Advice Wanted: ‘Former’ Au Pair Has Outstayed Her Welcome. What to do?

by cv harquail on March 10, 2009

Speaking of being taken advantage of and being too generous…. check out Cynthia’s situation….And offer her some advice!!

Does anyone have experience when AP wants to spend the 13 month with you??? I can’t seem to get her to leave. She always says her plans have change or she is waiting for money, etc. LCC said to be patient but this isn’t fair to my family or the new au pair.

I just spent three nights cooking for a dinner party and she invited her friends over and ate all the food. She said I only told the new au pair that it was for a party. It is obvious that she has no where to go and plane tickets that are still two weeks away. I don’t want to throw her out on the street but I really don’t know what else to do. She has tons of luggage and it is going to cost her a fortune to get it all back home. I am also extremely busy at work and don’t have time for this. HELP

Cynthia, this is one of those situations where I think you have to lean on your LCC and tell her to take in the (former) au pair. You’re right, it is NOT fair to you, your kids or your new au pair. Also, from your comments, it sounds like she is taking advantage of you and was planning to take advantage of house.jpeg

Somehow, the ball got dropped (1) when your former AP was making her plans to leave, and (2) when the 13th month was or was not discussed. How is it that she is scheduled to leave 3 weeks after the end of her time with you, without you knowing this in advance or giving permission? This is why I suggest leaning on the counselor — since it is the agency that is supposed to make sure that travel arrangements ‘work’. You are not required to be "patient" and to house this au pair for an additional 3 weeks. That’s not your job.

Edina has some good ideas for you:

This is pretty tricky. I have had this scenario several times when I worked in the au pair industry. Prior discussion of the 13th month is critical – many times the au pair just assumes she can stay (she is a teenager, right? Teens assume things all the time and they can be pretty self-centered).

Now, it is too late and I think you are stuck with her and her luggage! You could ask the LCC if she has any families that are between au pairs (in rematch or waiting for their new au pair) and maybe that family would be willing to take her, in return for her helping out with the kids, etc.

This seems to work well if you can find such a family and your au pair does not mind moving all her stuff there!

She should be mailing boxes of things now so she does not have such a huge expense and trouble with all that stuff when she leaves.

Edina’s suggestion of looking for a short interim gig with a family is something your LCC could help with.

I know hindsight is 20/20, so now we’re all forewarned about the 13th month. In the meantime, I’m irked on your behalf! Watch out for all that luggage… you don’t need to be taking a trip to the Goodwill or spending $ at UPS either. Keep us posted….

Moms, Ideas? Please share in the comments!


Mom of 2 Girls March 10, 2009 at 6:35 am

Wow! I totally feel for you, even though our situation is miniscule compared to yours! We are awaiting the arrival of our next AP on Thursday, and our former one (last scheduled day was Fri., “official” ending day Sunday) informed us Friday a.m. that she had changed her mind and would be staying with us until her flight leaves on Wednesday, since we had offered (felt obligated) to take her to the airport. She formerly told us she’d be staying with another au pair in the cluster, but that must not have been acceptable to the other host family, I’m guessing, since their AP would still have to be working. Not to mention she probably realized that computer access, cellphone use Since we didn’t have that great a relationship with her anyway, we were not too pleased, as I have limited time after her departure(2.5 hours when my toddler will be in preschool while her older sister is in school) to clean the room and bathroom and get ready for the next arrival! Yes, I know, you’re thinking that sounds like more than enough time, but this AP was kind of a slob, so there’s some heavy-duty stuff like trying to polish some of the rings and stains out of the antique furniture (thanks for the hint someone had to have glass installed on top – that is going to be done this time!), spot clean the bedspread and carpet, and vacuum out all the drawers thoroughly then wipe them all down.

So, yes, they’re teenagers (even if they’re past 19!) and don’t plan ahead and assume that every decision they make is the best and right one. We’ve learned a lot this time, and are going to start off using all these wonderful suggestions on this site with our next one!

Calif mom March 10, 2009 at 7:28 am

Cynthia — Your LCC is being lazy. You absolutely need her help with this one. Remember, you pay big fees to the agency, and most of the year don’t make many demands on them. It’s your turn to be needy now. Tell her what you told us — you are in a busy period at work and don’t have time for this.

If AP has too much stuff and you think she has no clue what she’s getting into and you’re going to end up with overflow (it’s happened to me! broken suitcases, size 00 pants left in the bureau, etc) send her an email with links to the fee chart of the airline she’s on. No way you should be paying that — and overweight or extra bags are really pricey now, hundreds of dollars! Depending on her country, she might find a shipper who will send a big box by slow boat. Takes months, but very cheap that way. I know that my APs have always been concerned about shipping boxes home because of theft en route, but her only other option is to sell down the volume of her stuff or give it away to her AP friends staying here.

