Au Pair Abruptly Quits, then wants to come back to see kids. Really? (poll)

by cv harquail on January 28, 2010

Here’s a painful situation, about which this host mom could use some good advice. I’m sure that this kind of situation has happened to other families who’ve gone into rematch [Something similar happened to us with our flame-out au pair, and so reading this mom’s email got me all mad all over again. What went wrong here? This mom may never know. ]

Our 21 year-old au pair abruptly stopped speaking with both of us host parents on Monday, and then quit and moved out of the house overnight on Tuesday, after we tried to sit down and determine what was going on with her. She refused to speak with us when we tried to determine what was bothering her and, although she is in touch by email, we have no idea where she has gone or why.

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This au pair traveled extensively with our family, received “perks” of tennis lessons, sailing lessons, and a club memberships. She has developed friendships with our friends and neighbors.

We opened our home to several of her friends for weeks at a time, and hosted her parents, sister and grandmother at Christmastime, providing car service to and from the airport and a case of wine for their enjoyment. The relationship, which was approaching its eleventh month, seemed fine from the host family perspective. We were pleased with her interaction with the three children (9. 8 and 4), and her growth as a member of the household.   She has been interested in extending (we don’t extend beyond a year with anyone), and we encouraged her take what she has learned with us and apply it to a different situation, in a different region of the country, and we actively supported her efforts to do so, helping her tweak her online profile, etc.

Her suddenly invoking the silent treatment and then refusing to discuss matters with us has felt rude, immature and hurtful given the good year to this point and the generosity we have extended in sharing our lives with her.

We are an experienced host family, having had approximately eight years’ worth of au pairs, and we are completely flummoxed by the situation, but here’s the kicker…she wants to come around and say goodbye to the children.

My husband is of the opinion that our now-former au pair doesn’t deserve this privilege. He wonders who we are trying to mollify and feels that our kids need to move on. He feels that it is better for them to have the same reaction as we did (bewilderment, shock) so, as a “team” we can all pull each other through it. If the au pair couldn’t or wouldn’t explain herself to the host parents, what could she possibly say to our children?

At this point, the children are mixed about whether they care to see her again. They are hurt, angry and confused, as are we.

However I don’t want the rawness of our emotions at this time to cloud our judgment, and I am curious what more objective souls might say. — Dee

Quick poll:

Would you let the au pair come back to say goodbye to the kids?

View Results

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Share your thoughts in the comments!
And, obviously, we’ll need to hear how the rest of the story unfolds Dee…

{ 85 comments }

maleaupairmommy January 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm

So I’m just guessing here and have kind of lived through it but luckily I’m patient and know how to “use” thereaputic communication with my au pairs. Thank God I was a pysch nurse those skills do come in handy. Anyhow my current au pair he can be very closed off emotionally not wanting to say how he is feeling etc. He is in his last two weeks of his two year stay with us. We have had ups and downs and I’m sure if he could have “ran” away from his emtions he would have. I have a feeling this au pair some how felt betrayed or super sad and did not have the maturity level to deal with those feelings. That she truly and whole heartly loved the kids and the family but couldn’t “deal” with leaving and was greiving the loss thus was at the angry stage and just left. I would let the kids say good0bye if they want they spent a year with this person it give closure to the situation and in the meantime maybe the true reason will come out. Thus asking the au pair well now that you are on your way we would like to know why you left so we can learn for our future au pairs, etc. It’s hard not to feel bitter and angry when you gave so much and it ended so bad. It might have been as simple as I really want to stay in the U.S.A but I don’t want to tell you etc. May have not been you at all could have been boy trouble,etc.

NoVA Host Mom January 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

You do not say how old the kids are, but you seem to have already discussed it with them so they have some idea of their own opinion. If your kids are of the age, then I say leave it up to them to decide. Some, all, or none might want this option. If any do, then make the ground rules quite clear for the AP: the visit will be supervised by you and the LCC; be quite specific on what topics are to be discussed or are off limits (i.e. no trashing HM or HD as reason for leaving); make the visit for a limited time frame so there is a clear ending in sight.

If none want it, then tell that to the AP, as it was her choice to hurt these kids in the beginning and thus she will be dealing with those consequences.

Personally, given my child’s age (1 “in the oven” and 1 almost 18mo), my answer is no (and how I voted). I will do the cleaning up in the matter (and probably lie a bit to my child so that I don’t trash someone she loves to explain the sudden departure).

It’s up to you and your husband to decide what is in the true and honest best interest of YOUR children (and not the AP and not you or HD — kids first). You are not responsible for helping to make the AP feel better. Yes, she obviously has other issues and demons going on here, but unless she chooses to share, then they are not in your realm of addressing.

In your communications with her, be honest about why you feel the way you do, address it once, then let it drop and wish her well in her future, and say good-bye. Then move on to the next one. Good luck!

MommyMia January 28, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I agree, maleaupairmommy. I would let her say goodbye if I were present and would coach her that she should carefully think about what she is going to say to the kids, as well as telling her that you are very hurt that she’s not willing to explain to you. If you had a good relationship for 11 months and were able to discuss other topics like adults, then (if appropriate) tell her you won’t make any judgment or offer advice unless she requests it. Do you know if she was unable to extend by the deadline and that’s the reason she might have left? Good luck. My only experience similar to this was a former AP who did extend with another family after we chose not to have her stay who expressed that she wanted to come stay with us during her 13th month — uh, no, you took advantage of us too many times while you were here and you weren’t that special while you were here. We did stop by to visit with her in her new city when we were nearby on vacation last summer, which let her see the kids during a dinner, and we send updated photos. That’s the way we’ll likely continue after she returns to her home country.

Anna January 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I would only let her see the kids after she gives you an adequate explanation of what happened, and a condition of seeing the kids would be explaining TO THEM her behavior.

Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

Me too!

Hill Mom January 29, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Agree with this but would ALSO require the LCC to be in attendance at the meeting/visit in case things turn sour. The children deserve some closure.

