With Au Pair-Host Parent Problems, It’s Never Just One Thing …

by cv harquail on March 19, 2017

It’s usually a bunch of things, all tangled up in a knot, like when you put tights and long-sleeved T-shirts in the dryer.

Just as with a laundry knot, you can’t just pull on (or fix) one thing, and expect the all the little pieces to unlock, unkink, and fold themselves up into nice packets ready to go back in the drawer.tangled clothes

… So how do you decide where to begin? What problems to address first?

My working response is — start with the problem that has the clearest boundaries.

Usually, this would be the one where either the Host Family or the Au Pair was breaking or pushing the rules.

It’s easier to deal with “rule breaking” and its less black& while cousin, “rule-pushing” because we know what’s wrong and what’s right. Usually, the fix to this is for the Host Parents or the Au Pair to simply follow the rules.

If the Au Pair or the Host Parent doesn’t begin to follow the rules, you have grounds for a rematch.

If folks do begin to follow the rules, both parties have a “success” they can build on with the next problem or two.

This question of “where to begin” came up when I read the email, below, from an Au Pair in the southwest USA.

She’s got a bunch of problems — depression, homesickness, children who hit, parents who don’t seem to have her back, and on and on.

With emails like these, it’s really hard to know what kind of help to offer.

Assuming — and it’s a big assumption — but assuming that the Au Pair isn’t really just looking for permission to rematch, what appears to be true is that the host family has a lot of work to do before they can really host an au pair effectively.

The best way to begin is with the issues that are the most straightforward — AP program rules, family directions, and anything specific. Once you address these, it’s easier to go on to the issues that require more finesse. Issues like children’s behavior and discipline, Host Parent supporting the Au Pair’s authority, and the like are all easier to talk about when the Host Parents and Au Pair have a working relationship. (A relationship that follows the rules, shows basic reciprocal respect, etc.)

My personal default is to tell Au Pairs to make the effort to talk with their Host Parents to resolve problems.

In the best case, the conversations get people to revise their behavior, and the AP-HP relationship improves.

In the worst case, at least the Au Pair has challenged him or herself to try having a difficult conversation. This is something we all need to learn to do, so an Au Pair at least gets some life experience with this critical skill.

As you scan the concerns of Southwestern AP, what advice do you have for her?  None of her problems are new to us, but oddly every combination feels unique…


Dear AuPairMom– 

I’ve been an au pair in the Southwest USA for almost two months and I feel sad.
I was thinking about rematch because I feel really depressed.
When I came here to my new house everything was happiness.

(First Problem)
Until I saw the first bad thing:

One of the host kids hit another host kid in the chest. The host kid did that without any specific reason.

Then, the Host Parents told me that host kid 1 has ADHD. Also, they told me that host kid 2 also has ADHD. Of course, they NEVER mentioned this before I came here-I wish I knew that-.

Second problem:
The host kid 2 gives many problems to anyone; even to their parents. I saw her hitting her father. The parents are always fighting with herl

Host kid 2 always tells me to shut up, and “I don’t have to follow your orders. You are not the boss in this house. I am not listening to you. I am ignoring you”. The HP always say “oh. It is because of the ADHD”.

But! If they have told me she had this issue I wouldn’t have said yes and matched with this family.

Third problem:
They want me to clean all the dishes and messes they don’t want to clean.

I had my full free weekend and when I started to work on Monday, I saw they didn’t wash the dishes for the whole.weekend. I didn’t wash the dishes on Monday.  The next day the HP told me”the cleaning lady is not coming, wash the dishes”.

I got really angry because they didn’t wash everything during the whole weekend for me to do it. It isn’t fair they are disorganized and they are not clean. They never wash the dishes and I know I have to help, and I always wash the dishes when I’m working. But..waiting for me to come home to do it? You don’t do that!

Fourth problem:
The car. They said they had 4 cars and they will offer me one. When I arrived at their home the HP told me that one of the cars is not good and I won’t be able to use it. Then, I was one month stuck in the house because they didn’t have the car insurance for me. I talked about and they fixed one month after (they just needed my personal information and that was it. They took so long and I don’t know why). Then, when I finally got the insurance, I drove one of the cars for 2 days. On the third day I noticed that the car I was using wasn’t outside. I asked the HM about it and she told me “oh. Use the black car, the HD took the car you drove”.

I just did it and then  I realized THE CAR IS NOT WORKING. They left me a car that is not even working. Now it has been almost two months and I am still stuck in the house and they don’t care. I talked about it and they still don’t care.

