Arguments between my child and my Au Pair are driving me nuts!

by cv harquail on March 5, 2011

Dear Au Pair Mom readers–

Our au pair has been with us for 1 1/2 months. She’s 19, Italian, and speaks excellent English. She cares for our daughter while I work part-time the house, part-time out.

The problem is that our daughter, who is about to turn 4, is having a hard time with this au pair. I know it can be typical around age 4 for a child to have some tantrums, occasionally kicking or striking out (not hard, but she’s clearly trying to make a point). She’s yelling a lot more–all normal, but difficult.

Our newest au pair really wants to be a part of the family, she refers to herself as a big sister, she wants the long-term relationship that we want as well. However, she argues with our daughter so much that it’s driving me insane.

Our last au pair was with us for 3 months and went home homesick after 7 months in the US. Our daughter and previous au pair, who was very calm, got along really well. We didn’t have these problems.

When I work at home I can often hear them bickering, often with yelling on both sides.

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The au pair has very little patience for our daughter. Culturally, I understand that this au pair is a little feistier, and more prone to stronger reactions, and more dramatic behaviors. But, I really can’t continue to hear the bickering.

My daughter and our au pair do have moments of love and affection –hugging, reading, giggling, etc. And, my husband and I like this au pair. We’d like her to stay with us until the fall.

My husband and I are struggling to deal with this stage in our daughter’s life and are trying hard to be good examples, but we are often falling short too. We’ve talked to the au pair about needing to demonstrate a little more patience than she has. We are also clear with our daughter that hurting anyone is not allowed. She has gotten time outs or “sit downs” with mom or dad to talk about why it’s not okay. It’s natural, though not easy, for a strong-willed 3 year old to act this way. I do recognize how hard this is, the au pair has to act like an adult and not yell back at the child.

I’d really appreciate any advice on what we can do for both au pair and child. Thanks! Julie

Dear Julie –

What a challenge- a child going through an emotional time, an au pair with a feisty personality, and parents who are doing their best and haven’t yet found an effective strategy! Your situation reminds me how hard it can be to continue to adjust— not only with each au pair, but as each child grows. Kids and their needs are a moving target– what works this month might not work next month, and it keeps us parents on our toes.

Many moving pieces

It seems to me that you are looking at many of the important moving pieces, and considering how all three partners (parents, child, au pair) might adjust to create a calmer and stronger relationship. All three of you have things to learn and to try.

Certainly, though, it’s your au pair who is going to bear the brunt of the changing– she is the one in direct conflict with the child and the child isn’t mature enough (obviously) to fix the situation herself. Your daughter needs to be taught how to manage her emotions in an age appropriate way, and your au pair needs to be a key person in teaching her that. And, at the same time, your au pair needs to learn how you and your DH want this situations handled and what you and your DH want your child to be taught.

When you mentioned the ’emotionality’ element, my thoughts went directly to the book “How to talk so kids will listen“, which is one of my parenting bibles. One of the many things that I found useful about their advice was the way they recommend that we (adults) detach emotion from our responses to kids, and in this way not only model appropriate conversation but also disengage from the emotional drama ourselves.

[[This is also the advice of my other favorite toddler-8 yr old book “1-2-3 Magic”.]]

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen

One thing that you might try is getting two copies of this book, highlighting relevant sections and asking your au pair to follow their strategies with you. You each get a copy of the book to read, highlight, refer to. This tactic has the advantage of getting all the adults on the same page– literally– for consistency in handling things with your daughter. We all know, consistency is key to teaching kids what kinds of behavior we want in our families.

Plus, the book explains “why” the tactics work– from an ‘expert’ perspective that makes it less about you and your spouse and more about ‘what’s been shown to work’. Sure, the book is culturally-bound, and very American. But that’s okay if the values of the authors fit with the values of you and your spouse.

Discuss your family vision

Another big picture approach is to talk with your au pair not about her personal reactions, or the the 1:1 relationship you want her to have with your daughter, but about the kind of climate you want in your home. Saying things like “We want to create a home where disagreements are handled with love and patience” sets everyone on the same goal without putting anyone in particular on the spot.

