Au Pair Asks: My Host Mom wants to get rid of me. … Am I alone in this feeling?

by cv harquail on January 16, 2011

Readers, here’s another one of those emails that I just don’t have a good answer for… Can any of you au pairs or host parents offer her some comfort?

Hi Au Pair Mom, I am an au pair and always read this blog, to know if I am doing right, to have kind of a feedback, and to try to be a good au pair. Congratulations for the site, it is very good.

I just have a confession to make, and since this site always helped me, I feel like telling a little about my history, because I am very sad about that.

Well, I am in rematch right now. I crashed the car 3 times. The first one really was because of the attention, and I was very sorry, and paid the insurance, but they didn’t fixed the car. The second one was just scratched on the back because the car is very big and I didn’t get used to it. And the third I just touched on another car and not even made any scratched on my car.

HeartbrokenI was afraid to tell my host parents on the second one, it was holidays and my HM really loves Christmas, I was afraid to disappoint them, and I know that I did very wrong but I just couldn’t by the time. I was going to call my LCC so she would help me telling them. But then on the day I called her, happened the third accident and so I told them, and the LCC came.

My host parents said that they feel like I was very sad, (and I really was because of the Christmas away from my family, and) because I was hiding about the scratches and I really felt bad about that. And they said that I was a fabulous au pair, always get everything done, they kids just loved me. (It was even kind of strange, they get used to me on the second day! I really love kids and I have this easiness to deal with them.

But my host mom felt that I was sad and even though I was sad I was always on time and I was always getting everything done, but maybe that was why I crashed the car. They said that I needed to change and get used to the missing or maybe was better if I went back home. Then I told them about the third accident.

My HM just said that I broke her trust (which I am aware of that and tottaly agree) and what if one of her kids got hurted and bleeding and I get afraid to tell them. I explained to her that was different but she didn’t listen. The LCC and the HD told her to sleep over that and they would talk later. But nothing changed, she said that she couldn’t live with that, but I was a gifted person because I was great with the kids and she would give me wonderful reference to another HF.

Since the decision of the rematch, everything has been find. I am very respectful and I keep doing my job and treating the kids the same way. (I just cry a lot because I love the kids very very much). Also, I’m still driving them, much more carefull of course.

Then I talked with my LCC and she said that maybe I should talk with my HM to see if I can stay here because she said that we are a good match and my HD didn’t want me to leave. She could see that I hid my car denting from them not because I was selfish and didn’t want to take the consequences, but because I was really afraid to disappoint them. I talked with my HM saying that maybe doesn’t worth to interview another AP and to have all that work trying to find someone else, and if there was a way to gain her trust back. My HM said that she coudn’t let me put the life of the kids in danger by driving. (However, I am still driving the kids while here, so I don’t really get this explanation.)

The thing that really bothers me is: I think that she doesn’t want me on her house for some reason that no one knows.

I always asked my Host parents to say to me if that was something wrong, and they never said a word and always said that I was great. I feel like all my effort for being here — to show all my affection to them — was in vain. I bought a wonderful frame and put the picture of every ‘member’ of the family, including me, because I really thought that was what I was here. I embroidered a towel with her name with my own hands for her birthday, and she never even touched it. (I know because the laundry is in their rooms and I have to go there to do the laundry).

So, I am just very sad because I think that maybe someone didn’t tell the truth.

And also, she is interviewing another AP in front on me, which really makes me very sad. I feel like an object being thrown out. I mean, ok that I am really not a family member, but I am a person who has feelings, and I think that everyone deserves respect, doesn’t matter whom they are.

I am not mad at all. I think that everything happens for a reason. I just needed to ask for an opinion, or something like that. I’m not sure that you could put this on the blog, because I think that is too detailed… It is just I want to hear from another HM or HF — is this what it’s like here in USA? Because I feel like people here really doesn’t matter with anothers. That makes me very sad because I came here to live a dream and it has been a nightmare so far. I need some comfort, because I am really thinking about to go home, not because I am afraid to not find another family or something else, I just don’t want to be hurted again with the delusion that I am part of the family.

Thank you for your thoughts.


Image: Heartbroken ?from Daniel Pink

{ 52 comments }

Anonomomma January 16, 2011 at 9:30 am

Because you are asking for other HM’s opinions here is mine. You have my sincere apolgies if this post comes across as hard but I believe you need to hear this and to stop feeling hard done by.

It sounds to me like you are dodging the responsibility and looking for someone else to blame. Let me be very straight with you.

You crashed the car not once, not twice but three times. It does not matter that there was no damage, a bit of damage or the car was wrote off. The critical point is that your concentration level broke on three separate occasions that resulted in accidents (and thankfully no one was injured).

I totally agree with this HM’s decision. I would do the same myself.

Also – can you imagine how hard it is to have an au pair who is “sad” around you. we all understand that au pairs miss home especially at the holidays but it is also very hard on a host family – especially the host mom – who is trying to prepare the family for the celebrations and also trying to cheer up an uphappy au pair.

I believe on a professional level i.e. your work ethic might have been excellent but on a personal level, i.e. the relationship with your family, you may have been hard work. You may have needed more interaction or energy that the HF or HM was able or wanted to give you. This is just what I am reading from your post and I do not pretend to know you or that my opinion is gospel.

But back to your question re: other reasons / untruthful. I do not think there is any other reason. The reason is you crashed the car three times. This might now mean higher insurance costs for your host family, not to mention the cost of repairs.

You also withheld information regarding a crash which could have had dire consequences if there was another vehicle or property involved, i.e. non-notification to an insurance company of an accident can in certain circumstances void the entire policy. This could potentially bankrupt a family!!

Have you even considered the impact that these “small” accidents could have had on your host family? Perhaps they cannot afford to have the damage repaired (after your first crash). Perhaps they will not be able to afford to renew the insurance on the car when the premium is raised to take account of your accidents or perhaps they are just afriad that your next crash (because you are not concentrating!) will be fatal. Perhaps leaving you drive the children around now is a necessity for the moment but not something that they feel comfortable continuing with.