Mom23 January 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Our last au pair left abruptly and our 7 year old son was distraught. I would have liked for him to have closure. She really made a bad situation worse by leaving. I suspect the au pair walked out on her first host family and may have even done it with the last host family (3 HFs in 9 months!).

He still asks about her sometimes. He recognizes that his older brother had always felt that the au pair was a “liar” and had “done mean things to him” (before she left). His feelings three months later are very mixed. I try to tell him that while the au pair was not nice to his brother, mom and dad, she was very nice to him and I understand why he misses her and feels conflicted. My youngest doesn’t seem to miss her or feel strongly. Different kids process these things very differently.

In this situation, I would have the au pair meet you in a neutral place such as an empty park. Let the kids play and say good-bye if they wish.

NjMom January 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm

I voted, “only if” and I think you deserve to have some idea what she is upset over. It sounds like it’s over the extension. Perhaps she found out that she doesn’t have another option to stay in the country and your family (in HER MIND) is the only thing standing in the way of her staying here and she couldn’t deal with the separation. I agree that it’s a terribly immature way to handle it but, hey, au pairs are still young I think we can all shudder at some of the things we did or ways we handled things in our youth. I would try to draw her out more about why she left. If you can get some insight then I would agree to a supervised visit with the kids IF they want to see her. It’s tough. I find it interesting that you are never open to an extension. Perhaps she was hoping to be the first special AP that changed your mind on that and she can’t deal with the disappointment.

Aupair January 29, 2010 at 5:37 am

You deserve an explanation, I suggest that you ask if you can talk before she says goodbye to the children. Good Luck.

Dee January 29, 2010 at 7:33 am

Just to clairfy…. This au pair absolutely refused to speak to Host Dad and me. We implored her to explain what was bothering her, so that we could talk through it “because that’s how adults solve problems,” and her verbatim response to use was “I don’t have anything to say.”

We have been corresponding by email as she attempts to negotiate a time to see the kids, and she continues to ignore my efforts to draw her out on the reason for her behavior and her decision to leave so abruptly.

Her deadline for extension is Feb. 2, whereas she now will have additional week (2 weeks from Jan 26th is Feb 9th) in rematch.

The one angle that I have not tried that has been suggested so far is to ask her to please elaborate on her reasons so that I can do better/differently if necessary with a future au pair. I imagine I can insist on an exit interview with the LCC present, as leverage to get the question(s) answered. I like that one, and will keep it up my sleeve, and look forward to everyone’s additional comments and suggestions.

Hill Mom January 29, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I think she is making you work too hard….you have put yourself out there for the benefit of your children and there is only so much you can do. I would suggest you let it go, particularly if she is not willing to even meet you half way.

franzi January 30, 2010 at 6:08 am

i’m generally in favor of NOT allowing her to see the kids. if so, only supervised and only if you were told why she just left.
especially if you have one kid who wants to see her and the rest not, i would try to make it work out for that one kid, again only with pre-agreed content and storyboard for “the meeting”.

if your former AP is blocking off the conversation with you that much then i wouldn’t take the risk of her having 10 minutes with your kids where she can just drop “the bomb” and your kids end up dealing with it for months to come.
also, it might impede the relationship of the new AP and your kids.

NjMom January 29, 2010 at 7:55 am

As for the LCC, has AP had any contact with her? Isn’t this in part LCC’s problem now that you are without an AP without absolutely no notice. Why would an agency let a girl rematch if she gave no reason for deserting your family, a family that seems to have been a solid customer over the years. Wouldn’t they be worried she could do it again to the next family? This sound crazy.

Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 8:47 am

I agree. At this point she is in violation of her contract and should be removed from the program and sent home NOW. What is your LCC doing for you?

Dee January 29, 2010 at 8:42 am

Well, the LCC is another problem, and I haven’t wanted to muddy the waters with it. She knows that we are our next au pair is coming from a different agency. (I switch back and forth between agencies, depending on which one has presented the best candidate for our family.)

Based on the experience I am having now, as well as a previous experience with this same LCC a couple of years ago, I find myself firmly believing that the LCC is somewhat motivated by keeping her cluster numbers up ($$$ in her pocket) and in fact provided our now-former au pair with contact/rematch information for a family in our very same town.

The LCC is really not all that worried about me in our last few weeks, although she made all the perfunctory offers. She just wants to see this au pair placed, preferably still in the her jurisdiction.

This could honestly be another whole thread, and one I will being up once the issue with this au pair visiting the children (or not) is behind us.

CV January 29, 2010 at 9:19 am

Dee, I wondered about the LCC/Agency elements when we originally put up your situation… if the best situation you’d have the LCC and Agency helping you out. This would be a GOOD plan to discuss this in a new, separate post — so let’s all hold on until we get the visiting thing ‘resolved’.
cv

Darthastewart January 29, 2010 at 9:03 am

I think I’d be on the phone with corporate, demanding a refund for those weeks. And it should be a reasonable refund, not just $1.92.

NoVA Host Mom January 29, 2010 at 9:14 am

I’m with Dartha. I would be shouting and screaming with Corporate about this — lack of LCC support, AWOL AP, the whole thing.

And if she is only contacting you to gain access to the kids (and especially with having a useless LCC, thus no support), I’d just end all contact now, cut your losses and have a sit down with your kids explaining that not everyone handles things the way they should, even when they are grown-ups.

Dee January 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

Corporate has cheerfully begun working on the refund. LCC is off skiing.

NoVA Host Mom January 29, 2010 at 12:16 pm

YIPPIE!

PA Au Pair Mom January 29, 2010 at 9:24 am

Maybe I’m petty, but, she is the one who abandoned your family. She doesn’t deserve a chance to see the kids. In my mind, it will only upset and confuse the kids more.

chalk it up to “lessons learned” and let her go.

good luck.

StephinBoston January 29, 2010 at 10:25 am

I’m with PA Au Pair Mom, if she doesn’t respect you enough to give you an simple answer on why she left you then she doesn’t deserve your efforts. Sorry it’s a 2 way street.

