Au Pair driving is a scary topic for me, but after much deliberation, we have decided to have our Au Pair start driving.
The thought of letting any teenager drive my brand new vehicle (even though it is an uncool minivan) is frightening, but when you add into the equation the fact that said teenager is from another country, well, it sends shivers up my spine. When we first decided to host an Au Pair, driving wasn’t on our top list of priorities.
I was of the mindset I didn’t want her to do any driving when she came to live with us. I mean, it’s only natural to be scared at the thought of relinquishing control of such a large asset to someone you barely know, and I didn’t know if I wanted to deal with the extra worry, complications, and hassles that came along with the privilege (taking her to the DMV for a license, adding her to our insurance, worrying about her with the car every time she left.)
However, after a while of thinking about it, I realized that without our Au Pair driving, we’d have to be her chauffeur to classes, to hang out with friends, to do anything, and how would all of that extra running around not undermine the reason for having her here – to lessen the burden of parenting and life? It would not. It eventually occurred to me that being from Germany, our Au Pair was probably better informed and better equipped to drive than the inattentive crazies that drive on the roads here in the states.
Once I opened my mind to the possibility of her driving our vehicle, I started stressing less about having to take her to the Au Pair meetings, to school, and to do what she wanted to do. I even considered letting her drive my children to play dates, which is a difficult thing to let happen… having someone else take your children’s lives in her hands like that.
Mid-way through our second hosting week, we let our Au Pair drive the whole family to Sam’s Club which is about eight minutes away from our house. I figured that since it was a short outing that it would be a good time to practice, but having my entire family in the car for her very first driving experience in the U.S. (and her very first automatic vehicle experience) may not have been the wisest decision. Having too much responsibility placed on her was probably more pressure than she needed for her first drive. Lesson learned.
While I sat in the third row holding my breath, my stomach was in knots. As I tend to do, I tried to use humor to diffuse my nervousness, and so I told my three-year-old to tell our Au Pair not to kill us. Mr. Parrot said, “Kati, don’t kill us!” which ironically came back to bite me the next day when my husband was driving, and my son exclaimed, “Daddy, don’t kill us!”
Obviously we all survived because I’m writing this blog, but what I learned from the Au Pair driving experience thus far is #1. Strongly consider giving your Au Pair driving privileges, or you may regret all of the extra hassle it brings if you don’t. #2. Don’t take your whole family out for her first driving lesson. #3. Make sure you are 100% confident in you Au Pair’s driving capabilities before you let her use the car and definitely before you let her take your children anywhere.
As for the issue of paying for gas, we have decided that 17 cents per mile is fair. Some families make their Au Pairs pay a certain amount per mile while some Host Families do not make their girls pay anything. However, I believe that when there are no boundaries and no personal responsibility, even a very responsible person can become very complacent, and that is the reason we have decided to charge per mile instead of not charging anything. Haven’t we all heard about the teenager whose parents bought her a new car when she got her license, and then she instantly ran into the garage door? Um, yes.
There are many things to work out and to consider carefully when hosting an Au Pair, but keeping someone cooped up in the house without any freedom to come and go could lead to issues like home sickness, isolation, and rematch. New things and new experiences can be scary, and letting go of control in certain situations may be difficult (as it is for me), but maybe working through this issue will give me experience and peace-of-mind for the future when my children are old enough to drive!