All Unhappy Au Pair Situations Are Unhappy in Complicated Ways

by cv harquail on November 25, 2012

In the nearly 6 years we’ve been talking together on this blog, we’ve never once had a concern with an au pair that was simple. Never. Not once.

The situation is never just “She won’t follow directions”, or “He can’t pass the state driver’s license test”.

There’s always some complicated mix of themes, usually involving the schedule, the car, the kids, her/his expectations, your expectations, the Agency’s support, and the alignment of the heavens.

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When we get emails like the one from this host mom below, or the next few that I’ve got pending from some unhapppy au pairs, I often feel kind of stuck.

On the one hand, we’ve been here before.

We’ve talked about situations like this over and over, to the point where the steps should be clear:

    1. Make sure you’re following the rules.
    2. Clearly communicate your expectations.
    3. Have your au pair clearly communicate his/her expectations.
    4. Clarify, confirm and itemize the actual conflicts.
    5. Be kind and demonstrate some empathy.
    6. Identify what’s non-negotiable.
    7. Discuss where you have some flexibility.
    8. Get the Local Community Counselor involved for support.
    9. Create a plan about what has to get done/changed/resolved and by when.
    10. Pursue that plan with a positive intent. And, if there is no improvement after a good faith effort,
    11. Initiate rematch.

(Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.)

On the other hand, each of us experiences our au pair-host parent dilemma as unique.  Each situation has unique, specific personalities and details that make a ‘one size fits all’ answer feel too pat.

I’m wondering– is it possible to look at the situation below, and the list of steps I’ve generated above, and develop a process that will fit every situation?

And, can we apply this process to each situation, so that we can save our energy to focus more specific advice on what’s unique in the situation?

Read this email through and offer some of your usual terrific advice to the host mom.

Also, though, add some ideas about the ‘big picture’ process that we might offer as a first step to any host parent with an unhappy situation.

Dear AuPairMom —

I am a first time host mom on the East Coast and have had an au pair from South America since beginning of September. She’s 25 years old and speaks English competently. She works 40-45 hours per week and I follow the rules to a ‘T.’

We have three children. During the week, our 4-year old is in full time daycare and our au pair cares for our 4-month old and 20-month old.

Our au pair arrived while I was on maternity leave. While I was home, I helped to onboard her, get her driving, and get her license. I returned to work this week.

Last night our au pair told us that she is unhappy because she is not able to go our with her friends.

The first sets of issues have to do with the car.  We have two cars– on that my husband uses, and a minivan that I share with her. We agreed to giving her the minivan on nights she is not working. On weekdays, she can drive me to work and have the car during the daytime.

In addition to these times, though, our au pair wants to have the minivan all day on the weekends. But the weekend days are exactly when we need two cars. Plus the minivan is the only car that works well with the kids — because the car seats are in it.

Our au pair is also unhappy about the limitations on how far she can drive the car. We limited the driving radius to 10 miles because wanted to see how things went with her driving a large vehicle in a new country. She is not happy because she wants to be able to drive it to a city 50miles away.

The second issue is with working on weekends. Our au pair is unhappy because she wants an additional weekend off per month. Of course, she has one full weekend off, as per the au pair rules. However, we need her to work on Saturday days because my husband and I have busy jobs/travel for work and need the support then.

As far as her relationship with the kids, our au pair is better with the two younger children than my older one. However, she is not a ‘rock star’ meaning she doesn’t proactively find activities to do with the children. She depends on me to give her ideas. This was ok in the beginning but 3 months out, that is becoming a problem. She can just sit all day and just watch them crawl/run around without actually doing an activity with them.

Regarding our relationship with our au pair, I like her as a person. I’ve become fond of her and I thought we had an open relationship. I asked her everyday how she was doing and she always told me she was fine. But last night we were suprised when we got note from her telling us how unhappy she is. I was really disappointed she did not come to me earlier. She even called the community counselor before she spoke with us.

When we talked with her last night, she said that she wanted to know by this weekend —

  • if she can have the car all the time on the weekends and
  • if she can have 2 whole weekends off per month (1 additional weekend off in addition to the one she is supposed to get off).

What’s your advice on what to do here? Do we rematch or try to work things out?

Thanks so much for your help. ~ HostMomAK


Julia November 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm

She is asking an additional weekend off and in my honest opinion not showing any special treat offs to gain an extra weekend off and as you said you and your husband need her because of work. Did you tell her before hand about working weekends? If so she has to accept it and work.
Unlimited car access is one of the bigger issues and I admit it would be nice to have a car to yourself all the time but it is not a requirement. she should be thankful for having access to a car at all and not demand more access to a car.
I think rematch is the right way to go because the girl does not understand how a good au pair hostparent relationship works. As an au pair you have to gain your hostparents trust and a relationship and as more as you are willing to give to your hostfamily as more you will receive from them. If you are happy with your au pair you are more likely to give in to some of her request but as of now you are just willing to give in and help her but she is there to help you with your childcare needs

Lana November 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm

You know that the answer to those two items is no, so you don’t need to consider budging. It sounds like a situation where you’re a good host family, she’s a good au pair, but you don’t have a good match in terms of needs. Your car and schedule is just not going to change. So, either she needs to accept that fact, and you move on to working really hard all the other issues (not engaging with the babies etc) or you rematch and look for someone who can accept the non-negotiables about your car and schedule.

Personally I’d rematch. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t, so to speak. But if she’s given you this ultimatum, it sounds like she’s ready to pack her bags once she hears the answer is no.

Newhostmom November 25, 2012 at 4:05 pm

You know, maybe if she was great at her job or had been with you a while, I would say to maybe work with her. But since you don’t sound like she’s a great au pair anyway, what she’s asking for does not work with what you need an au pair for (and what presumably were the terms you hired her on). I would tell her that you like her a lot, that you hope she can find a way to work it out, but that you need her to work for the schedule you originally proposed and that unfortunately you don’t have a car that you can give up all weekend, so you understand if she wants to leave. It stinks, but I would be wary about giving her everything she requests if it really does not work for you too. That’s setting you up to be resentful and her up to be treating this like her job is just a minor inconvenience to her year of socializing.

Newhostmom November 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Reading over it again, if you truly like her and want to keep her to see if she improves, you could maybe say that while you can’t agree to her two requests (the car all weekend and another weekend off), you can loosen up the 10mile restriction (she pays for the extra gas) for when she does have the car and maybe work it or with her so she has the car two weekends a month or something like that? Or you could bring your needs into this negotiation – like you could agree to give her the car every other weekend, but while you’re talking about things, you really need her to step up being engaged with the kids.

Maybe she went to the LCC because she really likes you guys and wasn’t sure about how to bring up the requests respectfully and not because she was being sneaky.

Just trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, but honestly it does concern me that she’s basically just told you that she will leave if you can’t give her her own car to use full-time. I’m hoping she just hasn’t thought about it from your point of view and when you explain to her why you need a car on weekends (because you can’t drive the kids anywhere without it…) then you both can come up with another solution.

NewHostMom November 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Save yourself a lot of pain and trouble and rematch ASAP. Assuming that you were honest with her about your car limitations and weekend work hours. We are also first time host parents in a very similar situation and I really regret that we did not rematch. We have made huge efforts to try and accomodate and appease our Au Pair, and it has been all for not. She has gone from making little complaints here and there about the schedule to being constantly unhappy and moody. I wish I would have had the common sense to realize that some matches are just not going to work. We only have a few months left and are unable to rematch at this point. Hindsight is 20/20, but given that you are only in the beginning, you still have a chance to allow her to find a situation that makes her happy, and for your family to find an Au Pair that appreciates your family, even if the situation isn’t 100% perfect. Check out the posting “when your Au Pair complains about the schedule.” You will find some very good advice!

Posie November 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I’ll echo what the posters above have said and I hope you have a good LCC who was “on your side” on this one. A few months into our first match our AP came to us with a list of complaints/demands. Some of them were not horribly unreasonable (a parking pass at the college since it was getting dark earlier and she didn’t want to stress about the long walk from the free parking lot, for example) but some of them were, on reflection, not really ok to demand (she wanted a TV for her room, a newer/faster laptop, she wanted the cleaners to do her bathroom and bedroom, and she wanted us to add some junk food items that we don’t eat to our regular shopping list). As first time host parents we didn’t know how to react so we told her we needed to think and discuss it). When I called my LCC she was incredulous about the list. But our AP was very direct and I think as she got to know more other APs in the area she had seen the perks that others enjoyed and made a list. I think her attitude is “it doesn’t hurt to ask!” And it didn’t… But we told her we weren’t willing/able to do most of her list (we did get the parking pass and got her a TV…). She was disappointed but satisfied that she was a bit better off than before she asked.

I guess my point is…maybe you just need to say no. Hell no. If it doesn’t work for you and isn’t what you need, don’t compromise…or at least not much…Maybe she’s just asking with the hopes you’ll say yes but no major dissatisfaction behind it…just wanting a schedule and perks a bit more like her friends. If after that conversation she is really upset or unwilling to accept…rematch.

Seattle Mom December 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I totally agree with this. Just because she’s asking for something extra doesn’t mean she’s going to have a freak-out if she doesn’t get it. Have an honest discussion about why it is impossible to honor her requests, and see if you can find something else that will help her meet her needs. If the problem is that she’s missing out on socializing on the weekends because she can’t drive, maybe you can help her by giving her a ride, or figuring out public transportation. Maybe there’s someone else around who can give her a ride. What about letting her use your husband’s car?

If after you say no and make an honest attempt to at least find some compromise solution she still says she is unhappy and acts pouty, then I think you may need to talk about initiating rematch.

Returning HM November 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I would sit down with the AP and TALK about the situation. Notes can be such a problem — there is always the issue of tone not being “read” correctly, or nuance missing. So talk to her and be direct. Say to her what you’ve said here: You can begin by saying that you were hurt that she went to the LCC first, because you think of her warmly and feel you have a good relationship. You can say that it’s important to you that things be unstrained and clear between you and so you want to talk candidly with her. Say that you need her on Saturdays, that you always have and always will need the car on weekends, etc., and ask her whether these are circumstances she can live happily and comfortably under or whether she needs to move on. And then hear what she has to say.

It could be that she was advised – by a friend, even by the LCC – to put her concerns in writing. It could be that she didn’t mean it to come across as the ultimatum that it did. It could be, on the other hand, that these are dealbreakers for her and if you don’t change, then she’s gone. Either way, it’s better you know and from her mouth, and then can decide how (and if) you want to move forward.

For us, we spent last year sharing two cars in a similar situation as you do with your AP. We were clear about this in matching, and our last year’s AP was fine with it. It meant that we went out of our way to find carpools for our children when we could so that AP could (unexpectedly) get the car. It meant also that we did many a run to and from the metro to help AP with her own outings. It also meant that there were times AP asked if she could use the car – in advance – and we did everything we could to accomodate her. But this was a situation of true give-and-take, and we were happy to sacrifice for AP’s needs, just as she was for our needs, so it was a mutually supportive arrangement. It’s not sounding like yours is this right now, so in my book, it would be better to sit down and talk and find out what AP is thinking and then decide how to adjust (or not) from there.

Our current AP is the weakest we have had in our seven years of hosting, and we have had many, many clear and direct conversations with her in the effort to make our match to work (and we WANT it to work – she has a positive attitude and a flexible approach). One of those things was about planning activities for our children, which she was doing none of – like your AP. I started with gentle suggestions: “Here is the aisle in the library with the craft books; our children love doing seasonal crafts, and we find this is a great way for the AP to bond with them and learn about American holidays.” When that didn’t inspire any planning or activities, I got more direct: “You need to come up with ideas for the children to do, especially on days that school is closed and they are looking for something fun to do.” Again, no change, and we had several days of no school/half days with me having to plan each outing (and I had to take off during the three days of Hurricane Sandy mess because AP could not figure out what to do with a 7 and 10 yr old for even 3 hrs at a time). At that point, I got as direct as you can get: “We are concerned that you are not proactive and have not taken our suggestions about planning activities, and we really need an AP who can step up when needed. You now have one week to plan two activities and two outings for the children, to do on a day when they have no school (including one activity for when we lose power, which seems to happen a lot around here). Here is my credit card and here are the directions to Michaels – you can spend $50 on each child for crafts. If there is anything else you need, please ask. By next weekend, I need to see the itineraries for the outings including how you will get to and from, and I need to see the activities you’ve planned for each child.” By the following weekend, AP had all the fixings to make advent calendars, had planned an outing (which was very successfully carried out – twice) to the Science Museum, had made apple cake with my older child, and had started making sugar crystals on string with the younger one. Turned out she really needed this kick in the most direct possible way in order to get proactive.

Early on in hosting I didn’t know about being this direct, but I have learned (esp reading the approach of other host moms here), and I have found it really pays off.

I wish you good luck with this situation, OP.

