Awkward Arrival Time But We Like This Au Pair — Should We Match or Move On?

by cv harquail on January 15, 2015

We’re new to the AP process, currently interviewing for our first AP ever.

I’m in academia, and was hoping for someone to start in July or August, so that they can get comfortable with my son (will be 3 years old in the Fall) before school starts back up in September.

1464437476_f63fee7136_mOne issue is that my sister-in-law is getting married in Ireland (we’re on the East Coast) in mid/late-August, so we will be overseas for a week early into our au pair’s tenure. For logistical and financial reasons we could not take an au pair  with us. I was hoping that our AP would want to take that week as vacation.

Or, do you think it would be better to have someone come the last week of August, after the wedding, even though that would only give them one week to settle in before “back to school”?

Currently our top candidate wants to come over in July, but take her full two weeks vacation during the first two weeks of September to be the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding back home. This is, as you know, *right* when I’d need the AP to be in full-swing for my work hours.  

We really, really like this candidate. We’re considering her seriously, even though adapting to her vacation needs would mea:

  • She gets an “extra” week off, home alone at our place in the US while we are overseas.
  • We’d have only one week together, at the end of August before she is gone herself for two weeks.
  • We’d have a rough back to school transition here at home with the need for backup care.

My other hesitation is that we’ll only have been together about 6 weeks before all this transpires, and she then won’t have any vacation time left for the whole year.

Do you see any way to make it work with this match, or should we just keep looking?

We’re looking to match with an AP from a certain country (France) for language/cultural reasons, and they seem to be scarce.


– Host mom avec une choix difficile



4th time lucky?! January 15, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Personally, I would continue looking (always useful to check out more than one candidate) but also lay out to her the plan for the first few weeks/ months as YOU need them to be – have you already discussed your holiday plans?

With first APs, there is always a real danger (depending on personality, obviously) to get sucked into being too nice and too accommodating – I think most HP have been there, done that. Not wanting to upset or drive away a potential match, being a bit shy and holding back about the tougher and more unpleasant aspects of the job or your family. Overall, you need her to make your life easier and not the other way round. Being overly flexible and accommodating even before the start might set the wrong tone for the year.

I’m not in the US and I like that here the contract between us and the AP is pre-drafted by the agency and already sets out that of the holidays the AP is owed, half will be at a time determined by her, and half at a time determined by us.

Dorsi January 15, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Our only rematch was with an AP who came to the US with plans to take vacation 8 weeks after her arrival for an important family event (not as big as a sisters wedding). This became a non issue, as she left before the event. However, it was part of an attitude problem where she really mentally never left home. This girl should come to the US after her sister’s wedding. You should not deal with such a crazy schedule. I would pass.

Seattle Mom January 16, 2015 at 2:34 pm

I agree with this completely. We also prefer French au pairs, and I know they are scarce, but you still have plenty of time to find someone good for July. It’s early!

I also think it’s probably better to have an au pair start right before the school year. That way they won’t have time to get used to the luxury of having you home to help. Most of the experienced host parents here have learned that it is best for a new au pair to get into the routine of work as soon as possible.

Should be working January 16, 2015 at 6:25 pm

CCAP has quite a few French au pairs, from what I see. Not like Germans, but still some, and it’s only January (for July matching).

A Host Mom February 24, 2015 at 10:40 am

Sorry to hijack the post, but when do you start looking for an August arrival? I was thinking of starting soon, but its still almost 6 months away.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 24, 2015 at 11:03 am

I usually start in April – and I’m extremely picky because I have a teenager who requires total care (diapering, dressing, feeding), so I want not just a special-needs willing AP, but one with actual experience.

I generally start looking the day my AP gets her extension/return home packet. When she makes her final decision to go home, I immediately submit my paperwork and within 24 hours start going through candidates. I generally take 4-6 weeks to match, so some time between early May to early June we’ve matched – long enough for the incoming AP to feel excited, but not too long for her to lose that anticipatory feeling.

Returning HM February 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm

We are in the final stages of matching for August 24 arrival. This is late for us – the past few years I was done by Valentine’s day. My preference, being super-organized myself, is to tap into the early birds who have known for a while that they want to be an AP so had their applications done by January.

Emerald City HM February 24, 2015 at 12:46 pm

We’ve already matched with our early August arrival, but early matching isn’t for everyone. Our first au pair was super and we matched with her a month before arrival (our first match was denied her visa and we had to do a last minute marathon weekend of interviewing).

If you start the process early you will have to acknowledge when you might be reaching a point of acceptance and maybe take a short break so you don’t settle for the wrong au pair. I’ve found the majority in the system don’t want to wait that long to start their year (or think that they don’t) so there is a lot of weeding that happens.

Should be working February 24, 2015 at 12:57 pm

I’m with ReturningHM, I also like the organized early birds. We usually match January/February for late July arrival.

Host Mom X February 24, 2015 at 1:31 pm

We like to start near to 6 months early if it’s possible – it just gives us more flexibility in the process. We don’t always end up actually matching that early. Our new AP was an earlybird planner, which we like; she had hoped to find a match 6 months out too – so they are out there. And as other commenters have noted, some of us swear by earlybird planner APs as a means of finding good, dedicated candidates.

