Big conversation going on today about Mary’s au pair…. Here’s the conversation so far…. Join in!
Our au pair has been with us for 8 months. She transitioned from another family and has not been the greatest. She does the bare minimum and has left the children unsupervised. She doesn’t make good decisions and is very influenced by other people. My children are older 10 -12 but needed someone to supervised them, help with homework, drive to activities, etc. When she came we agreed to the dates for her two weeks of vacation. She already took the first week which turned out to be about 10 days. She had family and friends stay with us and went to the city on the weekends. The next vacation is planned for Spring Break and she told us she was going to Florida. We made plans to take a cruise. Since this time she has changed her plans several times and now indicates that she will stay home. I am not comfortable leaving her home alone. She has already had one car accident and I really don’t want her driving while we are away. I also don’t want a house full of strangers. Any suggestions? Thanks — Mary
This is a tough situation, Mary. I think the car issue (while you are on vacation) is easily solved — just take the keys and tell her you don’t feel comfortable having her drive while you are away. (Not that it would be an easy conversation, but it’s something you can control.) The not feeling comfortable leaving her home alone, though — honestly that sends up red flags for me. If you don’t trust her with your home, how can you trust her with your children?? That, in addition to the fact that you say she’s left the children unsupervised says REMATCH to me. –Dawn
Thanks Dawn We have already selected our next au pair. We are new to this and kept giving her one more chance. I think I learned my lesson. She is a nice person, but just doesn’t think. She should be going to school during this time. She would need a car to get there. However, if she was going away she would have missed the classes. Is there any requirement to the number of hours they must attend classes at the local college? Thoughts??? —Mary
Give her money for a cab or a bus, whichever applies in your situation. You have to provide transportation to school, but don’t need to provide a car.. It might not be that expensive; if you are away for one week, usually the classes they take meet only once or twice a week. — Anna
Mary, if I were in your shoes, I would tell her that the week your family will be on the cruise is the week she is taking her vacation. Period. It is common to have one week of AP’s vacation to be selected by AP and another by the host family. This is the week you have selected for her. You are not comfortable leaving her in your house and you don’t want her driving. Therefore, she needs to make plans for when you are away. Missing 2 classes that week (assuming 2 classes a week schedule) is not a big deal. She can always talk to the instructor and get a makeup class or lecture notes.
Please understand that I am giving you this advice only because you children are older, 10-12. If they were all younger, I would be saying – REMATCH NOW! However, you can still rematch if you want to. — Maya
To Anna, I agree with the bus/cab fare. That will solve the no driving. However, if Mary is not comfortable having AP in the house while they are away for a week, that will not be solved unless AP goes away as well. — Maya
Maya Can you make the AP go somewhere? Is vacation defined as going away, or can she just not work for a week and get paid for it. She also claims not to have any money. It would be so much more relaxing not having to worry about her while we are away. — Mary
I think that the cab/bus fare is a good suggestion. Maya, your suggestion makes sense, but would it really be appropriate/allowed to say “you are not welcome in our home during the week we are away?” It’s one thing to say that she has to take her vacation time then — meaning that she can’t expect to use additional vacation days another time. But can a host family really say, “you must take vacation, and you must go AWAY somewhere for that vacation”? Doesn’t sound right to me. — Dawn
I think maybe I’d reiterate that this is her vacation time, so if she chooses not to go anywhere, she still needs to understand that she doesn’t have any additional time left. I’d also leave very strict rules/instructions about what she’s allowed to do and who she’s allowed to have over in the house while the family is away, as well as an explanation that she is not permitted to use the car. If she’s untrustworthy enough that Mary doesn’t think she can trust her to follow those explicit rules, then I reiterate that I don’t think she should be trusted to be responsible for children either. (Even though those children are somewhat older.) The explicit rules about use/respect of the home while the family is gone and the fact that the days will count as vacation days might be enough to “convince” the AP to go away on a vacation somewhere. But if not, then I’d just leave the money for cab or bus fare for the class. — Dawn
Maya, she has been with this family for 8 month. Many agencies have more restrictive rematch policies and consider a placement “final” after a shorter period of time. But I think that in some cases it can be negotiated. — Dawn
Dawn, the way I read Mary’s post suggested to me that her AP wants to go somewhere, but is undecided when, thus I suggested that Mary as hostparent can pick that week as AP’s vacation week. Thus AP will be going somewhere and be out of the house. I do agree that you cannot force AP to go somewhere if she decides to take a ’staycation’. Then, Anna’s suggestion of providing cab/bus fare is the best solution and then what you said about expectations and rules while family is away. — Anna
Anna, I know about more restricted rematch policies. However, like I said, considering age of Mary’s kids, I said that I would not rematch. If kids were younger, and AP left them alone, as Mary said, no agency can prevent you from rematching as you can claim that you AP endangered welfare of your children. Can you imagine not wanting to rematch if AP left a 7-8 year old alone in the house, even if she has been with the family for 8 months? However, it does depend on each individual child, child’s age, and family situation. — Maya
Thanks so much for all of your help. I think I will leave bus/cab money and have someone keep an eye on the house. Hopefully, the new AP I selected will be a better match. It is so hard to know. — Mary
Mary, are you feeling uncomfortable about telling your Au Pair what *you* prefer? It’s perfectly okay for you to:
- – take away the car keys/privilege and offer cab fare
- – ask a few of your friends to randomly stop by and call to check in on her
- – forbid her to have guests in the house while you are gone
- – tell her that the week ‘counts’ as her vacation and that she will not have another vacation time scheduled… as per your initial agreement. Remember, you may not have chosen to take a cruise if you knew that she’d be available for childcare — you arranged your vacation in part to accommodate her. You’ve done enough.
I understand why you might not want to do rematch this late in the game… it really takes a lot out of you and might not be worth the disruption right now. Also, I agree that asking your au pair not to stay in house while you’re gone would be too harsh, although there is no reason not to forbid her to have others in the house.
Remember, it’s not just about whether you can trust her… it’s about whether you can trust her guests, the people you don’t know and who might not care about you. (That said, if she stays at home alone, lock your liquor, lock your bedroom door and put away your easy valuables & prescription meds. Again, it’s not her, it’s them.)
Also, it sounds like, underneath the details, she may have taken advantage of your goodwill already (with the leaving kids alone and getting another chance, having guests, having already taken a long vacation, and doing the bare minimum. You don’t really owe her more than what we all have suggested, imho. — CVH
Other thoughts moms? Add them in the comments!