Anna November 26, 2012 at 12:20 am

In your situation, what rubs me the wrong way is that your au pair told you she needs to know “by this weekend” – sounds like an ultimatum; and the fact that she didn’t approach you directly the first time, but wrote a note. These point to personality faults that make it difficult to coexist with such an au pair – communication issues and power struggles, also insincerity since you had no idea she was unhappy.

gianna November 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I agree with Anna about the need to know ” by this weekend “. That may not be an ultimatum but it causes me to wonder ” or what “. Has she asked before and been declined ? Or did you say maybe when you really meant no because she was pressuring you. I don’t mind a note. For one thing, her off the charts requests are in writing and no one can see you are exaggerating. Keep that note . I also don’t really see a problem with her going to the LCC. Now the LCC knows that she is asking for exceptions .
I hope the LCC told her to drop her case, but if not, you have the written note to bring to the table. My guess is that her friends are urged her to ” speak up for herself “. Since it doesn’t sound like you have been doing anything unfair or unkind, it may be that this young lady has some other plan ( or job ) lined up and this whole list of requests/demands is a paper tiger. I would call the LCC and tell her that you just want to review the rules ( how many weekends off is the aupair entitled to ? ) . Then you can ask her how she will support you on this. Hopefully, this will give you a sense of how honest the aupair has been with the LCC and how supportive your agency will be if you come to the feeling that you must rematch.

CA Host Mom November 26, 2012 at 6:55 am

Re-match for sure. My experience has been that attitudes of entitlement are very hard to change. If you we’re clear about schedule and car privileges from the start, I say move on now without regret.

Anna November 26, 2012 at 7:07 am

P.S. Also, there are au pairs out there that are capable of handling all three kids of the same age as yours, at the same time. Don’t know if you can find someone like that in the rematch pool, but you could switch your 4 year old to part time preschool, have a better au pair or the same cost, and save money.

For the future, regarding the car – when we had two cars we did let our au pair use the car during the weekend, with asking first. Not every weekend and not all the time did we need both cars. For the future au pair, consider letting her use your husband’s car during the weekend on ad-hoc basis with asking first (maybe he is home in the first half of the day, thus she can go for coffee with her friends for example). I wouldn’t let her use the van during the weekend because that’s the way that all of you can get out.

EU.AP November 26, 2012 at 7:39 am

Re: She can just sit all day and just watch them crawl/run around without actually doing an activity with them.

Is she texting, on the computer, reading, etc.? Personally, if I sat all day watching my pre school aged child, I would be bored to tears.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

EU.AP – most HP don’t want an AP to watch the kids, but to play with them and engage them. Sure, one cannot keep a high level of activity all the time, and kids should learn to amuse themselves, but if you can get a pre-schooler to play alone for more than 15 minutes you are either 1) have a self-absorbed child, 2) are very lucky or 3) have a child who has so little expectation of you as a caregiver that she’d rather be by herself.

I have one self-absorbed child with OCD who is quite capable of playing alone but really loves interaction, and one child, who when the AP cannot rise the occasion and play on his terms, couldn’t be bothered. I always know when I have a great AP, because both kids are happy when she’s around.

EU.AP November 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Yes, that was my point, I’m sorry if it came off differently!

If I wasn’t engaged with my preschooler, it would be a boring job, which makes me wonder if this au pair is occupying herself with other things.

Seattle Mom December 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I wondered this too. My mom has taken care of my kids at times before, and she sits there reading a book while they run around and wreck the place. It drives me crazy! I would be pissed if that was my au pair’s idea of childcare.

SKNY November 26, 2012 at 8:52 am

In the same topic, is it too much to expect that au pair engage with kids during most of her day, AND organize after the children? My kids are 2y10m, and 10mo.
While I do understand those are hard ages, she doesn’t seem to engage with the kids. She will usually leave them free roaming around playroom on their own, and sit on the floor and watch. No directions, no much interactions (although she does watch if they are getting in trouble).
We have offered multiple places she can take the kids: library, our town’s public play room (a place young kids can go with caregivers and do tons of activities), museums, etc. She will take them out once or twice a week only, saying that was disturbing younger’s nap, or too cold, etc…
She will always feed them nuggets and carrots, even though I leave healthier options (that will need some 5 or 10 min prepping).
And even though 10mo naps 2 to 3 times a day, and 2yo naps once a day (but for 3hs), unless I send 2yo to pre-school once a week, she is unable to organize their rooms, toys, wash bottles, clean the high chair, or do their laundry.
Is it possible to find someone who can do all those things, or am I expecting too much?

SKNY November 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

just to add, I feel bad because they had a great day care where they interacted with other kids, played, did fun activities, etc, and now I feel all they do is stay in the house, roaming on their own

HRHM November 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

You may need to start dictating a schedule. Do the two nap at the same time or is one always awake? If they are both napping (say from noon to 2:30), then dictate that time as “housework time” (with the exception of vaccuuming!) She can use it to do one specific (dicatated by you, of course) task each day, ie Monday – clean kids bathrooms, Tuesday, organize play room, Wed- do laundry…you get the idea.

If they stagger naps, you have a tougher nut to crack. But since she isn’t engaging them, she can do her tasks in sight of them and still get them done. A lot of this stuff is “do as you go” stuff anyway (wiping highchair, washing bottles?) And the laundry only requires 5 mins to load and empty the machine. She doesn’t have to stand a watch the machine.

With regard to dictating, the same goes for outings. Monday, story time at 10am, Tuesday, playground at 10 am… Make it clear that none of this is a suggestion, it’s a requirement.

Boys Mama November 26, 2012 at 10:08 am

Great suggestions here about being specific about what her responsibilities are. Be direct and be prepared to repeat yourself and follow it up with a list taped to the refrigerator. It IS possible to find Au Pairs who will do all of these things and do them well… I have learned to specifically match with “high-energy, motivated, achiever-type” Au Pairs. Don’t give up, just raise your expectations, and rematch when you are miserable.

Dorsi November 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

I do wonder what else she is doing during that time – texting, iPad, etc. When I (or my husband) are doing the “marginal supervision” program, it is usually because we are busy with electronics. NOt to excuse her behaviour — I could bring a lot more energy and involvement to supervision of my children if I had 14 hours a day to sleep and surf the internet and hang out with friends.

I understand your guilt — my bad AP year, when my oldest was 10m-22m involved a lot of marginal supervision. I wonder sometimes if my child would have an easier time with a lot of things had there been more time at the park, story time at the library, etc. I am regretful I did not make some specific demands on the Au Pair at the time.

You can give your AP the benefit of the doubt that she really doesn’t know what to do. Place on her schedule (or the kids’– we use google calendar and the kids have their own calendar that the Au Pair is required to be aware of) story time, play center time, etc. If it is feasible, you might even sign them up for a music class too. Buy a copy of The Toddler Busy book and ask her to pick a few activities for EACH day next week. (great book, activities are very minimal prep and don’t last very long).

If you are not scheduling for the full 45 each week, I would start adding some housework time — if she can’t accomplish the tasks while she is responsible for the kids, she can start earlier or finish later in the day. All of the child related tasks in my house are less than 5 hours/week. I have never had an AP who cannot complete them during the time they were scheduled to watch the kids (while my kids are older, they have always had APs, including at the age your kids are now), but I would not hesitate to add time to the schedule if that is what is required to motivate her.

PhillyMom November 26, 2012 at 9:10 am

No you are not!!! If you discuss those duties and responsibilities ahead, and AuPair has REAL child-caring experience, it should not be a problem. Too many girls come here under the impression that they are here to party and travel……

PhillyMom November 26, 2012 at 9:16 am

No you are not!!! If you discuss those duties and responsibilities ahead, and AuPair has REAL child-caring experience, it should not be a problem. Too many girls come here under the impression that they are here to party and travel……Not sure whose fault is it, but I always make sure that I discuss the importance of “being an adult and responsible human being” when I hire caretakers for my kids.

Dorsi November 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

And stop buying the nuggets used to buy box mac and cheese for my kids for emergency dinner — nights when things are too hectic to get something reasonable on the table. I know they love it. But, even though I tried to explain that it was for occasional use only (I don’t consider it a balanced or healthy meal), it would be gone a few days after buying it. I stopped arguing and stopped buying it. You might ask her to make a meal plan for the week, before you make your next grocery list. I think this is an extension of what is being said regarding activities — make her take ownership of her job.

PhillyMom November 26, 2012 at 9:04 am

Rematch as soon as possible. At any job (and AuPair is working as well as living with you), if you are not performing your duties the way it is described in contract, usually employment gets terminated. I do not believe in giving ultimatum to someone that you care about. I would try to talk and discuss issues in great detail, but does not look like she is interested in that. Sounds to me that she is doing things behind your back, that is not the way to live in the family. Sitting around and watch kids crawl is not acceptable for emotional and intellectual development of the children!!!!!

Tristatemom November 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

I just wanted to add something regarding the AP going to the counselor before coming to you. I don’t know if this is cultural as we had a Colombian AP who was wonderful but the few times we had an issue, she contacted the counselor first. So maybe you should not read too much into that?

However, taken your story, I would approach rematch from the angle mentioned by another poster: “We cannot fulfill your requests and understand if you will leave our family because of that.” Leave the ball in her court, I bet she will not rematch.

WestMom November 26, 2012 at 11:34 am

I am not sure I would rush into rematch on this one, but it’s definitely time for an honest heart-heart. Since she is bringing up things she is not satisfied with, you should do the same. The only way this can be salvaged is if you both listen to one another and try your best to find a working solution.

About the car…
Seems very selfish to ask for a car all weekend, when you have been offered a car all weekdays and evenings. But then again, I do not know your personal circumstances… Does your AP have access to public transportation? How far is your home from her Au Pairs friends? Is one car sitting unused most of the weekend (curious why she would ask for the minivan, is it bc DH’s car is out of bounds for AP?). All these factors may affect her perception of what is reasonable to ask.

Personally, we make the car available after 4PM on weekends. We do often need two cars during the day (though not always, but I want to keep the flexibility without having to plan my entire weekend around transportation…). During the weekend days, we encourage the use of public transportation and carpooling. We also have a radius limit, but I do tell AP that if she needs to go beyond that, she needs to ask permission and contribute extra for gas. Perhaps there is room for *some* flexibility?

About weekends off…
Regarding the two weekends off per month, I would not bend on that. Assuming this was a clear requirement during your interview/matching process, you need to put your foot down on this one. This is partly the reason why she is here in the first place. Although I might be willing to be more flexible in letting her pick which weekend is most convenient for her (in advance, of course).

About her level of involvement with the kids…
She doesn’t seem like the most involved Au Pair, but unless you go into rematch, this is what you have to work with. Who knows, she might not be the most comfortable AP for that age group (As a mom, I was much better w/ older kids, so I sympathize…). If you need her to be more active, you need to express this clearly. Good advice from Returning HM about making a schedule and buying craft projects.

Lastly, about communication…
I would finally let her know that ‘although I appreciate your honest note, this is not how we prefer to communicate in our home’. Again, I am not sure why she decided to put things in writing. Perhaps her English is not that great? Another AP might have suggested this approach? I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on that one.
Regardless, I would make sure to set up some weekly time to discuss how things are going, and the plan ahead for the coming week, including activities she will be doing with the kids. The daily ‘how did it go today’ just won’t do the trick. Sit down at the dining room table with the schedule and have a formal conversation around weekly expectations. It’s also a good time to provide feedback.

Good luck.

newhostmom November 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I like this response. I’m curious whether anyone had an issue similar to this OP’s, had an honest discussion about it, and then saw improvement in the situation? Seems like there have been a lot of “save yourself the trouble and rematch now – wish I had!!” type of posts, but no “this is what I did to resolve a similar issue and she turned into a good, happy au pair” posts.

Also, there are two (or more?) of us posting as newhostmom. I’m not really a “new” host mom anymore, so maybe I should change my name?

Julie November 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Some of the craziest, most emotional, most difficult situations can truly turn into the best, closest au pair-host parent relationships ever. I think a lot of what creates a positive change is to realize that many, many of the issues that are “the au pair’s fault” are really because the host parents are not being clear about their expectations. I would say 80% of the time, the issues I deal with (as a coordinator) are do to problems with expectations. If host parents enter into a conversation with the idea that they, with the au pair, are a team and that everyone on the team will need to make changes, it can be very successful.

Julie November 26, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I’m a host mom, as well as a local coordinator and what bothers me most are her demands to drive the car 50 miles away. We live about 20 miles from a big city and our au pair, who almost always has a car on evenings and most often has a car on weekends, has an option to get to that city–the bus. To demand to be able to drive to the city means that each weekend, she will be in that city–I completely recommend against it with my families because driving in the city results in a much higher chance of parking tickets, accidents (especially from a Latin American au pair–just statistically speaking) and, if there were to be car issues, she would be 50 miles away from you to deal with it.