This past cycle, we had to wait an extra couple months for our last AP to figure out if she could extend based on her job back home (in the end she couldn’t), and so we caught the earlybird planner too early – we needed her to come two months earlier than when she had told her job and her landlord she’d be leaving. Luckily she was able to work things out with her landlord and boss to leave earlier than she had planned – but now we’re wondering if rushing her might be backfiring on us. She has all the makings of a great AP, but she is having major adjustment and homesickness issues that we are not used to from our past APs. We hope that leaving earlier than planned, before she had “settled” things in her mind about when she was leaving, etc., did not contribute to her current emotional state. (That’s kind of off-topic too. But I’m going to be diving into past posts on this site about dealing with emotionally raw APs, since this is a new one for us! We had a nice long sit-down with her last night and had a good talk about everything she’s feeling, and hopefully we just keep the lines of communication open and she settles in and starts feeling happy and comfortable. But – we have some anxiety that she’s not going to be able to be happy here.)

Seattle Mom February 24, 2015 at 3:36 pm

I usually start looking about 5 months ahead, but so far I have not found anyone I liked who was willing to wait (and not trying to leave ASAP) until 3-4 months ahead. I think it is still worth looking, but don’t worry if you aren’t finding a good fit until you are within a month of the deadline for matching (which is usually around 6-7 weeks before you need them in your home).

Also, re: French au pairs & CCAP- I used to be with CCAP and always looked carefully at all their french APs. Maybe I am super picky but I have had a very hard time finding one who I think is suitable. The ones I like seem to not want my family, for whatever reason (location or timing), so they are not the right ones for us. I wonder if french au pairs feel like they can be pickier when agreeing to a match because they know they are in limited supply and relatively high demand. I have found that au pairs from almost all other nationalities are more eager to match. With some exceptions- of course because I have had 3 french au pairs, but I have contacted MANY MANY more than that.

German Au-Pair February 24, 2015 at 7:48 pm

I matched 02/02 for 08/08. Several APs from the online community I was active in started that early too but agencies told us that you usually wait until 4-3 months before departure date.

SKNY February 24, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I will hijack too, but wondering… Being that we dont usually need au pair in the summer, I am wondering if (in case we decide to return to au pairs) agencies would let us match with a 9 mo extension au pair and pay proportional agency fees. Anyone has had a similar experience?

TexasHM February 24, 2015 at 11:08 pm

Yes you can absolutely get a 9 month extension AP and pay prorated fees. As far as the matching timeframes I am going to be in the minority here. We have had several experiences – matched urgently in less than two weeks and had an arrival 5/6 weeks later with great childcare provider, matched in 5 days what we thought was 4/5 months in advance and ended up bringing her early so it was 3 months later, fantastic overall AP, then when she had family emergency we were thrust into rematch, matched in 3/4 days – arrived 3 days after that and she was a rockstar and then we tried the alternative – matching 5/6 months out and it was a disaster. Now, as noted above, when you match that far out you have to really read yourself well and not search when you are in any way under duress or fatigued or you will settle (that goes for any interview round btw but this particular round we looked for 4 weeks with no luck – much smaller pool at IE). Not only did AP struggle with having so much time before arrival but we struggled too. It’s hard to keep the excitement/enthusiasm going that long. Once that burnout happened our first AP stepped in to nanny for us (thank God) and give us time to interview and bring another (she was pregnant) so we waited a few weeks and started looking again (6 months in advance).
I have a very experienced HM friend (9 APs, one rematch very early on with good reason, several APs extended) and we went to lunch so I could analyze where we went wrong and how I could have prevented it and the first thing she pointed at was how far in advance I matched. Now, to be fair, hear out her logic.
“I take the longest time period its taken me to match (it takes her 2 weeks on average so she uses 4 weeks) and add 8 weeks to it (agency max cycle time).” This way even if it takes me an extra couple weeks I still have plenty of time for the agency to get her here and they arrive excited and raring to go. I find that energy really helps get the year off to a great start.”
With our burnout we had told her that we needed a Nov arrival and although she preferred Aug/Sept she decided to wait to come to our family. That was thrown in our face when it didn’t work out.
This friend knocked me upside the head and said either quit interviewing and restart in a couple months or move up our incoming arrival APs date a couple months. We cut all of our candidates loose but one (the one we thought we couldn’t live without) and then reevaluated and found it was best for everyone to move up her date anyway so we got right in the window my friend suggested and found that even that has seemed too long to wait! (I am impatient by nature though so keep that in mind.)
One other thing to note – if we had waited last round our rockstar AP could have extended. Her plans changed 6 weeks after we matched (still over 4 months before burnout arrived) but we had already matched so didn’t have the heart to cancel on the incoming AP especially after she chose us even though it meant delaying her dream a couple more months! If we had just waited!!!!
At this point, I think she is right. I have talked to other HFs with rockstar APs and most seem to match in that window as well 2.5-3.5 months out. This round was 3.5 months after matching and seems like forever so I will likely wait a bit longer the next round. Considering we matched and had our first AP in less than 6 weeks, 3 months is a big window if you think about it as long as you have a large pool and solid interview process. If you don’t have one or the other add an extra week or two to her formula. :)

