Au Pair Advice: She’s using *my* coffee mug!

by cv harquail on March 17, 2010

We host parents can be a weird bunch. The kinds of things that drive us crazy… no wonder it can be hard for au pairs to get adjusted!

Over the weekend I heard a crazy lament that I want to share with you.


My friend has a new au pair, who’s been with them about 6 weeks now. They like her very much and feel confident that she’ll have a great year with them. All is going smoothly except for one thing:

“She’s using my coffee mug,” the host mom says.

Um, hello? You have about 27 coffee mugs in that cabinet there. What’s the problem?

“It’s my coffee mug. My favorite coffee mug. The one my roommate gave me when I turned 25. The pretty blue one with the pink inside. The one that she has decided is her favorite.

She’s using it all the time and I never get to!”


What to do? Options include:

  1. Remove the coffee mug from circulation until this au pair leaves.
  2. Place a large label on the mug that says “Mom’s mug”.
  3. Hide the coffee mug somewhere weird, pulling it out to use it yourself and then putting it back immediately— no trips to the dishwasher.
  4. Buy your au pair a special mug all of her own.
  5. Have a brief, honest talk and tell her that the mug is your personal fave and only for you.
  6. Just get over it already. For god’s sake it’s just a mug.

Other ideas?


Mug Shot! from life serial
Multiple Choice from .Irit.
eyes, scarf, mug from brianna hope


Anonymous March 17, 2010 at 11:04 am

I think you should just take it out of circulation and hide it! I understand how you may feel, but seriously, if you let this bother you now, then there will be many more things that get on your nerves during the year!

Amelie ex au pair March 17, 2010 at 11:08 am

Just let her know it’s your fave mug! I bet she’ll understand.

Maybe it would be nice to give her a new mug. =)

Karin Six March 17, 2010 at 11:27 am

Be brave HM! Just tell her! Ask if she would like to call one her favorite as well! She just might! Perhaps put one into a welcome basket for her!

Mom23 March 17, 2010 at 11:46 am

I would buy her her own personal mug. Maybe one from one of the photo sites like Snapfish or Shutterfly with photos of the kids and her name on it?

I had a sitter who kept taking open mugs into my car. Yes, my car is a disaster area, but I really didn’t want spilled coffee added to it. So I bought her a closed top mug with a gc to starbucks.

Anna March 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

Just tell her! What’s the problem?

Communication has to be there not only from the au pairs, but from the host parents as well, that’s a requirement for having a successful year.

teuta March 31, 2010 at 6:19 pm

sometimes, as effectively as you try and communicate, the au pair still just “doesn’t get it,” or maybe just doesn’t care. We just finished a year and a half with our German au pair, and i couldn’t wait for her to leave! The last 6 months she was so lazy and had a bad attitude. She knew was going to stay and all she cared about was herself and her own needs. She constantly used my stuff even when i clearly told her not to. She even went through my closet and wore my clothes when my husband and I were out of town. I am so flabbergasted by the nerve of this person who lived with my family for a year and a half. It was more like having a teenage foster child living with us than a childcare provider. She even actually told my husband and I, by accident, that “all au pairs come to america because they want to travel.” I really feel like I tried every angle of communication with this girl. I am very direct and “to the point” kind of person. I would never, ever get anopther aupair. my twins are in preschool/daycare now and getting wonderfully filled days with stimulation and education. Even though it is costing much more money, I wouldn’t change a thing. The peace of mind we have now, knowing our children are being cared for properly is priceless. That is why we wanted an au pair…… help our family…………instead we got a complete mooch!

Anna March 31, 2010 at 10:29 pm

I had an experience with a bad au pair, where no amount of communication from my side could change her performance. It was also very one-sided as well, I was the one communicating against a brick wall!
We rematched, but IMHO too late. I have learned my lesson. I decided to stay with the au pair program, because I have had wonderful experience before it, and knew it was possible, and thought that I knew how I goofed in matching so I can correct it next time.

Susan March 17, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Too funny. But you know we all have these things …. For me, it’s during our family meetings when AP takes “my” seat on the large sofa, and forces me and HD to sit on the loveseat to talk. I wish that was the worst thing she did … bud sadly it’s not. Sigh.