Mom of 2 girls — A couple options for you:
Give outgoing AP a checklist and specific instructions and have her do the cleaning. Seriously! Even if she’s not a diligent cleaner, and the work is not up to your standards, it will reduce the load on you and you can just do ‘fine tuning’ during the couple of hours you have rather than starting from a big dirty mess.

Or if you really don’t trust her to do anything, use one of those “free cleaning” coupons and have a maid service (websites have printable coupons) come in to do the drawers, blinds and molding, and all that annoying stuff, freeing you to work on the antique yourself in your limited time.

Ask for the cell phone back a day or so early if you are concerned about her racking up minutes. Those last days can be really high use days! I’ve had more than one burn through all her minutes in a week. (With a perfectly good house phone sitting there….)

Another slightly nefarious idea: could you take outgoing AP to the airport REALLY early — have your little one skip preschool if necessary (not like she would flunk out from this!) — and that will give you both a little more transition time. Outgoing AP can cool her heels at the airport and you can spin it as “it takes a really long time to go through security, and with all those bags, you may get pulled aside for extra screening”… etc. My FIL always wants to be at the airport 4 hours early, it certainly won’t kill her, and is the price to be paid for a free ride to the airport. : )

cvh March 10, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Mom of 2, I’m with Calif Mom —
1. go print out the checklist of cleaning & closeout tasks, habd it to you departing ap, along with all the necessary cleaning supplies. At least if she does a bad job, she won’t be able to leave a bag of empty wine bottles and candy boxes in the ap room closet….
2. Be careful about (not) getting screwed on the phone bill and gas tank. If your ap is already taking advantage of you, there is a higher chance that she will either not pay, forget to pay, or be unwilling to pay for her expenses … and I have found that there is always a phone bill outstanding, no matter what I do. (next time, I vow to go online and get it).
3. Do ask for the cell phone, do ask her to make a list of her expenses that she owes, do ask her to have all her bags by the front door the night before departure, do have her walk through the ap room and show you it’s clean, etc. You could also ask for help from a partner or spouse if you have one of those, s/he can be the heavy
4. It is imho perfectly ok to take her to the airport early…or, if you just can’t bear it, this might be a place to spend the $ to send her in a van. Maybe worth the $60.
5. Finally — you need some psychic space between APs so that you can get back into a positive frame of mind. You want to be able to welcome your new ap with optimism and good spirits. Maybe your departing one can sleep over at a friends house the last night…

Good luck closing down one year and getting ready for a new one to bloom!! Let us know how it goes.

Dawn March 10, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Cynthia, I agree with the suggestion to make this more of the LCC’s “problem” than yours. But this is also a good “learning experience” to remember for next time. you may or may not want to actually put it in your handbook (but I say, go ahead and put it in!), but next time it’s definitely a good idea to be sure to discuss your AP’s plans for her “13th month” BEFORE she makes her return flight arrangements. They don’t “have to” use that 13th month — many APs just go home as soon as their time is up. So I think it’s perfectly reasonable to set guidelines or limits on how much longer (if at all), your AP is permitted to stay after the end of her year. Then she’ll know that she either needs to make travel plans in the U.S. or just plan to go home at the end of her 12th month. (We allow our former APs to use our house as a “home base” for short 2-3 day visits in between travel plans in their extra month, but that’s because we’ve had good relationships with them and don’t mind doing this for someone we consider a member of the family. If you don’t feel that way, or just don’t have the space — since your new AP will be using the “AP room” — you shouldn’t feel obligated to provide free room and board to your former AP after her time is up.)

Calif mom — do you have any specific info about how/where to look for info about the “slow boat” shipping method? Our former AP (currently traveling on her extra month — actually her 19th month because we extended the first year) has a ton of stuff and is just planning on paying the extra baggage charge on the airline because we couldn’t find a cheaper shipping method. (USPS, UPS, DHL were all very expensive.) But she has a lot of stuff that she won’t need immediately and just wants it to get to her eventually — we’ve just had no luck in finding info about less expensive, “slow boat” shipping. I’d appreciate any info you (or anyone else) might have on this! (Oh, she needs shipping to Germany if that makes a difference.)

Mom of 2 Girls, I think that Calif Mom’s suggestion of having the AP clean the room (or at least do the first “pass” at it) is a good one. You can explain to her that this is the tradeoff for being able to stay, since you’d originally thought she’d be leaving sooner and had planned to do the “changeover cleaning” between Sunday and Wednesday. Or, if you don’t trust her to do the cleaning, do you have a guest room or some other room she could move into for the last few days so that you can get into the AP room sooner? Honestly, I think it would even be appropriate to ask her to sleep on the couch (if that’s okay with you) during those extra days, so that she can vacate the AP room and give you the time you need for the cleaning.