I would let her know that you have been clear about what your expectations are, those are the rules of the family and if she can’t abide by them, you hope she has good luck finding a new family. End of story.

newhostmom November 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Julie – we are a host family that doesn’t have a curfew or a restriction on where you can go. Obviously it’s the host family’s choice and it needs to be respected especially when it was agreed to upfront, but for the sake of discussion, here’s my feeling on it.

We only have one car that HD, AP, and I share because the bus and train routes are so easily accessible. We do not guarantee our au pair use of the car at any time, although she is welcome to ask and “reserve” it if it works for us. But that said, I get wanting to drive somewhere instead of busing since sometimes you don’t want to bus home at 2am or you’re planning to go a few different places, or you just want to get there quickly, or it’s freezing, or whatever.

We have always encouraged bus use or carpooling and our au pairs have rarely driven very far, especially after they realize how difficult it is and expensive to find parking in the city! But we say upfront in the handbook and make sure it’s clear – you can drive where ever you want after we’re all comfortable with your driving skills, but for personal use, you are responsible for the cost of any tickets, the deductible on any accidents, and any taxi rides home if there are car issues. And I think saying that has acted as a deterrent for our APs even wanting to go that far with their car. When they know parking tickets can be $100+ and that our insurance deductible is $500, and that gas is $4/gallon, driving 50 miles both ways seems a lot less fun.

So I still don’t really get why someone would have car restrictions. If she has asked to use the car, returns it when I need it, and understands that gas/tickets/parking/accidents are on her, then why would it matter where she goes?

WestMom November 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

In theory I completely agree with you Newhostmom. In practice, it’s can be a bit different. We have had some very respectful au pairs, who asked each time they wanted to use the car, and happily took public transportation when not available. Despite our very clear guidelines, we have also had the less respectful, entitled APs who feel they can use the car whenever they want, and will rely on it for all her transportation needs. It might sound petty, but I set limits because it is MY car. I intend to keep it for about 8yrs; therefore we limit its usage. I will likely ask the same of my children once they start driving, so I think it’s reasonable to ask of our APs.

anonmom November 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

I completely understand the car restrictions! We have similar ones. The reasons behind our restrictions- I don’t want to have toi drive two hours if there is a problem with the car, the wear and tear that the au pairs put on the car, depending on their respective skills or lack thereof, and the fact that driving to the city has other challenges- more likely to have an accident and lack of parking. While we lack great public transporation for general use, we have the train to get into the city.
And the cost of the deductable aside, it is the rise in insurance premiums if there is an accident!

A Host Mom November 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I also think that this does not call for an immediate rematch. Here are my thoughts:

1. Talking to LCC first. This doesn’t bother me that much. She is young, and was looking for advice. Hopefully, she got more sound advice from the LCC than she would get from her au pair friends alone.

2. Writing Requests: Again, she is young and this generation relies much more on the written word (i.e. texting, emails, etc.) and we generation x’ers believe in verbal discussions.

3. Car Use: For me, this would not be subject to negotiation (car use is a big issue for me). First, it will inconvenience you. Next, did she tell you why she want/need the car all weekend long (i.e. travel, etc.) I don’t allow my au pair to take our car off my little island (Long Island, NY) and I ask that she limit her passengers, share driving with other au pairs, etc. I would worry all weekend long about who, where and what she was doing with my car. For me, alleviating my stress level is more important than saving her some traveling money. On the other hand, my brother let his au pair use the car for whatever she wanted. It’s up to you.

3. Weekend Requests. I do not view this as unreasonable. Although her primary reason here is to care for your children, she also wants a social life and wants to travel. IMO, one free weekend a month doesn’t really provide her with ample time to do that.

Emmie Jane November 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I would guess this is going to end in rematch since not only is she making these demands, she is also not very good with the kids. I think there have been a lot of good suggestions about how to be specific on what to do with the kids.

With regard to the car, we have the same scenario that you do, which is 2 cars-one family car, one husband commuter car. We use the ad hoc situation that someone above suggested. She can ask to use the car on the weekend, and if it is free, we let her. If it is not, we say no. She always uses my husband’s commuter car, which leaves the family car with the carseats etc… available to us. This works fine for us, as there are plenty of times on the weekends where we are going somewhere together and don’t really need both cars. I don’t know your exact situation, but I have had fairly good luck with that approach. Clearly she must always defer to the family’s needs. I would recommend doing this if possible. (also, I would say no to the 50 miles away city. I think it is very reasonable, that is a lot of wear and tear on your car, not to mention other risks)

I personally would not give her the extra weekend off if that is a big part of the reason you got her. I think you will resent it; I would and then that would affect my whole relationship with her.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I’m a little bothered by all the HP who started their replies with the word “rematch” in the first sentence. It could be their experience or an expression of a low tolerance for AP pushback. In my 11 1/2 years of experience, APs do pushback when they’ve accumulated a gang of friends, a boyfriend, or figure out how much they could be doing “if only”. As a HP you need to figure out when to hold and when to give a little. There was another thread recently when a HM commented on the 3rd month being the real homesick month – it dawns on the APs that they’ve chosen to do something enormous and of course a South American AP is facing her first holidays in the cold.

My advice – it’s time for an evening chat. You have young children that should be in bed early enough for the adults to sit down in the living room or the kitchen/dining room table and have a quiet chat. Let her pick the night when you’re all going to be home anyway. Invite the LCC if necessary. Start the conversations with all the things that are going well.

Move on to the areas where she needs improvement. It may not occur to her to get down on the floor and play with the kids, and of course yours are young enough that they can’t tell you in words that she’s not. Do listen to her replies for 2 things 1) her need for guidance or 2) lack of interest. Take notes if necessary.

When things are not going well, I always tell APs that I am aware that they didn’t come to the U.S. to take care of my kids (they always promise they have), but to see cities, meet new people and have fun. And then I state, but I brought you here to take care of my kids, and so that’s a priority for me.

Finally, get around to her desires. Say that you’re surprised that she’s unhappy, because you’ve been asking her all along how things are going and she always replies “Fine.” Can you give in to her demand for the mini-van – absolutely not. Is there a weekend evening when she might have it? Only if she agrees to your curfew for the vehicle, and asks your permission first. Do warn her that an emergency will trump her use – including needing to bring the car back immediately. Is there something special about HD’s car (there often is, in my experience, or a car seat would be in it) that makes him unwilling to loan it to her? Fine. No issues there. Don’t feel compelled to do something that forces you to come up short. Certainly no AP is going to have full access to a family vehicle for an entire weekend, but it may not be obvious to her why, so be gentle when you say no.

As for the extra weekend day off? I’d be up front and say that if she shows signs of improving on the items which you asked for earlier in the conversion, then sitting down in a month and having another conversation about having a second weekend off, but that you would require the following benchmarks to have been met.

If you or your husband are concerned, then appear home unannounced. Nothing like a surprise check-in.

Dorsi November 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I always think of the AP relationship as having two parts — the “roommate” part and the childcare part. I have tolerated deficiency in the past when one part was going great — AP#1– not great on the member of the household stuff, but really loved and engaged in childcare — we tolerated that fine. AP#2 (probably a reflection of the pendulum swinging in my matching strategy) — good member of the household, mediocre child care. It sounds as though the OPs situation is deficient in both childcare and member of the house — it is hard to work with that.

Should be working November 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I mostly agree with TaCL. I think it is worth “managing” (in the strong sense of acting like a manager) this au pair more rigorously before going to rematch. I’ll stop here because lately none of my comments get through and then I lose a long meditation.

Should be working November 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Whoa, that last comment of mine did post. Weird. Last night I couldn’t get a post through. I will now cut and paste my comment from yesterday (that I saved in a word file).

CV’s list of steps is great. There is one overall mind-shift that I find helpful in framing all those steps: think of yourself as a manager, managing someone.

Is she set on rematch? Really set? If yes, move on quickly.

If not, and if you are not totally soured on the situation, I would suggest you give it another try. I would set up a meeting with the AP where you try and demonstrate some give-and-take. Praise her for what she has done well and tell her you like her. Tell her you want her to make a list of activities to do with littler kids and she needs to follow through by showing you (au pair log?) what she did each day with kids. Make sure to lay out right here anything else that is on your nerves with her (diplomatically and constructively). If you have a feeling that this all going to fail, maybe include your LCC on it so that you have backup that you have done your best.

Then comes the “give”.

1. If you think she is a good driver, maybe let her drive to the 50-mile-away place once in awhile.

2. Weekend car use is a biggie for us. We are really clear in matching that weekends we need both cars for ourselves, but we will do what we can to help the au pair have a fun weekend off with friends. And make sure the AP knows you are going out of your way. Can you get her to public transport on the weekends, or drop her off at a friend’s house? Can you spare a car for maybe 4 hrs, or a weekend evening (someone is home with kids, so there should be a spare car)?

3. I would do my best to give her an extra weekend off sometimes, and to show her how much you are going out of your way to do that. Sometimes creating good will is the key. Sometimes that is enough to solve the logjam of irritation and resentment and turn a situation into a “we all help out where we can” kind of situation.

Give it some weeks, reevaluate. Don’t be afraid to rematch if you are feeling resentful and frustrated after putting out some good effort.

Please keep us updated! I am hungry for an inventory of stories where AP situations turn around.

newhostmom November 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I’m the newhostmom that writes my name all in lower case (it appears there may be a NewHostMom and/or a Newhostmom unless I’m just confused). I hereby declare that my new name is “Host Mom in the City.” Hope that’s ok!

Melissa November 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I think both APs and host families usually deserve a chance to work things out before jumping to rematch, however, there are two things in this situation that are not working well, and that does not look promising to me. I think that’s why many are saying ‘rematch’, because they likely have been in a similar situation and wished they had not waiting so long. You are having issues with her (car and schedule) AND it sounds like there are also issues with childcare. If ONE of those were a problem and the other side was stellar — like she wants car & weekends but is AMAZING with the kids, or she is so-so with kids but a perfect housemate, amazing attitude and no issues, I would say it is worth working on. But the combo of both worries me.
A couple thoughts:
1) Communication: I would not be offended or concerned that she contacted the LCC or put her concerns in writing. She may have thought she was doing the right thing by going to the LCC first or possibly just wanted to run her complaints by her first, particularly if she is shy or may be apprehensive about talking to you about her concerns. I sometimes call my LCC to get her input on something before I talk with my AP. Sort of, “Am I being reasonable or should I just get over this?” kind of conversation with her. Helps give me some perspective. Also, maybe the idea of having a face-to-face conversation intimidated her and the only way she felt that she could be honest was putting it in writing. I’m a much better written communicator that an oral one when talking about difficult topics, so maybe that’s the case here?
2. Car use. Regardless of what was decided during matching, her request for the car all day on the weekend is what seems very odd to me. You don’t say much about her social life or what she likes to do in her free time, but I’ve found that most of our APs have liked to be able to go out a couple times during the week to meet up with others for coffee, go to gym, etc., and then also be able to get out at least one weekend day and one weekend night. It seems reasonable if you could allow her to use the car SOME of the time on weekends — say, one evening on most weekends and one weekend day per month (determined in advance). But to say that she wants it all the time on a weekend just seems unreasonable, and it would bother me that she would even ask for that. That seens very inconsiderate or just clueless to me. If there is something ‘special’ that she wants to do, like a daytrip or something, that can be discussed and planned in advance, that’s fine. But otherwise, what is she doing that she needs the car all day, that is more pressing than the errands and outings that you and your family of 5 need??
3. Weekend schedule – It’s hard to tell just from your post, but it sounds like she is making demands rather than approaching this as a open dialogue, which is what would bug me. If she said something along the lines of, “Having to work every Saturday from 7am-5pm makes it tough to go into the city with friends on Friday night and stay out late (especially if you have a curfew when she is working the next day), so do you think we could talk about whether I could start a little later one Saturday a month?”, then I would be much more open to making some changes. But saying she needs a whole other weekend off seems odd. Does she like to go out of town on the weekends or have a boyfriend? You don’t say what hours she specifically works on Saturday, but it sounds like she has every Friday and Saturday evening to herself, which many au pairs would love to have. Wanting to drive 50 miles away is ridiculous. If you are comfortable with her driving skills, one in awhile for sometime special (she wants to see a concert in the city) might be fine, but on a regular, or even semi-regular basis…. no way.
4) Childcare – This one is the icing for me. I would be willing to try to be flexible on all of the above if she was stellar with the kids. But sitting there watching while the little ones play is a no-go with me. I could give her the benefit of the doubt that she may not know that you expect her to interact with them and do activities with them (but really, I would worry about her intelligence a bit if it does not occur to her that she needs to PLAY with the kids). But if you have already communicated this, then that is a big concern that she is not doing it. At the very least, it sounds like you modeled what you’d like her to be doing when you planned out activities for her. I would expect our AP to have the sense enough to ‘get’ that that is what she also needs to do, but maybe you need to be very explicit and tell her. And set a specific plan that some other posters suggested.