Southern Host Mom January 29, 2010 at 10:32 am

I’m with most others who say she shouldn’t be permitted to say goodbye to the children. Choices and actions have consequences. Perhaps if she had offered an apology along with her request, you could reach a different conclusion, but she didn’t.

Since her primary motivation seems to be seeing the kids, I’d use that angle to try to get an explanation here. “We’d be willing to entertain the possibility of you saying goodbye to the children, but first we would HAVE to know why you left as you did.” Keep your options open with the offer, you may still not want the goodbye event. Call me cynical, but I’m guessing she won’t be moved much by your insistence that you want an explanation so that you can be a better host mom to the next Au Pair . . .

PA Mom January 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

If your kids are old enough to want to say good bye maybe a supervised good bye visit would make sense. I suspect you’ve figured out her rapid departure motivation – it’s likely because she wanted to stay longer. There may be more but who cares at this point. We had a similar issue with our 1st au pair (who we still speak to through FB) – she elected to match with another family for the extension year and left sort of tearfully. We wanted to take her to her new family and she flat out refused and we were hurt that she didn’t want to extend with us or let us take her to her new famil – it felt wrong. But as it turned out the kids weathered the “rejection” of of the new family in the same region because we kept the right attitude (and managed out feelings after a bit) – she wanted to stay in the U.S. but we were a bit too restricitive for her – she was our first AP and from Brazil and we weren’t used to the hours or lifestyle of a 23 year old and she “broke us in” as she likes to say. She liked us and loved our kids but needed a more mellow host family – which is what she had the 2nd year. We’ve mellowed from the first year and am happy to say established limits that work for us and more or less for the au pairs. We’re really frank and clear on where we stand on issues (curfew, alcohol, driving limits) and so it’s been fine with the 3 additonal APs over 3 years.

You probably won’t get the full story until later – agreed she behave immaturely and the LCC is offering only limited help. But until you start the healing process- maybe through a quick good bye visit with the kids – you’ll never know. Think of it like a surprise divorce – there’s always a story that was developing even if you didn’t know it and where is the benefit in closing off the kids from the closure visit. It may be that if she’s rematched locally (after all til this you were happy with her as an AP) that the kids will see her in town and it’s best for them (and you) if that’s not a tearful experience so that you have to worry about it. Signed – Been there, done that, moved on

Noelle January 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

Only if….she makes things right with you and host dad first. This looks and sounds like her trying to make herself feel better and congratulate herself on “doing the right thing” for the kids, despite extricating herself from the terrible situation she put you in. I don’t think you owe her this (this opportunity to feel better), if she won’t talk to you rationally and accept responsibility for what she did, and apologize. Even then, her reasoning would have to be sound, and her apology sincere, and even then, only a maybe.

Whether she sees the kids or not, she’s still gone, no? It’s not like she’d do what’s in their best interests, and give everyone a transition period so they can prepare for her departure and you can arrange other care.

Personally, I wouldn’t do it. I had one quit on me abruptly, too, another princess like the one you are now freed from. Knowing now how completely deficient her character is, there’s no way I’d let this one contact my kids again, not when she was willing to throw our family into chaos by quitting like that with no notice, and disappearing overnight. The last thing your au pair actually understands is what’s best for your kids – you and host dad are the only ones thinking of that now. I would encourage you to protect your kids from someone like her, who’s willing to do that to them.

My 2 cents January 29, 2010 at 11:57 am

I’m with Noelle. This smacks of her feeling guilty for what she did to the kids and trying to make herself feel better. Otherwise, she would try to at least explain herself or offer to help out during your transition. As an experienced au pair, she knows how difficult it must be on you after she dumped you, trust me. She’s probably trying to avoid you because she knows she behaved like an a$$ and cannot now imagine having to see you and be confronted in person over her actions.

This has zero to do with the kids, and all about her self-image. If she seriously wants to promote her friendship or what have you with the kids, they can mail cards and letters back and forth in the years coming.

I would respond by suggesting she leave a card or letter for the kids wishing them well. Having her physically meet up with them really doesn’t add any value at this point.

Calif Mom January 29, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Pretty sure I would not have a farewell:

1) I wouldn’t trust her to speak to the kids without doing more harm
2) the Dad’s argument about rallying together is really true — we were able to talk frankly with our kids during rematch about an AP who was really selfish–she wanted a better house and less work than we could offer her. Not everyone in life is going to be great; so how you respond to an au pair who acts that way–or a fair weather friend from the playground–is the same. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and know who your *real* friends are, and know that families ALWAYS back each other up.
3) It feels manipulative of her. You don’t owe her anything; she owes you an explanation and an apology. If that doesn’t come forward, pick yourselves up and dust yourselves off and move on.

This stinks. So sorry! I do think that APs sometimes get desperate if they don’t know what they’re going to do after their year.

Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 11:43 am

I would allow her to see the children only to say goodbye and only in a public place with both host dad and myself present. I would firmly forbid her to remain in touch with the children and I would block telephone and Facebook access. I would only do this for the sake of the children.
What , really, can the LCC do other than recommend to corporate that they bounce her out of the program. You may find that corporate cares about integrity more than the other family. Why are they taking in someone who walked out on you and your kids ? What is wrong with them ?

I do have a suggstion : do not tell your next counselor that you are registered with several agencies. Do not tell your next agency that you make a practice of swtiching agencies . I know it is a temptation to play hardball with these agencies but this practice most likely is not going to earn you a place on their list of most valuable customers. They will do exactly what they have to do for you and no more. I know this practice is used in business; I myself was told once to switch vendors regularly just to get keep them humble. But what I found out was that my boss was not liked by these vendors and suppliers. They lavished all of their ” perks ” on the customers they perceived as loyal and long timers. They were perfectly courteous to us but did not do anything extra and we had a rep in the business , not for being unethical but for not being nice.

This is NOT to criticize you at all. I just think that this kind of thing backfires. My LCC once told me that whenever a family comes from another agency , the new agency wonders if something went wrong with the first agency or if the first agency refused to accept the family back into their program. Good Luck to you.