Host Mom X February 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Though we like to look for “fresh” APs as early as possible (and btw, our last AP was French – though not by specific design! – and we found her about 6 months early, and she agreed to that arrival date even though she had been hoping for an earlier one), I do agree that great APs can also be found super-quickly. Our best AP ever was out of re-match, and one our runner-ups for second-best was a rematch-extension. We found both within days after going into rematch. We have also been tempted to follow your friend’s strategy, TexasHM, of exclusively looking for rematches as new APs. But in the end we always chicken out because we like to TRY to have a plan in place way ahead of time if we can.

TexasHM February 25, 2015 at 3:10 pm

HostMom X you just remind me of another point – this isn’t the host mom that does rematch only that gave me this timing advice but this HM did also say that if for some crazy reason it takes you two months of interviewing and you don’t find anyone awesome then you can flip to the rematch pool and look for an in country candidate. I thought it was a great point.
This HM with the timing advice point blank figures out her desired arrival date and then adds 3 months – period. That is the date she starts updating her profile, letter, getting her HB updated etc and then once she is square she starts browsing (usually a week later). She’s never had to rush a visa, she has always had enough time to vet and find someone great and they arrive excited and raring to go. It’s compelling enough reasoning for me to give it a try, especially considering we have matched successfully several times in much shorter spans.
Now – if you have special needs or something that takes longer to match then like she said, figure out how long on average it takes you and add it in. Or ignore her advice altogether. ;) I just found it to be solid and thought it was interesting/valuable enough to share!

WestMom January 15, 2015 at 8:53 pm

I am commuting and I will respond later, but this sounds like a very unusual and less than ideal start. What is her reason for wanting to come in July yet taking vacation in September? That seems unreasonable to me…

In Rematch Hell - AGAIN January 15, 2015 at 9:08 pm

You would have to really, really, REALLY love this candidate to make all those accommodations. I would also worry about all the chaos of those weeks being a burden on your entire family. An au pair is meant to lighten the load, not substantially add to it.

I am a HM that has been burned by being way too nice and accommodating. It’s just hard.

Should be working January 16, 2015 at 6:24 pm

I would also suggest that you can’t “love” an au pair until they have lived with you for some months! You can “want” a candidate, but you don’t really know yet how they will be–especially for a first-time HM the judgment might undergo calibration as you actually have the au pair.

A Host Mom February 24, 2015 at 10:48 am

I’d also be wary of her using all of her vacation within the 1st two months. Part of the fun of being an au pair is planning vacations.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 15, 2015 at 10:37 pm

Personally, I would pass – and I would also find an AP with whom to match after your own vacation abroad. It is very difficult to arrive in a new country, and while there are other posts about not taking your AP on vacation during the first month, I can’t imagine leaving her in your home alone shortly after she arrives. Will she speak the language well enough to be able to communicate with a repairman in an emergency? Will she have time to make friends in order to keep herself occupied. I fear you would come home to an incredibly homesick AP who is ready to pack her bags and return home.

While I’m pretty flexible about AP celebrations, I agree with Dorsi that returning home 6 weeks after arriving seems like a lose-lose proposition to me. The AP should change her arrival date for after the family celebration.

If you’re looking now for a July/August arrival, then you have plenty of time to find a good match. Really. Don’t panic now – it’s January. (Yes, I know that some families look 6-9 months out, but even I, with a teenager in diapers, don’t start looking until 4 months out.

The time to give in to an AP’s vacation is at the end of her year, when she has been stellar. That’s when you bend over backwards to make it work. It’s a reward. If you find yourself acquiescing before she arrives, you might find there is too much take for very little give throughout the year. If she’s a lovely woman, she’ll find the perfect family – yours is not it.

BTW, I’ve been through this. We found a candidate that we thought was great, but her academic program was such that she needed to arrive in the midst of my “crunch month” at work – a time when training an AP and working long hours are not mutually compatible. DH, who bears the brunt of “crunch month” in our home, decided that in the end, he couldn’t give more to make it work. We matched with another candidate who turned out to be perfect for our home.

Relax. Choose what is best for you and your family throughout the year (and especially during the first 3 months of your year with the AP!!!).

DowntownMom January 15, 2015 at 10:45 pm

We accommodated our first AP with a later arrival date from ours by a couple of weeks, at great inconvenience to us. She just lasted for weeks… You should absolutely prioritize your schedule.

Boys Mama January 18, 2015 at 11:09 am

Same here. Even a seasoned Host Mom can think she “loves” a candidate and get burned. We bent over backwards, went months without an AP when we really needed one, then time with her when we didn’t need her… for four months when the whole house of cards finally collapsed into rematch. I’ve been doing this since 2007 – trust me, there are other fish in the sea for you and you shouldn’t compromise on the big stuff before you even know how the AP will work out in your family.