I would have a very honest conversation with her about both the car/schedule issues and what you expect in terms of childcare and pay close attention to what she ways and how she reacts. All of the issues above, in isolation, are fixable. But if her attitude or ‘soft skills’ are the problem (she feels entitled, resentful, doesn’t take initiative, isn’t perceptive enough to realize she needs to interact with kids, etc), then I think you’re headed into rematch.

Reb November 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Out of curiosity, do LCCs get any training to do their job?

Julie November 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm

I work with a large agency and we have really, really extensive training, both online and in person. We have to meet with the corporate office at least once each year for updates to state department regulations, to discuss mediation, matching, etc. Twice this year, I’ve been to large meetings with the organizations LCCs. It’s a lot of work for a small amount of pay, but I really enjoy working with the families and au pairs and it’s my goal as a host mom that everyone has as good an experience as possible.

I’m not sure if every agency meets with all of their coordinators as often, but I know it’s a priority with ours.

Reb November 28, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Thank you Julie for your comprehensive respond. I am relieved to hear that your organisation’s proirity is training! You are right, it sounds like it is a lot of work for not much pay, but hopefully it will make LCCs have an increased understanding of both the au pair and the hostfamily’s point of view :)

Dawn November 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I think my view is one that will incite immediate agreement in some cases and defensive replies from others, but…I think that the agencies help incite this frustration between HPs and APs because they build this up as a fun, exchange student-style experience for the AP while they sell it to HPs like “so-and-so can’t wait to play games with your kids and take them to the park!”

I’m dealing with some of what I perceive to be entitlement attitude from my current (#5) AP. While she’s engaging with the kids and they love her, she’s messy, doesn’t lift a finger with household tasks when she’s off the clock and refuses to participate in any family activities when she’s not working. She wouldn’t still be here were it not for the fact that my 3 kids love her to bits. This is her 2nd time working as an AP and I have the sense that with her prior HF she got what she wanted (schedule changes, early leave and extra days off) on a wink and a smile – she has a very charming personality that has allowed her to skate through her life in general – she’s 27 – up to now.

As her year has drawn to a close, we’ve needed to enforce the scheduling rules more and more tightly. At our last meeting, DH and I sat down with her and said “we’ve been as flexible with you as we can and we’ve accommodated many cross-country trips you’ve taken, but sorry, in your 2 months remaining we need to you 1) assume you’ll work your assigned shift until the end and 2) take only your remaining vacation time off. When she looked at us as if we were Scrooge himself, we said “the priority here is our children’s needs.” Her response? “That’s *your* priority – this is an exchange program for me and I want to fit in as much travel as I can!” Now, I figured this is what she was really thinking, but that she said it out loud was shocking to me! ;-)

This is an AP who gets *every* weekend off and who in the previous 10 months received each day she requested off (up to her alloted vc time), and each shift she asked to cut short to accommodate her travel plans. With each request we had to draw the line in the sand more clearly until, finally, she wore out our ability to continue working with her in good faith with requests for additional vacation time. This is our only AP in 5 who has pushed the boundaries of the rules we clearly set forth in our guidebook (and with our agency) to such an extent.

Bottom line – for some people, not just APs, the more you give them, the more they take. FWIW, I find that what works best in this case is to more clearly *enforce* the rule, not relax it. And while our area manager has our back here, I see a pattern in the marketing language on both recruiting sides, that sets up this tug-of-war between HFs and APs.

anonmom November 27, 2012 at 11:41 am

There are a lot of great replies posted. The one thing that sticks out is the fact that she is not stellar in her childcare, when she only has two kids to watch most of the day. We had three children 4 and under when we hosted our first au pair, and we had the 4 year old attend preschool part time. Most of the AP’s we had fully engaged with the children with little direction from us. In our 7 years, I have seen many AP’s- our own, other AP’s and friends’ AP’s. In my experience, I would rematch with this AP after having a discussion with her about where she can use improvement. I would be honest with her and tell her that you have concerns about her childcare abilities. And, I would tell her frankly that while we considered her demands, we cannot give her what she wants at this time. It is better to rematch now, before resentment seeps into the relationship- because resentment will rear its ugly head on both sides- that of the HF who resents this person they are hosting is mediocre and that of AP who resents what she perceives as entitlement. There is only 1 AP I wish I had rematched with, and by the time I realized I should have rematched, it was too late. It came to the point that I couldn’t stand listening to her or the food would disappear and I would resent that. I could not wait for her to leave. I don’t think this is a case where the AP will work out in the long run- yes there will be a temporary ‘fix’ when you have a sit down with the AP and the LCC, things will improved temporarily, but then it goes back to the way it was and you are stuck. Good luck.

As an aside, I wholeheartedly agree there is a terrible marketing on both sides with respect to the agencies. There is also a lot of lying on the part of many au pairs who see this as their ticket to come to the US and party for a year. More than one of my prior AP’s were shocked at their orientation to learn about how many AP’s lied about their experience and did not care that they did.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I am always surprised about APs lying about their experience. APIA provides me with the references forms (some are filled out more thoroughly than others – I miss the old days when they asked the referees to assign a numerical value to certain qualities – it allowed us to rule out anyone with a 3 [out of 5] or under), as well as the English translation of the follow-up interview with the APIA rep in that country. I will say that in 11 1/2 years of reading applications, European interviewers tend to judge candidates much more harshly on English ability and appearance that those in other countries. APIA does require some candidates to take an English tests and while it doesn’t make the results available to HPs, it does state that the candidate has language issues.

5 of the 8 au pairs I have hosted have been Extraordinaires (more training does equal higher cost) and all have had some direct special needs experience, ranging from PICU nurse to working as a counselor with troubled teens. All have risen to the occasion of caring for The Camel. Most have done the other things that we have asked without batting an eye (the Extraordinaires came having done them, most of the regular au pairs required more training).

That being said, I am experiencing an AP that I think “put her best foot forward.” She didn’t lie about her experience, but she exaggerated her role in it. She has had a steep learning curve, but has risen to meet it. However, what I experienced initially was pushback on some of the other tasks (which has not happened to me before) in an immature way. We have worked with our excellent LCC to provide feedback and constant reinforcement. I think she will be ready for her next job, but I’m finding myself worn out as her job coach. Rematch you say? I wish the Venn diagram of special needs experienced au pairs in rematch with driving skills was more than nil… I have a feeling that DH and I will focus on the more expensive Extraordinnaire applications next time – we need the edge that two years of work experience provide.

My bottom line – I disagree that APs cannot change without coaching. However, HPs must assess their willingness to invest in coaching. I agree that job coaching isn’t for everyone. I do think some APs do need to be told bluntly, “I am in this program because the AP program makes my life easier. When it is not easier, I am not happy. And I am not happy right now. Let’s work together so that we’re both a little happier.”

Emmie Jane November 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I am finding this conversation about coaching interesting. Honestly, I find the coaching to be exhausting where my DH doesn’t mind and likes the fact that we are helping her to mature and be ready for future jobs. When I think our AP needs to make an effort to figure something out, he will often think I need to work with her more.

My current AP is not terrible by any stretch, but she is also a very passive person, who needs a lot of direction. I am discovering that this is very hard for me, and I will definitely be looking for something different in my next AP. I do not like having to remind her to get the paperwork she needs for her coursework every week before she goes to class. I find situations where she is walking out the door, and I am like do you know where you are going, how to get there? She does not, and I am coaching her go back, look it up directions on-line etc… Things like knowing when and where AP meetings are in advance of the moment she needs to leave; I have to remind and ask and coach to facilitate her getting there. There are many other examples of ways in which she isn’t able to figure out what needs to be done and how to do it.

She is good with the kids, compliant, and trys hard, so I won’t rematch her. I just find that she needs a lot of hand-holding, and I don’t enjoy giving it. I feel to some extent this is a shortcoming on my part. However, I do think I will look for proactivity and savviness (which our previous AP) had when I match again.

I do find that I feel like unwittingly she puts a lot on me, and I resent that. It is all unintentional; she has only the best of intentions and a desire to do well. But I think I am often at a low level of frustration with her, and I have found that it has built some resentment, and I have not enjoyed our 2nd AP nearly as much as our first although compared to what the OP is facing, I feel like I have nothing to complain about.

Tristatemom November 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Emmie Jane,
maybe you didn’t mean it that way but why are you providing guidance when she goes to her class? Wouldn’t it be good to suffer the natural consequences and that would teach her more than your reminders?

Au pair November 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Why do you remind your au pair about everything? Of course she does not learn. She can completely relay on you! I understand that you may want to remind her of things that are kids related etc. but school? Au pair meetings? She should be able to learn that, and the more you help her the more likely she will forget things, because she always will have you in the back of her mind reminding her.

Boys Mama November 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm

I think you are making your life harder than it needs to be with this girl. That personality would drive me nuts too, but really, it isn’t your problem whether she’s late/irresponsible when she isn’t working for you specifically. Roll your eyes, take a deep breath, and accept she’s a flake. If she’s a responsible Au Pair, don’t let it bother you so much. I do mean this in a constructive way… Choose what to stress about and what to let roll off your back.

WestMom November 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I am curious, do some of you call the APs references to verify? Or do you rely solely on the agency’s word?

Tristatemom November 27, 2012 at 4:39 pm

I always call the references but that has not protected me from selecting a bad-fit AP for us :(

Host Mom in the City November 27, 2012 at 5:22 pm

I never call the references and actually don’t take that much stock in them. Anyone can get anyone to say anything. I rely more on the au pair’s application, her correspondences with me and asking tons of questions on Skype. I only select au pairs who have had job experience, which I imagine would be harder to fudge than babysitting.

Should be working November 27, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I call some of the references. I speak our APs’ native language, which is really useful for this. It disarms the reference and gets them to really talk about the candidate.

Julie November 27, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I don’t call references, but I do sometimes call the office abroad and ask to speak with the employee who interviewed her. I think that would be tough with organizations who use agents to recruit au pairs, but it can be done.

SKNY November 27, 2012 at 7:27 pm

My experience (as former au pair, and as a now host mom is that MOST au pairs lie in their application).
At least South Americans.
I speak the 2 languages and I know the “cultural reality”. By reading the application I already know what is real experience and what is false to know.
It is actually frustrating because we are starting to look for applicants for next year (as our ap is getting married), and I can’t find a girl with the desired level of experience, in the right language, and desired driving skills.
Also, because I do speak the language, I do call references.

SKNY November 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I always know how to pick the au pairs who are lying in their experience. What I don’t know is after separating them how to know the one who will be energetic, engage with the kids, and step up?
What should I pay attention/watch for?

Host Mom in the City November 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm

How do you figure out the ones that are lying??

Julie November 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I think the interview with the office abroad and your skype call is hugely important. In the interview, if the employee says that the au pair was shy, but warmed up, that’s exactly what they will be like when they arrive to you. Compare your candidates side by side and read the interviews. I also look at their personality tests side by side.

Skype is vital: If they show energy in the Skype call, if they engage your children–talking directly to them, showing them things, smiling–you’ve likely got a solid au pair. I know it’s nerve-wracking for them to skype, but almost every time I see an au pair who is quiet, not asking questions, not connecting with you or the children on skype, they will not connect in person. I also look for some kind of life experience–some kind of work rather than someone just out of college.

The au pair doesn’t always have to have lived away from home, but I think that helps you know if they will deal with homesickness (beware of the au pair who lives away from parents, but says they go home each weekend). I won’t hold it against them if the mother doesn’t work, but if you really need things done around your home, I’d look for an au pair whose mother has a job.

Look at the key words their references us–is it mature, responsible, reliable, patient? Or is it outgoing, friendly, high energy, etc–what will work best with your personality?

Lastly, I think you can get a sense of the au pair from doing a read of the entire application with photos. You want to feel energy and that this is going to be an interesting person to have in your home.

Feel free to reach out to me directly if you want more advice. I will help anyone going through any agency:

SKNY November 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm

I am from South America. Have lived in many countries there, and was an au pair. I have a deeper knowledge of the culture.
So I know that some things are not… realistic.
Now, this is not the same for Europe (I don’t care for European au pairs because I need someone who speaks my native language).

But basically social classes are more defined. Middle class girls whose parents pay for their college, have middle class lifestyle, will have NEVER worked as nanny. Nannies will come from lower social classes. There is also not such a thing as babysitter as we know it in America.It is one thing to watch a nephew or niece, or even a brother. A rare day watching a friend’s son. But a middle class girl (who is the one who USUALLY apply for the au pair program) will not be watching kids after school, or on her Sunday’s off. If that is her only experience, than count it as non existent.

I will believe on the girl who went to a Day care or orphanage to volunteer with kids (for program purposes), or a girl who was a Sunday school teacher.

Now there is NO chance a girl who just graduated college, or was in college would be working as a nanny and accumulating thousand of hours of experience.

I was from a lower middle class in my country and I HAD a nanny. My parents were embarrassed of telling their friends that I was an au pair in USA, and usually told them I was an exchanged student.

