Au Pair Asks: Is it okay to call it quits?

by cv harquail on June 12, 2011

Dear Au Pair Mom,

Hi, I emailed once before about an angry 11 year old and was wondering if I could bother you once more for some advice. I’ve now been here 5 and 1/2 months and I really feel like rematch is the only option now. I realise this is incredibly inconvenient for my host parents after all the energy they’ve expended finding and training me but I really have tried everything I can to resolve this terrible match. 201106101553.jpg

Specific problems include: Me working up to 3 days at a time with parents out of state. I do all the kitchen and living room cleaning/bins/dishwasher/parents bed making/shopping/recycling/cleaning up after the parents.

The parents have huge screaming rows very often and put me in the middle (such as my host mum calling my mobile to get me to tell my host dad what she wanted because he wouldn’t talk to her). The kids are extremely angry, most likely because of their fractured home life and I get the anger directed at me. The boy told me he had been creeping around my room while I was asleep and going through my things to get books etc he wanted. There are times I work until 12.30 and have to get up again at 6.30 and I’m exhausted.

All these things have just added up to the point where I really can’t take it anymore. I’ve given it over 5 months and it’s not a decision I’m taking lightly. I just wanted to know if I’m overreacting or if this is what I should expect at all host families?

Thanks so much. — Waffling Au Pair

Dear Waffling Au Pair-

It’s okay to leave. I wouldn’t even call it “quitting”.

No au pair should stay in a house where the host parents regularly disregard the rules.

No au pair should stay with a family when that family is full of genuine anger, is habitually mean, and fails even to make an effort to be kind.

If you have made a good-faith effort to talk with your host parents, and you have asked your LCC for help (if you have one), and things haven’t changed, it’s okay to leave.

Rematch, without second thoughts.

  • Parents and Au Pairs, other advice?
  • What does an au pair need to check off his or her list, to evaluate whether going into rematch is really warranted?


Indi Au Pair to be June 12, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I’m sorry to hear your situation has just gotten worst, I wonder if last time you got the LCC involved. I’m yet to live with a HF so I can only offer my “theoric” advice and nothing practical, but I’ll def go tru rematch, I think there’re good HFs out there with whom you could complete the rest of your year and actually live the “Au Pair” experience as you first pictured it. I think one of my biggest fears is to end up in a violent home with the HP’s marriage on the edge, but this is absolutely NOT your fault and you don’t deserve to be treated as an outlet to your HF’s anger. If you have a supportive LCC who will understand both your and your HP’s side then go for it, but if you don’t I’ll try to have some “evidence” of what you are going tru, being with her when you get an angry phone call. Proof that you indeed work up to 14 hours a day. I think it’s hard but if you want to stay I guess it’s worth it. IMHO, constant physical harm is a deal breaker for me, not only because they’re being violent but it usually means they lack respect towards you and that’s really hard to get it back or build in. Also, the ocasional extra hours comes with the “being part of the family” but it’s NOT fair having to work up to 14 hours EVERY week, several days, it’s just not right. You don’t mention it but I assume you’re under an agency so hopefully there’s a way to mediate the situation…For me, your HF, sounds like they should be removed from the program: they don’t have a work schedule to allow the 10 hour limits, they’re obviously going tru marital issues, violent kid, household duties that should not concern the AP and the list goes on.
In case you’re an AP with an agency in the US, you can find here a resource tht helps Au Pairs in transition, I wish you the best.

Carlos June 12, 2011 at 6:30 pm

5 months is a lot… is she ok? :o

Amelie ex au pair June 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm

There are wonderful host families out there!

Steff June 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I will like to ask to the OP if she did something of what she was “suggested” the last time she shared with us her situation?? — IMO, I’m really having a hard time wrapping my mind around how she let this become such big mess? A relationship with a difficult kid is one thing (at least in my opinion), the host parents completely going against the rules of the program is a whole other story.
While I sympathize with you because I believe you were acting in ‘good faith’, as you thought it was the right thing trying to make the relationship work (been there, done that, even got the tee), I think too much was too much and you let this go on for too long.
Why did you keep doing things as the parent’s laundry, general housecleaning, over 10hours shifts, when you already knew (or should have been told at least) that all that was against the Au Pair program rules??
One thing is work through a relationship and a whole other is letting people step over your rights because you *do* have rights and situations like that just shouldn’t happen (IMO).