Also, these big goals leave some room for each of us to devise our own personal tactics. Your au pair could follow the “How to talk” advice along with you… plus she could come up with her own, proactive, positive ways to ‘bring ‘love and patience’ to the fore in her relationship with your daughter.

These are my two first thoughts- and I’m sure the rest of the group has some great ideas…. so let’s hear ’em!

See also, this more general post: Improving the Relationship between your Au Pair and Your Kids

Image: Arguing Penguins by nouQraz

{ 30 comments }

My 2 cents March 5, 2011 at 5:03 pm

IMHO the problem is that everyone is talking too much and giving too much time reacting to a 4 year old that’s probably exhibiting classic 4 year old behavior. Having a conversation about poor behavior is boring and just too much information for one so young. 1-2-3 Magic and many younger child behavior strategies specifically revolve around stopping the chatting and just inputting an immediate consequence devoid of any emotional reaction. Just a you do this, and this happens mentality.

I’d sit down and explain and then demo with your own behavior how she should react when your child misbehaves. I’d emphasize taking all the talking and emotion out of it entirely.

Anonamomma March 5, 2011 at 7:18 pm

@ My 2 Cents – I love it!
I get really frustrated with all the talk, talk, talk – sometimes it just time to walk the walk – particularly with younger children who cannot properly compute/digest the concepts yet.

Actions = Consequences
Biting/hitting/screaming = time out, naughty step + one verbal statement “we do not (bite/hit/scream)”

This they understand.

The ten minute lecture on why we do not bite/hit/scream is lost on them and IMO only adds to confusion.

My little one is only 2 and has a terrible temper – he’s a slapper! Does my AP reason with him when he slaps her – no – she puts him straight into the corner for a time-out which is exactly what I do, HD does and his big sister does – we all do the same thing and he is learning.

But I had to literally show my AP what to do and empower her to do it. It’s not an easy job dealing with a small child but with help, support and consistency, it can be done.

Calif Mom March 10, 2011 at 10:14 am

Good advice above.

I’ve been living with a similar situation since last fall. The kid in question in my case is a 1st grader, but it’s the same flying sparks between an intense child and an intense, inexperienced-in-the-ways-of-kids, immature au pair.

How to Talk and 1-2-3 Magic offer the best tools we’ve found, too. They are both pretty friendly reads for a non-native speaker (though my au pair doesn’t have a language excuse.)

Here’s my big caution, because you are early into the match and have more options:

Set a very high bar in your own mind as you evaluate progress. If your au pair does not QUICKLY demonstrate that she can adapt her ATTITUDE as well as her behavior–she must prove to you that she is actually teachable, just needs some coaching/modeling of appropriate behavior–get yourself ready to pull the plug on the match quickly. Kids can see right through “fakey nice” and it is bad, bad, bad when your AP is sucking up or acting “Jekyll and Hyde” as my 5th grader called it.

We now think that our au pair has some undiagnosed learning disabilities, based on the compensatory habits we’ve observed and pieced together and the amount of sheer repetition managing her requires. Believe me, my family understands learning differences, and I don’t make this observation as a personal attack on her. But these learning differences have meant that us host parents have had to spend far too much time, energy, and anxiety both discussing the issues and adapting our hosting style a lot. No, really, a lot. As in, way too much. As in, I can’t wait for this one to be done because I’m exhausted. (We are, however, taking advantage of the babysitting in evenings and taking more parent-time alone, which we need now more than ever. We are comfortable doing this because unlike asking her to supervise both kids on a weekend afternoon, while the kids are sleeping the au pair can do little emotional harm to them.)

I would not put myself, my kids or my family in this situation again, even though this au pair realio, trulio means well and is trying really really hard. She just doesn’t have the equanimity that working with my intense kids requires. We gave her the chance to build new skills, and she made a modest amount of progress but is now stuck again. And now we are stuck, because if we were to rematch, she would have to go home, defeated (her mother had told her she wouldn’t be able to do this and would come home early–maybe I should give her overbearing mother more credit!). We just can’t do that to her, because in spite of her limitations, her heart really is in the right place. And while we also don’t share many values with her (she’s much more into pop culture and image than we are) we feel that we need to model for our kids that you stick with people even when they’re imperfect–and the kids are strangely attached to her, too. It’s a complex situation!