Host Mom in the City January 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm

Absolutely pass on the AP that wants to take both her weeks of vacation to go back home after her first six weeks. It is only January and you have lots and lots of time to decide. Both times I matched this early, I lived to regret it.

We too had an AP that wanted to return home a few months in for a wedding. She never committed to being here, spent all her free time Skyping with her family and friends back home, and announced after six weeks that she was too homesick. I posted this on another message board for host parents and a handful more people said that would never again take an AP that stated up front that she wanted to return home early in her year – every single one of them had a miserable AP who eventually just went home for good.

Also, that means she has no vacation left for her entire year, which will bother her as time goes on. She’ll want to take a long weekend here or there, at least, and won’t be able to.

Having someone arrive and then leaving her for a week alone is also a really bad idea. You will not feel comfortable with her enough, she will have a week of moony and Skyping with people back home, very likely she will feel that you’re not really including her as part of the family, etc. And I don’t think it would be very nice at all to have your au pair taking one of her two weeks of vacation right as she arrives. She won’t have any friends to travel with yet.

Best to have someone arrive a week before school starts. Every time I’ve tried to coddle and bend over backward when it didn’t work for me, I’ve gotten burned. Everytime I’ve had to throw an AP right into the mix due to circumstances, it’s worked out great. They get how much you need them, what their jobs are, and you give them a lot of autonomy off the bat. Given your situation and my five years of hosting, having them arrive right after you get back from Ireland is the clear choice.

Multitasking Host Mom January 15, 2015 at 11:26 pm

This is a tough one….and has several issues to address…so here is my opinion

1 Unless the AP is sure she will actually go somewhere on a trip while the rest of you are at the wedding (and is okay going on vacation alone since she will most likely not have made any good friends by then) don’t have them come in July. I also worry about an AP left at home alone that early in the year.

2 I wouldn’t worry too much about the AP arriving only a week before school starts. We match in the spring and the APs are alone with my kids and working their normal schedule within four or five days of getting to our house. I find letting them “hit the ground running” works best for setting the tone for the year.

3 I belong to a volunteer organization that has a saying when they are looking for the next leaders of the group…”We need someone who is the right person at the right time of their lives.” This AP you are interviewing might be a great AP but she seems to have a pretty big commitment right now. And this is going to cause you a lot of work and stress when you have to find back up care….at least it would for me. It looks like this might just not be the right time in both of your lives for this to work. For another family that has the ability to be more flexible it could.

4 Don’t stress so much that you need to find an AP now. I am a type A personality so I get the need to find that perfect AP right away but most APs, even the good ones, are not even in an agency’s system yet for a summer arrival. Also if you are looking for something specific list yourself with a couple agencies (that is what I do), so you can make your pool of applicants wider.

5 All that said…good luck!

Should be working January 16, 2015 at 2:24 am

I’m an academic who IS starting to look at matches now for July, I like the early birds who are organized and thinking way ahead. So it’s not too early to look–I got my best APs 6 month in advance–but it is way too early to settle for anything less than totally right in all ways. It’s a terrible plan that this AP has. Two weeks back home soon after arriving? Don’t do it. One week before school is fine for starting an AP.

You’re a first-timer, welcome to the blog and you are in the right place. I wish I’d known everything on this blog when we got our first AP (who I never would have hired and thus would never have ended up in rematch).

Emerald City HM January 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm

We are also looking far in advance and I agree with SBW, don’t settle at this point.

I would not give an au pair all of her vacation that early. You would basically lose all of that in a rematch situation.

Host Mom in the City January 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Ah, another good point. Au pairs “accrue” vacation days at like .92 days per month. If she takes all of her days in the first two months, she would owe you hundreds of dollars if you rematched. I bet she doesn’t know that. And let’s say she went away for two weeks, you got alternate childcare, and then she decided not to come back or came back briefly and then went home for good – you’d be really peeved if you had trained her for a month, gotten back-up care for two weeks, and then had to start the interviewing process all over again.

Old China Hand January 16, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Another note as an academic, I made the mistake the first time of having the au pair take vacation whenever we weren’t in school. This screwed my research up quite a lot, so I would recommend having her have to take her vacation when you are on vacation and not needing her. If you think she has a great experience that she really wants to take, you can be more flexible, but at least if your kids are young, you need the school breaks for research and full time childcare doesn’t work. Or at least, this is what my experience was.

ChiHostMom January 21, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Just seconding Old China Hand here on vacation time as an academic. Make sure it is really a good time for you to be doing the child care. Otherwise you’ll regret it later.

FL Mom January 16, 2015 at 8:38 am

Vous n’avez pas une choix difficle…pass, and pass quickly. You don’t want to leave a stranger in your house for a week (she will still be basically a stranger at that point) and the entire reason you are getting an au pair is to make your life easier, not hers. She shouldn’t even be looking at arrival dates until after the festivities if she had her priorities straight. A week before school is fine…Good luck!