Dee January 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

NJ Mom ~ Regarding our not extending beyond one year…we almost did, once. What we found is that familiarity breeds contempt, though.

Most of our au pairs have wanted to be here for only one year, or have wanted to go to school, do a second year closer to a new boyfriend, etc., so the situation has only come up a few times.

Whatever the case, by the end of the year, there is — not always, but often enough — a pushing of boundaries, breaking of the rules (anyone remember that recent thread about some au pair who took the car out of state for the weekend?), etc. In the case of the recently departed, for example, it was that after offering to care for our pets one weekend she crated our 8 month old puppy for approximately 15 continuous hours, with only two ostensible breaks, while she babysat for our neighbors, trying to earn extra money for upcoming travels.

We did commit to extend with an au pair once, but as soon as the papers were submitted, it went south rapidly. The next weekend, while we were out of town she invited people we did not know (friends of friends from her native country) to stay over in our home and took our car “out of bounds” and after the car curfew, attempted to conceal it from us and lied when found out. We believe we may have been stolen from by these unknown “houseguests” this weekend as well.

We broke with that au pair, feeling that if we couldn’t trust her with replaceable items of personal property, we couldn’t trust her with our most prized valuables…our children.

From that point forward, we have felt that our interests are best served by offering an au pair the best year we can, and hoping that she will put her drive and energy into that year. Somehow, it seems to me that an au pair seeing the same thing a second time can’t be all that exciting, and that an au pair who truly wants to grow and gain from her time away from home should switch things up after a year.

NjMom January 29, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I can see your point. As one of my friends says, “They’re only good for a year!” Despite my friend’s warning, we’ve had one reasonably successful extension of almost 9 months and we’re entering into another 9 month one. It can be tricky but the continuity has so far overweighed the downside. The last month or two is always emotional .

malenna February 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm

they´re only good for a year??? omg, what are we? objets? OMG

Dee January 29, 2010 at 11:58 am

Anonymous ~ You are right, it could be that my candor has backfired on me with this LCC. However, I have sometimes found that the different agencies really promote different (“featured”) nationalities at different times, that there are sometimes “slim pickings” of candidates with the qualifications we want or need (e.g. winter driver, or infant-qualified), and think that trying to find the best candidate for our family is what should be paramount, not loyalty to any one agency.

Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I fully understand why you want to explore different agencies.
My point, which I may have have explained well enough is that telling the LCC this and telling the agency this is probably not going to motivate them to do much extra for you when you get into trouble. They will do what they have to , no more , no less.
I always look at as many agencies as I can and I always look at the other websites like Great Aupair, too. Then I figure out what is best. This is also good for rematch purposes. I can get someone quickly from a variety of options and maintain my good standing with everyone. I am just careful about whom I discuss this with.
There are certain agencies ( and yours may be one of them ) that pay LCCs a bonus for returning families. The idea of this is that LCCs with really put out for their families in order to bring them back. You are dealing with the downside of that. It is always something..

Mel January 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I don’t see any circumstances that I’d be ok with AP coming back to say “goodbyes”. She left in a very selfish way and it seems that her request to come back for goodbyes is also very selfish. Why revisit that? Let it be and move on – all parties.

Deb Schwarz January 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Hi Dee,

Re: different agencies: I’ve been with three different agencies in the past and now am an LCC with my favorite one. I think it’s fine to switch and I actually work hard to keep host families that match with more than one, but I suppose every LCC/Agency is different. I’d go with the agency that has the best local support, best candidates and best in-country pool if for some reason you have to go into transition.

Now…..re: your au pair, I had 2 au pairs (out of 15) that did a “runner” similar to yours. (once I even got a bottle of wine as a guilt gift!). I have come to realize that this generation (for the most part) just doesn’t have the same skills or manners that we were brought up with and I have come to accept that. It helps me understand this strange behavior (for whatever reason). I’ve had it happen to the BEST host families so don’t take it personally. I would ask the children what they want to do and go with that (and say the goodbyes in a public place). Some kids need closure and others don’t – so take their lead (and just keep remembering that this girl isn’t mature enough to communicate what’s going on). Hang in there!

Deb Schwarz
LCC and Multiples Specialist
Cultural Care Au Pair
415-990-7571

Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Question: if this girl is staying in your town , does that mean your kids are going to see her on a regluar basis with these other kids ?
That is why I think that you might want to let her say goodbye in a highly supervised environment – this will make it easier for your kids
possibly. I had a neighbor who told her kids that the nanny was buying a house and moving away. Then the kids saw the nanny in the supermarket with other kids.It was AWFUL

Calif Mom January 30, 2010 at 4:54 pm

You can’t lie to the kids. But letting her have a “visitation” after she ran away is a separate issue.

It is indeed awkward when APs you’ve sent packing bump into your kids at the park, etc. Or meet your new AP. I always disclose everything with the APs, so no one is surprised by an “Oh yes, I know them!”…

Should be working January 29, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I disagree with most of the posts here. I would let her say goodbye to the kids, under supervision, even if she never explains herself.

I think goodbyes are important for kids–she was with your family for almost a year, and I think it would be frightening, or at least a bad message, to send kids that someone who was ‘like part of the family’ might disappear without saying goodbye, or that parents would withhold that goodbye because they are angry.

Even though the parents want an explanation, I don’t think that a goodbye should leverage that wish.

We teach our kids by our behavior. A courteous goodbye to someone whom they loved (presumably) shows that parents can put their own frustrations aside.

Sara Duke January 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I agree. Even young children are human beings with independent opinions. I would let her say goodbye in a public place with at least one parent present.

We had a similar situation, except our AP had lived with us for 3 1/2 years before she left in a screaming match with me. She had made the decision to depart, but once we matched with a new AP I think she hated the idea that she could be replaced (instead of suceeded). While I have only talked to her once since, my husband, the peacemaker, reached out to her on behalf of our then 4-year-old-son, who was quite bewildered by her departure. She continued to see him, on and off, for 2 years, and then she chose to stop. My son was stung. A year ago, she came around asking to borrow items we had purchased for our son in her language to use with her son. I told my husband that we would give them to her on condition that she came when my son was present so that he could give them to her son. I did it so my son could have closure (and believe me, I was not present).