Your HM has informed you that you are in rematch and now has turned her attention and efforts into finding your replacement. If you do not want to see her interview canditates, i.e. if you do not want her to do this in front of you I suggest you leave the room. I understand that is difficult and of course you are sensitive but she is not going to leave the room so you must. It is her house, her computer, etc, etc.

And you are not an object being thrown away – there is no need for such melodrama, you are in rematch because of your actions and that is the fact.

As for being part of the family, please understand that while you will / should be treated “on par” as a family member that does not entitle you to instant loyality or trust – those attributes are earned, not given and you did not earn them from this family. You were disloyal when you withheld information and you broke their trust.

It would appear that the HF have treated you very well to date and that you were the one who broke the trust not them and you have no right to be mad at them – in fact – it may be the other way around.

Move on – your HM has – use this experience as a lesson, accept the responsibilty as yours and do not make it your HF’s fault. Do not try to shift the blame, you already know the reason “I crashed the car 3 times”

Stéfani January 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I totally agree with your words! We au pairs are like ‘part of family’ but we are employers too. We need know equilibrate that. Or it’s gonna ending up in ‘rematch’.

CO Host Mom January 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm

This was a very well written, honest response. I fully agree.

NJ Host Mom January 18, 2011 at 1:41 am

Perfectly written. And this is a perfect example of why my au pairs do not drive and never will. Fortunately, pretty much everything in our town is walking distance and I have that luxury…I know many families do not.

PA AP mom January 18, 2011 at 11:17 am

NJ host mom:

I am jealous. Driving is always the biggest area of anxiety for me, and the au pairs.

BBBG January 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I couldn’t have stated this better. We had an au pair who crashed our car while practicing with my husband. She had said on her application that she could drive, but sadly she couldn’t even back the car out of the driveway without running into the car across the street. We loved her personality and her skills with our children, though, so we hung in there and kept her. Friends said, “You can teach her how to drive, you can’t teacher her the skills to be a great childcare provider.” It took 3 months of us driving with her before we could let her drive the kids to school on her own. Then 2 weeks later, with our 3 kids and a neighbor’s daughter, she ran a red light at a super busy intersection. I got the ticket in the mail, and the video online (thank you Chicago cameras). Poor driving and carelessness could have killed my precious ones. I was devastated that I had decided to hang in there. Never again!

NoVA Host Mom January 20, 2011 at 1:41 am

Amazingly well said. You caught everything I was thinking.

In addition, of course the HM is interviewing new candidates. You are being replaced, and they are not supposed to go without childcare for the sake of your feelings.

Also, there is a maturity level that the AP is lacking. The inability to own up to ones actions when they occur tell me that someone does not have the maturity to continue in our home, much less another’s. I agree with the HM’s actions, and I can promise the same would happen in our home.

Eurogirl January 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

When you are an au pair, there is a certain level of difficulty in the line between being part of the family and being an employee – it sounds like you felt like a part of the family and then were shocked to have this pulled out from under your feet and when you were no longer meeting their requirements you quickly moved back to “just an employee”. This is sad and not easy… But it does happen a lot. I think you need to have a thicker skin about this. If you did wrong, which you did (crashing the car and particularly, hiding that you had crashed the car) you have to face that this can sour a “family” relationship and make you an employee again. I always have had good working relationships with employers in all different fields I have worked in, not just au pairing… But the most important lesson you will ever learn is NEVER FORGET THAT YOU ARE AN EMPLOYEE AND NEVER FORGET WHO IS YOUR EMPLOYER. If you let that slip your mind, when your friendly employer has to remonstrate you for any reason…you will be hurt.

I’m sorry you are learning this now and it’s hurting you. My point is, maybe the family could be more tactful and nicer about this…but they don’t HAVE to be. They are your employers and your position with them has not worked out. Learn from it, be more honest and be stronger, and move on – live your dream but learn your lessons. Good luck with finding a new family if that is what you choose to do.

used to be an AP January 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I don’t think that APs are aware of all the consequences an accident can have, especiall concerning the insurance. Those things differ from country to country. Maybe that is something that should go in the handbook and be talked about at the beginning.

used to be an AP January 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Sorry, that reply was meant for the post above ;)

used to be an AP January 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I was an AP in the US a few years ago and can “only” offer an APs perspective.

First of all, I’m sorry that your match did not work out. I really am. I’m sure it is a very uncomfortable situation and I can understand that you are so sad.

There are however a few points that you have to come to terms with.
First of all, try to get rid of the expectation to be “a member of the family”. It’s all over the glossy leaflets the agencies give to potential APs, but I don’t think that many HFs really are able to treat their AP as an additional daughter from day one on (and that is what many APs think “being a member of the family” means). If you read the discussions here, you can also see that HFs are usually not looking for a teenage daughter but someone who takes care of their children. However, this does not mean that you can’t have a very good relationship with your HF (maybe some host moms can comment on this as well, as this is really just my perception from an APs point of view).
Secondly, try not to let your homesickness get the better of you. It can sometimes be hard to be away from what you know, but you are now living in the US, it’s your home right now so try to see it as that. You will not be able to enjoy your stay in the US if you are sad all the time. Try to see the good things, even if they are just tiny (for example I was thrilled by the fact that I got the see the new episodes of Friends a year before my friends in Germany did. It sounds stupid, but when I found out it just made my day. Starbucks has better offers in the US than it has in Germany, gas is cheaper, I liked speaking English…). I guess what I’m saying is try to focus on the here and now.
Thirdly, I know that you had good reasons not to talk about the second and third accidents with the car but did you tell your HM you didn’t tell her about it because you did not want to ruin her holidays and because you know how important Christmas is to her? If not, you should definitely do so, even if it doesn’t change anything. In general however, it is always best to talk about things like that right away, it makes your life easier too.

