5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Considering Rematch

by cv harquail on May 5, 2009

How soon can you know that it just won’t work? Dory asked a question (which I post below) about whether she’s reasonable to think that she should rematch with another au pair. She’s only had this one for 3 months, but it isn’t promising. My quick response to her prompted this advice …

5 Questions to Ask Before Considering Rematch:

1. Have you done your best to be clear and explicit in your instructions to your au pair?

2. Has your au pair been kind to your children?

3. Do you feel like you can trust your au pair?

4. Has your au pair shown any ability to take feedback and adjust her behavior?

5. Is there any sort of Au Pair duty where she has done a ‘good’ to ‘very good’ job?

If the answer is "yes" to #1, and "no" to the other 4, I’d get ready to rematch. girl doorstep.jpg

You’ve had enough time with her to get a sense of whether she is willing and able to adjust to your family….imho. Although there is enough stuff in your description to warrant a rematch, when you look at just these four questions, you get a good enough sense of whether to end it now, rather than wait either for a really serious problem, or the final straw after hundreds of littler offenses.

Moms and Dads, read Dory’s description of the situation and weigh in with your advice!

"We’ve had our au pair for 3 months now. There has been a series of "little things" that is making me wonder if she is right for our family. I am considering re-match. My husband thinks we should stick it out. Here is a quick summary:

(1) On Day 1, au pair won’t come out of her room. LCC calls to talk to her and au pair says that she is second guessing her decision to become an au pair. [She comes out on Day 2 and proclaims she wants to be an au pair].

(2) On Weekend 2, au pair gets a flat tire with the family car while 25 miles in the OPPOSITE direction of where she told us she was going. We only find her because a police officer eventually pulled up behind her and he called us.

(3) Au pair disappears when she is supposed to be "on duty" if I am at home and participating in taking care of the kids (I know this has been a discussion in previous posts).

(4) Au pair routinely neglects changing my 2 year old, to the point he is soaking through his diaper when I come home from work.

(5) Au pair ignores my 1 year old while I am trying to leave and he is sitting in front of the door blocking it while screaming because he wants me to stay.

(6) On other days, au pair meets me at the door with the 1 year old when I come home from work and hands him to me, even though she is scheduled to be "on duty" for another 1/2 hour.

(7) Au pair takes the kids outside at dinner time (presumably knowing it is time for them to eat) and I have tears to deal with from both kids when I tell them they have to come in to eat.

(8) Au pair has friend over (who lives 30 minutes away) and the 2 kids that the friend watches while Au pair is "on duty" and without asking either me or my husband if it is ok. (We have a rule that friends are ok, as long as you ask).

(9) Au pair hides laundry basket of kids clothes in her room instead of putting them away so she can leave with friend in (8) above before her scheduled time to be done working. I later discover it.

(10) We sit down last week to talk to au pair about our expectations because of this growing number of "little things" and we are met with excuses, back talk and sass. We try again to talk to au pair about our expectations the following day and again are met with excuses.

I am ready to re-match. My husband thinks we should keep trying with her. Any thoughts would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks!"

{ 29 comments }

Mom of 3 May 5, 2009 at 11:49 am

If I were you, I’d rematch. Her actions do not indicate that she respects your needs, and your re-counting of the conversations with her sounds like she was not respectful either. She is supposed to make your life easier, not more stressful. And you should trust her, but it seems like she has proven to be a bit mis-trustful.

E2 May 5, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Hello! Go with your gut and rematch. We rematched after a month and a half… and while it was hard at the time, it was the best decision for our family (and for her, probably). Remember, you are doing this for your family and really, there are some lovely, dedicated au pairs out there who would take great care of your kids and exceed your expectations for help. Managing this au pair is a waste of time and energy! We were lucky to have a great first au pair so knew with our rematch (the second au pair) that things could be much, much better!