I felt that even though I was angry my son did not deserve to feel that he was part of a war zone. He needed to say goodbye. Their last meeting was the closure he needed. At the age of 8 he no longer had the strong feelings toward her that he had when he was 4. He was also used to the arrival and departure of au pairs.

Do let your kids pick the outside venue. Let them have some control over the goodbye.

A January 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I also agree. What the AP did was immature and selfish, and she’s probably just trying to make herself feel better. But she meant something to your kids and here’s a chance to show your kids that they meant something to her, too.

Dorsi January 29, 2010 at 1:48 pm

I agree with above. The only feelings that matter here are the kids. (You can get over wanting to know why, she can get over wanting closure). Take a hard look at the situation from the point of view of your children — would they be better or worse with a goodbye and then go from there.

NoVA Host Mom January 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm

That’s why I advocate letting the kids decide for themselves (if they are old enough — my toddler is not). If they can have an opinion and articulate it, let them make the call. You make the rules.

JJ January 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I agree that you should let the kids decide whether they want to say goodbye to her, if they’re old enough. I think with au pairs that there are two main relationships going on: au pair/kids and au pair/host parents. You would have to hope that the au pair/kids relationship would trump the au pair/host parents relationship. No question that she did the wrong, and one might argue, an unforgivable thing by just leaving with no explanation. But this isn’t about her, and it isn’t about you – it’s about the kids, and how this affects them. Let them decide. And then, like others have said, if they want to say goodbye, have it be in a public place, supervised by yourselves and the LCC, and agree that any future contact between the au pair and the kids will be mediated by you and host dad. (i.e. she can send a letter via you, but can’t connect with them on facebook.)

anonmom January 29, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I would let her say goodbye to the kids for closure. Yes, her actions were unacceptable, but then again, she is only 21. Perhaps she was unable to deal with her emotions over having to leave your family, and even though she wanted to stay with you another year and she knew you were not accepting of that, maybe she felt slighted. Either way, it is about the kids and I would let her see them so they can mark her departure.

Talliecat January 29, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I am unsure about this one. I originally voted “no” but after reading the posts I am not so sure. Our first au pair lasted 3 months and had leave abruptly after she was hospitalized. Our 5 year old was devastated that she came home from the hospital one day and then left the next. Due to the circumstances they didn’t have a chance for closure because this au pair was really sick and needed to go home. ( Although she had been sick for a while.When the new au pair arrived my daughter kept thinking that “she will stay for a year unless she gets sick” and had a hard time getting close to our new au pair. She still talks about our first au pair. I guess when you think about it figure out what is best for your children and do what feels right.

Anonymous January 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm

What did you tell your kids, out of curiosity?

Dee January 29, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I did ask the au pair what I should say to the kids, and she never answered me.

In the end, I said that, although we had had a great almost-year with “name,” she had developed some personal problems (uhm…her inability to look me or HD in the eye or speak to either of us) and had decided that she needed to leave, in order to sort them out.

PacificNW_mom January 29, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I originally voted “no,” but then remembered an au pair we had that we rematched after a month and a half. She stayed with us and worked for the two week period. It was a pretty amiable rematch – we wanted a family member and thought she didn’t have the childcare skills, and she wanted more of a study-abroad experience. She had arrange for a friend to take her to the airport on the day she was to get her flight. Then, the night before she was getting her flight to her next family, she annouces at 9pm that her friend is picking her up (the friend lived an hour away and was at our house within 5 minutes – so obviously this had been planned). The kids were asleep and I was so angry that she wasn’t even going to say goodbye. I had to explain to my kids that she left while they were sleeping and they were very confused. So, I vote for the AP saying goodbye to the kids (supervised in this situation). I do think that a note/letter to the kids is also a good way to go.

Dee January 29, 2010 at 8:26 pm

All of the input is interesting. As it is, former au pair is in the City for the weekend, LCC is away and we are too.

Nothing happens (or not) until Tuesday at the earliest, but please continue to weigh in….the jury is definitely still out.

Thanks!

Melissa January 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm

This is definitely a disappointing situation, especially when you’ve had a good year together! I’m sorry you’re going through it. I do get what others are saying about an opportunity for closure for the kids, but I have to say I tend to lean strongly towards not allowing her any future contact, unless, at the very least, she offers an explanation for her immature and inconsiderate sudden behavior. If you feel like your kids would benefit from a ‘goodbye’ visit with her, then maybe consider it. However, the end result is still the same – she is gone, so maybe it is just as easy to briefly talk with your kids about it and move on, rather than drag it out by what will likely be an emotional goodbye.
I agree with others that this is all about ‘her’ and after her behavior, you don’t owe her a thing. I know my curiousity would be killing me, but you can’t force her to give you an explanation if she refuses to. And framing it as “helping you be a better host mom” is giving her waaay too much credit and power. The agency should definitely give you a refund and she should be immediately removed from the program (wishful thinking, maybe), as she broke her contract.

Should be working January 30, 2010 at 1:08 am

The more I read, the more I am convinced that she should say goodbye. It will not harm you, although it will irritate you, that you don’t know why she left. But it could be harmful to children to just have her disappear and to not have her even be allowed to say goodbye. We say goodbye, that is what people do. It is part of closures, good and bad. This is a good learning moment for them in this respect. People don’t just disappear (unless true disaster strikes), we say goodbye to them. That is part of moving on, we don’t just abandon and deny relationships that we have had without closing them properly.

AnnaAuPair January 30, 2010 at 5:20 am

I agree with you. Also considering that the kids might SAY that they don’t want to say goodbye to her, but they might just mirror the parents feelings and reactions. You never know what is really going on inside of them and what might come out of it later (fear of being of people disappearing? Not trusting people to go?).
Definitely supervise it!!!!! But for the kids sake I’d let her see the kids.