I know the thought of a third au pair within a year is miserable–BTDT–but I’m showing you one possible, not-very-satisfactory outcome that I strongly suggest you work hard to avoid. A third au pair but one who has patience and equanimity would be such a much better fit for you all!

Good luck!

Julie March 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I really related to this. Thanks for the advice!

Calif Mom March 25, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Just to follow up; I followed my own advice and we’re seeking new pastures now. If I had it to do over again, I would have listened to my instinct and amplified it, even if it sounded ‘irrational’ when given voice out loud, and to others. I need to really value that intuition, and not let social norms–or even a need to validate it with logic of any form–dissuade me from taking that path that ‘feels’ right. (Myers Briggs fans will chuckle; yes, I’m a classic ENFP living in world of TJs…)

I wish I could say that things improved, but we have had to break off our match in the second half of her year. My kids are suffering: grades, behavior, all downhill. We’re having to tap our own support network in order to get through this dark time. Parents are suffering. Au pair is suffering, too. I wish one of us had thrown in the towel months ago. She is too stubborn to admit defeat; my hub and I kept trying to “manage” her into improvement. But some things can’t be taught.

Not having good chemistry–even if the AP is basically competent, a good driver, nice etc.–has serious consequences. It’s not a small thing.

Chemistry matters. Lesson learned.

Calif Mom March 25, 2011 at 4:04 pm

I guess instead of We Stick With People And Fulfill Commitments Even When it’s Hard, we are teaching the lesson of Sometimes, No Matter What You Try, Things Just Don’t Work, so you Hold Your Head High, Treat Everyone With Dignity and Move On.

(Disappointing, all the same.)

Should be working March 25, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Calif Mom, thanks for filling us in. I’ve been wondering how long your situation would last. You’ve been heading slowly toward rematch for awhile now, and while that Big Talk awhile back improved things it is a lesson to me/us that sometimes setting concrete criteria for improvement can actually backfire when, some weeks later, things still aren’t so good even though the AP has done her part in trying to improve.

Maybe we need a button that we could ask others here to push, that says “Stop hesitating and REMATCH” whenever we start to get that feeling that it just isn’t working but ‘maybe if . . . ‘ then it would be acceptable.

Please do keep posting on your status, rematch experience, etc.

AFHostMom March 30, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Good for you, CM….thanks for the update. So much of what you’ve said resonates with me because of our decision to rematch earlier in the year. We are thrilled with AP#2 and our house is a whole different place because of the dramatic change in attitude–both shoving out AP #1’s negativity and our (HPs’)return to happiness with the situation.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 5, 2011 at 10:32 pm

My AP likes to deny The Camel dessert when she slaps during dinner. While The Camel is big enough that her slaps really hurt, she is not intelligent enough to connect a denied cookie with slapping. On the other hand, I figure it makes my AP, who has to put up with it, feel better — and so be it.

As long as they are not physically harming or verbally abusing my kids, I let my APs discipline as they will. Every adult in their lives will treat them differently, and as long as that treatment is consistent, the child will adjust to it.

OP, constant bickering and yelling borders on verbal abuse. I’d start a conversation with, “Here in America we have a saying – it’s easier to draw flies with honey than vinegar – it works that way with children too.”

Laura March 6, 2011 at 4:46 am

Have your au pair watch the Happiest Toddler on the block and make a discipline plan. Talk to your au pair and remind her she WANTED the job so she needs to be an adult and handle it as one. 4 years old misbehave, it’s just the age but a 19 year old should be more mature than that and you need To let her know.

Also changes can be harsh on children, take that into consideration.

Should be working March 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I’m not sure what there is to argue about with a kid that small. I agree with everyone that the AP needs coaching on how to not talk but instead react in a calm, consistent fashion.