Franzi March 11, 2009 at 3:04 am

As a former AP I’m sad to hear that some AP’s take advantage of their families like that.

I agree with the other host moms that you should provide your AP with a check out list and make it clear that she is not cleaning for you but also for the new AP.

Also, tell her that you will not be able to ship her things to her home after she has left! Suggest she ships her things NOW (suggest repeatedly) and if that does not work, set a date to take her and her stuff to some good will place. That might raise the pressure on her side to get into gear.

Explain that you will need the space for the new au pair. I think it’s kind of fair to “blame” it on the new girl, because in your case it sounded like the old and the new AP will not meet in your home for some transitioning time.

Regarding shipping to Germany, there are so called “M-bags” that are strictly for paper/books shipped via USPS. The really cheap shipping was abandoned years ago. The M-bags can help to reduce the weight in the luggage because many AP’s have books from college etc. However, USPS is quite restrictive on what to ship so the box needs to be open when you drop it off at the post office (so that they can check). It’s likely that the clerk doesn’t know about M-Bags. This DOES exist!
It helped me send home all my college books!

If you have some connection to a US Army personell, then it could also be an option to send some boxes to that person (priced like you would ship it within the US) on the base in Germany and then your AP needs to arrange a pick up with that person.
That’s only advisable if the base is close to the AP’s home because the savings in shipping might be paid for transportation to the base in germany…

hope this helped!

Dawn March 11, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Thanks, Franzi! I’ll look into the M-bags and also see if we can find a “friend of a friend” or someone like that who is in the military stationed in Germany!

D March 11, 2009 at 9:19 pm

I think this is a situation that the host family is a very nice family. :) And the au pair is just being a typical teen instead of a mature adult, not thinking about consequences.

Tell the au pair that now is the perfect time to plan her trip home…. considering she’s got extra free time right now she needs to be figuring up how much it will cost her to take that stuff to the airport. Tell her to find what her costs will be on the airplane, so she can plan accordingly. Tell her to communicate the exact expense & allowed luggage restrictions within the next day or so. Then when she does, ask if she has the money for it to see if she is prepared.

If she can’t afford the airline expense, then tell her she needs to make a phone call home to see if they can help her. OR let her know she can take her stuff & box it up in several boxes & send USPS if she wishes. But that SHE is responsible for this and getting it done by XX/XX/XXXX date. OR you will have no choice but to take all the extra stuff left behind to Good Will when she departs.

I think the au pair simply needs direction, consequences spelled out & an option for her to decision make & so she can decide how she handles her own things.


Mom of 2 Girls March 17, 2009 at 10:16 am

Thanks for all your comments & support, all. The checklist worked well, and she did a pretty good job of cleaning the room, making it go much faster for me. (I considered the guest room as an option, but we had out-of-town guests this weekend and I wanted to make sure it was clean for them. Sofa wasn’t really an option, unfortunately.) We got our old AP sent off, not without a few more hitches, and are beginning to adjust to our new AP and her to us. It’s taking the girls a bit of time to warm up to her, but I’m sure in time she’ll win them over. So far, she seems way above and beyond in terms of asking questions, “getting” how we live and observing our daily routine and jumping right in where needed – all good traits that we love!

Dawn March 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I’m glad to hear that I went relatively smoothly sending the former AP off and welcoming the new one! I hope your transition is smooth and that your new AP is the “perfect match” for your family!

counselor March 19, 2009 at 4:14 am

The solution is actually very simple. Ask you counselor to email/look around for temporary housing for her. There are always families that don’t mind keeping an aupair for a while. And for the counselor it is actually an excellent way to introduce the aupair program to a brand-new family. Although she is officially not allowed to work.
Communication with aupair: I’d tell the former aupair that her being around is much too distracting for the new aupair and the kids. The kids are not bonding with the new girl. Bad for both. Anybody should understand that. And it should not hurt her feelings.

First time host mom July 16, 2009 at 6:49 pm

My au pair’s official last day is August 4th and so far she has not made any plans to go home. I have asked her but since she is looking for a new family so that she can stay another year, she doesn’t know until when to wait before making reservations. I am not signing up for another au pair after this one but I don’t know when to say: “you need to book your ticket home” without being rude or pushy… I don’t want her to keep staying since I already had to make arrangements with my old daycare for full time care during August, until my daughter goes back to preschool in September… Has anybody had this problem when the au pair is looking for a new family to extend as an in-country au pair but is not so sure she will find a family? Thank you! First time Host Mom

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