and Sam, but it sounds like neither of them were at their best in that conversation, and it might be good before you talk again to send Sam a text message explaining your position and asking them to think about what they might need to make this work.

Also, it sounds like you have been very nice employers of Sam, but that doesn't oblige them to be happy about a pretty significant schedule change. I imagine the dynamic of having a pretty young person living in your house, far from home, and ALSO being your employee can get a bit messy, but it's not a great dynamic to expect gratitude from an employee. All those things that you provide are benefits, and if providing them makes you feel inconvenienced or put out, you shouldn't provide them in the future.

(FWIW, I know very keenly what it's like to have much younger employees, and offer them treatment or benefits that seem above and beyond to you, but which they do not appreciate because of their age or relative level of experience. It's frustrating! But you kind of just have to shrug it off.)
posted by lunasol at 3:47 PM on November 16 [5 favorites]

Most of what you are framing as benefits aren't actually benefits at all. It's standard to pay more to look after special needs kids, because they're more demanding. Most au pairs don't work 45 hours a week, the whole appeal of the role in general is that it's part time so you get to explore your new country. The additional training you're giving Sam is for your kids' benefit, not them. The ski pass and the iPad, yes, ok, that's an extra. But framing it as 'Look at everything we've done for them and now they won't give us what we want and they've given my spouse an anxiety attack" feels a bit manipulative, you know?

From Sam's point of view, they're moved to a foreign country for this job and agreed to certain hours so they can enjoy living in a foreign place. I dare say the set hours you gave them was a massive appeal of the job and they said as much. Now you've pulled a bait and switch (and I know that's not your fault at all, things happens). But now you're expecting them to rearrange everything and all their expectations based on your home situation.

You keep talking about flexibility. Flexibility for most people means working an extra hour here or there, not an entire schedule change that impacts their whole life. Now you can ask for whatever you want, but it's completely reasonable for Sam to say that's not what they agreed to. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this is a dealbreaker for them and that doesn't make them the bad guy, or you! It just means that the scope of the job changed and it's no one's fault.

For me, the most concerning thing isn't that you want a schedule change. It's that your spouse can't handle a conversation that doesn't go their way without exacerbating their mental health issues. Where does that leave Sam? Are they expected to give in every time a conversation gets tricky because others your spouse will get upset and it could impact them physically or mentally? That's going to make it very hard for Sam to advocate for themselves if they have this hanging over their head and is the biggest red flag that I see.

As parent with high needs kids with an employee in your home working closely with them, you might have to get used to (hopefully occasionally) having difficult conversations about your expectations. I think you need to figure out how that's going to work going forward, (for everyone's sake, it sounds pretty awful for your spouse too, I feel for them) regardless of what happens with Sam.
posted by Jubey at 4:22 PM on November 16 [24 favorites]

I'm going to take a really different tact with this, and I hope this is helpful. Is your request of you au pair reasonable? Yes, on it's face it is.

I want to look at all the other pieces though. You have two high needs children who have additional medical needs requiring therapy/medical appointments. Instead of bringing in someone experienced working with children with high needs, you brought in a 19-year-old from another country who is being forced due to their circumstances of their employment to live with you and your high anxiety spouse. Yikes, no. With respect, this situation is not ok.

From experience, I can share: high needs children require experienced childcare. That childcare costs more and often has more restrictions around it from the providers perspective because they have unique skills to offer. This means that hour changes etc. must be negotiated and often can come with a price tag. The childcare provider needs their own space to decompress outside of your home as well, so having someone experienced who has their own home/resources/family is also necessary. With respect to those who have answered so far, I don't get the sense based on their answers that they have had the experience of having children with high needs and having to negotiate this situation. I'd encourage you to connect with other families who have, to get a more real sense of what realistic expectations are given your specific situation.

I don't think an au pair is a good fit for your situation. I strongly encourage you to reconsider for everyone's benefit. I don't see this being good for anyone involved. Again, I say this with as much compassion as possible as I understand how hard these situations can be.
posted by Toddles at 9:58 PM on November 16 [33 favorites]

I think a number of commentators here may not realize that the au pair program entitles you to 45 hours of work/week, and that you pay for 45 hours/week regardless of how much they actually work. It sounds like you let Sam know that the schedule might change, and the change is temporary. The shift sounds totally reasonable to me.

