You know it’s a sad story when it begins … “One weekend in an effort to emulate Martha Stewart…”
… I lovingly planted thyme in between the flagstones of my back patio. My plan was for the herbs to fill in the dirt lines, crowd out the weeds, and offer up a fragrance when we walked around the picnic table. I was extraordinarily pleased with my results, considering this a weekend well spent making my backyard oh so very elegant.
A month later my parents-in-law came to visit, and while I was at work one day, Grandpa “weeded” my patio– ripping put all the lovely thyme.
He was so proud to have helped.
I was devastated. Instead of crying, though, I groped for a phrase I’d learned in my favorite parenting book:
Honor the impulse. Honor the impulse.
There’s always a healthy impulse behind a child’s behavior.
What’s true for children and Grandpas is also true for au pairs. When they do stuff that freaks you out– before you react — “honor the impulse”.
That was my first thought whenI read Unhelped HostMom‘s email. She’s struggling with the issue of an au pair who aims to be helpful but who ends up causing more commotion.
I’m hoping the community would be willing to share some of their collective wisdom on my issue. I’m really not sure how to proceed with this on my own.
Our au pair in summary: she’s generally on top of things, I have no ‘deal breaker concerns’, she’s on top of safety matters with the kids but she’s overly ‘helpful’. She makes very gracious attempts to go above and beyond, most of which however cause me more work. I’m looking for a way to address the situation without de-motivating her.
Here is an example to better illustrate my issue:
My daughter had been painting in the kitchen after school (on AP’s watch) and there was minor paint splatter on the kitchen floor, which I noticed the next morning at breakfast. On the way out the door, I asked AP if she’d mind wiping up the mess with some damp paper towel after she took the kids to the school bus. I envisioned this as a two minute task.
When I got home from work she’d mopped the entire main floor of the house. It was a very nice gesture, but she’d mopped tile floor using Murphy’s Oil Soap and left a giant smudgy residue which took me an hour to re-clean that evening. I don’t feel like I can correct her because: she was trying to be nice and I’ve never shown her what floor soap to use (because mopping is NOT her job!).
I would just let this go, but this is just one example of many of her attempts to help which unfortunately cause more work and headaches in the end.
Other examples include overfeeding pets, shrinking laundry and rearranging kitchen cupboards. In all cases, her intentions are genuine, but the outcome causes me grief. I don’t want to teach her how to do the jobs ‘properly’ because these are not her jobs. I really wish she’d stick to her childcare tasks as she honestly doesn’t know what she’s doing in the housework department.
Overall she’s a good AP, not a superstar, but good. Her helpfulness is done on her own time and doesn’t cut into the other work she has been assigned. I’m at a loss on how to address this with her.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. ~ Unhelped HostMom