TMK May 5, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Dory,
At only three months it is worth one more conversation. I’d begin this way. AP my husband and I are wondering if you are happy in your job choice or if you are still having the same doubts you experienced the day you arrived. We ask because you seem to be having trouble carrying out the responsibilities of the position and then become defensive when we try to talk to you about it. How do you feel about coming to live with and work for us? ……If she goes negative with the answer then tell her you want her to be happy and you and your family want someone who is happy to be with them and perhaps you all will be happier in different situations with different people and then rematch. If she goes to the positive side with her answer and seems willing to change then tell her what you expect. 1) no visitors more than once a week and must be pre=approved, it’s not fair to your children to have her ignoring them while she is chatting with her friends. 2) Make sure she has a plan in place to keep the child busy until 6:00 pm when she goes off duty as you have things you need to accomplish when you get home too. 3) take the child out of the front room 5 minutes before you leave so that she can avoid the stress to the child by leaving him/her crying. and on and on. I’d finish by telling her, Let’s try this new system for two weeks to see if we both can agree to live this way and then at the end of the two weeks lets talk again about whether we can all be happy and productive together or whether we need to look for other solutions. Good Luck!

Dory May 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm

TMK — We had that conversation with her (the second time we tried to discuss expectations last week). We were first met with a defensive attitude and general sass. When I explained to her that wasn’t to help us have a productive conversation, she finally answered that she did want to be an au pair and that, to her, it was like that first day never happened (wish it were the same with me …). We have a handbook that we gave her at the beginning and we went through it again to discuss our expectations. She agreed to do the job consistent with our expectations. Then, yesterday, (the very first day of work after this conversation), she neglected to give either my 2 year old or my 1 year old any milk. (I know it sounds silly, but they get a sippy cup of milk and a sippy cup of water every morning to drink during the day). Again, this is a little thing, but, come on, one day after our “expectations” discussion. Does that change your thoughts any?

Dawn May 5, 2009 at 1:01 pm

I think that TMK has some great suggestions about how to make one more “go” at having a conversation to try to get things on the right track. (One thing that I think is helpful about TMK’s suggestion is that it starts out by focusing on the “big picture.” When you mention specific “little things,” it makes it easier for her to address them and make excuses point-by-point, when NONE of the “little things” is really the issue — it’s the cumulative effect of all of them. So starting the conversation with a focus on the big picture, “we are wondering whether you are rethinking your decision to be an AP because you seem GENERALLY unable or unwilling to fulfill your responsibilities…” is a good way to end-run the excuses and get to the heart of the problem.) But I would also talk to your husband ahead of time to get him on board with the fact that you WILL need to rematch if either (1) she responds negatively or defensively to this last chance conversation or (2) things have not improved significantly after 2 weeks. The bottom line, as Momof3 stated, is that an AP is supposed to make your life LESS stressful, not moreso. If she is adding to your stress rather than making your life easier, you need to rematch.

Dawn May 5, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Oops, cross-posted with you, Dory! If you have already had the more “general” discussion, it may be time to rematch. I guess the only other thing that you may want to still try (not because you owe it to her, but just to know that you tried everything and to try to avoid the stress of a rematch and a potential lapse in childcare) is to very specifically let her know that you want to give things two more weeks to see if she is truly willing and able to fulfill her responsibilities, and then otherwise it’s probably best for both parties if you rematch.

Momof boys May 5, 2009 at 2:02 pm

I say it’s time to rematch but you may want to call your LCC and give her a heads up as to what is going to happen.

E2 May 5, 2009 at 2:03 pm

I do think that the advice here is being very nice to the underperforming au pair. I just think that if she is not taking care of those basic needs for your kids (diapers and milk!) what else is she not doing? One thing that dh and I discussed before rematching (and how we put it to the departing au pair) was that we wanted her to have a good au pair year, and it was just not going to be with our family. We decided we wouldn’t harp on all the things that were going wrong in the rematch discussion as there was no point. You will probably find that she will not be surprised about the rematch. Good luck!

Been There May 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm

She doesn’t respect you, she doesn’t listen to your directions, you can’t trust her, and it doesn’t appear as though she likes your kids. Why do you want to spend a year like this? It is only going to get worse. She is not the right au pair.

I spent too much time, trying too hard to make it work. I was miserable, my hubby was miserable, and the kids didn’t like having an au pair. I keep asking myself why I did this for person who was justing using us.

