Our Au Pair Generously Let Her Boyfriend Drive Our Car — Now what?

by cv harquail on July 19, 2017

Generosity in a host parent – au pair relationship is critical.

Our inclination to give, to forgive, to cut someone else a break, is what creates important flexibility in a relationship.  That’s why we say strong relationships always have a little ‘give’.

One of the biggest questions for Host Parents and Au Pairs alike is how to manage our expectations around giving and receiving.


Whether we are the Au Pair or the Host Parent, we want to be generous and also not be taken advantage of. We want our generosity to be appreciated but not assumed. We want our generosity to be noticed but not to make a big deal about it. We want our generosity to be reciprocal.

Simultaneously, we also want what we give to be respected. Just because we give it to you, doesn’t mean you can give it to someone else. This applies to just about every material thing except sunscreen. You should share sunscreen with anyone who needs it. (Here, you can even use my favorite fancy lavender sunscreen.)

Woe to the Host Parent (or Au Pair) who discovers that their generosity is abused.

I am a first time au pair mom. Our Thai au pair has been with us for 8 months and we are planning on extending her.  My son is 11 months old.

Our au pair is totally boy crazy.  We have had some issues with our au pair related to driving and boys.  She has taken my car overnight (we only have two vehicles), sometimes all weekend, and often without asking permission or even giving me a heads up.

Late this winter, she totaled my husband’s car driving in bad weather even though he told her the roads would be very icy.

Today she posted a new photo on Instagram with a new boy – and I realized he is driving my car. A stranger who is not on my insurance is in my driver’s seat. Is it time for rematch?

I am heartbroken even thinking of it because she is good with my son and I feel very attached to her…

I feel I can’t trust her after she has repeatedly pushed the boundaries of our generosity.

Thanks for any advice.





Image: Sharing by Bob Cotter on Flickr


txmom July 19, 2017 at 12:43 pm

I would definitely feel that trust had been violated, especially if you’ve already gone over car rules (we have them in writing). I don’t know how important driving is in an au pair for you, but if an AP totaled our car, there would be no way I would extend with her. Because you’re already at the 8 month mark, and you must like her if you were planning an extension, I think I wouldn’t rematch, but I also wouldn’t extend. Sit down and go over the car rules and make sure she is very clear on them. Then start looking for your next au pair. Four months is plenty of time to find someone excellent.

Dcmom July 19, 2017 at 1:46 pm

I’m afraid you’ve already set a terrible example. She’s taken the car overnight/all weekend more than once AND totaled a car? We would have had a serious conversation with the agency involved already and be heading into rematch with this pic as evidence for the final straw. There’s a definite trust issue. If she ignores your instruction on this, why do you trust she’s following your rules in other aspects of her job?

Mimi July 19, 2017 at 5:43 pm

This AP needs to have her car privileges revoked ASAP. If you don’t already have car use spelled out in your HH (or don’t have one) use this opportunity to write it all down. Clear written expectations are the best way to address (and avoid) problems like this.

Her disregard for your rules isn’t just inconvenient, it is a huge liability for you. This is not an AP you extend with. I realize you like the AP and she’s good with your son, but this is your first AP and you will find that there are many APs who will be good with your child AND adhere to your household rules.

WestMom July 19, 2017 at 9:38 pm

This is unacceptable. This au pair should have not been driving after the first accident. Lucky her for getting a second chance, but now you must take away all driving privileges, period (I can’t imagine what driving would be that essential for your 11m month at this point).

I agree that if you like her this much at the 8 month mark, and she is willing to live by the new no car rule, then I would agree to stick with her until the end. But extension? Up to you, but by my book, she has completely lost my trust. Gross lack of common sense.

Remember that your AP or her boyfriend having an accident with your car is your responsibility. Think of a child or a grandmother getting hurt, or worse killed. This is no joke. If she cannot see the gravity of her actions, she is not mature enough to be an au pair.

HMof2 July 19, 2017 at 11:22 pm

Yes, rematch if you were explicit that she was the only person allowed to drive the car because she knew about the rule and violated it – broke your trust. My answer is “maybe rematch”, if you never told her explicitly and she demonstrated a lack of common sense by allowing her boyfriend to drive but may deserve a second chance if you tell her now and she never does it again.