I am sick of this situation and I know I have many things to offer.  Should I ask for a rematch if things don’t change? Thank you

-Southwestern AP

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Aupair Lauren March 15, 2017 at 7:56 pm

What is it with host families and/or agencies not disclosing that host kids have ADD or ADHD? While this has not happened to me I personally know of two girls in my cluster who were not told and also a friend who was an AP a few years back too. Maybe they think it makes them less desirable(?) but it would definitely not be a deal breaker for me, in fact I have experience with both disorders so I would only feel extremely hurt – lied to – and loose trust in my HF to be honest. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that that mere fact alone would really leave me highly unimpressed. HF’s I’m interested do you think this is something you should disclose or do you feel it’s within your rights to withhold that piece of information?

Back to OP’s dilemma…. I think maybe you need to discuss discipline tactics with your HF…before matching was this topic covered about how the discipline their children (I don’t mean violently!!!!) but with timeouts etc? I think it can be a sensitive subject to bring up as you need to support and abide by (even if you don’t agree) the rules that the HF follow or believe in for their kids.

In regards to the dish washing, I am assuming you did not eat with the host family for lunch or dinner that weekend? I may be the odd one out here but I feel that if you are eating the meals that’s the host parents have cooked then it is fair enough you do the dishes? If you are saying you ate out/we’re away that weekend/prepared your own things and cleaned up after doing so but that they left all of their dirty dishes in the sink for you to do on Monday then I feel they are taking advantage of you and as uncomfortable as it may be you need to discuss this with them by telling them you will do the children’s dishes whenever you are on duty, you will always do you own dishes and you are more than happy to help with dishes when you eat together as a family but other than that YOU ARE NOT THEIR CLEANING LADY. I would also mention this matter to your LCC.

On to the car situation and assuming you didn’t go gallivanting to the next state or have any car incidents in those two days of driving – I think that it is rather unfair. How are you getting to your monthly cluster meetings and is there good or decent public transport in your area?

Aside from the cleaning or car problems do you feel like you have bonded with the children? Do you feel attached to them and do you think you and them can have a great rest of your AP year together? If You really don’t feel equiped to deal with the ADHD and that it’s too much for you then I would honestly consider rematching on those grounds alone because not only are you miserable in your position but the host kids also deserve someone who will be able to care and manage them sufficiently (not saying you can’t but from what you have written it’s clear you find it a bit hard to handle?)

Honestly I think you need to sit down with your host parents and discuss everything you have discussed here. You need to explain how unhappy the situation makes you. If you can’t get through to them or have a rational conversation then I would involve the LCC. If you both can’t come to an agreed resolution then it’s time for rematch. Aside


AP March 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm

First, thanks to AP mom for bringing out this topic for me.
1.yes, I talked about the topic of discipline. They told me they give them time out. They said they needed some who really could discipline the children and I was okay with that. Ofc I was never told of the big issues with the kids.
2. Totally agree. I wasn’t in the house during the full weekend, I stayed in another place. When I got home I saw the mess. Also, whenever I am in the house, I clean up everything I use and everything the kids use. If they use something and I am washing the dishes then I do it because it is not a lot when I am working and this is how I help my HF. Even after my half and a day free when they tell me to wash the dishes I do it(and I don’t eat at home when is my free day, I don’t usually do that) but 3 free days is a bigger mess.and that is why I got angry.
3. I haven’t had any cluster meeting, I am the only au pair in my city. The public transportation SUCKS and everything is far away from home so I can’t walk to any place. I didn’t have a big issue when I started to drive, I know here driving is REALLY different from my city but I didn’t have a car accident or anything like that. I even drive alone without any of my host parents around. The onlynthing that was a problem was the fact thay this is a REALLY BIG car and mine is really small, so when I have to go backwards it is a little difficult, but I say I just need to get to use to the car and driving in this city. I don’t need the state driver’s license and I still said that I wanted to have it so I can feel secure about how to drive here(I was even studying the drivers license state book)
4. I feel bounded with one of the girls, not really with the others. But I believe that even if I am bounded, I don’t think I am gonna have a great year here with them as I don’t feel capable of dealing with this situation. I think there should be an AP who knows more about these kind of kids, because I am not an expert. Kids with ADHD are different than other kids, I noticed that and I feel sad when I feel I am not helping them the way it should be. The worst part is that they are getting worst.
And yes, we already talked about it and we think is better rematch but we are not angry, we are really good. I am just sad and concerned because my agency is a small one and I may find it really hard to find a new host family in 2 weeks :(.. but I am gonna try.


Aupair Lauren March 22, 2017 at 3:43 am

Hi AP thanks for clarifying :)

It is a tough one but from what you are saying I think you would be happier with a different family. My suggestion would be to call a meeting with your LCC there to help mediate and mention the dishes, car and ADD issues. Depending on what comes from the conversation maybe see if you can all come to some kind of agreement (ie. the car will be getting fixed so that issue will be gone, we will pick up our own dishes from now on, we will back you up with the kids) otherwise I think it’s time for rematch.