WestMom January 16, 2015 at 9:58 am

You have received great advice here, and I agree with all of it.

I would automatically pass on any AP who is asking to go back home during her year even before having matched. I don’t understand why this candidate can’t delay her arrival until after their special event… For one it’s super disruptive to the family, and two, I have heard of so many APs coming back terribly homesick and choosing to go back home after such a trip.

I have had many candidates ‘pass’ on our profile because they wanted to come earlier that the timeframe we needed. In some cases, we were happy to compromise by a few weeks. ‘I need to enroll in school to become a kindergarten teacher’, ‘I am starting an orphanage in Africa’, or ‘I have plans to go work with street kids in south America’. I am not making these up- these are actual reasons, all very noble. But the reality is that for a young 20 something, they really have NO IDEA what will come their way one year into the future. I know it’s impossible to explain to a young woman with big dreams, but delaying arrival by a couple weeks/months is really not going to make a difference in the long run… (Sorry, I had to vent here!)

Having her arrive and stay alone, idle in your home is not a good idea. I strongly believe a new AP needs to get into her new role as soon as possible to find herself useful. She may either get homesick, or get complaisant from a later start.

You are right to be concerned about her vacation. She will just be starting out her year, not having met anyone yet, and will completely miss out on the opportunities to travel with friends until her 13th month. She probably thinks it is ok right now, but I am sure this will bum her out once she realizes that a lot of APs spend their year planning travel opportunities. This also doesn’t leave any vacation time for if/when her family want to come visit, which from experience is a situation you don’t want to encourage.

One week is absolutely enough to get your new AP and your son comfortable with each other before you go back to work. I would not sweat that part. A late August arrival would be perfect. Even Labor day weekend arrival with a 3 day training weekend would be fine too. Just remember you will need a bit of time either before or after the wedding to prep a lot of things for her arrival…

Lastly, you have PLENTY of time to find another candidate. I too, like to do things early, but I can guarantee you will find some other, perhaps even better candidates. And if you guys really really like each other, perhaps you can leave the door open for her to extend with your family for a second year?

Best of luck and keep us posted!

Seattle Mom January 16, 2015 at 2:44 pm

I am so sick of au pairs who say they can’t wait 2 months. Not everyone does it, but I think about half of the ones I contact do. And then 2 months later when I am still looking they are still in the system, unmatched.

A/B Host Mom January 16, 2015 at 9:58 am

Agree with the others, I’d probably pass. Between your vacation and hers, it’s less than ideal. I do think having the AP start after your return from Ireland would be best. We’re starting to look now too for July/August. My husband and I decided we would only go with someone who has a late start time if we absolutely LOVE the candidate. For us we could manage the gap without an au pair, life just won’t be as easy.

CAmom22 January 16, 2015 at 10:11 am

Couldn’t agree more with all of the above. I would also add that I have found that by month 3 a lot of the “newness” and excitement of the AP year starts to wear off and APs go through a period of homesickness. To go home at precisely this time I think is not a good idea; seems to me she would have a hard time coming back and acclimating. All in all, I would absolutely wait and match with another candidate to start after your trip in August. Don’t worry; you have plenty of time. Best of luck.

imabusybee January 16, 2015 at 10:56 am

I agree with the above. Keep looking. I would be very concerned about home-sickness. 6 weeks is right when they are in the thick-of-it and going home and seeing family and friends right at that time may mean you are without an AP for much longer than 2 weeks right when you need her most. Plus this is going to put you in an rough place later in the year when she starts talking about the trips her friends are taking and hinting (or worse flat out telling you) that you should let her go too. If you are really sold on her then you need to tell her that she can go for the absolute minimum amount of time required – a week at most (I would never tell someone they couldn’t attend their sister’s wedding). Plus I would emphasize and put in writing that she won’t have time off the rest of the year and really make sure she understands this. If she is as interested in your family as you are in her then SHE should be willing to bend and make this work. Also, if you do leave her for a week alone you can give her things to do. She should actually be watching the house and making sure there are no problems and think of all those kid related projects that are hard to do with kids around – sorting clothes that are too small, cleaning and reorganizing the toys in the playroom, do your carseats need washing… It is totally acceptable to give her tasks while you are gone.

EsqHM in DC January 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

I would pass too. There are so many things to prioritize in the matching process, and matching up expectations about arrival time is one of them. You can find another good candidate that matches your time frame. I would look for someone to come and start just after you arrive home from the Ireland trip. Sure not loads of time before school starts, but with a good candidate, it will be enough.

Also, although it doesn’t bother me to give an extra week’s vacation, especially if one of those weeks you don’t need backup care, her using ALL her vacation days before she’s even been there a month? What employer would do that? No way. It sounds like she actually needs to start her au pair year after the wedding, IMO.

Texas5TimeHostMom January 16, 2015 at 11:23 am

Pass and prioritize your needs! That’s why you’re getting an au pair!

HMavecuneCD January 16, 2015 at 11:57 am

OP Here –
Thank you, thank you, thank you all!