It seems like there are no harsh feelings and as if the HF will give you a good reference, the HD doesn’t even want you to leave. Those are good starting points for a successful rematch. Don’t get too worked up, things like that happen. With your next family, try to be a little less “needy” (sorry couldn’t think of a better word) for their affection and more of a go-getter. Try to be upbeat, even if it is hard. Just look at it as an excellent way to practise for the job you’ll have later, because you can’t be sad there all the time either.
Good luck to you!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 16, 2011 at 11:22 pm

I know that many APs leave the homes of their parents to become APs. However, personally, when I think of an AP, I don’t think of daughter – I think of another adult in my house raising my children. I’d say the relationship is more akin to cousin or niece than sister or daughter. I assume most APs would not actually WANT to be treated like daughters – after all: 1) you already have parents and 2) you want to experience some adult freedom without our micro-managing your free time.

To the OP: when you failed to tell your HP that you scratched the car, did you also fail to tell the owners of the cars you “scratched”? Not only is the failure to leave a note unethical, but if someone witnessed your accident and reported it to the owner, your HF could find themselves liable for your “hit and run.”

As a HM, if I discovered that my AP had had two accidents that she didn’t tell me about, yes, the trust would be gone. I would feel angry and hurt. I’d also feel that her driving would ultimately become a liability (and as a mother working outside the home, the last thing I need in an AP is a liability). And yes, I would be ready to move on. I agree with the other comments – you need to accept responsibility that your actions have a direct impact on your relationship with your current HF. Ask your LCC to actively seek out families with whom you may rematch. Don’t expect to match with a HF that offers driving privileges – you may well have to earn those back.

Calif Mom January 17, 2011 at 11:45 am

THANK YOU used to be an au pair, for posting this:

“First of all, try to get rid of the expectation to be “a member of the family”. It’s all over the glossy leaflets the agencies give to potential APs, but I don’t think that many HFs really are able to treat their AP as an additional daughter from day one on (and that is what many APs think “being a member of the family” means).”

I’m putting a clarification of this concept into my next family letter. I should have known I was in trouble with the Princess AP when her mother wrote me an email to thank me for looking after her daughter as if she were my own. Red Alert! And right now, I’m making it work with an AP who treats me like her mother (and yes, this is a LOT of work, and I’m not happy about it).

This AP is absolutely right; host parents are NOT looking to add another child! “Member of family” means we celebrate holidays together, have dinner together, go to the amusement park etc, but not that host mom is suddenly your surrogate mother! You keep your mom; I’m here focused on my own kids (and hub and myself, god forbid!). Yes, we will feed you and help keep you out of major trouble and in return, you go do fun stuff in your own time and we will not ask questions. This is time to figure out what you want in life, and have a great time with some really interesting (and challenging) kids for a few hours a week. And take one class at a time. What more would a 20-ish year old want?

Eurogirl January 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm

The literature about au pairs can be misleading, sure, but like Calif Mom says, put a clarification in, especially if your prospective au pair is not a native speaker of the language that you are writing in. It’s a difficult line because I now consider myself friends with most of my old au pair employers… But there were times that we definitely had less than friendly, strictly employer-employee moments! It would be unrealistic to expect anything else…but how much does a sheltered teenager know about what’s a realistic working position in a different culture and country?

I actually wish they would abandon the whole “we want you to become an extra member of our family” thing – because you know, even with the best hosts in the world, you’re not family. You’re an employee, no matter how friendly, treasured and loved, still an employee. And dependent on cultures, some people will have a different idea of what’s close family and how you treat family too.

AFhostmom January 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

IF we stick with the AP program (and finally thanks to this site I am in a position where I can even entertain it–thanks!), we will most definitely hit the “family” issue hard next time we interview. We want child care, not another child. We screwed the interview process up completely this last time….and also ended up with someone who wants to be a daughter, when mothering my 3 kids is enough. My husband and I treasure our personal space and can’t handle the emotion that mothering a young adult brings, in addition to our jobs, nurturing our marriage, and caring for the little ones. I could do the “mothering” thing for 3 months, probably, but NOT for an entire year as I often feel uncomfortable in my own home.

AuPairInHolland June 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

I couldn’t agree more. I really wish they’d drop the “part of the family” thing.

I stayed 6 months with a family where that line wasn’t clear.
While the HM saw me as an employee (once she threatened not to pay me because I didn’t water the garden while they were out), who needed some alone time after being all day with the children and weekends with people who are NOT 5 year olds, the HD was always frustrated that I wasn’t spending my free time with the family. And when I did, even on Sundays (days I had off), he’d snap at me if one of the children were crying and I didn’t do anything.

Seriously, as much I loved the children and liked being in the company of the parents, when it wasn’t time for me to work I just wish I could go to my room, read, rest…. be in my own mind. I’m not a mom, I’m an au pair.

HRHM January 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Ask yourself this question: Before you crashed the car three times and challenged her trust by withholding the information on 2 of the accidents, did you feel like she was picking you apart or trying to find a reason to get rid of you? If not, and that feeling is only coming now, then there is almost a 100% chance that you are being let go for the stated reasons.

You don’t specify how long you were with this family and driving their car before the first accident or how long the time span was for all three accidents, but it sounds like they were all very close together. As a HM who needs a daily driver (without that skill an Au Pair is useless to us) I can tell you that nothing is more worrisome than allowing someone you KNOW is not a good driver to transport your kids. Yes, I have started a rematch for poor driving skills but allowed my bad-driver AP to continue transporting the kids because I had little option at the time. It didn’t make me happy, but the idea of keeping her (and her bad driving) long-term was even worse.

I also know, after being lied to by someone that you HAVE to trust, how difficult it can be to move on. If you can’t be honest about scratching the car, how can you be trusted with our most precious possessions, our children. And if you have only been with the family for a couple of months, you haven’t earned a “pass” even on a little fib or omission.

As far as being “part of the family”, we want to make our AP feel at home and we want to treat her well, but this doesn’t mean tolerating lying or withholding important information relevant to the job. It also doesn’t mean keeping someone on who can’t do the “job” they were hired for (and safe, dependable driving *is* part of the job). If you showed up to your AP position with the understanding that you would have a car to use in your free time and certain rights and then found out that this was not the case,that they had lied, would you want to stay just because you were “part of the family”? No, you would be disappointed and deceived. You would want a rematch because you wouldn’t trust them anymore. That may be how your HM feels.