Good luck!


au pair March 22, 2017 at 6:01 pm

Yes, actually we believed that rematch was the best option for me so now I am in rematch :(. They never fixed the car btw. I am sad because rematch is not funny but if I find a new family maybe I will be happier..


Anonymous in CA March 20, 2017 at 12:26 am

To the point about “What is it with host families and/or agencies not disclosing that host kids have ADD or ADHD?” … to be generous, I will say that for some parents, it can be very hard to identify their own child as having differences. It can also drastically increase rates of rejection when looking for an au pair – obviously, no family wants to host an AP who doesn’t want to take care of a child with differences if the child has differences, but the rejection based solely on 4 letters can feel judgmental, unfair, and misguided. That said, at some point in the interview process, if the child has a diagnosis, the parents need to be able to say so, or at least describe how it plays out in every day life, even if it’s painful for the parents to say it.

As an aside, for me, the absolute worst is a candidate who reports experience with special needs (like ADHD) and writes eloquently about that experience in the host family letter, but who then checks the box “NO” to the question, “Are you willing to care for a child with special needs.” I’m probably as confounded by that as you are by host parents not disclosing a diagnosis.

Anyway, I agree with 2kids and a cat that if you wouldn’t have matched with this family had you known about the ADHD before, then you are not the right AP for this family and you’re not doing them any favors by staying…the kids deserve an AP who said yes, dirty diapers an all (metaphorically).


Aupair Lauren March 20, 2017 at 1:58 am

Thanks for your point of view :)

I can see how this could happen if the child hasn’t been diagnosed but if he or she has then I really think it’s akin to if the AP arrived at their HF’s house and they discovered she had medical issues that would affect her AP year with HF and she hadn’t disclosed them I’m sure a lot of families would be straight into rematch?

I can see how a lot of AP’s might automatically discount any HF who puts down their kids have a disorder so I can empathise there. I admit I don’t have a good solution! But you could look at it in the way that you don’t really want someone who is so judgemental or ill equiped to care for your children. I also think a lot could have to do with AP’s not fully understanding what the diagnosis may mean and just automatically wanting a “safer” or “easier” AP experience so all I can suggest future AP’s is to keep an open mind and just do a little bit of research on whatever disorder the child may have – as typically it is manageable!

Yes I agree that is so strange and I am wondering why you would even put down you have experience with it and then click the NO box. I would guess it would have to do with what I mentioned earlier about having a safer or easier experience. I’m sure that would be very frustrating!


AP March 20, 2017 at 8:25 am

I knew of some kids that had ADHD but I never I thoughr I would have to work with them. I am not looking for an easier experience, I am just looking for a happier experience. Everybody knows their limits. I don’t have experience with kids like that and it only makes me feel frustrated(besides the other thingsnthst I already mentioned that just make me feel sadder)


Aupair Lauren March 22, 2017 at 3:45 am

Sorry AP that comment I made about an easier or safer experience wasn’t directed towards you, it was in reference to aupairs who say they’ve had ADD/ADHD experience but still tick no to wanting to work with them in their AuPair application.

AP March 20, 2017 at 8:19 am

Thanks for your comment.

It is a fact that I don’t have experience with special needs and I NEVER said yes. So if I don’t have it then Host families with special needs don’t have to contact me isn’t it? I guess kids with ADHD are not considered special needs then. But since now for me they are.

I told them I didn’t feel a good Au Pair and they said they love me and they say I am helping them a lot(I am taking care of maaaaany kids not just 2).

But the HM told me she noticed I am sad and she doesn’t want me to be sad and she also said I am wonderful, but I am still getting depressed and depressed and she is true when she says “I know this is not the year you expected to be”.


au pair March 22, 2017 at 6:02 pm

ohh I understand Lauren, I’m sorry :)… Yes, you are definitely right.


2 kids and a cat March 19, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Overall, since you said you wouldn’t have matched with them had you known about the ADHD, you should talk to your LCC and initiate rematch. They are aware of the issues and your style of child management is obviously at odds with the approach they are choosing. Right or wrong, we generally choose the AP program because of flexibility and the ability to personalize the care we receive for our children. Even if you felt supported in handling these situations (which an LCC meeting could help move forward), what they are asking of you doesn’t work for you. Our kids aren’t perfect, and we’re far from perfect parents, but we do expect the AP to handle situations within our own philosophy. If she couldn’t, we’d have to look for a new AP.

The other things then become negligible. I would let your LCC know so she can watch out for the next AP. (Of course, the dishes are entirely unreasonable. On the car, just to be generous, did it break down and they don’t yet have the means to fix it? Are there public transportation options, or a bike you could use? Uber?)


HRHM March 20, 2017 at 5:28 pm

My other thought about the car situation – did they decide they don’t like her driving but are too chicken to tell her so instead have just decided to not fix “her car”?