I really appreciate your BTDT experience, and obviously have a lot to learn. I’m trying to check my Type A tendencies and not worry about matching with the perfect candidate right away. The way one LCC I spoke to described it, we wanted to match early because the early birds were the girls who were organized and on top of their game. It sounds like this may not be totally accurate, though. It would be great if the candidate pool opened up in the next couple months.

We do adore this candidate, but I suppose we’ll have to move on, and look for a late August arrival. I think she wants to come over in July so that she can be back in time for a university program to start in August 2016 – the timing of her sister’s wedding will be difficult, I think, both for her and her potential host family as it’s right during back to school season.

One other question for the hive – I’ve been searching through Cultural Care, and a bit through APIA. CC seems to have much more detailed profiles and information available online, unless I’m missing something. I really appreciate all the info the CC profiles have because I feel like I can get a good sense of someone based on their responses, and have found searching the APIA site frustrating in comparison. I can see the benefit of registering with more agencies to expand the search, but are there agencies that provide all the detail CC does upfront, without having to interview a whole ton of candidates? Or am I totally missing something with APIA?

Thanks again!

NoVA Twin Mom January 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm

What are you seeing/not seeing with APIA? once you select an au pair to put into your profile, there’s a “cover sheet” and then (at least last time I was in there) you have to click on View/Print All, which will show you the whole profile available to you. To get her contact information you’d have to click “contact this au pair” or something similar.

I don’t know what CC shows as I’ve only been with APIA but each time the full profile in APIA has seemed pretty comprehensive. If you’re looking for something specific that CC has maybe we can tell you if it’s ever available, otherwise maybe your LCC can talk you through opening a profile (since I’m not matching right now I can’t open a sample profile to walk you through it).

HMavecuneCD January 16, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Thanks NoVA Twin Mom!
I’ve registered with both CC and APIA, and while with CC I can see, for example, when they learned to drive, if they’ve driven in snow, if they’ve driven with kids in the car, what kinds of cars they’ve driven, etc., with APIA I just see a checkbox for “drives frequently.”

Looking further, it is maybe a difference between registering and applying through the agency? On your advice I just tried adding an APIA candidate to my favorites and now under her name a little lockbox appears that says I can access more detail once I complete an application. With CC, I registered and completed a profile, but don’t have to actually “apply” until I find a match.

NoVA Twin Mom January 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I think APIA does just have “drives frequently”, but at the same time ask your LCC or the company about any “sign up bonuses” with APIA because I don’t *think* you have to pay anything until you match. Even if it says something about paying on the website, ask anyway because they might be running a “special.”

As someone says below, be cautious of anything written in the profiles because the candidates are making themselves look good (as we likely would in the same position.) Consider where a candidate is from – if you’re looking for a good winter driver, South Africa, Thailand, and Costa Rica (for example) are not places you probably should be looking. Sweden, Germany, maybe France, but more likely Poland, Canada, or Finland would be a better choice. If you want a really strong driver, you may want to look at countries with stringent driving tests (often Western Europe) but in areas with bad public transportation (so smaller cities rather than larger ones) so that they HAVE to drive often. Then use interviewing techniques such as “Where did you drive this week” to find out specific information about where they went, how far from home, and who was with them.

We have some interviewing archives with other great questions – take a look!

TexasHM January 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm

We’ve been with APIA and IE and currently looking with CC and I have to agree, while the APIA profile is lengthy if you print/view it all the CC profile is a little longer (judged by # of pages yes I did check averages here) and like the OP said, I find the question phrasing more helpful (see driving example above). There’s also small differences like instead of asking if she’s a strong swimmer they ask if she/he is comfortable being responsible for kids while swimming and why/why not. Seen a few experienced swimmers that were nervous to watch kids (previous bad water experience or could swim but not strong enough to rescue a child). CC also has A LOT of candidates so while before I agreed that it was good to cast a wider net with multiple agencies we aren’t this time just because there are thousands of profiles in CC and they have a very experienced counselor in our area and by far the largest presence (now much more important to us) so if you feel like you aren’t finding awesome candidates then yes, maybe try another agency but if you like the agency and they have plenty of great profiles I think you are good (just my opinion). Remembering you mentioned wanting a particular country you could preference agencies by that but I agree with previous posters it’s way too early (we recently had our first rematch and it was the only time we looked 5 months out and we will never do it again). PLEASE if you find yourself getting frustrated/tired/discouraged take a timeout from looking and DONT settle. Agreed with all advice on here and I have to wonder if there was another awesome candidate with your preferred arrival/no vacation requests would you still be considering this candidate? If not, pass and move on. Good luck!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm

To see the detailed profile with APIA, you have to complete the application. For first-time registers, that does include an employer reference, too. It takes a while to set up (but probably much less than when I first did it in 2001!), but gives you access to pages of detailed information, including when the applicant started driving and when they actually passed their test (personally I exclude any applicant who earned her full license within 12 months of my looking.) APIA’s search mechanism allows you to exclude non-drivers, smokers, etc. from your search, as well as to set language and country preferences.