Our last AP was overall a good experience, but she had bickering issues with our older child and endless patience for my littler one. That makes it a different kettle of fish than the OP’s situation, but to help things work I tried to give the AP support privately, and in positive ways suggest other ways of dealing with my older child. I also had her read “How to Talk. . . ” but I think the AP never really understood it and didn’t believe it (turned out she had been slapped around by her parents). If my child had been younger, I’m not sure I could have stood it for the whole year, because it seemed unfair to see my relatively old kid ‘arguing’ with someone who is destined to win because she’s stronger, smarter, and the grownup. As it was, I was able to talk to my older child and really explain to her how it might be best to modify how she dealt with the AP. I noticed that my older child learned to tiptoe around the AP, figuratively speaking, on certain issues, which made me a little sad but also I figured was a maturation experience for my child.

I would consider the idea that at some point arguing-to-win with such a small child could be borderline verbal abuse, because the child is going to learn a lot of helplessness in losing all the time. I would probably come down hard, but somehow supportively, on the AP that she NEEDS to develop better strategies and more empathy for the kid’s experience of being argued with. This sounds like a situation that could be rough going if it doesn’t change for the whole year. If it didn’t improve in 3-6 weeks, I’d start giving the AP a concrete time limit for improvement.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm

The irony for me, is that DH asked me what I was going to do this afternoon (a Sunday), and I responded, “Argue with our son.” My only leverage against his usual non-compliance today was that he wanted to be driven to the store to buy the latest video game. (And actually, to be fair, the only tool my APs have in their arsenal is warning him that I’m going to come down on him like a ton of bricks.) Don’t get me wrong, I spoil the kid and love him dearly – but there will be a small nuclear explosion in our house when he’s a teen.

PA AP mom March 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I had the same problem with our first au pair. My oldest son was 7 at the time. They would bicker constantly, both of them yelling.

I tried to talk to the AP about it and she said “he yelled at me first”. I had to explain to her that while it’s unacceptable for him to yell at her, it is even more unacceptable for her to yell at him. She is an ADULT and as such, I expect her to act like one.

I also talked to my son about treating AP with respect and being courteous.

It never got better and after about 6 months my son started refusing to stay with her and would go to my parents’ house at any possible time, just to get away from her. We went another 4 long months that way until her year was over.

We didn’t know there were other options (new hosts) but we would NEVER do it again!

JBLV March 7, 2011 at 3:00 am

“Culturally, I understand that this au pair is a little feistier, and more prone to stronger reactions, and more dramatic behaviors.” Erm, I have to disagree with this one. Though I haven’t lived in Italy for more than a month at a time, I do hold Italian citizenship and have lots of experience in an Italian family (on la mamma’s side). I think this situation has more to do with the AP being 19 than it does with the AP being Italian. In my experience, Italians can be extraordinarily patient with small children. ( Maria Montessori was, after all, on the Italian lira note for many years – which is to say she is/was quite revered.) And, children are considered “small” until they are about thirteen. I’ve always thought this a funny article: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1931216,00.html

JBLV March 7, 2011 at 1:17 pm

So, it seems to me that this may be the result of either the AP not seeing herself as an adult or the AP trying to coddle your daughter whilst your daughter tries to assert her independence. If it’s the latter, sit down with your AP and discuss cultural differences in childcare. Independence encouraged in American children. We set up our lives to provide spaces for a children to explore independently. Explain your childcare philosophy.

If it is the former, you may want to consider rematch options.

Chev March 7, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Another thing that might be good to suggest to your AP is that she pick her battles. When i decided to nanny for a toddler and preschooler after looking after infants my mum’s advice was to pick my battles and be consistent with them. One of my battles that isn’t a battle anymore was tv on during meal times. Their parents let them watch while they eat and so it’s fine with me but they used to eat so slow and get more whingey and picky about their food the longer the tv was on, so i consistently told them that they had to eat half their food before the tv went on and then if they stopped eating before they were ‘done’ – got too distracted by the tv- the tv would get turned off until they showed they could eat properly again. After a couple weeks my preschooler doesn’t even try to wheedle or whinge for it differently anymore because she now knows that tv on at mealtimes is a battle i’ll win.

The taking away of treats or similar things might work for her too, as long as she has the option to earn them back with awesome behaviour. My preschooler gets 3 books at bedtime, but can loose them between when i pick her up from daycare until bedtime for misbehaviour, which is generally not listening, doing what she’s asked and yelling no at others – she gets a few warnings and then get’s told if she doesn’t do what she’s asked or change the behaviour she’ll loose a book, I’ve done it for a week now and she hasn’t lost any books since the first couple nights :)

OB Mom March 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Multiple comments here:
1) 1-2-3 Magic is great. I listened to it on Audiobook, which may be easier to convince an AP to do than read something. Try that.

