“A wet blanket” “Debbie Downer” “Sad Sack” “Uninspiring”

2429390000_5b4e0e2d3e_mWhat a drag to imagine these words characterizing your Au Pair.

When an Au Pair has a “not optimistic” attitude towards the every day, it’s hard to imagine them adding to the family spirit rather than subtracting from it.

Is it possible to get an Au Pair to change their behavior?  Can we ask them to automatically add “thank you”s and “sure thing”s to their interaction with us?


HostMomMarie wants to know:

I am a mom of two young girls in the Northeast, with our second AP (from Northern Europe) who’s been with us for two months.

Our first AP was a super rock star – just in every.single.way. a rock star and a great “fit” for us – we knew we were being spoiled and hope we are not expecting too much of our 2d AP.

Our second Au Pair is totally FINE. She is highly responsible, patient, and the girls seem to enjoy her for the most part. However ~~

It bugs the heck out of me is that she never says “thank you” for things big or small. I want the girls to learn that “thank you” and “please” are the proper terms to REGULARLY use. And, I’m just not used to giving someone something – as small as bringing her a glass of water to an expensive take out meal from date night – and not getting any response.

I’ve tried talking to her and there was some small improvement but not much and the human part of me doesn’t want to get her those nice things if I don’t hear that she actually is happy to receive them. I’m not sure if this is a challenge of happiness or a challenge of manners, because….

In the morning if she is not “on duty”, when we say “Good morning” she replies with a grunt. As soon as she starts her shift we get a little more from her, but not much.

It annoys me (and especially my husband) that the girls have to be around someone so cold — I wonder if there’s anything we can do. Are we being too demanding?

I’ve spoken with her directly about how the way we do things is certainly not the “right way” but that the kids are used to people greeting them and being friendly and we would like to see that. It’s just not in her I think. It’s just uncomfortable to be around and bums me out that our home environment feels like a drag with her around.

What can we do?

Image: Elisa Dudnikova on Flickr


Inexpensive Ways for Au Pairs to Ship Boxes Back Home

by cv harquail on October 11, 2017

I knew we’d had a few posts about sending Au Pairs’ stuff back home when they leave — but I didn’t realize it had been seven years ago!
Let’s update our info on best rates and options:  What does your family do?
Our au pair is leaving in April after spending two years with our family.
Since her last summer is ending, she wants to ship back her summer items and get a jump on moving. Plus, we have plenty of time and aren’t in a rush to get things there right away.
Does anyone have recommendations for a good, cheap shipping option? FedEx, DHL and UPS are all cost-prohibitive.


Support Gun Safety Legislation

by cv harquail on October 4, 2017

Dear Readers —

A girlfriend reminded me this morning that, as a person who runs a website that reaches 16,000 people a month, I have a responsibility to use this platform wisely.  To promote community, to promote growth, to promote learning, to promote cross cultural understanding, and to promote safety.


One of the most horrifying things about American culture, to me, is that as a culture we do not promote safe regulation of weapons of mass destruction, such as the rifles used to commit mass murder.  Why a country that supposedly priorities “life” as well as “liberty” and the “pursuit of happiness” does not prioritize human life over gun ownership is beyond me.

Without getting into arguments over the actual intent of the 2nd amendment, I’d like to invite you to

Talk with your Au Pair about gun safety.  Make sure your Au Pair knows to ask whether there are unsecured guns in the homes of families where s/he takes your kid to play.

Consider donating money and time to Everytown for Gun Safety, an alliance of groups working to regulate gun ownership the same way we regulate driving, alcohol purchases, and Advil.

Check out Everytown for Gun Safety.





See also:

Au Pairs and Guns in Your House: Rules, Principles, and Having the Conversation

Au Pair Asks: How Do I Ask Prospective Host Families About Guns in Their Home?


My Au Pair Is Selling Products on Facebook: Should I care?

by cv harquail September 29, 2017

Au Pairs who want to make extra money, beyond their stipend and in violation of the State Department rules, usually stick to a few basic strategies — working a few extra hours for their family, walking a dog or two, or taking the rare emergency babysitting job down the street. None of these jobs are legal […]

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Do you know what your Au Pair *needs* from you?

by cv harquail September 15, 2017

A former babysitter and family friend got engaged last week, and to help her celebrate I bought her a few books on how to have a great marriage. (I know, kindof weird, but I am a BIG BELIEVER in trying to learn intentionally, especially when you can anticipate how your life will be changing.) Flipping […]

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When Au Pair Host Parents Are Too Harsh With Their Kids

by cv harquail September 13, 2017
Little boy crying

It can be truly disheartening to see how some people treat their children. There have been times (in the grocery store especially) when I’ve heard people say such mean things to their kids that I almost want to speak up and correct them myself. It’s hard to stay out of the fray when I see […]

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Digital Tools for Scheduling Au Pairs: Share your faves

by cv harquail September 12, 2017
calendar old

It’s rather pitiful, but I’m still (and perhaps always) a fan of the paper calendar.   While I *do* use the Tiny Calendar app on my iPhone, I always was printing out — and adding up by hand — on duty hours. Surely, someone else has a better way? Because Calendaring Host Mom has asked for […]

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Act NOW to Defend the Au Pair Program!

by cv harquail August 30, 2017

We knew it was coming.   Trump campaigned on promises to “crack down” on “illegals” and to restrict all forms of entry into the US by persons who are not current citizens. We knew that the J-1 visas were in trouble — programs supporting summer camp counselors, summer hotel staff, and — yes — au […]

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Taking Your Au Pair “On Vacation”: How can you make sure you’re fair to your Au Pair?

by cv harquail August 8, 2017

Today I got emails from two different au pairs, both asking for advice about going on vacations with their Host Families. In both situations, it seems that the Host Parents aren’t really following the rules around the 10 hours per day/ 45 hrs per week limits. Scanning back through the archives, I realized that nearly […]

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New Au Pair Has A Rash: Could it be the water?

by cv harquail August 1, 2017

Has this ever happened to you or your au pair? Our au pair has been with us for a little over 2 weeks. She has a rash that has spread over her arms, trunk, and neck.  She’s certain this is from our water. This is our 8th au pair in as many years, and we’ve […]

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