It is different if the girl works as a teacher in a day care, or did volunteer work to learn for the program. Or perhaps she is the older of 5 siblings and helped her parents (I did). Or even watched her nephews once or twice a week. This is ok.

But I get those applications saying she just finished college, and has 2000hs of experience because she watched 2 kids after school and on weekends every day for 2 years, and KNOW it is B.S.

Seattle Au pair! November 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Not all but a lot of them really lie.
My friend had an au pair from my country and I was there when she arrived, on the second day she was there I knew she lied about her experience, she said she used to take care of triplets. So you imagine she was great right, and she knew how to handle 2 boys. She didn´t, she was horrible she didn´t even knew how to change a dipper. After 1 month my friend asked her and she told her she lied.

au pair November 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Yes, unfortunatly it is true… a lot of au pairs lie about their experience… one girl who was with me in trainingschool in NY, she never ever even cared for a child! she had no idea! her hf had 5 kids! she stayed with them for 1 month… i think it is sad…but the truth is, that most au pairs come for an other reason then for the kids to the US. Thats why my hf choose someone with poor english skills. They said, that if a girl speaks so poorly english, there must be an other reason why she wants to go to the US. Probably to learn the language, and because she loves kids. We worked out great! so maybe look for someone with poor english skills, but great personality? just a thought..

Anna November 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm

There are many different South American countries and realities are different in each one. I had many Brazilian au pairs who went to college, had to work to pay for it, came from middle class families. Their experience with children was real.

apnewbie November 28, 2012 at 1:55 am

I wish I had read SKNY’s comments a few months ago. I’m a first time host parent with an au pair who definitely fits that description. She supposedly had thousands of childcare hours, but once she got here seemed to not even like kids that much let alone have relevant experience to help her deal with the challenges that come up dealing with kids all day.

She finally let slip one day that she had only worked somewhere for 2 weeks that says 2 years on her app. I hate to rule out so many people, but IF I do this again I’m really hesitant about others from South America. I’m fed up with having to hand hold all the time, but since the situation is not as bad as some others I read I’m afraid to start all over again. She at least doesn’t make schedule and car demands like the original poster’s. That sounds like a no win situation.

Skny November 28, 2012 at 7:13 am

There are Good Au pairs in South América. I met many. The problem is weeding the applications.
I can select the liers, but can’t figure out the ones who will be high energy, team players, engage with kids.

Skny November 28, 2012 at 7:15 am

I wish we could create a Facebook group for host families, where we could share on day by day, help each other on things we are good at.

Host Mom in the City November 28, 2012 at 8:25 am

Can you explain what a Facebook group would do that a website like this one can’t? One of the benefits of this website is that you’re relatively anonymous. I’m not sure I’d be posting questions to a Facebook page with my name attached even if I thought it was private.

cv harquail November 28, 2012 at 9:25 am

There is at least one Facebook group, for Cultural Care host moms. HMintheCity is right that one of the bigger challenges is maintaining some privacy. The CC Fb group does this by keeping the group “closed” and approving participants only after you’ve shared a little bit about who you are. It’s a really nice bunch of (mostly) women. I personally don’t check in too often bc I’m not often on Facebook and also bc they talk about a lot of crazy things. ;-)

The plus side of a Fb group is that you can protect who joins, spend a lot of time on issues that are really specific to one or two host parents, and people are super honest because they know each others’ names and faces.

Downsides include that all your comments are owned by Facebook, your data is sold by Facebook, and the comments & ideas are not searchable. Also, a Fb group requires a few dedicated monitors since they can more easily get out of hand (at worst, the short, frequent, emotional, responses can get off track.)

I’ve thought about having an AuPairMom Facebook group, but the maintenance of a Fb community is really daunting– beyond what I could do in addition to the blog. Ymmv.

SKNY November 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm

My one problem is that my au pair reads thid blog. I sometimes have very specific questions and dont necessarily want her to know

apnewbie November 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm

SKNY we could create a secret FB group so that it does not come up in a search. My son’s school does that for things like field trips where we don’t want every parent’s FB friend to see where we’ll be with a bunch of kids. Even if there was a group I’d still come back here every day but it would be useful to share some things we don’t care about being private. (I’ve been lurking for months and the info here is invaluable!) I do see it could be lots of extra work so I wouldn’t want that to be on cv.

Host Mom in the City November 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Sorry for being dense :( Can you explain to me what we would post on a Facebook group that we couldn’t just post here?

SKNY November 28, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I love this site. I come here for sure. Just that sometimes i have questions that i dont care for my au pair to read about

Host Mom in the City November 28, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Ah ok. That makes sense. You could change some identifying details enough to mislead, but I can understand being afraid of being recognized.

Lonestarstate November 29, 2012 at 3:38 am

I am a first time HP of twins. Where do the AP’s get the impression that they absolutely must have a car in order to function? My AP is wonderful but when we spoke briefly, she feels having a car is the only way to learn and grow in the US. When American students travel abroad, most go there under the assumption they would utilize public transportation.
Why are the agencies and LCC’s not making this clear as a reminder to the AP’s that having a car is a privilege and not a necessity?
I am a stay at home mom of twins & our AP helps me more than words can say. She is loving and supportive of my husband working nights, sleeping days and not being available as much as I need. I do want her to get out & see our town. I just don’t want her to be other AP’s chauffeur and take our car out of town. Just because I don’t use my car often, does not mean it is fair game to rack up miles and risk accidents which cause my premiums to go up.
What’s the best way to approach this situation without making the AP feel as if we are unreasonable HP’s?

HRHM November 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

I think it really depends on where you live. If you live in DC, NYC or someplace with great weather that is accomodating to bicycles, then it is reasonable to expect your AP to use metro, walk or bike many if not all places. When we were in DC we gave our AP a metro smart card and a map in her welcome basket and made it clear before matching that they would NEVER be allowed to take the car into the city, no matter how well the year went.

If you live in the boonies or even in a large city with lousy tranportation options (and if you think buses are great, you really need to try your local bus lines to see how realistic you are about the quality of the locations/timetables for routine use – not all are really user friendly), then it behooves you to provide a car on a routine basis. We live in the largest city in Virginia and yet the public transportation sucks. Our AP can walk to the Food Lion and the library but that’s about it. AP + social life=happy AP, AP+ stuck in the house = misery for everyone.
As far as taking it out of town, you need to be willing to consider on a case by case basis. Is she a great driver? If not, then address this now. Is she trying to go someplace that she could get to by train, plane or bus? When our APs go to NYC or DC, we offer to drive them to the train station or bus depot. Is she trying to go to a class out of town? You are obligated to provide her with transportation to classes and cluster meetings. In a great Au Pair (or even a good one) this doesn’t need to be a source of friction.

Lonestarstate November 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I had already taken into account the issue with the bus. However, once upon a time, for two years I made do with a mediocre bus system as a lower income person starting out in life. It was a frustrating but I had to “pay my dues” in life. So, I know first hand how realistic it is. That said, my point is: if there’s a will, there’s a way. Our bus systems, however ineffective serve as an option to those who cannot afford cars.
My AP is not even going to classes. We have asked her repeatedly and she said she does not want to enroll in classes until she can speak English better. I can’t force her since she is an adult. So, she basically needs the car for off time usage. She does not need to drive our twins around since I am a stay at home mom.
We have always made arrangements for her to attend meetings, dropping her off and picking her up for any personal activities.
Right now she is upset that the state of Texas requires her to take the driving tests in order to obtain a license. Apparently, Texas does not recognize the international license she carries. She has been resistant to take the course/test until the LCC told her she has no choice. When she went out of town a few weeks back, she wanted to take the car instead of riding with other AP’s. There are many many other conversations we have had regarding cars in general (not just us & the AP program) that leads me to the entitlement issue. Apparently, even if she stayed on a student visa, she does not want to live on campus and have easy accessibility. She wants a car but then does not like having rent, car payment, insurance, gas money, living expenses, etc…she said in America, she can make more money and she should not be punished to warrant the above expenses.
What do I do now???? I feel stuck too.

Host Mom in the City November 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Ugh, sounds like way more than a simple car issue. I can’t imagine this will end well :(

Taking a Computer Lunch November 30, 2012 at 7:52 am

Personally, I think your decision is easy. If you don’t need her to drive the car and your state does not recognize her international driver’s license, then she cannot legally drive until she has a driver’s license. End of story.

Now, if you want to be helpful, you could offer to 1) reimburse her for any costs associated with acquiring the license (in my state it’s a 3-hour drug & alcohol class, the written and road tests, and the actual license – rarely more than $100 total – but I also require a driver) or 2) offer to split the costs with her.

If you decide that you aren’t going to need a driver while she lives with you – then you put the onus on her. “When you have a driver’s license, we can start talking about access to the car.”

Host Mom in the City November 29, 2012 at 10:10 am

I don’t know that this is necessarily an agency and LCC issue as much as it is a matching issue. A car is not an entitlement, of course. And many host families (like us!) cannot afford another car dedicated for the au pair. This is one of the major issues that needs to be cleared up in matching though – if you are a family who is not going to provide a car, then an AP who says that “she feels having a car is the only way to learn and grow in the US” is not a good match.

But on that note, I agree with the others that host families really need to think about how the AP is going to get around. You say that most “American students” who travel abroad expect that they will use public transportation. That’s probably true, but most American students are probably going to university towns/cities that are walkable and have good public transportation and frequently go to places like in Europe that have far better public transportation systems than we do here.

It’s probably a good rule to consider when you’re deciding how much car access to offer just how much you yourself would be willing to rely solely on public transportation for a year in your area. We live in a major city and only own one car that HD and I share. We take the bus every day to work, live a 10-minute totally safe walk to a huge downtown area, and are a 15-minute walk (or 5-minute bus ride) to a major transportation hub that has buses, trains, and the subway to pretty much anywhere. We told our au pair when we matched that we expected her to rely mostly on public transportation (just like she sees HD and I doing) and it’s worked out fine. We do actually allow her free use of the car when we’re not using it (which ends up being most of the time). We pay for her car insurance since she drives the kids to school in the mornings, she pays for all personal use gas, accidents, and tickets.

But if you’re in the suburbs somewhere with only a grocery store a mile away or on a bus system that comes only once an hour during the day and stops at 8pm or you yourself wouldn’t want to be standing at the bus stop trying to get home from your friend’s house at midnight, then I have to say that I think it is unfair to not offer use of a car, unless you’re committing yourself to driving her around frequently.

I get not wanting to put miles on the car or risk accidents, but if your AP has no other way to get around, then I think the cost of mileage and accidents probably needs to be built into the cost of an au pair. This is one of the reasons that the “per month” cost on the websites is crap. Offering use of a car is really expensive, but in some places it’s probably a necessity.

Dorsi November 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I agree that this Au Pair sounds like she is not the right one for your family situation. We have had 3 APs with absolutely no access to our cars, and have recently started having AP #4 drive, because a move to the suburbs. We have lived in a city with fairly good public transportation — I have peers who bike to work or use the bus, and many families are single car families. I think many APs get poisoned by the surburban (AP and American) friends who think that bus riding is the most terrible thing that can happen. I felt bad when my APs were asking other APs for rides places, but not sure what to do — there was convenient and accessible public transportation. Current AP has a boyfriend who doesn’t want her riding the bus – I haven’t explored this in detail, but she has probably ridden the bus less than 10 times this year. These are the same buses I take my children downtown with, my husband used for years to commute to work with.

I imagine that most APs have no idea of the cost of the car, insurance and upkeep — most think that gas is the only real cost.

Lonestarstate November 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Dorsi, you hit the nail right on the head and said for me many other points of why I feel there is a sense of entitlement. They are getting poisoned by the suburban friends. She has told me one of her friends told her in America, only poor people ride buses. True, I was poor once and rode the inefficient bus system for 2 years. Hated it, but made lemonade out of lemons.
HD and I made it clear in writing and verbally during interview that the car will not be made available on a frequent basis. She happily said no problem then.
There is also the issue of her being upset regarding Texas law requiring a valid DL. They don’t recognize her international license but she keeps saying that is not right, that rule should not apply in this case. The course questions is the same as in her country, she’s driven before etc….
She thinks she can get a car payment less than $100/month with insurance not exceeding $120/year. She said that’s what she pays in her country. I gave her figures such as it costs me almost $50 to fuel up, HD almost $80 to fuel up. She said that is not possible since gas is more expensive in her country?
We too, are not rich. The only reason I’m at home is because we crunched numbers and it would cause us more for me to go back to work (double day care costs). At the same time, we have no family for support. We’re even crunching numbers further and may very well have to sell my car so we can afford her.
This is why I turned to this site for support.