Melissa January 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm

I agree that whether you felt any concern or question about your HM wanting you there BEFORE the car accidents makes a big difference. If you did have that feeling beforehand, then maybe there is something else there. Otherwise, probably not. Try not to take it so personally. It sounds like your HF thought of you as a family member, but even in the best of host families, that does not happen overnight and can be a bit overwhelming if either side pushes it too quickly or gets too clingy. My guess is that the HM was very frustrated and disappointed with the multiple car accidents and partcularly the fact that you didn’t tell them right away. That, coupled with a sad au pair, probably changed her outlook of you a bit and the whole situation just became too much work and worry for her. You sound like a caring person and if I were the HM I probably wouldn’t be worried that you would do something to hurt the kids, but I would be worried that you have poor, or at least immature, judgement and may not know how to properly handle things should another serious situation come up. Do the best you can to stay neutral and move forward. Think carefully about whether you want to finish your year here and try not to let your emotions in this situation get the best of you. Be enthusiastic and independent, and try to find a good rematch family. Best of luck to you.

Should be working January 17, 2011 at 6:21 am

It is something to consider that there is a ‘point of no return’, when all the good feelings and efforts and willingness to work things out and wanting to avoid rematch just are truly exhausted, and an HM knows it’s over. It sounds like the 2 accidents, and especially the concealment, just put your HM over the edge and now it’s no return. It might not seem right, considering all the good things that were said before, but it is how it is. A lot of the posts on this blog come down to the question, “Is it over?” And usually by the time an HM/HD is asking that question, it is.

I have yet to master for myself a recognition of this point of no return; instead I have tried to repress it and talk myself back into AP relationships (and other relationships, this is a larger problem than AP/HM!). But I’m getting better at knowing when, with a friend or an AP (fortunately not learning this in the marital arena), “It’s over.” I don’t want to try anymore, it will never go back to being good enough, I have a grudge (friend) or anxiety (AP) that I can’t quash and I have to listen to it.

aussie mum January 17, 2011 at 9:50 am

You crashed the car 3 times. Forget about the insurance, what about the children you are transporting? Sorry honey, if I found out my AP had done that, it would be instant dismissal. I would be a negligent mother if I put my child at risk with an AP who has had 3 accidents. Take a break, chill out and get yourself some driving lessons.

Calif Mom January 17, 2011 at 11:51 am

If the host mom “wants to get rid of you” you need to just accept it and work hard on finding a new family, or the decision will be made for you.

I understand needing to sort through these feelings, but spending too much time on that will guarantee that you end up back home, rather than starting over–hopefully having learned that withholding important information (that is, not telling them “I wrecked the car”) is much more disappointing than the scratches on the car themselves.

Should be working January 17, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I’m strangely intrigued by the weird way that this whole story is told. It reads a little like a surrealist story. I actually don’t understand at all what happened in the second two ‘accidents’, nor when the HF was told about what, and I don’t think this is owing to the nonnative English skills of the poster.

For the original poster, the descriptions of the accidents makes it hard to tell what the story is. You say you CRASHED the car 3 times, but the third time you only ‘touched’ another car. If you tapped it while parking, then there is no crash here. You say there was no damage to the HF’s car, but if there were damage to the other car, then it wasn’t just a ‘touch’. The second ‘crash’ caused a scratch, but then was it a crash? And then the sequencing of the revelations is unclear to me: On the day you called the LCC to help tell about the second accident, the third accident happened, and so “I told them,” (about the second accident only?) and then you talked about being sad and possibly going home, and THEN you told them about the third accident?

If the AP’s communication style in real life were like this, I’d rematch right away too. It is ‘dodgy’, and I am someone who wants to get a story straight, even if it’s a bad story. This might be a cultural issue, but then the AP needs to think about fitting into a more direct-talking culture.

Eurogirl January 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I was thinking it meant three accidents, first one major, second and third minor bumps, probably in car parks? Seems like “crashes” is just a more dramatic word than intended and makes that part of the story sound worse than it is.

AFhostmom January 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Yeah I think something is lost in translation here. A “crash” in our book (literally, in our family handbook)is a deal-breaker. Knock on wood-my husband and I have impeccable driving records and consequently excellent insurance rates. It’s stressful enough for me to cede control and trust someone to drive and screw up my rates, but our au pair knows, without a doubt, that when it comes to “crashing” or “scratching” or whatever the car, she’s done. Sorry if that is harsh but like most parents we need a driver, and without the driving skills, the AP isn’t the best child care choice for us.
And the violation of trust is HUGE. We had a sit-down with our AP after Christmas about a much smaller violation of trust. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to us that our AP tell us the truth, as we are truly leaving her with the most precious things int he world to us. If we don’t trust her to tell the truth, we don’t trust her to do anything. Luckily she got it, and hopefully it won’t be an issue again.
Anyway I am in the “sounds like this was past due” camp. regardless if the accidents are her actual reasons, they are compelling reasons. Time to move on. Besides, do you really want to stay in this house thinking you are unwanted?

Steff January 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Keeping it short and simple; over-thinking is not going to get you anywhere. You made a mistake, a few actually (lying for me would’ve also been a big deal), so just deal with it head on and try to make things better; for you, the family, and especially the kiddies.

I am sorry for you, and I do wish for you to find a new family soon if that’s what you want, but instead of thinking so much in what *happened*, you should own your mistakes and think better in what *will* happen now ;)

Angie January 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Hiding a car accident with my car would be an immediate rematching situation. Your HM is nicer than I would be about it.

My APs I treat like a niece who is recently out on her own and needs work / cash, which she’s getting while living with me and taking care of my kids. Having had a niece at 19 live with us and work at hubby’s company, I think it is very similar. I help her out, but it’s her life. She has to tow the line about house and kid rules, and I have to respect her decisions and privacy in her own life. It’s not a mother/daughter relationship by any means. But adult niece? Totally.