I’ve only used APIA, because they were the only agency to have Extraordinnaires when DH and I first applied. Every year when I re-enroll, I have to reset my documents (HF essay and pictures), but have not had to give new references (I guess once you have an LCC that takes care of that). The interface is a lot easier to control and use than in the old days – including the ability to keep APs who have not matched with other families in your queue. (When I first started looking APIA Fedexed applications to me and I had 48 hours to give the applicant a cold call! Imagine the thrill – not to mention the reduction in time – of being able to send out an email first!)

NoVA Twin Mom January 16, 2015 at 12:18 pm

And I just want to add to the chorus – we’ve had candidates that have seemed SO perfect that just didn’t work out for some reason and been disappointed too. But keep watching – this means a better match is out there somewhere for you, even if you can’t see it yet. :)

Host Mom in the City January 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I know there are lots of host parents on here who match really early and I am as type A as anyone, but having gone through the interview process five times now, for me, it works so so so much better to wait until about four months prior to arrival. First of all, there are so many more candidates. When I’ve tried to match six months or more prior, there are only a handful who actually want to come when I need them too, so the choices are really limited.

I’ve also heard that it’s the “organized” APs that get their applications up that early, but the two I matched with six months prior were my two that were awful – not organized at all, more of a “hmmmm not sure what I’m doing with my life, but being an AP sounds cool, I’ll just make a profile and go be an au pair whenever a family chooses me.” For both of them, they had life changes in the interim between when we matched and when the arrived and were just not a great fit for the program anyway. One of them returned home quickly after arriving.

Another reason I don’t match early is because I’ve settled both times I did. I hate matching – it’s exhausting and confusing and so so hard. Both times I’ve started matching 6-7 months before arrival, there were so few candidates that I end up talking to anybody available and having 15 conversations with people that are not a good fit and that I wouldn’t have even wasted time with if I had more to select from and then I start getting over-anxious and thinking that I’ll never find someone and then I just settle and choose someone after a month of agonizing just to get it over with. Phew. Run-on sentence supreme – but that’s how early matching feels to me. So stressful.

When you try four months in advance, there are hundreds of candidates. It’s really remarkable just how many more there are. Wait. Seriously, especially if this is your first time. If you want a late August arrival, in particular, you will have tons of candidates if you wait until about April. Your are not missing out by not starting now.

CC does seem to have the most comprehensive dossiers and the most searching options to choose from, but I’d caution you against relying so much on what they write on the applications. They are coached to death on what to put on there so you will get all kinds of flowery descriptions of their lives and what they want out of their year. You can think of those like a resume really – don’t we all put our seriously somewhat-of-a-stretch version of ourselves on our resume? I would never hire someone at my job based on just reading a big, long description of who the employee thinks they are. Sure as a first cut, but then I want to really see how they are with really good, behavioral interview questions, which is what you are going to do through email and Skype.

Full disclosure though, after our one awful experience with CC, we have been APIA fans ever since, so I’m biased :) There are lots of reasons to choose one agency over another – lots of discussions about that on here too.

Good luck!!

Should be working January 16, 2015 at 12:32 pm

I can maybe add something to this that would help the OP, if the problem is that all the French APs want to start by end of July so that they can finish around the same time and get ready to start university: With CCAP if the AP and HF mutually agree, they can end the year 4 weeks early in good standing (flight home paid by CCAP etc.). We do this most years because we match for mid-August but APs want to be finished in July, and we anyway usually do some traveling in July. So you could match for late August with APs who want to be finished in late July.

The catch is that the agency will not refund the HF fee, but they will credit it to the HF’s account in full. So if you are going to get another AP the following year, the 4 weeks’ worth of HF fee is not lost but credited forward.

WestMom January 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

On the note about August school start… We have had exactly that happen. We accommodated an AP earlier start bc she was planning to go back to school. So we ended up the last two weeks of August with me on vacation, and with two APs just to accommodate her request. She was a nice girl, but probably our weakest AP out the 6 successful ones we’ve had. And guess what? Did she actually go back to school the next August. Nah!

What you can always do in that situation (what I have done with another AP), is not change your arrival date, but be more flexible about departure. For me it makes sense. I usually take part of August off, so I was ok letting AP5 leave at the end of July as she requested to go do her volunteer project in Africa. Oh wait! Did she actually go to Africa to open that orphanage? Nah! She ended up using the month of August as a travel month in the USA!

So my advice, from experience, is to not bend on the arrival unless it truly has minimal impact on your family.

Host Mom in the City January 16, 2015 at 4:01 pm

lol so true. I’m on AP #5 (#4 went home after six months). All three of the ones that completed the year had expressed big plans for when they returned back home, and not a one of them ended up doing what they planned. Not saying it doesn’t happen that an AP actually follows through with their plan, and I was early 20s myself and life similarly didn’t work out as planned, but the AP year changes people so much – it’s likely pretty typical that an AP would change her mind about what she wants to do in a year’s time.

Au Pair Report author January 16, 2015 at 4:10 pm

I worked for APiA as a counselor for six years but have been out of the business for four years.