Skny November 29, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I will say here though that when Au pairs say ok to no car, they have NO idea what they are signing up for.
In the South America third world country I came from, even rural farm towns have effective public transportation. Buses will come all the time and there is no place in town you cannot get to.
When they match and family say there is no car, but there is public transportation, they envision first world country USA is, and that if poor rural town in their country has efficient transportation, a suburb 45 min from NYC will do too.
They get here and realize in shock that they are wrong.
My Au pair says she felt locked in first family. No car. She worked all tue till fri 8 till 8 with few hs break in between. She couldn’t enjoy because was 15 min walk to bus that ran every hr only. Once she arrived at location she has less than an hr there because if missed next bus, would be another hr waiting, And there was the walk back home. On sat she worked till noon and later from 4 till 10pm. But again although she had 4hs off in between, by the time she walked to bus, waited for it, got there, was time to get bus back, or she’d be late for work.
So depending on where you work and your schedule, use of car is a necessity.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I’m pretty flexible with our second car (DH and I commute by a combination of walking, bus and subway) and we have taken to calling it “the au pair car” or “X’s car.” I buy a large greater metro travel atlas, and say, “You may drive anywhere within these borders,” which means she has access to the greater Metro area – including getting to college, clubbing, etc. Until this year the car did not have a curfew, nor did the AP. (AP #8 had 2 distracted driving incidents, the second of which caused major damage to the AP car close to midnight – fortunately not to her. Because it was her 2nd incident, we put a curfew of 10 PM on the car to decrease the likelihood that exhaustion would be a factor in driving mistakes.)

For APs who want unlimited access to the car to travel anywhere in the US, my answer is simple – get an American driver’s license. Show me that you know the rules of the road. We even offer to reimburse her for all the expenses associated with its acquisition. For Europeans, getting the license is a non-issue – they have to work much harder to earn theirs.

I assume that wear-and-tear is typical, after all DH and I have minor incidients that lead to the family vehicle looking like a suburban banger over time.

However, because I live in an urban area, I also give my AP a card to use public transportation, a map and a link to the schedule online.

Seattle Au pair! November 29, 2012 at 7:51 am

When we aplly we all know that the car is a privilege and that not all host families will let you use a car. Well at least when I applied (2007) now its easy for new au pairs to meet other au pairs before they match so I guess they are more pick since they know a lot of au pairs have access to a car and so they think they have to have a car too.
I think if you live in a area with easy access to public transportation that can take you anywhere fine, no problem. But if you live in a area where you can´t go anywhere and you ( meaning host families) don´t let your au pair use a car its very hard for her, it is impossible to ” see the world ” like that, and some au pairs that have cars usually “save” those that doesn´t, some are not being chauffers they help other au pairs. I did that myself a few times.
When I was an au pair me and my friends would take turns driving, so we would not use the same car every weekend when we wanted to go to the city. ( but I had no restrictions to my car I could go anywhere)
My second family I couldn´t drive to the city so I would take the buss or I would go with my friends that could drive there.
I didn´t help much, but just wanted to share my point of view. :)

Georgiapeach November 29, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I think your comments are very helpful because it gives the flip side of the coin. I am shocked the agencies & do not provide information on transportation in detail to AP’s. You made a good point about transportation in their country vs. ours. However, there are many Americans who cannot afford their own cars & have to make do with public transportation, no matter how inconvenient. I had to do that for a few years. Was it miserable? You bet. Did it make me appreciate the importance of sacrifice and working one’s tush off to improve the self standard of living? You bet. I think the AP’s should have been giving more info on public transportation in the US prior to committing to a HF. The AP’s also could consider keeping in mind the HF’s mostly are not rich. Just working parents trying to make ends meet while finding loving childcare. What if the family had only 1 car that one HP uses for work & the other takes public transportation or does not travel outside the home until that parent returns? Is that a deal breaker?
The frustrating thing is hearing the misconception that Americans are all wealthy. Most of us are not. With the economy being the way it has been, I know we have had to stretch our budgets real tight to properly host an AP.

aupair again November 30, 2012 at 3:27 am

I think the most important thing for a host family and aupair to do before matching is to make clear what their expectations are.
If rules and guidelines are laid out in the beginning then issues like this can hopefully be avoided.
BUT I know from previous experience as an aupair in America that a lot of times when aupairs get together and talk about their host families, work hours or rules, a lot of girls can feel like they got the short end of the stick.
I think that’s when they start asking or expecting more.
I mean my friends host family let us drive “her” car out of state on a road trip for 2 weeks!
Is this how all host families are? No! And I don’t think aupairs always understand this.

So just ask your potential aupair or host family LOTS of questions!

apnewbie November 30, 2012 at 3:57 am

Mine thinks Americans are all rich too. It’s so frustrating to listen to her perceptions about how easy it would be to get an apt. car etc. She doesn’t realize we’ve worked hard for years and thinks she’ll have the same standard of living on her own. Someone told her she could get $15/hr as an illegal nanny and it was so hard not to laugh. These girls are delusional sometimes. (Maybe in bigger cities that’s possible, but not with her English and work ethic. I’ve hired American sitters/nannies with degrees and that salary is a stretch even for them in this area)
We made it clear before matching that we would share a car, but she acts like a moody teenager when I drop her off if I need the car. I’ve never refused a request but just asking her to be considerate by not asking at the last minute is too much. I thought matching with someone older would spare us some of these issues, but we’re still raising someone’s overgrown adolescent.

Georgiapeach December 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm

To spin off your comment of the hourly wage, I had to break down to my AP the cost of living and what she would expect if her wages were: minimum wage, $11/hour, $16.5/hour, $22/hr (which is what employees at our company average. After taxes even the $22/hr employee is paycheck to paycheck. I also broke down the cost of having/sharing own apartment & owning a car with insurance & gas. I don’t think she believed me until she did some research. She came to me stating she did not know how hard it is in America. Basically, the delusion that being in America physically will automatically give you more money to live a cushy life. Sorry sweeties, doesn’t work that way. Everyone must pay their dues. We are the land of opportunity, not the land of free handouts.
Seems everything they agree to during the meetings change, especially once they start complaining as a group.
As far as the car goes, just because gas is cheaper here, does not mean you won’t pay a pretty penny to fill up- ask the parents who had to go through the exorbitant gas prices of $4/gallon a few years back- when the average cost to drive a compact was $50 per fill up, which only lasted a week. For an AP who made $400/mo at home, and double that in America, after an average car payment of $300, gas at $80, insurance at $80, rent at $450 (with a roommate) all averages on a monthly basis; you really would not be living the highlife if you chose to have what you think is an easy standard of living. Even as an AP without housing costs, just the cost of owning a car eats up your monthly pay. Think about that before you insist on the sun moon and starts. You see what HP’s have to worry about every month? Add more to the insurance each time the AP wrecks. They don’t have to deal with the insurance, we do.

SKNY November 30, 2012 at 6:41 am


I will look for it.
I will also tell you that older age does not also mean maturity. In USA a 18yo goes out to college, lives on his or her own, and does his own thing. When they graduate, most want and will live by themselves, as adults.
In many other countries, you stay at home while you go to college (not all, but most kids). It is really like an extension of your high school. Everything remains the same. Even if you work out of the house. In many countries you dont even leave home after you graduate. You will only leave home when you get married (again, not everybody, but big portion).
As an example, my 28yo brother still lived at home until a few months ago. And believe or not he gave good grief to my mother. He refused to pick up after himself, etc. He even complained that my mom didnt buy something he wanted, etc. My husband used to be shocked at this behavior. And he worked out of home and made nice money.
In USA you would think he is a looser. (and now that I have absorbed the culture, I believe too). However, no one in my country think so. It is very expensive to live on your own. You will not be able to maintain your previous life style, and people would be shocked at my mom if she ever kicked him out. (which I suggested multiple times). Heck… I was living with my mom until I was 24yo (when I came to USA), and it was normal for me.
What I would say is that focus on the individual vs age. I have met 18, 19yos from my home country who had to fend for themselves from early age. Or who had to move to another city for college and lived on their own for 4 years of it… And those might be more mature. Or ones who still live with their parents (because can’t afford to live out of home), but assist financially, work full time jobs out of home, have work ethics, etc…
You really need to make questions, and right ones: who paid or is paying for your college? do you work out of the house? do you assist your family financially? do you have a maid at home? who does the housework at your house? Did you have a nanny/maid growing up? Have you ever lived by yourself? have you ever had a full time paid job (real job, not babysitting)….

Au pair November 30, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I am from Switzerland, so a first world country. But I did not assume to have a car here at all.. We are 7 people in my family, and we have 1 car! My mom would make me take the train everywhere! But as someone already said, our public transportation is a lot better. The problem here in the US is, that you model the car behavior. I’m not saying its you in person, but Americans in general. Take the car to go to a nearby park? Come on! So I think that’s the problem! We see Americans taking the car everywhere! So why can’t we? So the import thing is to tell your au pair, that lots of Americans do use their car for everything, but you do not!! End of story! It has nothing to do with what you said, we think you are all rich! I do not think that at all! And a lot of my friends do either!its just how you model the car issue. I have twins and believe me, sometimes it would be easier to take the car to the park, but, it just does not make any sense. Good luck

Host Mom in the City November 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm

This is a good point, but also a place where there is a fine line. As a host mom, I try very hard to model around my au pair the way I want her to be. I would never ask her to do something that I myself would not be willing to do. She sees me picking up the kids from school by walking, going out with friends on the bus, and taking the bus to work every single day. But she may also see me using the car to pick up my son at his friend’s house but maybe not know that I’m using the car because its faster and I have a parent/teacher conference, PTA meeting, work conference call, and dinner to get on the table later that night. She may see me on my phone when the kids are playing, but not know that I’m trying to pay a bill that I haven’t had a chance to pay because I’ve been at work all day and have tons of laundry to take up my time after I get the kids to bed.

Anyway, I get what you’re saying about showing your au pair that you too use the bus and I definitely actively do that. But also, au pairs need to realize that there may be completely valid reasons behind some instances of “do as I say, not as I do.”

Georgiapeach December 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Good feedback! I agree, HP’s need to reevaluate their actions too. I feel many AP’s are positive until they get together and have a handful who start complaining about how terrible their HP’s are. I partnered with our LCC to coordinate a dinner for our AP so that she can meet other APs. During dinner, one girl already complained to our AP about her having to work until 8pm that night and that her child is too difficult. She didn’t like the child. I know she, as well as the other AP’s in that group, were not mistreated. If they were, the LCC (who monitors the HP’s like a hawk) would have put down the law a long time ago. The problem is the negative ones influence the positive ones. It is much easier to go negative than stay positive.
I see that negative attitude not only in APs but in the employees where I was their manager. They all give great interviews, then change.
With twins, it is actually more of a pain in the butt to use the car. Lug 2 carseats back and forth, screaming babies each time they sit in the seat, running 2 separate buggies at the grocery store. We’ve talked about this but AP’s usually have a push back to every option presented to them other than physically having a car at their disposal. That’s the problem

apnewbie November 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

aupair again I guess we all compare our situations to other families. So I’m wondering how we manage expectations so that au pairs realize each family has a different lifestyle. I’m sure I’ve had jobs where I found out someone has gotten better bonuses but you either suck it up or move on. Everyone’s excited in the beginning so they may say anything just to get here then realize they are in over their heads with things they honestly cannot live with. I read just about every post here during the matching process, had a detailed handbook and lots of interview questions but we’re still not happy. I’m usually pretty good at reading liars, but perhaps the language barrier made me overlook some hesitation that in retrospect was a red flag for the issues we have now. This experience has taught me I really do not enjoy micro managing people. I have to have someone who is proactive and motivated. That’s what made me comment on this post finally. We are at the same time frame with similar problems except for the car demands. It’s hard as a first timer to know what’s normal with au pairs and what warrants rematch. Our issues are personality and childcare differences, so we’re afraid of the next one having serious issues like stealing (rematch or next year). She told our lcc how much she wants to stay, but she really just irks me. I think she is fine as a person, but her work is not so it’s hard to pull the plug with the possibility of her being sent home. Not to mention the kids being mad at me. Even though they argue like she’s a sibling, she keeps saying how she wants to stay for two years so now I’m getting pressured from two directions. I have no idea how likely it is that she’ll find a new family.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 3, 2012 at 8:23 am

There seems to be a lot going on in your post, apnewbie. I recommend you have a chat with your LCC – she can advise you what is typical and how to have a conversation with your AP about making improvements.

Having hosted 8 APs in 11 3/4 years, I have found that while I didn’t personally love every AP who has lived with us, I could live with them if a) they did their work with the kids well and b) tried to improve at the things that complicated their care for the kids (one AP arrived and did not have enough English to call us in an emergency with my special needs child – we gave her an ultimatum and she worked hard at improving her English).

You are in control of whether the AP extends with you or not. For the APs we have adored, we usually have a conversation in month 5 or 6 asking her if she is interested in extending and telling her what a great job she’s doing. However, for APs with whom we are not interested in extending, we wait until their extension paperwork comes in month 8 before we say anything. We call a family meeting after the kids are in bed, and tell her quietly that we have decided that we are interesting in hosting another AP for the following year.