P.S. Hide the mug in your room. Take it to the kitchen when you are ready to make coffee.

Karin Six March 17, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Au pair emails home: “Everything is great so far but my host mom keeps hiding her coffee cup! (Kind of strange, these Americans!) It’s not like we don’t have our favorite coffee cups at home… Mom, can you send me mine in next care package? Incidentally, I will probably have to hide mine here too as it looks like it is the custom here.”

Janet March 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Just tell her but make sure you are in a good mood and can make a joke of it or maybe make fun of yourself for liking that mug. I would do it soon before you let it really bother you and then you’ll be snappish about it when you say something.

Angie March 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Tell her it’s the mug you use, and you don’t want her to catch your oral herpes. :-)

MAmama March 17, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I would definitely say something to your new au pair like, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but that blue and pink mug is my favorite one – someone special gave it to me and it just makes me happy to drink from it…can you pick another favorite? ” I also agree with the folks who suggested that you buy her a new mug – maybe find out her favorite color or animal, etc. Getting used to each other’s idioscracies is part of the fun…hopefully she can embrace yours! BTW – my favorite mug is one of those oversized Starbucks mugs from Ireland, so keep your hands off! ;-)

Dawn March 18, 2010 at 5:44 am

This is exactly what I was going to say! The other thing I’d recommend is to remember this for the next time. I don’t have a “favorite mug,” but my DH does, and when our AP first arrived and I was giving her a “tour” of the kitchen, I included a “warning” about using his mug. “Here’s the coffee machine — I’ll show you how to use it when we make coffee tomorrow morning. The coffee mugs are up here in the cabinet right above the machine. You are welcome to use any of them except this one — this is HostDad’s favorite and he can be pretty possessive of it!” (laughing)

ExAP March 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Sometimes people are weird,but that’s ok. *grin*
Your AP will understand it if you just tell her briefly the mug’s story we’ve read above.
If you hide it and she sees you pulling it out one time or antoher, she might feel like something is/was wrong with her using the mug but doesn’t know what and feels bad. That’s seen form the communication perspective a bad start and can be avoided. :)

Calif Mom March 18, 2010 at 7:54 pm

I agree — you need to say it was from your roommate when you were 25. Totally explainable, and not weird!

My mug–that no one else touches–is one my eldest made when she was 2.5 I’ve taken photos of it from every angle because the kid is 10.5 now, and I know it won’t last forever.

StephinBoston March 17, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I have to laugh because I’m sure we all have a “mug” story we could tell. We are, after all, creatures of habit and when a stranger walks into our lives, it’s bound to create situations. I think you need to tell her but I think I’d buy her a special one and at the same time tell her the story, you can laugh about it and she’ll be pleased you did something special for her. If that’s the biggest issue you run into all year, I’ll call that a FANTASTIC AP experience!

SeattleHostMom March 17, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Ha! I had the SAME experience with our current AP. I went out and bought her her own mug, one that was similar enough that I thought it would be a favorite, but differrent enough that it could be told apart. I gave it to her as a “special” gift– saying something like “I know DH and I have our own mugs that we like to use all the time, and thought you might like to have your own special one too. I wanted to wait until after you were here and I had gotten to know you a bit to know what you would like.”

Worked like a charm!

Hula Gal March 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

If it makes you feel better – I was getting bugged that my au pair would sit in my seat at the dinner table during the day and spill food on the placemat there. That just grosses me out – to eat on a placemat with someone elses food stains. But I decided that I could a. get more placemats or b. clean them more often or c. ignore it. I just ignore and clean them more often because I felt petty. Although I think in your case you should just tell her it is your favorite and ask her to use a different one or get a special one with her name on it or something and give it to her the same time you tell her so it isn’t as awkward.

NJMom March 17, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I think this falls in the “get over it” category but I then avoid confrontation too much! After three AP’s I have had to learn to “live” with a fair amount of little things.

franzi March 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

haha, i can totally relate. i have a favorite mug and when i have friends staying over and they get the apartment tour i tell them (while in the kitchen) “this is my mug. you can use anything in this apartment but not this!”. everyone understands, never had a problem.

i think the hm needs to step up and just tell her AP that this cup is special to her. i don’t think this is a problem at all.