Anonymous January 30, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I am not absolutely convinced that the kids need to say goodbye. You gave them a very good reason ; she had personal problems. Do any of us think that the kids will be satisfied with a goodbye and no explanation ? What in the world is she going to tell them especially if she is going to stay in town with another family ? If she starts crying and telling them alot a hogwash what good is that going to do ? Why doesn’t she just write them a letter saying goodbye – you are great kids.
You are their parents and the permanent presence in their lives. In the long run, that is what counts. I had a nun in high school who ran off and got married over Christmas vacation. She was the moderator of the debating club. We had a tournament that week and had to go without a faculty member. It was pretty upsetting at the time but now, in retrospect, it is a story I can tell without laughing or crying. I use this example because she was a teacher, someone we worked with for one year. I know kids are pained when nannies leave but this girl is not a nanny who lived with them for many years. She is more like a one year teacher.
The kids aren’t going to feel better because she found another family or had a fight with her boyfriend. Is she going to tell them that she left because you were mean to her ? Is she going to start crying ? Is she going to make up some complete b-s story that makes no sense at all ? Is she going to stay that she really wanted to stay but she cannot do so because you wouldn’t let her extend ? Think about this very carefully.
And the LCC – what is she going to say at this meeting ? How much does she really care about your children ? What is the advantage of having her present at the meeting ? Where is her loyalty now ? Has the aupair been manipulating her with stories of how mean you were ? It may seem that the LCC is interested only in money but it seems to me that it would have been alot easier for her if you had extended. Rematching isn’t easy for anyone. If the aupair does start crying and saying she really wanted to stay but you didn’t let her do so … what can the LCC say to counter that ? She can defend you but that is a way of agreeing that you created this situation and that isn’t fair either.
People use ” the good of the children ” to manipulate you all the time. I say, tell the aupair to write a letter and be done with this situation.
And you read the letter before the kids see it. Read the tea leaves and move on.

huh February 4, 2010 at 12:07 am

I don’t think an au pair, who lived with these kids for a year, is even remotely comparable to some teacher you had for a year in high school. just my opinion.

Calif Mom January 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Letter is a great idea.

Since your kids are 9, 8 and 4, I do think the older ones will have an opinion. One may want to see her, one may not. They’re certainly old enough for you to tell them that she’s leaving, and you’re confused why. Life is like this sometimes; people act strangely. Again, families are solid. This is an opportunity to solidify, and for pete’s sake discuss this! Don’t ignore it in hopes it will go away. It may sting the kids (or not; depends on your kids’ personalities) but it will indeed fade. Just the other day my oldest said, “You know, Mom, I never really did like X” who was with us for 3 months. But of course the kid had tried to make the best of it, didn’t really complain at the time.

chithu, au pair in london January 31, 2010 at 8:47 am

What this au pair has done is, quite simply, unpardonable. I am really amazed that you are even talking with her (I would have blocked her from my email contacts). If she has nothing to say to you, then she has nothing to say to your children.

I am a part of an au pair network and I know a couple of people who left ther HFs abruptly. The first one heard news that her long distance boyfriend was now dating her sister, and she was so shattered that she simply lost it. She was 19 and immature, so she reacted to that bad news by running away. She is now 24 and regrets it… and doesn’t have the nerve to contact that family.

My other friend left because of a different reason. A man from the HF made sexual advances at her and she was so troubled by it that she just left (she was from an Asian country and didn’t have the maturity to discuss this sort of issue with her HF). But she sent her HF an email about it later, and clarified the situation.

Whatever it is, there is always a reason for this kind of running. PLEASE INSIST ON HEARING THE REASON, and tell her quie clearly that you will not permit her to meet your kids if you do not know why she is not there for them. IMHO, your au pair has no business requesting to meet your children, when she has treated you so shabbily.

Anonymous January 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm

This is something very important we are hearing in this latest post.
There is always a reason. You may not want to know the real reason.
I would ask the LCC for a reason. She can give you an adult perspective on why the aupair left like that.

Anonymous February 1, 2010 at 3:53 am

We have just have the exact same situation – she told us to be homesick, booked a flight for the middle of February and left our house at once! She moved to a friend. She just knows that we are in real trouble right now, having nobody for our children (4 and 6)! Until the week before we were the perfect family for her – and then she switched us our of her live. We are so dissapointed. It’s not that I don’t understand homesickness, still she could have stayed until we had someone new or at least until she is leaving the country anyway. (By the way, the homesickness-thing I don’t believe at all – she was having many friends here, partying a lot, going out, laughing and talking ofthe with us – and from one day to another homesick?)
Anyway, I won’t allow her to see the children again while she is still in our town. On the other hand, she knows their schedule, so she might just as well wait for them at school/kindergarden. Maybe you should consider this as well?

Sara Duke February 1, 2010 at 7:55 am

We had an incident where a former au pair went to my son’s preschool and visited him there. It had never occurred to us to block her access, and while the preschool knew that she was no longer employed by us, because her successor was picking him up after lunch, it never occurred to them that she hadn’t contacted us for permission. When I asked my son how his day was, he happily said, “X came to see me at preschool today.” You better believe I called the school the next day and said, “X’s departure was not a happy one for us, please do not permit her to see our son unless we have given you permission.”

If you think your au pair will contact your children at school — regardless if she loves them and treats them well or not — warn the school. Most schools have a safeguard policy for children for when a divorce goes badly. (And while the sudden departure of an au pair is not like the break-up of a marriage, it is the end of a relationship.)

Tell your nosy neighbors, too, that if they see your former au pair around your house, to give you a call!

Dee February 1, 2010 at 8:18 am

I am still waiting for the letter of explanation that is supposed to be coming.

Right now the au pair is nearby, on a temporary babysitting job for a couple of weeks, until her long-planned vacation mid-month. (I don’t know how this works, when she has abruptly broken contract and should have to rematch by next week, am awaiting an explanation from the agency.)

At this point, my oldest child does not want to see her and the younger kids aren’t even asking. Since it would only be to make au pair feel better at this point, we are just going to wait and see how it plays you.

Au pair’s explanation may tip the balance one way or another.

I will keep the thread updated.