For what it's worth, our au pair expected to work mornings and afternoons on weekdays and to have time in the middle to see friends. Then COVID hit, and we asked her to work full days and to socially distance from everyone. We're really grateful that she stuck with us through this huge upheaval.

All that said, I agree with previous commentators that your family sounds like it would be better served by professional childcare, not a kid far from home. We have found that there are real significant differences in the experience and skill between professional caregivers and au pairs...and that's true even for neurotypical kids.

It sounds like you signed up hoping an au pair would give you more flexibility than other arrangements. Maybe you were hoping for cost savings and reliability too? Whatever your reasons, it does not sound like Sam is going to get you there.

This is really hard stuff. I'm so sorry your family is struggling. I hope you find a stable arrangement soon.
posted by equipoise at 10:55 PM on November 16 [7 favorites]

I agree with Toddles that under the surface this is probably not reasonable to expect to work out. Your children sound very high need, too high need for a teenager and where I live au pairs are supposed to be more helpers or doing straight forward childcare and if I had your exact situation I would envision having au pair as a helper or support to a more experienced childcare worker/special needs nanny. I also have two special needs kids and am sad I can’t avail myself of an au pair but I just don’t think it would work out (unless the person intended to pursue a degree in special needs education or something or had an autistic sibling) and I don’t want to put myself through it. Probably the au pair finds the evening easier to deal with because it includes dinner and more relaxing time etc and now the work got harder.
posted by pairofshades at 1:45 AM on November 17 [2 favorites]

I have not used an au pair, but I have had employees for decades, including teenagers.

"However, I don't think you are mistreating Sam by changing the hours, as you did warn Sam that they would be flexible."

IMO, "flexible" suggests the occasional, infrequent, and temporary change in schedule, not a complete (and possibly permanent) change in schedule. I believe this is the crux of your problem.

I have no idea how it's going to shake out with Sam, but I would recommend if they're replaced that you not use ambiguous language in the future when hiring or drafting a job description.

If indeed the other posters are correct and you're paying for 45 hours per week and only utilizing them 25, then you should not 'advertise' that you'll only need them 25 hours per week but instead make the "free hours" a bonus rather than an expectation because essentially by offering a scheduled off-time you're performing a bait-and-switch by changing it. They may have accepted that job because of that specific schedule, understanding occasionally there may arise an unforeseen need to temporarily alter it.

In short: you can't entice someone with 45 hours of pay for 25 hours of specifically scheduled work and then be upset when they're not happy that you're not delivering what you promised. Your reasons for breaking the agreement are legit, sure, but it doesn't insist they accept them nor are they unreasonable for doing so.
posted by dobbs at 9:36 AM on November 17 [1 favorite]

Maybe someone else has already suggested this, but I think you should really factor in your anxious spouse having had the initial conversation and having a negative response to it. Whether what you are asking for is "reasonable" is subjective, but the fact is that having not been present for the conversation, you are presuming a lot about Sam and what you have done for Sam/what Sam "owes" you that seems unfair.
posted by sm1tten at 7:22 PM on November 17 [1 favorite]

It will be difficult for Sam to take advantage of the ski pass etc with 3 fewer free daylight hours
posted by Jacqueline at 11:32 PM on November 17

You go on and on about how great you are treating Sam, but do you like the way Sam cares for your kids?

Your spouse should probably not have had this conversation, so don't blame Sam that it went south.

Child minding can be a very fraught situation with tons of assumptions. I'd get a specialized care taker and step away from the "Au pair" model.
posted by rhonzo at 9:14 AM on November 18

Probably the au pair finds the evening easier to deal with because it includes dinner and more relaxing time etc and now the work got harder

I think this is actually the crux of the issue. It's not just an hour shift - it's an hour shift because of the need to drive at least one child to appointments, etc, which means it's not just caring for kids with challenges, it's caring for kids with challenges in a public space in a foreign country, where the previous work is "caring for kids at home, where both parents work from home and are around for emergencies". The public, solo aspect actually makes this a much different job, with much different concerns and fears.
posted by corb at 12:22 PM on November 18 [11 favorites]

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