Au pair March 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Funny! Buy her a very nice one in her favorite color or some nice saying and she will loooove it and feel really special.

PA HOST mom of TWO Au-Pairs March 18, 2010 at 2:04 am

I agree with NJ Mom- get over it! maybe you should feel honored that she loves your mug so much. Take a shopping trip and go find a new one that you will fall in love with!

mommyof2 March 18, 2010 at 7:54 am

Funny! We should all “get over it” but being HMs we all understnd that sometimes that is easier said than done!
Maybe you can take her to a pottery place and let her paint one for herself or perhaps have the kids paint one for her. There is also a nice mug at Starbucks that you can let the kids write on and then you bake it so the writing sets.

Thanks for admitting this “ridiculousness” that we all experience!

Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 9:15 am

We went through exactly the same thing but it was over my favorite wine glass. I had bought myself a fabulous new wine glass as a gift to myself after receiving a raise at work – and when she was using “my” glass, I about freaked out. Actually…I did freak out on HD who (being the brilliant man he is) promptly went out and bought more glasses. Now the AP and I both use the same wine glasses with different wine charms.

So yeah, maybe it *should* be a “get over it” type of thing, but the fact is, that it isn’t always that simple. I think women especially tend to be possessive over their household, and having a strange young woman move in can often be unsettling. Little things like “she’s using my coffee mug” can ruffle our feathers. But dealing with it often resolves the problem quickly.

I vote for buying AP her own special coffee mug and being honest with her – asking her not to use it – because most likely she has NO IDEA this is an issue, and won’t care one way or another about using a different mug.

HRHM March 18, 2010 at 10:06 am

Yes, you really should talk to her about it and not “just get over it” because while her using it is annoying, when she drops and breaks it, you’ll be PISSED! So, just tell her the truth, let her pick one of the other 27 mugs in the house to use, or get her a new one.

AMommyMous March 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

And, might I add, that the AP should be instructed as to favorite possessions of the children, as we’ve had conflicts arise when Child B is given Child A’s special cereal bowl, or uses the “special shampoo” or whatever. Yes, even we parents forget the attachments that form to inanimate objects, but everyone’s much happier when these little quirks are remembered and respected!

Jem March 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm

I can totally relate. I had a french press that the au pair started using or sharing with me. In addition to her using this regularly, she rarely washed it. I ended up buying her a personal french press as well (slightly different from mine) so that I could get mine back. It worked like a charm! She now makes her own coffee and remarkably , I have rarely seen her leave it behind for me to clean. This purchase took care of two problems and it allowed me to avoid telling her about my silly annoyance. I know communication is key but there are somethings one really doesn’t need to share with their au pair……

Taking a computer lunch March 20, 2010 at 10:30 pm

While I don’t have a favorite mug, cup or plate, I do have a low tolerance for drinking water once out of a glass and then putting it in the dishwasher. To me it’s rather wasteful, as water doesn’t leave a residue. So, everyone in my house tends to find a favorite glass to distinguish it from all the other glasses from which water or seltzer is consumed – until we gather them up to run the dishwasher once it has reached a full load.

Euromom March 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

When my current au pair arrived, I had already put a new mug in her welcome basket (she hates spiders so her mug says “Don’t bug me”). When she came to breakfast the next morning she brought it with her and that was that.. Every member of our family has their own mug (mine’s got a donkey on it!). I think it’s the simple gestures that are the deal-breaker when it comes to feeling like “part of” the family – but boy is there trouble if anyone uses anyone else mug!

Jane March 24, 2010 at 11:27 am

My au pair started using my special mug too–I just honestly told her right then and there that it was my special mug and please use one of the other 30 or so we have. She had no problem with that at all and it has never been an issue since. I did buy her a special mug as part of a welcome gift, which she keeps in her room and has never used.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 6:49 am

for christ sake its just a coffee mug
and if she doesnt know its your favourite then its not her fault at all
she is not a bad au pair for just happening to use your favourite coffee mug
build a bridge and get over it.

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