Please rematch now!!! You will be thankful.

Franzi May 5, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I’m with Dawn,
give your AP a very specific 2 week period to improve her behavior and if things don’t work well, this is not the family and kids she should be with.
be prepared to rematch, as i believe things will not improve (certainly in the first week, but i don’t think she is able to keep it up for two weeks because i don’t see the will to pull this off).

i am actually concerned about that first day of hers. yes, we all had a difficult time to start but to not leave the room when we all know that this is the time to especially try, no matter how you feel?! i can understand why you can’t get this out of your head.

Dory May 5, 2009 at 2:46 pm

This has all been wonderful advice. I think I know what is going to happen (rematch) and I like the suggestion of giving it a specific two week period. I also tend to agree that she doesn’t seem to like my kids. That said, I am not sure she likes kids generally. She went to a birthday party at another au pair’s home and came back complaining that the 3 year old kept coming up and grabbing her hand and wanting to dance with her. Didn’t seem like something to complain about for someone who likes kids. It is nice to know that I am not crazy in fretting about this, even if it is all little things.

Darthastewart May 5, 2009 at 3:16 pm

I’m not keen on rematching quickly, but this situation has “rematch” written all over it. It doesn’t sound like she’s taking that great of care of the kids, and isn’t particularly doing her job. The “to me it never happened” response about the first day isn’t a particularly good one either, because it _did_ happen. – Failure to acknowledge her own actions is a big flag to me.

Dawn May 5, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Dory, if you do go with the “two week trial period,” I’d still say something to your LCC now — don’t wait until the two weeks are up. She can start keeping her eyes open for other potential APs in rematch, plus maybe she can have a real “heart to heart” with the AP to let her know that things really need to change DRASTICALLY if she wants to stay.

Dory May 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm

That is a good suggestion, Dawn. Thanks! Our LCC is pretty helpful. We called her a lot in the beginning and she has told us all along we were going to end up re-matching. It was just a matter of time …

Jen May 5, 2009 at 8:46 pm

As an LCC my suggestion would be to meet one more time with both the AP and LCC, come up with a set plan of action- 3-5 specific things you need to consistently see happen in the next 2 weeks to continue the relationship. My mom instinct says rematch right away but my LCC instinct is that there are 2 sides to every situation and many times if an AP realizes that there is a severe consequence(rematch) if they do not improve they will do what is necessary to make it work if they really want to complete the program.

Anonymous May 5, 2009 at 10:03 pm

You can meet with her again but you cannot force someone to like your kids or the job. It may change for a little while but I think it would go back to what you are dealing with and then you will be further into the releationship and may have lost out on some good candiates.

Cami May 6, 2009 at 8:04 am

You should rematch for sure! There are tons of good girls out there! As someone said, the au pair should make your life easier! I would not give her a new chance, 3 months is enough to show who she is!

Dawn May 6, 2009 at 8:26 am

Oh, I actually really like Jen’s suggestion of including the LCC in the “last chance” meeting to kick off the two week “trial period.” Having the LCC there will impress upon your AP the seriousness of your concerns, and you’ll have a witness, so that later there can’t be any question about whether you were clear about your expectations.

CV May 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

Although I’m an advocate of ‘rematch now’, I see another benefit in the idea of a meeting with the LCC. Having the meeting, using it to speak directly and clearly about your concerns, and going through the whole process of negotiating next steps is just good practice. What you learn by doing the meeting (even if you end up rematching next week) you can apply to your next au pair situation as well as to other situations where someone is not meeting expectations. A lot of what we do as host parents can develop skills for other parts of our lives….

PC May 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

REMATCH! If you went to a restaurant and the meal wasn’t good, would you send it back? This is FAR more important than a meal – it is your children and your home. You need to be happy with the situation. You tried and are not getting the results that you want. Even the best LCC and AP agency is going to suggest that you work things out – it’s easier for them. You paid a lot of money to the agency for their services, so it is fair for you to expect to get what you paid for. I have rematched twice now. I am done feeling guilty about not being happy with the level of care – I don’t have expectations that are unusual or out of line. Rematching can be a bit stressful, but it is worth it if you find the right match. Good luck!!