HM Pippa January 17, 2011 at 8:27 pm

There are a few qualities I demand from my children (and work hard to help them develop): honesty, integrity and personal responsibility are among them. I expect my 10 year old to make mistakes and learn from them while developing his moral character.
I expect these qualities to be firmly established in an au pair who is entrusted with the care of children.

You want to be treated like a family member? If my own child had made such a mistake, you can be sure there would be serious consequences, including suspended driving privileges and repayment of far more than the $250 penalty permitted by agencies. If my niece had 3 car accidents and failed to tell me immediately about any one of them, I would quickly send her back to her parents. She would also get an earful from me about honesty, integrity and responsibility. Her parents would also be told about the situation so they would have the opportunity to help her learn from her very serious mistake.

It seems to me your host family is treating you just as I would treat a family member: they are allowing you to suffer the consequences of your actions and giving you the opportunity to learn from it. A generous offer when you consider they put their children’s lives in your hands.

JJ host mom January 18, 2011 at 12:02 am

Well said.

In my household, actions have consequences, for everyone, including the AP. We’ve had APs who have clearly grown up in households where their actions had no consequences, and they don’t work out here. Sounds like that’s the dynamic in this situation, too.

I think it’s totally inappropriate that the AP who wrote this, and from her description, the LCC, blamed the HM for this, and pitted the HD against the HM. That would NOT fly in my household.

Boston HM January 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

You weren’t truthful, in that you practiced selective honesty. It’s totally understandable that you would be afraid to tell about a “crash” that was your fault, especially multiple accidents. Understandable, but definitely surmountable by someone with good character and maturity.
You can’t imagine what a relief it is for an HM to get an au pair who has the instant rapport with the children that you describe you had. But all that good feeling — and the implicit trust in that good feeling – takes a giant hit when you show immaturity and possible character issues by not standing up and being honest about the crashes.
As an HM, I can tell you that I might be willing to accept the three crashes (in fact we had an au pair who suffered 4 minor incidents over the year she was with us, but she fessed up every time and there were circumstances that were understandable and not worrisome to us). But every “little” thing that you might have done that I would normally overlook — like your sad attitude, like maybe leaving crumbs on the counter after being reminded not to, like maybe being late to get up for work duty once in a while – suddenly becomes magnified thru the lens of dishonesty, and you just become a gigantic worry and stresser for the HM.
Your best option is to take your HM’s offer of a good reference and find yourself another family quickly.

Former Au Pair D. January 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I think that most of problems between HF and AP would be avoided if the Agencies ( that only look for the lucrative side of the situation) made it cleara that this is an EMPLOYMENT CULTURALM EXCHANGE PROGRAM. That AP are going to USA to WORK, get the chance to experience a different culture, travel, make friends…
We we are in our homecountries they “sell” this idea that we are going to a family to be part of it and that the Job is just something little that we will have to do in order to be in USA. That’s why lots of girls blame their families for not treating them as their moms would.

I have seen cases which AP and HF got really good friends and these girls got a lot of help from their host families. The thing is that this situations were based on friendship and not as if they were part of the families. I have also seen cases where Host Families are really Abusive and Mean to the girls. And of course, Au pairs who deserved to be in rematch.

If there is a good understanding of what this program really is, more independent girls would be au pauirs instead of young girls dreaming of what would be a high school exchange program.

You crashed the car 3 times. Your host mom is your boss and not your mom. Too sad you love the kids. But your HM is going to givwe you a nice recomendation letter to the next family. Grow up, stop crying and deal with it. They did not offend you or treated you bad for your mistakes.

newhostmom January 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I 100% agree with the host moms who have posted here. Three accidents would be bad enough – I would not allow anyone with such a driving record to drive my children. But then to not be truthful about them? That would be it for me. And the au pair is claiming that the host mom isn’t treating her like “family.” While I agree that the au pair/host family relationship should not be described as family members, even so – if my daughter had three accidents and lied about them, you’d better believe she would be severly disciplined.

But all that and more has been said in a much more eloquent way. I also wondered: are au pairs aware that each accident or ticket that the au pair is involved in can significantly increase the cost of auto insurance (which is required in the US) for the host family forever?

MommyMia January 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

“forever?” I think not. But it is a huge impact during the time that (bad) driver is on your policy. I think the au pairs also should be aware that they will have “points” on their drivers’ license, and if they plan to extend or return to study in the same state and try to obtain auto insurance on their own, it’s going to cost even more than the already exorbitant amount charged to someone who isn’t employed or hasn’t lived at a US address for very long; most likely they’ll have to join one of the insurance pools or groups that offer somewhat more affordable coverage. All five of our au pairs have had no clue about all the expenses involved with driving!

newhostmom January 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Also, it’s interesting to hear about how being an au pair is “sold” by the agencies. It seems that is a major source of disappointment and disagreements when au pairs and host families are actually matched. It is my experience as a host mom that the agencies sell having an au pair mostly as significantly cheaper, more flexible childcare. I would imagine, however, that there are few, if any, au pairs that come to the US expressly to babysit American children. Agencies need to do a better job of ensuring that both host parents and au pairs know what this is really all about.

NE mom January 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I am also interested in having a conversation about how agencies “sell” to families and to potential APs and how we bridge that gap in creating as successful year for both families and APs. I am realizing that there should be room in our host family handbook or in interview questions to somehow be explicit about the arrangement. Our new (3rd) AP arrived last week and I am realizing that I need to be very straightforward about setting expectations. I am not sure yet that she realizes her obligations under the program, despite us having a straightforward handbook and a good real-time review of it. There is clearly also room to convey this message in their initial training. Would be very interested in others’ throughts.

PA AP mom January 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I have a section in my host family handbook that addresses the issue of “expectations” explicitly. After a very negative first year with a “princess” who “hated kids” by her own admission and just saw the program as a chance to see the US “for free”, I had to seriously re-evaluate.

