Au Pair Host Mom “Not Smiling in Seattle” writes:
I am hoping you readers have some honest input for us.
My Au Pair last night announced her mother was ill and needs an operation.
My first impression was “oh my gosh, is your mom ok?” When I asked for more information, our au pair could not give me any type of illness or surgery that her mom requires. Our au pair says she needs to go home to take care of her siblings while her Mom recovers. Our LCC called me and said she thinks the situation sounds fishy.
What I am struggling with is — something isn’t right with this situation. And, regardless, I have to figure out what to do.
This is our 2nd Au Pair. Our au pair has been with us 5.5 months. She is 19 and from Australia, has lots of friends here in town (we live in a big city). She is not lacking friends what-so-ever. We liked her, thought she liked us, there was no warning that anything might be wrong.
We have had no issues with her other than last month she exceeded her cell phone minutes by over 2,000. She says she will pay us back. (I am not holding my breath).
I pride myself on being laid back and have been if anything too lax in managing her since I work full-time as well as my spouse. We both work in the home and I do travel for work.
Other than watching twin 3.5 year olds I am at a loss what the issue can be. I know it is cold here and summer in her country but to pull the plug on us right before the holidays and to do this to my kids is inexcusable. They are going to be crushed. This is what makes me the most upset.
I realize that the handwriting is on the wall. I am so furious right now I could scream. Since her mother’s illness/surgery has been announced she has been in a good mood, etc., not worried. She doesn’t even has a firm exit date back to her country. I can’t believe the timing! In addition to the holidays, this is the busy season at work for both me and my spouse.
Half of me wants to pull the plug on this Au Pair situation all the way around-I don’t want someone taking care of my kids that is not into 110%. Last night, before her announcement, I was a huge fan of the program. Now, after I spent all last night and today worrying and on the phone with my agency to do damage control… I can’t stand the fact that I am at the mercy of a teenager.
Any guidance you have would be fabulous. hanks and happy holidays!
Not Smiling in Seattle.
No wonder you’re not smiling. It is *never* easy to figure out how to manage the end game. Whether you’re going into rematch or even leaving the program, you have to figure out:
(1) what is best for your family,
(2) what is fair for your departing au pair, and
(3) how to manage your (justifiable) anger frustration.
Nothing adds insult to injury than watching your departing au pair blithely (words deleted) you over, with no visible remorse, while you scramble to fix the problem she created. So,
Clarify what you want. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if you want to go into rematch and get another au pair, or if you want to hold out for an out-of-country candidate, or if you want to leave the program. [If you decide to leave the program, ask your agency for a pro-rated refund of your annual fee.]
Make the dates work for you. Assuming you want to go into rematch, set it up so that it works for you. Probably at this time of year things are more complicated– who wants to take on a new au pair (or host family) the week of Christmas or Chanukah? And, I bet your au pair wants to be home in time for the holidays…. it would be convenient for her, but maybe not for you. Still, try to set a departure date for her that works for *you*.
Make sure you get the right rematch. There may be a great rematch candidate out there for you, so start scouring the countryside. Your LCC and your agency should be actively helping you. Take the time you need and don’t take a candidate just because you feel desperate.
Recognize it’s over, but don’t make it easy on her. Try to set a departure date for her that works for *you*. You may be irked at her and feel angry, and you may worry about her commitment, but she’s already packed her bags. Since she is already leaving, it does you no good to make things work out well for her at your expense. You don’t need to do her any favors. Don’t lower your expectations of her.
Especially, don’t go out of your way to give her time off for holiday shopping, or extra holiday money, or anything else. Stay the course until you have a plan, and then permit her to set a departure day.
Don’t lower your standards. Put your kids’ needs and your family needs first. Don’t assume that because you and your husband work at home a lot, that you can balance childcare and work by trading off. It’s not that much of an emergency, and your departing au pair knows this.
Obviously her mom’s not dying. Heck, her mom might not even be ill. It does seem a little fishy, doesn’t it… So there is no need to rush your departing au pair out the door UNTIL you have a backup plan that you are HAPPY WITH in place.
Recognize that, in this situation, Truth is irrelevant to Reality. Some of us might be tempted to call the mom in Australia, to see if this is for real or if it is a ruse…. but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Sure, if the mom were really ill and really needed help, you’d feel inconvenienced but not angry. It might help to know that the mom really did need her daughter… but… What you’ve got here is a conceptual question– is your au pair selfish, immature and irresponsible or is she really needed by her mom? However, the answer to that question only changes how you feel about her departure, not whether or not she’s leaving. She’s leaving.
Act like your best self. Do not let this mess with your life. It will pass. I think your best ‘posture’ is to act like — mom isn’t dying, daughter needs to go home, it’s not urgent so you all can make it work out for the kids, the kids’ care and safety is most important, and you are not angry.
Finally, don’t get stuck holding the bills. Make sure you set all financial and other accounts straight before she goes. Take that phone bill, take this current phone bill, check on any other outstanding expenses she might have, and tell her that you’d like to subtract these expenses from THIS WEEK’S pocket money, as well as next week’s. Don’t get extra-screwed– it’s alreeady bad enough!
Okay, those are my thoughts– Host Parents ( and *supportive* au pairs) weigh in, below.