Calif Mom May 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm

After I read the original description (especially when I got to the part about conversations to re-set expectations were met with sass and backtalk?!) I am pretty surprised that so many moms here are advocating a two-week trial. You’ve given her 3 months of “trial”!

Maybe it’s all this AP Appreciation Week love fest around the website and spreading a rosy glow of generosity, but this is a no-brainer to me. You don’t owe her anything at this point, and 3 months is NOT that soon to rematch! I rematched with our first AP ever within a week and she was gone by the end of two. Not because I’m harsh (please! my APs will tell you I’m the nicest host mom around; my hub will tell you I’m a pushover) but because she didn’t have the heart, skills, or desire to be an AP. Neither does this one.

You may be stuck having to do the Harsh Meeting thing and two-week trial — with LCC at the table, absolutely! — in order to bring your husband along with you in the decision (and help you quantify behaviors), but I would bet real money on how this is going to end.

good luck!

TMK May 7, 2009 at 9:00 am

HI Dory,
In response to your question I have a couple of thoughts, You mentioned you went over the book with her and she agreed to follow it, but then the very next day she made a mistake and forgot to give the children their milk. I have to ask how the remaining 8-10 hours went that day? Was that her only transgression? How was yesterday? Keep in mind she is now “under your skin” so pull back and try to view the last 48 hours with a little distance. Have you seen a real effort to try? A real effort to make this work? I also detect a note of resignation in your posting. Are you really up for trying or have you run out of enthusiasm for making this particular AP situation work? That will play a huge part in how you will view her efforts to make this work. If in your heart you are “just done” then nothing she does will help. Search your heart and figure out how you feel, is it just too difficult for you to keep trying, then maybe the rematch is best.
Lastly, if you seriously feel she doesn’t like and enjoy your children then skip the first part of this post and rematch immediately!!! That is the single most important dealbreaker I can think of. She could be super nanny and housekeeper extraordinaire and I’d still rematch if she didn’t find joy in being with my children.

Calif Mom May 7, 2009 at 9:15 am

CV — Absolutely agree that practice in these tough conversations is useful. It’s like interviewing for a job you’re not sure you really want, just for the sake of practicing interviewing.

I watched my 8 yo successfully navigate a tough situation that involved three really hard conversations that she had to instigate (she’s a girl who likes to solve her own problems): 1) confronting a bully and laying down expectations for what will happen if he continues his disrespectful behavior, 2) telling her mom about it when he continued to be disrespectful and 3) then also talking to the teacher about it. (BTW, I highly recommend the American Girl books about bullying — which I never thought I would do as I’m a reluctant consumer. But these books are accessible for the kids, decently written and actually have good advice.)

Because of doing the very hard, emotionally draining work of admitting that things weren’t working out and asking for help, she fixed this situation! The boy isn’t bothering anyone any more, she doesn’t have to sit by him anymore, and she feels like a hero to the other kids in her class. Why is this relevant to rematch? Because I had a flash of her in some future dating or parenting situation when things weren’t going well, she didn’t feel respected or that her wishes were honored. She has had practice handling this well, asking for help and having people agree with her and then step up to fix the situation.

Sometimes we just HAVE to have those ‘fierce conversations’. And I figure the more practice we have in doing them, the less emotionally draining they will become. That has to have a positive spillover effect into our work lives and our other relationships. We can all grow. Sometimes we just need an 8 year old role model!

CV May 7, 2009 at 11:36 am

Maybe we can loan your daughter to Dory? Even just for emotional support?!

Dory May 7, 2009 at 11:12 am

TMK — I think you are right, I am done wasting energy on her. 3 months is long enough. It is one “little thing” after another with her. It is pretty clear to me that she thinks she knows everything and nothing is her fault. For example, take our conversation from yesterday:

Au Pair: We are out of laundry detergent.

Me: I saw that. I will pick some up at the store on Friday. I just bought that container of laundry detergent 2 weeks ago. It is supposed to be enough for 85 washes. I think you might be using too much in each wash. Could you please use less.