I looked at the part of the CCAP website aimed at APs. It promises lots of time to travel, see the USA, meet other APs, and “oh by the way” work a few hours for the family here and there. It borders on deceptive to me. It is definitely misleading.

When princess had crashed the car for the 3rd time and never even said she was sorry and told my husband that she didn’t see what the big fuss was all about, I knew it was time to regroup.

I took one Sunday and revamped my handbook. We have very few rules but we do have expectations. I spell them out clearly. I am sure it is tedious to read them, but quite frankly if an applicant isn’t willing to read them, then she’s not the AP for our family.

I also address the “part of the family” issue in the handbook, at the very beginning. I point out that we are looking for someone to role model positive behaviors to our boys, to be a part of our family for the good (vacations) and the bad (chores, illnesses) times. For me, being part of the family is about chipping in when needed and being an active member. It isn’t about using our home as a hotel when you aren’t otherwise engaged in activities.

We want out APs to have friends and we give 4 weeks vacation, instead of the required 2, for travel. Our APs work less than 30 hours per week, sometimes less than 20. My mom is retired and nearly always available to help out with the boys if AP has a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to go somewhere. We also need them to understand that sometimes situations arise where we need more of her help/flexibility. When I am hospitalized, she has more chores and errands than when I am not. This happens on average 1-2 times per year for 5-7 days each time.

Our last AP shared our section on being part of the family with our LCC and a lot of other APs in her group (with our permission of course). Our LCC sent out a copy to several other LCCs as well as all of her host families. It’s something that really should be talked about up front. Realistic expectations can make for a much better year.

hOstCDmom January 19, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Could you post that section here?!?!? (redacting personal information, of course)

I would LOVE to see it!!

I feel a revision of our Family Handbook coming on…..

PA AP mom January 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Overwhelmed right now. Can post tomorrow evening (Thursday).

cv harquail January 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

PA AP mom promises to write a gust post– with handbook section– for us all next week. Hooray! (and thanks PA AP hm!)
cv

Anon-former-aupair January 20, 2011 at 7:46 am

BIG thumbs up! :) I love reading what you wrote here! In my opinion, that’s the best approach you can have and it is exactly what my hostfamily and I did as well. I once worked 60 hours per week for 2 weeks when both of my hostparents had a big deadline at work or chimed in when one of my hostchildren had a minor accident and went to the hospital (only for one evening though, but I looked after the other 2 kids so that my hostparents could go to the hospital with the sick child). I took the trash out most of the time and I was almost the only one who unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned the dirty dishes I found in the sink every morning when starting to work (even if I did not eat with the family). In return, my hostparents made it possible for me to take part of special events and gave me a few hours off earlier on a friday or a whole day in order to be able to go on a trip, get a cheaper flight, etc. They included me in family events and also welcomed my own family when they came to visit. They even had a babysitter come to take my family out to a restaurant on their last evening. So it is always a give and take which makes the AP-hostfamily relationship work.

I agree that the AP programm is being selled to prospective AuPairs by the agencies. They all have pictures of smiling, happy AuPairs and children in their brochures and on the website and promise a year of fun, sun and travel in exchange of a little “babysitting”.
My agency in my homecountry gives prospective candidates email adresses and names of former APs so that they can ask them about their experiences and what it is like to be an AuPair. If one takes the opportunity to do that, it is a very good chance for future APs to hear what the everyday life of an AP looks like. I just had a girl write to me asking if I did academic courses in the US and how much work that was and which classes I took and so on. But nothing about working with kids. So I told her that the AP program is about taking care of kids and the college comes second (or third, or fourth). She never wrote back. Some girls also ask me where I traveled or what I did in my free time. While I think these are legitimate questions, it is a bad sign if these are the only questions I am asked. And I tell them bluntly what it is really like to be an AP. I don’t know if they do that in all countries though. If not, they should really do that I think.
There are also many websites where one can get information about what it is like to be an AuPair. When interviewing candidate, you could ask them if they know sites like that (there is a big board for German AuPairs, for example). I think it is a good sign when she tells you that she reads those or blogs of AuPairs etc.

Sorry if it was a bit off-topic…

Tristatemom January 20, 2011 at 10:09 am

Very good post!
By the way, what is the “big board for German AuPairs” you mentioned? Thanks!

Anon-former-aupair January 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Thanks!
Actually the website I was talking about is also linked on the right (GermanAuPairsToUSA Info), but the link is not working right now because they are doing maintenance work on the site right now. It should work again in a few days though. If you speak German, I am sure that you are always welcome to offer your view as a hostmom in discussions. It is always helpful to be able to see the other perspective.

Kally_exAP January 19, 2011 at 9:14 pm

About the AP who crashed the car: Your mistake was not telling the truth. It doesnt matter what it is about, APs should NEVER lie to Hostparents.

About AP being part of the family: I trully believe that I was and I still am, part of the family back there in US. After we match, my hostmom wrote an email to my mother telling her she would take care of me as a daughter because that’s what she would expect if one of her girls would live in someone elses house. And she did it with all the 13th girls before me. Yes, I was the fourteenth AP there.
One of the rules in the house was: if I started dating, I HAD to introduce the guy to her no matter what, because she needed to know if he was good enough for me. After a month there I could feel how much they love me already! I felt myself as the oldest daughter in the house. My responsabilities were taking care of my 3 sisters, and because of that feeling, I used to spend time with them even in my ‘free time’. I loved it! I used to take the girls to concerts [like Lady Gaga, I tool my 14th years old], movies, they slept in my room a lot of times… I didnt see my obligations as a job, but as a family thing. I had problems with the car too. I also crashed three times and so did the oldest hostkid. My hostmom was wonderful! She told me to dont worry, that what really matters was that everything was ok with me. But Im sure it just happened because I told her the truth. I know she could trust me their children lives!
I love them so much! The worse part about leaving US is not the trips, or parties, or all the fun, but not seeing my hostsisters faces everyday. My hostmom calls me Brazilian daughter and I call her American Mommy.
I dont judge the HMs who dont want the AP being their daughter, as I know some APs who dont want to be treated like a daughter, but I was treated like one and my American family was the perfect match to me. I had the two best years of my life there and I think about them every single day.

