Calif Mom needs some ideas for upgrading her communication system with her au pair.
My AP joined us last summer and is going to extend (yay!). I have been wanting to fine tune some expectations ahead of signing those papers, and have been taking notes on specific things I would like her to start doing more consistently. Our handbook is pretty good, but things like schedule and kids’ needs have changed.
She and I do not have much overlap time (she is not a morning person, and retreats to her room when I come home, which is fine, but makes it difficult to provide feedback in a casual sort of way.)
During her spring break vacation, I spent a lot of time thinking abt how to launch our new “performance management system”, and a key element was going to be email (thanks to that whole discussion about extending the so-so au pair). If we don’t get some of these things to go more smoothly, I’m pretty sure I won’t be thrilled that I chose to extend with her, if you know what I mean.
Well, now it seems her laptop migrated to a friend when she was on break. She has plans to save money and buy another one but that will be a long time from now. So email will no longer work.
Here’s my plan, please help me fill gaps:
– email (defunct for now)
– Monday night meeting to go over schedule for week ahead
– establishing a system of checklists for each day
I am contemplating whether having a “yes, we want to extend, but here’s what we need to improve” conversation with her, or if that would backfire.
One other factor — her first week back from vacation was a bit of a mess, with late kid pick-ups, forgetting important items, etc. caused by disruption in routine and perhaps lingering distraction of her trip. She feels terrible about the problems, and while I don’t want to hit her while she’s down, I do want to take advantage of the opportunity to ask for some improvements.
As I read it, there are three things Calif Mom needs some ideas around:
1. Which system should she try next for communicating with her au pair? What will replace email effectively?
2. Should she initiate a conversation where a condition of extending is that the ua pair change some of her routines, behaviors, etc.?
3. Should she initiate this conversation right now, while her au pair is aware that she hasn’t been quite up to par this week right after vacation?
I’ll jump in with some thoughts about #2
— I think that before you sign the extension papers, you and your au pair need to “reset your expectations” and re-commit to your relationship, if you will.
To frame the conversation, you might suggest that :
(1) One advantage of the conventional year-long stay has been that you would get a new au pair, with new expectations, to fit your needs as the kids grow and life changes.
When you extend with your same au pair, you still need to reassess old systems and create new ones. Only this time, you have to get some one to change her behaviors, not just learn from scratch how to do the au pair job in your particular household.
(2) Another thing is that, you and she are making a legal commitment. Any time she makes a commitment or “enters into a contract” she should always be as clear as possible about what is expected of her and what she expects (of you in this case). That’s just being a smart adult.
SO, she needs to be a smart adult and you need to be a smart adult. You both need to have a clear “reset” conversation about how things will change “now that the kids are older, their routines are changing, and everyone’s needs are changing.”
You might try using language like “revise” or “change” or “upgrade” or “switch” rather than improve, if you don’t want to lean too heavily on disapproval as a ‘motivator’.
Be ready with some things to offer her… Has she earned any new privileges? Are you able to give her more of something non-monetary? Are you able/willing to change anything about your systems that might help her get something she’d prefer (within reason of course)? She will be getting more of a stipend in recognition of both her experience and the amortization over time of the agency expenses…. but I’m not sure whether your agency gives you any break on the agency fees for the extended months. If they do, you might consider offering this to her as a raise, or telling her you’ll save it up for something like a completion bonus…
Consider, too, if there is anything that you can ask your children to do differently– maybe do a few more chores with supervision, rather than having the au pair do for them, or promising to help your au pair polish her English pronunciation or spelling.
Finally, don’t be too nervous about having the conversation– if she wants to stay she should be willing to revise how things get done. If she’s not willing to make some changes, then really you might be better off with a new au pair…. The important thing is, don’t tempt yourself to think that you can avoid conflicts by just not talking about them. We all know that doesn’t work, even if we fervently wish it did.
I don’t know why the bunnies. They ARE cute, no?
Moms, chime in with ideas!