Au Pair: I am not using too much.

[we walk to the laundry room]

Me: Please just push the dispenser on the laundry detergent and count to 10. That is all you need to use.

Au Pair: I am not using too much.

Me: Well it is only me and you doing laundry and these jugs of detergent used to last a month. Please use less.

Au Pair: I am not using too much.

Me: Please do not argue with me about it. Just use less. Thank you.

Au Pair: Can I take your car tonight?

I tend to agree with the commentators on here that are telling me not to waste anymore time and energy on her. I am willing to give it a little more time and see if she can come out from under my skin, but I am guessing she can’t. I am already working on getting interim babysitters in case we have to go out of country for a rematch. Everyday my husband is coming closer to seeing the need to re-match and I think maybe, just maybe, the laundry conversation above put him over the top. I also agree with the commentators that, if she is not giving my children milk or changing their diapers, what else isn’t she doing? Milk is essential to a 1 and 2 year old. When my husband asked her why she didn’t give it to them, she said “I wasn’t sure if you wanted them to have it.” That baffled him. First, they get milk everyday. Second, if she didn’t know, why didn’t she ask?

Calif Mom May 7, 2009 at 11:20 am

Yes, you’re done! She’s either very immature or not very smart, and definitely not trying to make it work. Glad to hear you’re lining up back-up. Have you called your LCC yet? Like removing a bandaid, get it over with. Our two fave APs (and the ones who extended with us) were both from rematch. I like being able to meet them in person, and insist on getting rematches from our local area in order to make that happen. Have them meet the kids at the park, and you’ll know right away whether it’s worth bringing them home with you. Keep us posted! The transition will be hard on Mom, but the sooner the better, and you’ll be so glad you did when it’s behind you. Your kids deserve it.

Dory May 7, 2009 at 11:32 am

Thanks, Calif. Mom. Actually, my LCC called me because Au Pair called her to complain. Au pair didn’t understand why she couldn’t have friends over or why we were so upset when she had them over (while she was on duty) without asking. Our LCC showed her no sympathy, told her to grow up and start following the rules. (LCC had a copy of our manual on her computer and was able to quickly see that our expectation is friends are ok, as long as you ask). LCC called me and essentially said, tell me when you are ready to re-match. The advice on this board was invaluable. It really makes me feel confident in my decision that I have thought of everything, am not overreacting and am doing the right thing for my kids. : ) Thanks for making this a post, CV!!

Dawn May 7, 2009 at 12:23 pm

OMG, Dory — that laundry conversation! I hope that by now your husband is convinced that it’s time to rematch — or at least convinced enough to abide by your wishes even if he himself wouldn’t make that decision yet. (I was one of the people who supported the idea of “one more conversation” and a two week trial period — but that was mainly because it sounded like your husband wasn’t on board yet, and I thought that a two week trial would help to get him on board. If it had been me, I would have already started the rematch process based on some of the other stuff you mentioned!! Lucky for me, my hubby basically lets me be the decisionmaker when it comes to AP stuff, so he wouldn’t have stood in my way!)

Keep us posted! I hope you find someone fabulous either in rematch or from out-of-the-country. I’m sure that right about now you’re wondering why you are putting yourself and your family through all of this stress, but believe me, when you find the right one, hosting an AP can be the best thing ever!

TMK May 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Hi Dory,
Yes it sounds to me like it is over. That was way way too much energy to have to put into laundry detergent just to get someone to use less. Sounds like there is a mental block in her mind to everything you say and as such you will be better off just pulling the plug on this one. Line up those sitters, and start looking for someone who can move you forward and not pull you backwards with these ridiculous challenges to your suggestions.
Whatever is going on with her we can’t know for sure, but we do know she doesn’t have enough presence of mind to even keep her mouth closed to save her job. Clearly a huge lack of judgement which I’m sure spills over into everything else she does. There has to be some part of her that just doesn’t want to be there and you will be doing her a favor to help her move on to the correct position that will be right for her…..preferably one that does not involve children……or people… :)

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