Eurogirl January 20, 2011 at 9:01 am

If my REAL mother wanted me to introduce every guy I went on a date with her so she could “check if they were good enough”, I would think she was crazy, controlling and interfering, let alone if my au pair family had asked me to do that!

Every au pair relationship really is different, isn’t it?

Kally January 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I meant if I started dating someone for real, like having a boyfriend. Got it?
Dont you introduce all of your boyfriends to your real mom?

And yes, au apair x hostfamily relatioship are different. To me, mine was the best I could dream about, because we were a perfect match.

Eurogirl January 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Oh sorry I understand what you mean now. Actually no I don’t because I have not lived in the same country as my mum for almost 6 years, but I would like to be able to introduce her to all the important people in my life if it was possible. And I didn’t mean to offend you, clearly they were a great relationship for you :-)

Kally January 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm

It is ok. :)

Steff January 19, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I think there is an AP for each family, and a family for each Aupair. I agree with a lot of things said here, from “the glossy leaflets the agencies give to potential APs” comment that got me thinking a whole afternoon because that really is sort of true, to all the different meanings “part of the family” has. I’d read a few HF’s letters, and I’ve got to get the “feeling” from some hostfamilies as well. Some tell you right up front how they want you to be part of their family (I wrote in my own essay for HFs how I’d like to be part of their family too) and so we “clicked”. But then again, I’ve also read some other HFs’ letters in which hostparents stuck solely to the “continuity in the care of their children” which I think it’s *way* more than a valid reason to get an Aupair.

My current hostfamily made it clear in their letter and in our talks that they want me to -read: BECOME part of their family (I know as well as most APs probably should, that you can not be part of someone’s family overnight.)

I don’t know the Aupair of the post actual situation, but taking into account her post at the beginning alone, I’m going to assume hers HPs told her too that they wanted her to be part of their family.

Here’s what I think though; HFs can have the BETTER intentions from the start. They’d like you to hang out with them, share your culture, share your thoughts and ideas, become a part of your life just like you are becoming part of their children’s lives, but…You can’t “expect” to be loved and treated as part of their family from day one simply because they’d said they wanted you to be one.

I think the “tittle” (I hated using that word but couldn’t come out with a better one) of “part of the family” is something you EARN, with hard work, yes, but MOSTLY; by showing them you are someone they can TRUST with their children every day, and with every single one of *your* actions. If you lie about the little things, there is really *nothing* that tells them you are not going to lie about the big things. I probably have a too big sense of “right and wrong” but whether you are honest or you are simply not. In the post you said you explained the hostmom how lying about the car was different from lying about -e.g- the kiddies getting hurt. I for one, wouldn’t have listen that either. Lying is lying, white little lie or huge one.

…lastly, I do however understand why it can be confusing (the fine-line between being part of the family and come to the US thinking you’d get a second-mama or “surrogate mother” as someone called it above) I don’t know others, but APs ideally go to the US to be part of a household. The one and only you’d have for one whole -long year at times (that, supposedly; if only things “work out”) but the thing is that hostFAMILY you’re getting send to is (maybe) your “biggest”-support system in the States, and so, *some* girls rely on that maybe a little TOO much. And in a way, I can not blame them so much either, maybe it’s something that gets lost in translation or maybe it’s that some APs are too naive, but…after all you leave home with the “knowledge” that you’d have a host*MOM* and a host*DAD* in the US. Perhaps that’s part of it, yet it shouldn’t be otherwise any exchange student would get all needy with their hostparents as well, but then again, maybe it is part of it, and maybe, for some APs do go to the States seeking out a second-mom in their hostmoms.

I’m going to the US to be part of a family, yes, but I’m not going there (by NO means) to replace my own family, more so, my own mom. Honestly, I have more than enough with my own, thank you very much. No need for more.

But I’m going there however, to find some good/nice people who treat me right, with respect, and whom I’ll treat back the very same way. Part of the family for me just means having someone in the States who’s going to care for me (read: “care for me” not at all, “take care of me”) and be there to have my back if I happen to need them. I don’t expect them to love me overnight, much less to meet my every need just because I’m “part of the family”

I guess getting there, to a nice/healthy even caring and loving relationship with your hostmom is something that does not come easy, if it’ll ever come completely. I know I’ll have to work hard to gain HPs’ trust, and then, just maybe, become someone more than the girl they pay each week to take good care of their children.

All in all, (SO sorry I got so carried away) I believe hostparents/aupairs relationship is one based in trust and honesty, you broke that, you really can’t possibly expect your hostmom to treat you as “part of the family” after that.
Own up your mistakes and move on, oh, and important, LEARN from your mistakes. I think it’s fine you mess up, AS LONG, as you learn from that, and honestly, try to make things right putting yourself in a second place this time BECAUSE this time, it was YOU who messed it up.

I honestly can not envision a hostmom who is in with an aupair only to have the “satisfaction” of “get rid of her” and send her into rematch, since you are NOT the only one rematching atm, so is she right now, and if you’d read something in this site, you’d know that’s not easy at all for hostparents either. ;)

NE mom January 20, 2011 at 10:41 am

Wow, Steff, I wish you were coming to be my family’s au pair! You have a great perspective about it all and have clearly done a lot of thinking about it! You are going to be great — best of luck! :)

... January 21, 2011 at 3:36 am

I didn’t read it all, but I have to defend myself of what I read.

I never told that was not my mistake. It was my mistake. I hid just one accident because of the christmas, not two. I didn’t lie about it. I am not trying to run away from the responsabilities. I am moving on with my life, I am not crying around like a baby, I am a little sad but yes I am dealing with it. People seem to not understand what a confession means. Sometimes we just need someone to talk and hear and say: I know that this is bad and hard, but everything is going to be ok.
Not that I was expecting this here, and I didn’t really thought that it would be posted, but anyway, thanks for the advices I really apreciate and I read it all, but there was some replys that I started to read and didn’t even finish because I don’t want people judging me here like the worse person in the world. We are all human beings and have feelings, even though some people don’t care.