2) Definitely discuss with the AP how to work through positive reinforcement and redirection than through arguing. But you have to do this in a positive way also. Don’t just sit there and say “I don’t like when you argue with DS”. Instead offer alternatives she might have used “When DS said “NO”, perhaps you could have offered her 2 options instead of just one”. Teach her about empowering your daughter. Teach her about how to have “races” (but make sure she knows that your daughter needs to win those races). I think at that age, a lot of it is just testing her boundaries and the AP needs to let her push some while staying solid in others.

3) Threats of taking things away can be very effective. With both of my kids, all I have to say is “if you don’t stop, you’ll lose 15 min of your computer (or TV) time” … they are now 10 and 7 and have been trained over the years that I really really will take it away. But they stop doing the offending thing immediately (or shift to arguing about why they aren’t doing it). I try to not overuse that threat, but it probably comes out more often than I would like. Balance between the positive and negative reinforcement is key — she may not understand that concept.

4) Even though I say all these things, I do hear my AP be overly critical with my kids some times. She is great at discipline, so that isn’t it, it is more like “I can’t believe you don’t know xxx”. Being a bit condescending or judgmental than actual arguing. It’s hard to point out to someone how they are acting that way.

Good Luck!

Calif Mom March 10, 2011 at 10:25 am

Totally agree on this!

One nuance, though, with 2) is that if the au pair is one who requires a 2×4 across the brow before hearing your “suggestions” as “directions”, this won’t work. I thought I had been coaching and re-directing our au pair for weeks and it turns out she interpreted these conversations as philosophical discussions, not directions. Unbelievably exasperating! I had to tell her literally “Stop Yelling. Do this [offer her 2 options] instead.” Ironic? You bet!

Steff March 7, 2011 at 8:06 pm

In a larger part, I think I’ll concur with a lot of things that had been said already. Your AP needs to be “teach” about how to best deal with your 4yo. Ideally, she’d have the skills before even accepting to work with a preschooler that age, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s a lost battle to try to reinforce in her the fact that she IS the adult and well, she’s the one with the “law” and should apply it in a nice manner with your daughter.
I for one I’m also 19 and partly Italian, so without trying to generalize a whole culture, I will also say that the fact that she “fights” with your daughter comes down more from the fact that she’s young and perhaps haven’t deal with kids that age before?? Speculating much, sorry.

That said however, having a very, very Italian father, I could dare to say that she was raised in a place where it IS okay to say what you think when you are thinking about it and it’ll be okay. I think keeping things for yourself is something Italian people can struggle with *a lot*, at the same time as they can be a bit too stubborn. One more time, I think your AP needs a reminder of which role she’s playing in your daughter’s life; The Adult.
In my opinion, though perhaps would be tiring, I’d say the one that needs the “talks” is your AP as oppose to your daughter. She maybe is still too young to make a good use of them. Instead I’d focus in the AP and in how “ideally” she should treat your daughter and deal with her tantrums and things like that. Things aren’t going to change overnight, but if you clearly let her now how what she should and should not do (i.e. fight back with a 4yo!) perhaps she can improve giving her some time. :)

Work from home om March 8, 2011 at 4:14 pm

As a work from home mom myself, the bickering would drive me nuts too. I also have a 4 year old (as well as an 8, 6 and 1 year old) and he challenged our au pair a great deal. He also tried to challenge us too.
Some lines in the sand for us.
No hitting. If our son EVER raised a hand to anyone, it is an instant time out and dessert taken away. It also means my dh and i talk to him about his disappointing behavior. Our au pair handles the immediate discipline, and had him tell us at the end of the day so we can discuss too. It happened once and not since (7 months ago)
Rudeness/talking back/yelling. We tell our au pair to tell him that he may not speak to her that way, that she would love to hear what he has to say when he can speak nicely and that if it continues he’ll go to the naughty spot, then walk away from him. Being ignored and dismissed drove him wild and he (after a few stints in the naughty spot) learned quickly.
We generally encourage our au pair to reward good behavior and “catch” them being good/kind, which helps a lot. But at the end of the day, I look at my child’s behavior issues as a reflection of my parenting and start by correcting it myself and teaching my au pair how to also.
I think with younger au pairs (mine have all been 19-20) its really really important to remind them that this is not a personal attack, that the kids are just trying to get a reaction. That can be really hard for someone who envisioned a toddler/preschooler who’d want to play games with them and cuddle.