NoVA Host Mom February 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

I think you have your answer! If the kids either don’t want to or don’t seem to be interested, then don’t do it. You owe her nothing, regardless of what she owes you. I would be quite surprised if that letter ever came.

Mom23 February 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

First, I think that the babysitting job is a violation of her visa. She is not permitted to work for anyone other than you. I think she could technically lose her eligibility to rematch if found out.

Second, I orginally thought that it was in the children’s best interest to be able to say good-bye, but if they don’t want to see her or are indifferent, then I wouldn’t set up a meeting with her.

As I mentioned above we had an au pair who had been scheduled to leave anyway, leave abruptly. There were many issues, and it was best that she left, just not without saying good-bye to my seven year old who was very upset by it. My oldest, nine at the time, hated her. I had chalked it up to his feeling that he doesn’t need a sitter, but I recently found out from my youngest that she had once punished him by blasting the song “Thank You for Loving Me” until he cried. The kids had never told me. There may be good reasons for your kids not wanting to see her.

NoVA Host Mom February 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Okay, that sort of thing terrifies me. It really does. We don’t hit in our house and we are working to teach our daughter respect for others. For an AP to basically bully your youngest into crying is horrifying. That kind of “punishment” just scares me. I know (okay, I hope and pray) that AP’s who behave like this is not the norm, but yikes!

Anonymous February 2, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Our first AP was also borderline abusive and DD5 didn’t tell me until after she was gone. New things still come out from time to time (forcing her to eat until she threw up!) Makes me want to get a nanny cam. Fortunately, our current AP is like the polar opposite. If anything, she is too sweet and easy on them :) But I obviously had no clue what was going on with the frist one and am horrified that I was blind to it.

franzi February 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm

i’m with mom23, the babysitting job is against her visa regulations unless this is a temporary rematch placement (sometimes APs are placed in families for 2 or 3 weeks who were left with no child care b/c AP left all of a sudden – yeah, i see the irony here).

let your lcc and agency know about this!

i hope you do get your explanation but if your kids don’t want to see her than there’s your answer to allowing her to see them.
as suggested above, make sure that the school/preschool knows she is not allowed to see the kids! you want to be on the safe side here.

Dee February 1, 2010 at 8:23 am

“plays out” that was meant to be…

Anonymous February 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Most definitely a temporary babysitting job is in violation of her visa.
I would tell the agency asap in writing and suggest that they explain to you why they allowing/ ecnouraging an aupair in their program to break the law.

Anonymous February 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I just read something that I missed earlier in the original post.
The aupair has a temporary job and then is going to take her vacation! All this after she walked out on a family !
I cannot figure out where the LCC is coming from on this but I can tell you this is not a great agency ( hope it is not the same as my agency ! ).
The agency will probably justify themselves by saying that she is placed with a family in their program. This is not really so but it is how they will explain themselves. I really would like to know what they have to say in explanation

Calif Mom February 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Dee– are you still waiting? If denouement hasn’t come forward by now, I bet your “decision” may have been made for you. (nice.)

I do think it’s important to do occasional casual check-ins with your kids. Let them know you aren’t going to get the AP ‘in trouble’ for anything you hear about from kids, but you just want to hear how things are going “with our new au pair” “since AP started her classes” “now that we are done with winter break” or whatever you need to say to get the conversation going. Your kids need to know that they can ALWAYS tell you stuff, whether it’s with an AP or a boy on the bus or whatever.

And then, keep your word if you do find something out, and don’t ‘bust’ the AP.

I was shocked–shocked–to hear that the kids were having ice cream daily after school from my kid. (Like the parents aren’t the ones buying the goods to start with, and don’t notice a more-rapid-than usual disappearances from freezer?) My point isn’t that I learned something, it was that my kid told me and felt comfortable knowing I wouldn’t throw her under the bus with the AP. The kids really can have divided loyalties. These little awareness conversations can help parents feel better that things like being bribed to not tattle on driving while on cell phone, or habitual lateness in picking up from school, or having pop music blasted until you cry (that would kill me!) are not happening. (Also good to make friends with the school secretaries, even if you aren’t there every day they will know who you are and you can find out about trends in arrival times! Our kid had multiple “tardies” one semester, when the AP with depression was in charge. She left, and there were no more tardies recorded.)

Some kids really want to solve problems on their own, and don’t report back on every little thing that happens at school. They are tough ones to parent, because you have to play 30 questions and follow your hunches like Sherlock. If you have one who is wired that way, you will ALWAYS be working on reinforcing the idea that they can tell parents what’s going on. Start on this when they’re little! trust me!

franzi February 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm

the elementary school one of my kids was in actually had late arrivals listed on their quarter grade reports (drop off that is not pick up).

i think it is very important that the parents check with the school/day care/teachers/other parents regularly to get the scoop.

at the same time i think it is important to set up an environment that makes your AP comfortable to talk with you about small mistakes/mishaps that can happen (late for school, forgot lunch, got lost while using a different way home from school) with out fearing to be reprimanded.

Anonymous February 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm

Franzi’s right — there are mistakes and then, there are other mistakes. Schools are supposed to call home to report/inquire about absences

Anonymous February 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm

I am wondering if the AP told her LCC and her agency something nasty about the host family in question. Otherwise, why would they support such an action – walking out on a paying customer – without any censure.
I know the host family changed agencies but still, in the host mom’s postion, I would like to know what the heck she said to support this behavior and to justify reeinforcement of it

Dee February 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm

We are still waiting for some explanation. I am at the “regional director” level. She has scheduled to speak with the LCC tomorrow and, due to her busy schedule, may not get back to me until Monday.

13 days after au pair walked out and still no ramifications !!!!!

Sara Duke February 4, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I agree with an earlier poster who said you may have gotten further with the LCC and the regional director if you were loyal to the agency. We have been with the same agency for 9 years, and when we had some additional monetary expenses incurred as a result of an au pair mis-advertising skills she did not have, our LCC went to bat for us and got us a partial reimbursement from the head office. Since you have no leverage with the agency, they may well balk at you. That doesn’t mean you should give up. Keep going up the chain of command.