As it has been said, rematch isn’t something APs or HFs should take lightly, but there are situations of situations and when so many things are wrong, you just gotta step up for yourself and realize what’s best for *you* too. I really wish you Good Luck and I honestly hope that one day you can come back here not to tell us about this kind of situation, but about how well you are doing in America :) Good Luck!

Calif Mom June 13, 2011 at 9:42 am

I believe we also made it clear when she asked us the first time that those things are not okay.

Take this opportunity to learn that you have more power than you think and are braver than you knew–get out of this family. I know it’s not what you thought you would be learning in your au pair year, but it is a very valuable lesson. Get out of there. If you can offer to do an extension year, you will make yourself much more attractive to rematch families.

Best wishes!

Taking a Computer Lunch June 12, 2011 at 10:11 pm

As a HM, I would say that it is time to bail. Call your LCC and explain the situation. Present her with documentation of the hours you have actually worked. Save a phone message and share it with her. If your HF puts your hours on Google calendar, then print it out and show her. And then ask her for her support in finding you another HF. You’re working short nights (and clearly several overnights), have a HK who admits he’s entering your room, and you’re being asked to be the go-between to your HP. Not okay. Not safe. Couch it in the terms 1) you are not safe and 2) the HF is violating the terms of the contract.

When it is clear that the LCC is on your side, then ask her to come and sit at the table when you break it to the HF that you are going into rematch. Make sure you have your bags packed and a safe place to spend the nights while you look for a new HF – whether it’s the LCC’s home or the home of a friend.

A good LCC will work hard to help you find a new HF. If you don’t feel that your LCC is up to the task, then call the home office and solicit their assistance.

Tahoe Mom to Twins June 13, 2011 at 9:38 am

Your situation is awful and I feel terrible that this is your au pair experience. You’re being taken advantage of and you need to stick up for yourself by insisting on an immediate rematch. There are plenty of healthy families looking for someone like you. Pack your things now and call your LCC immediately.

NJMom June 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

What Taking a Computer Lunch said. Don’t wait any longer, this is bad.

CAmom22 June 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I went back and read your original post and to all of the above I would only add that although a horrible situation, this will also be for you a great opportunity to learn and grow. Clearly you should rematch. It sounds like this host family does not understand boundries and are obviously not complying with the rules of the program. Enough said. But unfortunately there are people like that out there. And we all at some point in our lives will be in situations where we have to deal with people like this. At some point in our lives we all need to learn that people can only take advantage of us if we let them do so. In March you were given some really valuable advice. It was clear from those responses that you were in a situation that was highly inappropriate. Did you speak with your LCC and family about the inappropriate chores? And overnight trips? It sounded like maybe you had just the one discussion with the parents about only one of the issues (the 11-year old). It’s now June and it sounds like it’s worse! If you have been in discussions with your LCC about all of this since March then ask for her supervisor as she is not doing her job. If you have not, then it’s time to do so. It’s time for you to stick up for yourself hard as it may be. You need to get out of this situation. But I hope you view this as a learning experience. You need to recognize that to be successful in life you need to take power in your own hands and be in charge of your own life and address issues head-on. I wish you luck and I really hope that awful as this may seem right now, that you take it as a learning experience and it helps you towards becoming a strong confident woman. Good luck! I wish you the best.

SF Coordinator June 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

The family is clearly out of compliance with program regulations if they are requiring the duties mentioned. Your LCC needs to step in and rectify the situation or remove you from their home if they are unable/unwilling to comply with the contract which they signed. This can be a hard task for any au pair to manage directly with their host parents….and one reason why there are coordinators, to intervene in these types of situations.