Calif Mom March 10, 2011 at 10:32 am

yes!

“Catch them being good” has to be taught, as well. A vindictive au pair, or one whose feelings are hurt (good point!) will wait FAR too long after an altercation before starting to mend fences by finding those things the child is doing well. I have instructed our au pair to start finding things to praise right away, even if you’re still exhausted from the interchange. If you wait 15 minutes, the child has been berating themselves internally that whole time. Within 30 seconds or a minute the AP should start finding positives to observe out loud.

Like “thanks for looking at me when I called your name. That makes me feel good because I know you’re listening” or “you’re doing a great job keeping the crayons on the table. awesome!” etc

Calif Mom March 29, 2011 at 9:41 am

Thanks soooo much JJ! Very glad to hear that you’ve found superstars! Yay karma! And very good advice to read about the hunt for HM mojo.

Got a couple profiles last night, but they aren’t right for us. Now signing up kids into on-site after-school care so I don’t feel pressure to find someone–anyone!–right away. We need a GOOD FIT, and clearly, I need a little break before I have to train someone up again. Maybe after experiencing the aftercare program the kids will realize how great having an au pair is. Having a little time and space between APs might be a good thing.

Time to go edit my “I Dare You to Match With Us” letter…. :-)

Should be working March 29, 2011 at 9:58 am

Good luck, Calif Mom, I want to hear about any newfound wisdom in the trenches of selection as you go through it.

My agency encourages APs to make a little video introducing themselves. Given what you said about your own difficulties in forming critical impressions based on profiles, I really recommend the AP application video route if your agency has that. I feel SO much more confident clicking off a video and saying, “No way, not her” than I would if I just had paper and phone calls. It is just easier to get a ‘gut’ feeling based on a video than it is based on all that paper, where all I see are uniformly glowing recommendations and essays.

A bland video of a girl sitting on her bed and just talking to the camera for 3 min already tells me this is someone without creativity and initiative. No video at all with the application (and many of the available au pairs do not make videos) tells me the candidate isn’t doing everything she can to get a match, but is being more passive than she could be. A video that shows a glum, sighing candidate is also immediately a clickoff. A video with inappropriate music (“Sex . . . on the beach”) tells me the candidate is lacking judgment. A video with someone dressed, acting or dancing in a way I would not want my au pair to dress, act or dance around my children also tells me something. And just seeing someone move in ‘real time’ and talk out loud really helps me feel better about making a judgment.

Disclaimer: Our AP selected by video (first round only, naturally we skyped/phoned also) has not arrived yet.

AFHostmom March 30, 2011 at 3:26 pm

We also relied heavily(ish) on video in our recent rematch….and I agree, it helped a ton. Seeing the AP’s mannerisms helped me weed some girls out right away, and i KNEW when I found current AP’s that we would love her. And we do :)

Anna March 30, 2011 at 11:17 am

This is so interesting I feel it should be its own post.

My record so far: out of country: 5 total – 2 rematches, and one deciding to leave after 7 months for reasons unrelated to us or her job here. I am not sure I should count her as a failure, because while she is here, she is a good au pair.

So that makes it: out of country: 3:2 in our favor. And none of the two rematches we had were hostile or bad; both of these au pairs wanted to keep in touch afterwards.
In country: 0:1 – we lose. It was so bad I don’t think I’ll venture into the in-country pool again.

cv harquail March 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Oh my gosh CalifMom- I am both sorry that you are in this dark situation, and glad that you made the break. And, of course, you are doing it with your Classic Sense Of Humor Intact! You are the very model of a modern host momma. ;-) cv

Calif Mom March 28, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Thanks, CV! Not feeling very model-y these days, I gotta say, so I appreciate you guys here!