I am curious about the car totaled during the winter. It sounds like your husband warned her about icy roads but did not forbid her from driving. For any of us, in terrible weather, we can all potentially spin out or total a car even with the best of intention and care. As a lessons learned, if the weather is terrible, I would just forbid driving and then if the AP went out anyway – then it is a disregard of your rules, leading to rematch.

As for taking the car overnight and weekend without permission, it sounds like it happened more than once. It is a slippery slope to have it happened and then continue to let her off the hook over and over again – this is enabling her to ignore you and think it is okay. As a lessons learned, be explicit about requiring to ask for permission (not a heads up) when taking the car overnight or weekend and 1st violation is a serious talk, 2nd violation is mediation with LCC and possible rematch. The AP needs to understand the seriousness of her actions regarding the car. Like PP said, ultimately the car is your responsibility and you do not want a person lacking common sense to hit and kill someone and place your family in legal and financial jeopardy.

No matter how wonderful your AP seems to be with your baby, when trust is lost, it spills over into everything else including your trust about her with your baby. “What other things does she lack common sense judgment for” would be on my mind. No extension, if it were me. There are other capable AP who will also be wonderful with your baby. As a 1st time HM, you really have no benchmark to gauge where your AP is relative to what a true rock star AP can be.

Anna July 20, 2017 at 7:52 am

She is your first au pair and sounds like she is doing an ok job with your child. But please realize that you have only one adorable kid (I am a mom of five…) and there are many qualified and HONEST au pairs who would love to have this job. Especially that you sound like a caring individual who develops personal relationship with her au pairs.

I would rematch immediately. You don’t have an issue with the car, or boy craziness (even though they are obviously issues), you have an issue with lying. This is not something you can change overnight, she will just try to hide it better until the next time she gets caught and it blows up. Alternatively, you can take away the use of the car, and she will ask for rematch because this will interfere with her dating life. Obviously this is her priority since she repeatedly breaks your rules when they interfere with her dating and social life.

Lying is something I rematch over, because especially with a nonverbal baby left alone with her all day, you need to have absolute trust that she is telling you the truth at all times. This is your child and his/her safety and well being potentially at stake. What is next – going to dates during the day with your infant in tow? (no joke, I had an au pair do that too and lie about it later.)

I had a Thai au pair once, for three months. A cultural value is to put peace over truth. Ultimately I think this is how our rematch went. SHe asked for a rematch because she was a pushover with one of my kids (smiling while he was testing the limits, and not changing her behavior despite repeated coaching from me). She had a boyfriend here. I saw where it was going. She told the agency she wants a new family, she lukewarmly spoke to a few during her two weeks of rematch, and she eloped with her American boyfriend on the last day of her rematch period. Lying to the agency, lying to the families, lying to me (but I saw through it and confronted her, and she confirmed her plans). She left me 10 days before my due date with my fourth baby. I begged her to stay until after his birth so I wouldn’t lose my leave before I need it after his birth. No go.

I never again will get an Asian au pair. I cannot deal with the culture that defines lying differently and avoids conflict. It doesn’t work with my family or with the job of an au pair in my family. I also found my Thai au pair very nontransparent. I didn’t know what her values were and I felt like the ground was removed from under my feet. All my au pairs were some sort of Christian before and I felt we shared the same set of code of values or at least expectations and definitions of what is good and what is bad. (I am Jewish, not Christian). Especially with older kids this lack of common values is very confusing because you also want her to be a role model and a mentor/teacher for them. When she teaches with her behavior that values depend on what your goals are at the moment, it doesn’t sit well with me.

2 kids and a cat July 20, 2017 at 1:57 pm

We raise our kids to understand lies of omission and lies of commission — and our AP needs to be a role model for pur kids. We recently rematched over a “lie of omission”. After an outright lie early on, we have a warning and had a lengthy convo about truthfulness, and the importance of full disclosure when caring for a non-verbal infant. I admit I spent the next 6 mos wondering if I was getting the full truth when off things didn’t add up, then she trapped herself in a bizarre lie. It made me rethink all the things that hadn’t made much sense (but I wanted to write off as a language issue since we otherwise really liked the AP).
This car thing would be a serious violation of trust for me– and it would lead me to wonder about what she was doing during childcare hours and not telling me.
That said, several years ago, I gave a nanny a second chance after a lapse in judgement, because I truly thought it was a one-time mistake. She doubled down on her responsibilities and there were no lingering trust issues.