Julie June 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

This family should be immediately kicked out of the au pair program. Report them to your LCC and call your program director. Then, call your corporate office. With our organization, this is a situation that calls for immediate dismissal–and then you can find a better family. Best of luck!

Alimom June 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm

As everyone else has said you need to get out of this situation and re-match with another famly giving you a chance to really enjoy the rest of your year. Your host family may well try and talk you into staying and / or imply some of the issues are your fault. Prepare youself for this and stick politely but firmly (hopefully with your LCC’s help) with your decision to leave. No matter what they say they are very unlikely to change. You might feel bad for the children but this famly needs a “wake up call” that their behaviour is unacceptable and in the long term that is in the children’s best interests. Good luck, the next couple of weeks might be quite unpleasant but just remind yourself how much happier you will be when you are with a new family.

used to be an AP June 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I agree with all that has been said. I was an AP in a great family and know other former APs who were with a great HF as well. Your situation is extreme and it will get better with a new family. Also, it’s summer, there should be a lot of families on the look out now. I’d rematch if I were you. Even if you feel sorry for the kids (which shows that you are a good person), you can’t be there for them forever. Eventually you’ll have to leave. I’m sorry for the kids as well, but maybe a wake-up will also lead the family to get help. All the best to you!

(Ex) Aussie Aupair June 14, 2011 at 2:19 am

It’s ok to leave. I was in a VERY similar situation. When I spoke to my coordinator after 4 months she was so shocked and I LITERALLY rematched the next day!!! (Boy was it a rush to pack my stuff). I ended up in the same area with the most AMAZING host family, I felt mutually appreciated and they are like my second family – I have been home 2 years, and already have visited them twice – It’s not quitting, it’s doing what’s right for yourself. I still feel horrible about leaving the kids because I know they were all hurting, but there comes a point when that is the parents responsibility – not the Aupairs!

iMom June 15, 2011 at 9:36 am

Totally agree with (Ex) Aussie Aupair, but I feel the need to emphasize that the children are TOTALLY the parents’ responsibility, and not at all the au pair’s. I understand and admire the compassion of caring au pairs who don’t want to leave “their” kids in a bad family situation, but “savior” is not part of the au pair job description. So while you may feel sad for the kids and may want to keep them in your lives somehow, you should NOT feel guilty for leaving a dysfunctional situation.

Sandra newman June 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Many many many families like that out there! I told before and i repeat Get out asap! Dont wait no longer it won’t change now nor later!

Denise June 22, 2011 at 9:04 am

I am a host mom.
So this is hitting close to home now. And all I can say is, that I agree with the official reply. But have to comment on this: “If you have made a good-faith effort to talk with your host parents”…, as What denotes a good-faith effort to talk with your HP is in the eye of the beholder.
My AP has been distant for quite some time, and i repeatedly have asked her, is everything ok? are you ok? it feels like you are pulling away, are you stressed? and everytime she would say, I am sick, or I am stressed about this or that or the other. (2 months of this) And this morning i approach her again, and I say, listen, I know that you are excited about your next opportunities (she was to leave for UNI on 1 Aug) but you seem to be already gone from here and that isnt healthy for belle (my daughter) or for us (as a family). She starts to cry, and tells me that she cant stay here any longer and that she will be leaving on Tuesday (on an airplane). She then says that she has to because she is Unwell living here. I was shocked and asked… why didnt you talk to me before it came to this. She said, I am scared of you! I said, what do i bite? you think i am going to hit you? sure I am not giong to be happy if you tell me you are unhappy, but if you had given me the chance to tell me why, then maybe i could have done something. she says, I tried… and i pointed to everytime i asked her what was wrong, and she shrugged.

so all i can say is, there are two sides to every coin. And the way the HP may be perceiving things is different than what the AP perceives. and that the only way should be through open communication.

i am also disturbed because AP will and has communciated her perceptions to her AP friends and to the LCC and they get only one side of the story.

Au Pair means ON EQUAL TERMS, this means that both sides have the right to expect certain things, and open communication should be at the top of the list.

good luck, I hope that by talking with your HP you will be able to come to a better situation even if that will be with another family.

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