My record with in-country au pairs is now 0:4 (but Pointy Boots really wasn’t my fault, she fooled everyone!) so I’ll call it 0:3.

My record with rematches is 2:3, with two extensions. (And the 1 who that didn’t work out was a 3-time rematcher whom we didn’t meet in person, so she doesn’t really count either, right?)

I will point out that my Tween, on hearing that we are “ending our relationship with our current au pair” said, “I know you’re not going to get someone like [The Morose One], Mom!” and laughed out loud. The little one doesn’t remember The Morose One, but was buoyed the conversation. Both kids have had a love/hate relationship with current AP, so it will be an interesting few days.

I’m hoping my track record with rematches continues as I jump into the rematch pool. Obviously, I need to rely on intuition and meet people in person; I tend to think the best of everyone as I read their profiles and talk to them on the phone. Way too much of a softie/optimist at the beginning. I just don’t like being mean in interviews. In my defense, HD led the interviews this last time, and he agreed to hire her, so it wasn’t just me!

Sometimes–maybe even often–there’s a fine line between “presenting your best self” in an interview and being in self-denial or completely unaware of yourself. Our current/soon to be former au pair definitely has a different view of her own talents and capabilities than the rest of the world sees. Not a bad person, but damaged in ways she doesn’t see, and not the person she thinks she is.

I am probably not the fabulous host mom I think I am, either–I do get crabby when asked to drop someone off at the train station when I’m tired (which lately is most of the time!), or when the au pair throws the kid under the metaphorical bus, or when she lets the kid leave the house without her lunch and I have to race to the bus stop with it. None of these are deal-killers individually, but when you add it all up, accumulate enough annoying things, and sprinkle on top that your kids are acting really weird, you have to pay attention to it.

I may not be a good interviewer or a perfect host mom–I don’t want to have to tell you directly to move your butt so I can make my coffee, you should know this by now–but we are taking the kids’ needs seriously and taking action. I expect all of us need to start handling things differently. It will take time, and it’s hard to figure out how to present ourselves to prospective au pairs. Because this won’t get better over night.

[Apparently there’s a family with 3-year-old triplets who are looking for someone. Seriously?! This au pair can’t get a single, affectionate-and-strong-willed first grader dressed without a meltdown. I can imagine the video of her dealing with not one, not two, but THREE 3-year-olds. Of course, I hope–for all their sakes–that that particular match does not pan out. I do hope that prospective host moms will ask to talk to me. I will be fair, because there is a good family for her. It’s just not mine, right now.]

Maybe I’ll keep notes for “Tales From The Rematch Pool”… :-)

JJ Host Mom March 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Oh Calif Mom, sorry to hear you’re in this boat again. FWIW it was your excellent advice to look for in-country au pairs that saved my tush, so thank you. My family had two back to back bad out-of-country matches, making for a 1:4 overall track record, so we thought we’d try your approach this time with a local transitioning au pair we could meet in a park. That was seriously the best au pair advice I’ve ever gotten from anyone. Our new in-country au pair has only been here a few weeks but she is a superstar.

So I’ll give you a little advice in return, in case it’s helpful. Go read the articles about getting your host mom mojo back, and remember that you HAVE had some really good matches, so you have it in you. This wasn’t you, it was her. Give yourself a pat on the back for doing the right thing for your kids, yourself, and heck, even the au pair (by giving her an opportunity for growth) even if it was a tough decision to make. And go find yourself another awesome au pair! They’re out there… you know they are or we all wouldn’t be working so hard at this. Hope the transition goes as smoothly as possible and you find someone great.

DarthaStewart March 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm

You know… I have to wonder what everyone else’s track records are….
Let me see… Out of country au-pairs, we’re at (13 total) 9:4 (I don’t count floaters we’ve had in the house for a while)
In country: 3 total, 1 AWOL, 1 extended then we broke the match with 5 months to go, and 1 we are still in contact with. 1:2(broken)

Taking a Computer Lunch March 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Out of country APs: 6 total (no rematches, although one strong temptation) – perhaps The Camel’s gift to us is that we don’t get flighty APs? Even the one strong temptation was brilliant with The Camel – just lousy with the rest of us.

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