When a HF does not to extend with an AP, she has the option to extend with a new HF. In our agency, we were given paperwork to fill out. I have been honest, but not brutally so. I have written pieces of the evaluation of her year with us in glowing terms that I knew would be quoted verbatim by the agency. I also urge each one to contact the LCC and ask for advice on extending with another family. For APs who have done nothing about getting a U.S. driver’s license (for which we reimburse 100% of the fees until month 8), I advise them that having one will make them more marketable to other families.

Why do we wait until month 8? Because the quality of the work and the effort the AP puts into her job declines rapidly. If you hated micomanaging before, you’re really going to hate it for the last 4 months. If that seems too much for you, call your LCC now and ask for her advice.

HRHM December 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

As has been said elsewhere – NEVER extend with a so-so AP! It is expected (human nature) that everyone relaxes as time goes on. So if you are having issues with her performance/work ethic now, just wait until she is secure in staying for another year!

You are not responsible for her happiness. You are not harming her if you choose to get a new AP and she has to go home. It’s not your job to find her a second year family. Be honest with her about what her shortcomings are and where she needs to improve. Tell her that you are exhausted by micro-managing her and that this far into the year, you shouldn’t have to.

Having said that, I think you will find that there is a fair percentage of APs that have to be heavily directed, especially in the start of the year. “Proactive and motivated” are rare qualities in the 19-26 year old set. We are on AP5 now and have finally found our dream AP. We are only in month 6 and I’m already in mourning – she won’t stay because she’s motivated and wants to start University! UGH! :)

apnewbie December 4, 2012 at 3:04 am

Thanks. The LCC advised us last month to have a serious talk with her about the big issues so she knows we consider them make or break. I couldn’t read whether she felt it was normal or we’re overreacting. She just said our ap may not be invested & just thinks she can slide by. That was the convo where she said she really wants to stay here. The ap said she lies because she’s nervous, the lcc thinks it’s a personality flaw &maybe she’ll grow up given consequences and I think she’s manipulating. Since then she has improved some on actually doing the things on the schedule she asked for. The lying has just gotten better, so that there hasn’t been a clear cut violation, but just clever omissions that she blames on not understanding. It didn’t help that the ‘Ultimate Au Pair’ contest came out at this time making me feel even more cheated.
You two are scaring me! I guess I was spoiled by some good responsible college sitters before. She is already over sensitive and sulky so I anticipate the last months will be rough. Maybe it is easier to go ahead and rip the bandage rather than put it off for 5 months. HRHM did you do anything different this time or was it luck?

Anna December 4, 2012 at 6:02 am

You may want to put it in terms that will make your au pair not want to extend with you either. One time our au pair extended and we didn’t think it was a good idea to extend with us, we had a baby coming next year so it was clear cut – her job was going to get harder and she had a lot going on in her life, so it was a mutual decision not to extend for her.
Maybe your circumstances will change next year and you will need someone with different background or different skillset?
Also since you are the first time family, a good story is that you want to not extend for the first few years of hosting so you could get the most out of different cultural exchange getting a girl from a new country every year.
A few years my husband would outright tell au pairs that it is our policy to never extend; but he would also tell them that he is sure they are a great au pair who will find any family they want for the second year if they choose to do so, and talked about the benefits of seeing a different part of the country (California seems to play well – we are on the East Coast).

apnewbie December 5, 2012 at 12:57 am

Good tips Anna! ‘It’s not you it’s me’ is a good tactic to cut down on the hurt feelings. Thanks HRHM, I got my hubby to read the responses (after listening to me talk about the blog for months) and we are leaning more toward rematch. I tried talking him into a male next time, but that didn’t work. I will look more for attitude next time than being dazzled by fudged experience.

HRHM December 4, 2012 at 9:03 am


I’m not sure if it was luck or something we did, but we deserved it! After 4 misfires of varying badness, and not once rematching when we really should have, we were due for a break (so, no, you are not alone)

I think some of it has to do with understanding cultures (Brazilians never babysit, other than Germany, few countries have a car culture where an AP would get a chance to drive frequently – in many you can BUY your DL, several countries are known for their APs saying ANYTHING to get out, Indian girls will not do housework). This knowledge was gained here on this site, as well as by talking to APs and their friends and some of my own friends who are transplants/foreign nationals.

I think some came from better understanding what I and my kids need (and they are sometimes NOT the same thing- so that is tough in and of itself) We started with older APs thinking they would be more mature and responsible – wrong! They were just drifting through life and using a trip to America to avoid getting a “real” job or going to school. They were more skilled manipulators and their level of “independence” extending enough into their personal life that they spent zero time with us as a family but not so far as to make them great independent workers. Ugh. So now we have veered in the other direction and look for college-bound younger APs who seem well meshed with their families at home. We find that they respect our rules, want to be part of the family and since they are under 21, we can just say “no drinking ever” and not have to deal with the off-duty drinking/on-duty hangover. I will add to that criteria two other factors that my current FABULOUS AP has that I think help. 1) a fairly younger sibling that she has a strong relationship (11 in this case) and 2)a serious pursuit such as music, dance, sport, that she has spent years doing in an organized fashion.

My other 2-cents is rematch if you are not enjoying your life with your AP. I never realized how great it could be… you can be sure I will be much quicker to rematch in the future because of how happy I am now. The great ones are out there, don’t put up with not-great for five more months.

skny December 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Would you care to share your experience with Brazilian au pairs? I have a personal reason to want to know it and can give email if you feel more comfortable.

HRHM December 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm


As has been stated on this website previously, even middle class Brazilians have domestic help, so if a girl says in her app that she babysat, nannied or did any chores at home, she is most likely fabricating. This is not to say that Brazilians can’t make good Au Pairs, you just have to know what you are getting. In the end, hire for attitude and train for skills. I think if you need a non-driver (usually) to care for you babies and toddlers (they are very loving and family oriented) full time during the week, then you may find them a good fit. I would not hire them for my tween girl because they do love to party and while I don’t care what they do, I don’t want to have that example for my daughter in these formative years.
Just my 2 cents.

Georgiapeach December 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Thank you very much for the info. Now I know how to handle current situation & how to avoid the same problem in the future! :)

skny December 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Exactly. I know that part.
We need from Brazil due to language. I need my kids speaking Portuguese.
However other than the fact I can scan the ones lying, I can’t figure out how to find the “good ones”. The ones who will actually sit down and play with the kids (vs. leaving them alone running around), the ones who will follow directions, and do the tasks asked.
I am sooo frustrated with my current situation. Only reason I will not rematch is that we are almost done with the year anyway. But I am afraid of getting the same next time. Wondering if I should forget the language thing and just get a nanny.

skny December 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I am actually sending one of my kids to day care 3 x a week just because I feel she is better of there. Getting more interaction, more attention, better meals…
And giving them more attention is one of the reasons I chose an au pair to begin with….

dorsi December 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I had a great Brazilian Au Pair — she had worked as a preschool teacher (she was an extraordinaire through APIA)and really approaced caring for my kids like it was her job.

Busy Mom December 4, 2012 at 10:14 pm

We had two great Brazilian au pairs. Both had taught private English classes/worked in camp like situations. They were middle class, but not prima donnas and they were very willing to work. Both had spend time away from home so had done household chores. Both were from Sao Paolo so had driving experience in a big city. The 2nd (who we got in her extension year) confirmed that Brazilian girls don’t babysit and if I saw that on an application, I should reject them.

skny December 5, 2012 at 9:44 am

This is my situation:
I got home the other day (not at my usual time) to my au pair alone in the laundry room, doing laundry. My laundry room is at the second floor. The kids (ages 12mo and 2y10mo) were left alone in the TV room (that doubles as a play room). The “just turned 1 year old” was unsafely crawling half way the stairs – close to the second floor already. Apparently the almost 3yo learned how to open the gait, and let her brother up. So after I gasp in shock of the danger, I pick him up just to see he had something in his mouth (that could cause shocking).
That by itself made me shiver. Than add the fact that this au pair while a GREAT part of the family player, and awesome roomate, does not seem motivated to take kids out (even though there are TONS of things to do around (even in the winter), make playdates, etc, and has only stoped feeding them carrots and chicken nuggets every single meal because I finally gave up asking her to do something else, and by recommendation here stopped buying it.
Also she doesnt seem to “interact” with them, do hands on. Even when I am home she doesn’t seem to sit down, play, do hands-on stuff with them.
I would rematch today (really), if was not the fact that now we are 11 months into the program, and my husband is convinced that kids will be better off in day care. Does not help that:
a) day care IS cheaper
b) we finally gave in and started sending almost 3yo to day care 3 to 4 days a week (because we felt like she was missing stimulation) and every time we go pick her up she is happy, well fed (nutritious meals), and had tons of activities to account for.

So while It is extremely important to me that my 2 kids learn the language spoken in Brazil, it is getting harder and harder to justify to my husband the need for an au pair. :(
I am trying to figure out how I selected wrong, to make my argument to DH about trying one more time before giving up…

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids December 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm


That stinks. Hopefully you can hang in there for another month.

My first AP was similar. She was not a high energy person, but she at least got the kids out of the house (they were actually the same age as yours at the time) and kept them active. But, she was just a little strange with them. She would talk to them like they were adults. If one of them told her “look at what I made” she would say something like “I know, you showed it to me already”. She wasn’t mean, she just didn’t completely get kids. With that being said, she was a very good room mate, was very protective of the kids, and I was never concerned for their safety. Even if she didn’t enjoy every second with them, she was smart enough to realize the safety of the kids was of upmost importance. So I only kind of know what you are dealing with.

Fast forward to the two au pairs we had after her and I could not believe how these AP’s were so much more energetic with the kids. These au pairs seemed to actually enjoy playing with them.

One difference between them, which may or may not be an indication of anything, is that they had both been with previous families. To allay your husband’s reservations, you could try looking for an extension au pair or someone in rematch. They have already been assimilated to being away from home, etc. and have decided they still want to be an au pair. At least with the ones I have experience with, it was in part because they actually really like kids. Our first au pair liked kids as much as she could because she just really wanted to be in the US.

Good luck!

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids December 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm

One more thing…I think it has been said before, but I think it is a great idea to drop in unexpected to witness what is going on when they think you are not around.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

SKNY – Even though you are 11 months into the program, you need to push this short-timer. Call your LCC and arrange for a family meeting. It is always unacceptable to ignore children so that they are endangered. Presumably your younger children nap – that’s the time to do a load of laundry – not when they’re playing and active. It sounds like you have a young woman who lacks common sense – and she’s not going to learn it in 4 weeks!

I’ve said good-bye to 7 APs over the years, and the last weeks are the hardest. I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere – the APs who have bounded with AP and other friends are getting ready to say goodbye to them. For many APs this is the first time in their lives that they are really going to leave people to whom they have become attached. It is an emotional time for them. Your LCC has been through this many times, and should have good tips to motivate your short-timer.

Sit your AP down and tell her you realize that she only has a month left with you, but you need her to work hard and care for your kids. Tell her that the quality of her work will make a difference between her remaining a part of the family for the rest of her life and being welcome to come back and visit. Tell her that if she wants the children to remember her, that she has to get down on the floor and play with them. She may not find it interesting, but it will make the day go faster.

And since you’ve caught her being inattentive, I’m afraid my advice is that you and your husband to take turns showing up unexpectedly. Because if she is truly endangering your children, the best solution may be to put them in daycare and send her home immediately (she has to pay for her flight home if she can’t finish her year with you). But before you take any drastic steps, make your LCC aware of what you discovered when you went home unexpectedly.

Host Mom in the City December 5, 2012 at 3:35 pm

SKNY – that is terrifying! She left your 12mo alone with your 2.5yo on an upper level with accessible stairs and with access to small things she could put in her mouth??? How did you not completely freak out? Maybe I’m misreading the situation, but please tell us that your au pair apologized profusely, that you had a huge talk about how she could have caused serious injury or death to your children, and that you told her that if anything even close to this happens again, she is leaving immediately no matter how close she is to her year end.

Anna December 6, 2012 at 10:02 pm


I have had seven au pairs. Three very best ones were Brazilians from Sao Paulo. Next year I will just talk to Brazilians from Sao Paulo when interviewing. These girls were honest, super responsible, worldly and open minded, respectful, good work ethics, and pleasure to be around, positive and cheerful.

They were all middle class. First one had domestic help at home, but was very willing to learn to do whatever she needed for the kids. Her experience was with her goddaughter – a lot, the mother was her best friend and a single mom. I am 100 percent sure she was honest.
Second was a preschool and elementary school teacher, from lower middle class, had no domestic help, she could even cook since she cooked at home daily for her family. She was truly exceptional in all respects, all who met her fell in love with her.
Our current au pair had experience with camp and she worked in daycare with one year olds specifically to gain experience with this age group. She is from a middle class family but not too well off, had no domestic help, did everything at home, can cook. You can tell if they had domestic help because those who do cannot boil water.