You have to decide what you want from the agency. Do you want the au pair to be punished? Do you want to be reimbursed for the time when you don’t have an au pair? What will help you gain the closure you need? You may have to make peace with the fact that you may never have an answer for the reason behind the au pair’s departure.

Anonymous February 4, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I was impressed with the reasons that Dee looks at different agencies:
special promos with different nationalities ; particular strengths of candidates in certain area of expertise like driving, special needs, whatever serves your family at a specific time of life.
However, I think that a strong relationship with an LCC and a coundelor maximize your leverage. The agency and LCC get to see you as a reasonable person with a good track record and they see the track record of the aupairs who do not succeed with your family.
They get to know you.
What you can go is peruse different websites like Great Aupair or Aupair Options or whatever and then send that aupair to register with your agency. They will then take care of all the paperwork.
If she is already registered with an agency that is not your established agency, she can register with your agency as well. Some of these girls register with multiple agencies, just like we do.
It seems to me that you can get the best possible result from this practice.
It seems to me ,observing from the outside , that the turnover at the top of these agencies is pretty rapid. Some LCCs turn over rapidly but there are those who have been around for a long time. The LCC sometimes knows how best to present a situation to the agency to press the right buttons.
It does seem that your agency has written you off as a lost cause.
I wish I had a suggestion as to how to get a response from them but I am at a loss… I cannot imagine why they allowed this aupair to
1. work in violation of her visa
2. rematch after walking out on you

Dee February 8, 2010 at 7:34 am

Still no explanation from the au pair.

However, she ended up placed with a new family 3 days after leaving us, and they are extending with her for the 6 months she was looking to extend and honoring her vacation plans. Only one child, in an extremely wealthy community. She traded up! I smell a rat, and think her departure was calculated and the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was largely pretextual. But I’m only guessing…

The regional director has been involved, and the LCC has been “addressed” I am told, for her lack of support of the family. I am also promised that some further elaboration from the au pair (of the supposed underlying, brewing reasons for her discontent) will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, the au pair is about 20 miles from us until September. We may see her, we may not, in the day-to-day of things, but there will be no formal meeting with the kids until (if) there is an explanation.

The kids have moved on nicely at this point, and the only one who would benefit from a planned meeting would be the au pair, as I expect it would assuage her guilt (if any).

CV February 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

Dee, thanks for the update on the rest of the story. Still irksome, but at least you can more towards closure.

Anonymous February 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I will bet I know what happened : the aupair ” found ” this family online through some website , maybe Craig’s List , and then, she convinced that family to sign on with her agency. Then, she told the LCC some story about how miserable she was with you , unfair working conditions, whatever. It is very convenient for the Director to ” blame ” the LCC but in the end, it is the national office who bears the responsibility. No LCC can make a placement without support from the national office. It was most likely a question of
having an aupair go off the books or sign up a new customer. They
probably figured they had already lost you as a a customer anyway.
I would not stop with this lady you spoke to … I would go right to the top and ask for a written explanation. That is not to say you shouldn’t say ” ta ta ” and forget this girl but the excuse given to you seems to me very lame. I think that if there was a possibility of you still working with them, the story would have played out very differently.

Dee February 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Thanks, Anonymous.

I have been coming around to your theory of things on my own. It’s nice to have an objective person voice it!

I will continue to try to ferret things out, with the agency, believe me!

Anonymous February 17, 2010 at 6:26 am

Personally, I don’t think great au pairs just disappear like that. Something pushed her to make that decision….why on earth would a young girl who’s being well taken care of suddenly up and leave? I suppose there are lots of reasons but the first that comes to mind is “have you considered that your husband may have made a pass at her and now she’s scared to death/very uncomfortable and doesn’t want to hurt you…hence disappearing w/o an explanation….yet loves your children so much she wants to come back and see them?

Personally I would take the kids by myself to a place they can all say goodbye w/o your hubby and talk to her and see if that’s the reason. Sometimes, as we work to death to take good care of our young kids, our husbands feel neglected (their problem) and behave badly. I’ve seen it happen, so it’s just a thought.

I don’t know you and please don’t take offense….you seem like a great, concerned mom….but it is a possibility…

NoVA Host Mom February 24, 2010 at 9:14 am

I’m sorry, but I think you have been reading too many junk novels. If a man is going to cheat, it has nothing to do with “neglecting our husbands”, it has to do with the husband being a louse. And the whole “AP-HD” fling crap is just that. Crap. This is an AP issue.

Dee February 24, 2010 at 6:59 am

Four weeks later, the au pair emailed me an “explanation.” It was a list of self-centered, petty complaints that she allowed to accumulate because she claimed she was afraid to discuss them with us. (For the record, she had no trouble bringing up tough topics like money and extra time off.) We have come to the conclusion that her leaving was self-serving and pretextual…she found an extension family that would take her sooner than her twelfth month with us was up. Given the pattern of behavior, and things that have come out since her departure, (for example, we found out she gave our 9 year old the silent treatment for a week last summer, after the child told mommy au pair was texting while driving) we are not pursuing any opportunity for a formal goodbye…it would only serve her interests in soothing any guilt au pair might have, not the children’s interests at this point. Although we were sorry and disappointed the relationship ended as it did, in retrospect we are glad to be rid of this petty, selfish young lady.

Anonymous April 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

While she doesn’t deserve to say goodbye, this situation ultimately isn’t really about her. It’s not even really about you. It’s about your kids. I think you should let her say goodbye under your own terms (supervised or however you feel comfortable). She may not be acting in the most mature fashion, but I think it’s a good lesson for your kids if they can get some closure and part ways amicably. They need to know that she’s not leaving because of anything that they did, and whether you and your au pair are getting along at the moment or not, I don’t think it should affect the relationship between her and your kids. I hope this helps! Ultimately you have to make the decision that makes you comfortable though!

Anonymous April 4, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Just realized the above comment was way too late! It sounds like you handled the situation though!

TomPier May 8, 2010 at 12:37 pm

great post as usual!

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