AlwaysHopeful HM July 21, 2017 at 12:36 am

I think I must be missing something that everyone else is seeing. Yes, she has pushed the boundaries of the OP’s generosity, but I don’t see anywhere in her post that the car rules have been clearly communicated. Even when the au pair screwed up, I don’t see any reference to a discussion with her about the screw up. Was she remorseful? Did she promise to do better? Does the au pair even know these things are/have been/ would be a problem?

As first time host parents (or, frankly, any host parents ), it is easy to fall into trap of assuming the au pair “must know” something isn’t right. But, I’ve learned the hard way that unless you have told her directly, and corrected her misstep, the assumption is unfair and misguided.

If I’m misreading the post, and communication has been clear, I would agree with those who recommend you not extend. On the other hand, if it has been unclear, I recommend you sit down with her, clearly explain your rules and expectations for the car, and follow it up in writing. If she defies your rules after that, you’ll be able to move forward without her with confidence.

Elizabeth July 23, 2017 at 1:18 pm

You asked for advice: Do not put yourself or child in harm’s way any more than you now have. I get the fear and total hassle of having to search for a new au pair rather than extending with what you know but you KNOW she is a bad driver and irresponsible so it’s your responsibility to protect your family and get an AP who is mature, smart and accountable. Trust me almost any AP will be “great” with one little baby boy.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 23, 2017 at 9:34 pm

I think you have made the same mistake many of us made as first-time HMs, so don’t beat yourself up – and don’t let us old-timers do it either! This is not the AP for you. Really. (This is where I agree with the other HMs who have posted.) This young woman does not have common sense (totaled a car after your DH warned her she was inexperienced driving on ice, let her boyfriend drive your vehicle). If you’ve submitted extension paperwork, then NOW is the time to call your LCC and ask for a mediated meeting that allows you to backtrack and pull the plug – because, honestly, if she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about car rules now, things are just going to get worse in Year 2. Really!!!!!

If you haven’t committed to an extension year, then call your LCC – share the Instagram photo, and tell her you won’t be extending with this AP. Solicit her help in crafting a letter to applicants that separate the good-time-party-girls from the multitudes of young women who understand that that a having a good familial relationship includes good communication. Fantastic APs are out there, so don’t sell yourself short.

Expect that the next four months will be a little rocky, so make it clear to your boy-crazy AP that if she wants to extend in the US, then she’ll need to follow your rules to get a good review – and that includes asking for permission to use a vehicle, following up, and communicating. You now hold the key to her extension year (if that’s what she wants), even if she’s feeling upset and angry that she won’t be extending with your family.

There are fantastic APs out there that would love to have car privileges and one child. The trick is not to make that the selling point!

APFromDenmark July 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Like AlwaysHopefulHM said, it doesn’t say in the post that this HF has talked to the AP about car rules. It actually sounds like the HM presented the AP with access to a car, gave no guidelines and expected the AP to have the same common sense that the HM has in relation to driving and using the car(s).

This girl in her late teens, early twenties, will NOT have the same common sense regarding the car as the HM does. Not because she’s young (though that is a factor for some people) but simply because it is not her car. She doesn’t pay insurance, she doesn’t pay for damages to the car (maybe a deductible), she doesn’t pay for Triple A, she isn’t the one who has to pay to replace the windshield if a rock cracks it. She probably hasn’t even thought about the car insurance in relation to her boyfriend driving the car.

There needs to be crystal clear (written) rules about car usage, otherwise things are bound to go wrong. The reason I don’t think there has been established these rules, is because the poster says “often without asking permission or even giving me a heads up.” If there was a clear rule that the AP had to ask permission before borrowing the car, a ‘heads up’ would not even be mentioned in this post. If she has done this multiple times, it means the HF has not talked to the AP about not taking the car overnight, or all weekend without permission. Maybe they thought it was a one-off and decided not the bring up the issue, and when it happened again, they felt they couldn’t talk about it now, since they let it go the first time.

I could be totally wrong, and the HF has stated explicit car rules in their HB and had serious conversations with the AP after each of the incidents, in which case she’s incredibly reckless and disrespectful, and rematch is the only option.

But, if I am right, I think the host parents should sit the AP down to a serious talk. Maybe the LCC should be involved as well. This conversation will be about establishing clear car rules (and writing them down!) and being honest with the AP about their feelings on the matter, so she can understand the importance of this.

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