APAgent December 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

I believe it depends. I’m an agent couching future au pairs and when the candidate doesn’t have much child experience here in Brazil, I myself arrange for her to babysit. Families here DO NOT ask girls to babysit, that’s why ti doesn’t happen. And the girls don’t feel confortable to ask people if they like babysitting, only if it’s in the family (cousins or uncles).

So I arrange babysitting, camps, children’s groups, etc for these girls. Then her experience will get out of her family environment. So they can have real experiences to share on their Applications. And with the agency I work with, I review ALL applications, sit with the girls, talk to them, more then once to see what their character is like and what she is willing/able to do.

I teach them how to be honest about her wishes and yet not be rude to the families. I think in general, they end up doing well. But I also know that most Families go straigh into the girls who lie, ebcause they seem perfect. They don’t have any wishes of their own, they do all … but this should tell they are lying.

In our agency we do “pre matching” . We, the agents pair several au pairs with a host family , that we feel match in what they need, want and are personally speaking. Then the families have access to these girls files… and talk to them.

au pair November 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Oh sorry, i didn’t mean to say, that an au pair needs a car, if you say she can’t, than thats how it is!! It is your car! I had a friend who bought her own car, because her hf wouldn’t let her drive theirs. problem solved. About the other issues with your au pair, if you are not happy with her, you should rematch, if this issues cant be fixed. A question for all hostparents here: i read everywhere your problems with your au pairs etc. But why do you keep taking them one after another? I am really just wondering! I would be so tired of it, getting an au pair after another, and the only thing they cause me is stress… So i just wonder.

Host Mom in the City November 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Well you’re reading only the bad stories here of course. We’re on our second and both of our au pairs have been fantastic, friendly, and helpful. Are there little irritations? Of course, but I’ve used daycare and a nanny too, and every form of child care (just like anything else in life) has good and bad things.

Georgiapeach December 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm

To answer your question, I can’t speak for others but I tell myself, they are young, maybe they will come around and be nicer. Plus, I don’t want to hurt their feelings. I gotta say, when the AP’s act in a negative way and ALWAYS blame the HP’s, they need to evaluate their actions too. There’s that saying when the problem is the same with everyone, then the common denominator is the person complaining.
There are AP’s with bad experiences and bad HP’s. But there are also bad AP’s and good HF’s.

Georgiapeach December 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

au pair, I forgot to add that another AP in our city told our AP that she was shocked at the thought of possibility of buying her own car. This girl said that is not right of the HP’s to not give them a car, an AP should not have to buy their own car. That is one of many “seeds” planted in our APs mind that make her feel, more and more like the entitlements of the other APs are a necessity.
I rode the bus system as a broke single parent for 2 years. I know it can be done. At that time, I was in a city that didn’t have public transportation like the East Coast. And yet, I survived. Seems to me the APs can also make it if they try. HF’s are always happy to drop off/pick them up as well.

HRHM December 5, 2012 at 11:02 am

How the hell do APs afford to purchase, register, insure and fuel a car in the US on 200 per week? I’ve heard of this a couple of times now on this board. I figure if her folks will foot that bill or she has the savings to do so, she should quit being an AP and just use that money to travel on a travel visa.

skny December 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Ive seen au pairs come into the country with as much as $1600 for “emergency expenses” in CASH, plus credit card

Taking a Computer Lunch December 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Some APs come into the country with considerably more cash than others, and they weren’t all Europeans. In fact, I’ve had European APs come with little or nothing to spend until they had earned their first week’s salary.

I would say that APs that buy their own cars are few and far between, although I could understand some being frustrated enough to WANT to buy their own car.

hm2 December 5, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I can only speak for myself here but way back when I was an AuPair, I aupaired because I really wanted to spend a year in another family. I was very curious to see how other families work and I enjoyed being around children. I travelled extensively before and after my time as an AP and honestly didn’t see the time as an AP as a way to make money (I aupaired in Spain and families there really didn’t pay a lot, which was fine by me… )

hostmomindc December 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

I think some of the misunderstandings and ‘entitlement’ issues come from the fact that the au pairs are told (at least by APIA) that they will be an ‘equal member of the family’. This could easily be misunderstood as being equally entitled to enjoy all the resources, comforts and freedoms (including equal access to and use of the car, internet, phones, etc) enjoyed by other adults in the house (i.e host parents). If this is indeed their expectation, it is no wonder that so many au pairs are disappointed and appear to feel entitled when they discover they are not, in fact, “equal” when it comes to the use of family car, phone or internet (or other resource) and rules and limits are imposed.

Leaving a comment December 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Well, in that sense my children are not “equal” either. I guess real “equality” comes with shared responsibility, shared risk, shared cost and so on. And some au pairs fail to realize that.

Georgiapeach December 8, 2012 at 2:02 am

Thank you, “Leaving a comment”. I agree with your feedback.

skny December 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

I agree
We beat on the idea AGAIN that the program is sold differently to au pairs and families.
At least on my home country the posters show a big picture of a girl with a gorgeous California scene behind her. And then a smaller picture of a girl reading for kids and they look like they are having so much fun.
It is sold as a cheaper way to be an exchanged student. Like: travel the country, learn language, experience the WONDERS of American culture and life. And EVEN get paid while doing so. ALL you have to do is babysit the family’s kids 45hs a week.
While for families it is sold as affordable, flexible, reliable child care.
Easy to see why there are conflicts. We are buying two different programs.

Host Mom in the City December 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

While I agree that the program is sold differently, I think it’s also fairly simple to make sure that the au pairs you are interviewing understand what YOUR family is offering. A lot of people on this site have talked about “dare to match with us” type letters. But you don’t even have to go that far. In our letter, we make it very clear what benefits we offer and what will be difficult about the au pair’s year with us too. One of the questions we ask at the very beginning goes along the lines of “Being an au pair is really fun sometimes, but also very difficult sometimes – [insert examples of screaming kids, conflicting work schedules, etc] – tell me a story about how you stuck with something even though it was challenging.” We make sure our au pair candidates know the hours we’ll expect, the schedule we’ll expect, and that we expect them to be actively engaged with the kids during work hours. We make sure they know this is a job that we are hiring for and that here are the duties and here is the salary and benefits. And if we’re unsure that they get that, we don’t match.

Dorsi December 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Questions like, “have you ever taken care of kids for 10 hours in a row? have you ever done that for several days in a row?” I agree with the above — I don’t worry too much about how the program is sold to Au Pairs, because I sell my own situation to each Au Pair. Everyone that has come has been pleasantly surprised — it is more pleasant, less difficult than they expected — but that is because I set their expectations ahead of time.

As a related note, this is one of the reasons I am quite wary of girls who only have experience taking care of family member children. If you babysit frequently for your sister, she probably understands if you have a headache, a test the next day at school or a concert you really want to attend. You probably can get out of work pretty easily. That doesn’t fly at our house.

Georgiapeach December 8, 2012 at 1:59 am

They are supposed to be equal members of the family. But, when they are asking for more than even the teenaged child of the family, it feels like entitlement. Most parents of teens I know require their teens to pay for their own fuel and insurance. Even then, most teens have very restricted usage of family cars. These entitled AP’s are asking for more, such as overnight usage. I know in my heart, if we entertain the topic of asking our AP to help with the insurance premium, there would be a backlash. So, we’re kind of stuck. HP’s are supposed to eat the cost of insurance and any accidents that occur. Some families negotiate with the AP’s regarding accidents: the AP’s may pay a portion of the deductible. This does not cover the increase in premiums the HP’s must pay in the future. What ever happened to asking about public transportation before demanding cars?

apnewbie December 8, 2012 at 11:44 pm

You hit the nail on the head. They want the perks but none of the responsibility. I don’t have a teenager yet, but there’s no way they would have all the freedom that the ap wants (and has the nerve to get attitude about).

Hostmomindc December 11, 2012 at 8:24 pm

When I said they are told they expect to be equal members of the family, I meant equal and “ON PAR” with the other ADULTS in the home: the host parents, not “on par” as a teen child would be. I mean they expect to be an equal adult entitled to the priveledges and rights that the other adults (parents) enjoy. As they see it, they have these rights b/c they do share the responsibility (by caring for children and house, in part). They don’t see/think about the “behind the scenes” responsibilities that you take on that she doesn’t (paying mortgage, car payments, insurance, utilities, maintanence, education, etc) especially if they have never had these responsibilities for themselves.

skny December 6, 2012 at 2:05 pm

So what do you think about this specific situation:
We got a referral (from friends) for a girl who is 19yo. She is from a very poor family. Is the first one in her whole family (ever) to finish high school. She was such a good student that without any prep classes she took a test and got a full scholarship for a 2 year college, and graduated with a 2 years degree in business (studying at night while working all day). As they can’t afford, she does cleaning, etc at her house.
She has been working since she was 16yo (full time, while going to night school). And helps her family financially. She has saved for 2 years to have money to afford the program. And has finally made enough.
She has only worked in one job (business related though). And has been at the same place for almost 4 years. The employer filled a great reference (and the funny thing is that my mother knows this employer- not friends, just she has dealt with this person in the past – and thinks this is a VERY HARD person to work with, and that this person would not lie) about how she trusted this girl, how she was reliable, she was hard working, honest, etc.
So we are going to my home country soon, and there is a part of me tempted to do a face to face interview with this girl.
She is not a diva, seems to be reliable, responsible, etc. Is used to hard work (seems like), and her English is terrible (which for me is good because we can speak her language, can assist her with English classes, but that will help her speaking to kids in native language).
1. she just got her driver’s license. And while I don’t really need her to drive, she would have to drive well before I gave her use of a car.
2. She only has 300hs of experience with kids, which were accumulated over volunteer in the local orphanage. So not a lot of skills.

What do you think??? Could this work?

Should be working December 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I have done face-to-face interviews when I happened to be in the home country we get APs from. It is useful, but hard not to set up expectations on their end that you are close to matching with them. But why do you want this person in particular? Do you have some ties there? There are tons of AP candidates out there.

I would be concerned that even a very conscientious, diligent worker would not necessarily be good with my kids. And you would feel obligated to make it work, knowing her background. I would be cautious. Why not just go the usual route by way of agencies and interview carefully?

Taking a Computer Lunch December 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm

My guess is that given that this particular woman is a hard-worker and has learned to perserve to reach her goals, that she would continue to work hard and try to please you. I think some of the HMs who do face-to-face interviews have mentioned in the past meeting in a neutral place, like a playground and to bring the kids. If she ignores the kids, then you know that childcare will be a struggle for her. Pay attention to how she talks to the kids and interacts with them.

We’ve hosted au pairs with weak English and beginning driving skills who were fantastic with the kids, but it was a real chore to get them functional in the other skills (driving is essential with my family). However, those APs had been working directly with children for over a year.

Personally, I reject business majors without childcare experience. They are coming to the U.S. to improve their English and being an AP is a means to achieve that goal, so I have to join SBW in saying “Why this AP?” Is she really the best application you’ve seen?

Georgiapeach December 8, 2012 at 2:11 am

I’m tempted to say no, it would not work only because taking care of children is completely different. Reflecting back to my singleton days around her age, I never would dream how much work goes into parenting. Added to the work, the worries if your child(ren) are ok.
Many new parents, regardless of age, find that caring for children is harder than they imagined.
But, on the flip side, it could work out very well! If so, that is wonderful.
What the heck, interview with her. You have nothing to lose doing so. See how she reacts to your questions. That may give you a better idea of if she is a strong candidate. Good luck!

Host Mom in the City December 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

I think the only thing in all that that matters is that she’s obviously willing to commit herself to something, has real work experience, and has had to run a household. Those are things I look for too. But also, how is she with kids? Why does she want to be an au pair? What is her expectation for how she will fit into the family? Do you *like* her when you meet her? Those are almost more important.

Skny December 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm

No reason specific. I was talking to another host mom about going back to day care (most likely), and my fear of getting someone like or worse than current (which could happen I guess). So this host mom told me about this girl… And I kind of felt appeal due to her history of hard work. No specific reason

Host Mom in the City December 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm

If you really want to consider having another au pair seriously, apply and interview a bunch of candidates and then see if she is truly the right one.

apnewbie December 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Skny, maybe after talking to her(especially since you can pick up more cues in her first language) you’ll get a feel for how well she interacts with children. Some people are naturally good with children and it shows even if they don’t have much work experience with them. If she’s a natural plus has solid work ethic shown from everything else you said that would be a plus. Don’t get too caught up in her history and overlook your gut feeling.

SKNY December 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Thanks all for the advise.
Hubby told me tonight that he feels he is truly done with au pairs. It stinks because I really want my kids to speak my native language fluently and just spending full day at American day care it wont happen
Hope I can change DH’s mind. As of now he is counting down for current au pair to be done :(

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