Mimi March 20, 2017 at 5:44 pm

“Not working” and “not good” is very vague. I’m wondering if there is an issue with insuring the car, size/turning radius, manual transmission that she can’t drive…? We had an AP that often asked other APs for rides telling them her dedicated car didn’t work because she didn’t like driving it. We also had another not able to start one of the cars because she didn’t fully engage the clutch.

Language and communication is a big piece of this situation. OP says she talked about the car situation but what does that mean? Direct inquiry? Passive-aggressive comments? Definitely a situation where a LCC can help.


au pair March 22, 2017 at 6:08 pm

The insurance is okay. Actually, they put my name on the insurance. I talked to them directly and told them that I needed the car because there is no other way in which I can get out of the house. We talked with the LCC and we still have the same situation so… I don’t know what to think.


PacNWHostMom March 20, 2017 at 6:36 pm

It could be a number of things really. The car could have issues, or it’s their excuse for not wanting her to drive it for any number of reasons, including the cost of insurance, driving performance etc. Only her host parents could really say for certain!


au pair March 22, 2017 at 6:04 pm

2 kids and a cat: no, they need to buy something in order to make the car work. There’s no bike, there is uber but if I use it everyday I may be spending a lot of money. Public transportation really sucks.


NYMom March 20, 2017 at 8:53 am

From personal experience, my son is autistic, and I always disclose it in my profile and during interview, but I have been told by the matching specialist not to do it to increase the pool of applicants. I rather do it than getting stuck in a situation where we, au pair and host family, are not happy. Even after disclosing it, I ended up rematching twice because of that and for not being able to give every weekend off.


PacNWHostMom March 20, 2017 at 12:41 pm

As a HM, I always advocate communication first.
If there are serious issues, such as what you outlined, then communication is vital.
First, engage your LCC. Make sure she is aware of the situation.
If this is a family you are interested in staying with and working through the issues it’s going to be imperative you have a sit-down with your LCC present to go over all of the issues you mentioned and see if you can work it out.
If the dishes are an ongoing issue, then bring it up. However, if it’s a one-time thing that happened let it go. It may have been a miscommunication.
Your HP may be seeing things from a completely different perspective and not realize what you’re going through. Especially if they are in survival mode trying to manage work and two children that are ADD/ADHD. It sounds like they need to be more organized in how they approach their Aupair needs as well as be coached on realistic expectations, which your LCC can do. However, none of that will occur without you speaking up.
That said, if this is not the right fit and not a family that you want to stay with, it’s in everyone’s best interest that you initiate rematch ASAP.
Waiting only makes it more difficult for everyone involved. Best Wishes!


Taking a Computer Lunch March 20, 2017 at 9:54 pm

I totally agree with this advice. Before instituting rematch, ask for a conversation with your HF. Don’t spring it on them, but ask for a quiet time – after the kids have gone to bed – on which you can both agree. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them alone – or feel like you’ve made as many requests for changes as possible, then first have a conversation with your LCC and ask her to join you. A good LCC will help you and your HF draw acceptable boundaries. It will help you both understand what is and what is not permitted under the US au pair guidelines.

If your LCC believes you have done your best to make the most of a bad situation and the HP are not going to change, then she will work hard for you to find a new match, including helping you find a family whose children are more suitable for your skill set.

Personally, if I were you, then I would only say “there are two children with special needs in this house and I did not state I was special needs willing in my application” (if this is true) and leave it at that. Don’t state anything about dirty dishes, lack of car, or other complaints in your rematch reason. Why? In my experience HF see complaining about HFs as negatives.

Finally, if you choose to go into rematch, then do your homework. Google maps will help you understand where your prospective HF live and whether their home is in walking distance to stores, if there is public transportation nearby, etc. Try to decide what is important to you in a community instead of just picking a particular city or state (if you have the option to choose).


au pair March 22, 2017 at 6:11 pm

thank you for your advice, it really helped me! at the end we decided to go into rematch; I wasn’t happy. My LCC said that I was able to handle the situation but I look into the future and I don’t think this is gonna happen unfortunately.
thank you very much


Mimi March 20, 2017 at 12:55 pm

The dishes and the car are matters that can usually be worked through, but keep in mind that even when promised a car other factors come in to play that can prevent a HF from fulfilling that promise such as your driving isn’t considered safe, the insurance costs more than anticipated, and trust issues. If you aren’t able or willing to deal with the kind of HK behavior you’ve described, then rematch is going to be your best solution, especially as it doesn’t sound as though you have support from the HPs. It is very important that APs talk about discipline (not punishment) and family dynamics with prospective HFs. Knowing what behaviors are acceptable and how permissive the parents are is important. If you are used to a structured household and match with a laid back family, there will be issues.


au pair March 22, 2017 at 6:13 pm

thank you very much for your advice! :D

thanks everybody, the last decision was rematch. I hope I can find a new family.


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