I am a good driver, and I drive since I was 16 years old, so it has been about 7 years driving and 2 years driving everyday, and never ever had any accidents back in my home country. I said crashed, because I explained to my ex-HM and she said that it doesn’t matter, that it was a crash. So, I thought that it was how you used to say here. I’ve been driving for 5 mouths to this family, and the christmas was a very very hard time for me, specially because they tryed to make me feel confortable and she said about how much suffering she could see inside me, but never asked if I was ok. Never.

So the first accident was in the beginning, we got over it and the last two ones were near christmas. I would never hit and run, the second it was scratched in the back against a wall. Not so big. The third was a touch, that not even damaged the car, just popped the light of the other car, and we call the cops and did everything right. I just have a hard time parking because it was a huge car. Also the left mirror was blurry and it had a huge crack on the windshield that could break any moment on me or on the kids, and they never fixed. I am not trying to take away my responsability, I know that it was my fault and I am ok with that, moved on and very happy, but I don’t understand if they care so much, why they gave me a car in awful conditions to drive? And am I the one that put their lives in dangerous? Also why after this, I still driving the kids to school and they also left me alone with them for about 2 days. That is my doubt. Is not really why she asked for the rematch, I understand about that, but I would never let my kids alone with someone and be driven by someone that I don’t trust anymore.

I don’t have a problem to communicate, I am sorry if I was not ok and I did this post not thinking so much, with all that stuff in my head. Besides, I am not a native speaker, so I know that it is not perfect.
I know that you look for a employee, but if you are not wiling to understand everything that we pass here being away from our confort zone, I think that you should not get an au pair. It is better to get a nanny from here already. Because sometimes it is so so hard to adapt and some families are not sensible for that. We are young and the agencies sell a big huge dream, with perfect families and perfect au pairs, and we know that is not like this, but somehow we just don’t accept that.

And yes, we live in your house and eat your food, but it is not a favor we are working being payed and paying too, because the food and the housing is already discounted on the minimum wage of USA, I don’t have any ideia how much it is and if it is enough or not but I think that some host families has the wrong thought about it and it is wrong to say such things like: “Living in my house, eating my food.”
You know about that when you signs the contract…I know that we have to follow the rules, and be thankful for the hospitality but sometimes host families treat us like an underneath persons, and can kick us out like dogs. (that not happen to me, but I just needed to say, because I’ve seen some cases.)

Oh I don’t have a bad character and I am very very honest, by the way. I had reasons to not tell and I know that was not the right thing to do, but I never thought about hidden it for selfish purposes. I made a mistake, but cast the first stone whe never made a mistake in life. They would never know about the second accident if I had not told them.

They have another computers at home, in another rooms. A lot of computers. Actually, she turned off the one that she was using in the room that I was, and used the laptop.
Also after one week that they were taking the kids to school and I was already moved about 2 days she sent me an email asking where the school bags were. I think that it was a little insensitive.

I don’t want another mom, I am very happy and proud of my own mommy. I never mentioned daughter, I mentioned family member, I know that no one can love me they way my mom does and the same other way around. I just think that was unfair the way that happened. I asked her for a second chance, I said that I would never do that again, said that I would pay, and I would take driving lessons, and then she changed the reason why she wanted to rematch. First it was trust and after because I am a bad driver, so that is what I don’t understand.

Anyway, I’ve learned with that. A lot. I moved on and bad things happens for a bigger reason. I still love them and I miss them very much, specially the kids and my friends there. And I am very thankful for everything they did for me. I had good time with them and they are good persons. I am very lucky that I was able to live there and meet the people there.

Oh, and the title was not written by me. And Steff, I had exactly the same thought that you have before I came here.

Aushonsway January 23, 2011 at 7:15 pm

I am sorry for your bad experience. It can be tough when have a close personal relationship with a family. I wish you all the best of luck.

CurrentAPNY January 2, 2012 at 2:13 am

Responding to the “being a part of a family” -topic:

It’s really hard to figure out the fine line between ‘part of the family’ and ’employee’.
In my case my HM wrote in her introduction letter clearly stating “I am definitely looking for an au pair who wants to be a part of our family.” … “We want our au pair to be a big sister to our children”. She uses the same words of endearment when addressing me as she uses when addressing her own children, words such as ‘honey’ and ‘darling’. She is a single parent and I think that because of that, we have a very special relationship. I’m currently the second adult in the house and sort of replacing the role of a husband or significant other. I’m that someone who is home when she returns from work every day and someone who practically knows the kids as well as she does. We have our own inside jokes and weird sense of humor. She has referred to me as her “daughter” several times. People have said they can’t believe I’ve only been here for a couple of months after watching how we(my HM and I) act around each other.

I personally think that sometimes the AP – HF -relationship can develop into a kind of “second family” even though I didn’t come into this country exactly looking for one. However, I know my place. At the end of the day, I’m still an employee and my HM is still my “boss”. Balancing between the two roles is hard work but it also brings the best of both worlds. I am included in family activities and traditions, I get affection that I need while being away from my own family and I feel like I’m wanted as a person rather than solely a child care provider. But also I have freedom to do what I want in my free time without being micro-managed or judged as I would by my own mom.

This arrangement fits me and my HFs needs and I’m lucky to have my American family. Hopefully we will keep in touch after my year is over.

NoVA Host Mom January 2, 2012 at 4:14 am

You sound like you are approaching the experience in a very mature manner. So often we have the “treat me like family” thing thrown at us without thought to the true responsibility that comes with being a full-on family member (things that are fine for our APs would not be permitted by our children or nieces and nephews in our home, because they are also independent adults). There is still the employee-employer thing hanging out there, and it’s a balance that all sides need to keep and share. When we do, it can be a fanastic relationship where everyone grows, just like it sounds as though you have found and are doing. Congratulations for scoring well there.

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