You shouldn’t focus so much on which search system is easier, but on which program provides good service in your area. If you’ve had a chance to meet/interview with counselors from both programs, you could also try to talk with some host parents from their “clusters.” Things might have changed in recent years, but in the past Cultural Care counselors had stronger incentives to recruit new families, but were paid less for their service to existing families. I had several families that had switched from CC due to frustration with how their LCC handled the rematch process or other service related issues. Some of the smaller boutique agencies would probably be a better alternative if you are looking for a cheaper program (APiA benefits from great infrastructure and many years in the business, but in the past their program fees were the highest and that may still be true).

One way to test a representative’s service ethos is to ask advice now about au pairs you are considering. I always offered to read applications and share insights because as many of these other replies indicate, there can be red flags that you may not recognize.

I agree with all who said you should choose an arrival date after your return from Ireland and that a week before school is perfectly adequate–and better for getting into a routine. Keep in mind that the supply of French au pairs is quite limited, and tend to have less prior child care experience than, for example, German or Latin American au pairs. They also have different child-rearing norms.

Books like Bringing up Bebe spin this as a positive, but having been an au pair in France years ago, I saw a lot of downsides also. You should be clear about your children’s personalities and temperaments; your family’s lifestyle; and your parenting style.

If possible, an older French au pair is better, but many are around 18 and have less experience away from their families than many other European au pairs do.

Always look for someone who has either lived away from home or done some international travel; otherwise, you run a much larger risk of dealing with homesickness. Do not compromise for the sake of the language benefit or you will probably regret it.

I have known a lot of families who fixated on language and chose badly due to limited supply, and then they realize later that getting the best caregiver is ultimately more important than reinforcing acquisition of French, Hebrew, Chinese, or some other language. It’s much easier for families looking for a Spanish speaker because there are so many wonderful candidates with tons of child care experience. Good luck!

Sevans January 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Pass. Another thing to consider is that French au pairs rematch at a very high rate (au pair initated). I know that’s one reason why CC stopped recruiting from there for a while. An informal pool of host families indicated nearly 75% didn’t finish with their original family. How would you feel if you made all those accommodations and then she requested a new family?

WestMom January 16, 2015 at 3:58 pm

I have to chime in on this one… We only match with French APs and only one rematch in 6 APs. They were all good to amazing and we are still in touch with all of them (except the rematch…). I think the French get an unfortunate reputation that is not quite rooted in reality… Not my reality anyway based on our Au Pairs, and their French AP friends.

Seattle Mom February 24, 2015 at 3:46 pm

We’ve had 3 french au pairs- 2 stayed for the whole year, and 1 was a rematch that we initiated almost immediately (she did end up completing her year with her next family, as far as I can glean).

However my last french au pair told me that all of her french friends from training (CCAP) ended up going home before the year was over. There were at least 5 of them, and my au pair was the only one who stayed! She said that they didn’t have good families, or were geographically isolated, or some other reasons. It could be that they all had bad situations, but it seems statistically significant that they all left!

The sort of funny thing is that i always look at all the APs from France available when I am matching, so I usually am familiar with all or most of the ones from my au pair’s training group (usually just from application, not interview). And it was sort of interesting to see that the bad vibe I got from certain people may have been validated by their rematch… although I recognize that I have NO real understanding of why they were in rematch, having never met them or their HFs. It just makes me think that maybe I am doing something right.

Mimi January 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm

As others have said, I would pass. She’s made a commitment to her sister that she’s potentially going to botch if she is overseas and not available to help when needed. That speaks volumes to me about her potential for a successful match. In letting her know your decision, remind her that being a maid of honor is a big commitment and she owes her sister the courtesy of being available for help that she isn’t likely to be able to give if she matches before the wedding. Hopefully, she’ll change her availability date which is likely to be a better strategy for a successful year.

I also want to echo the caution about veracity of application information. It never hurts to include verification of application information in your conversation with a potential AP, which is something I’ve been lax about and we’ve run into some issues with our last two APs not being completely honest on their applications (smoking, allergies, personal health problems, and family issues). We didn’t cover these topics in our interviews because we took the applications at face value. Others have indicated they’ve seen the same with childcare experience.

HMavecuneCD January 16, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Thank you to all those who have responded recently! It is especially helpful to know they can leave up to 4 weeks early if needed.

Sevans – do you know why the French APs typically rematch?

DCMomof3 January 16, 2015 at 4:14 pm

I realize that this is not scientific data on French APs by any means, but I had a French AP for 2 years. She was an excellent, excellent AP (think principal of our elementary school still asks me about this girl every time she sees me) but kind of a dramatic pain for me to live with. That said, I did learn a few things from her that could indicate why the French rematch a lot. First, there is a 35 hour work week in France. My French AP told me more than once that her family could not believe that she was being made to work 45 hours in the US. So, perhaps some girls are looking for easier gigs? Second, French AP also had French AP friends with very romanticized images of what they should be doing. One French girl she knew went to Boston, but then searched and searched online until she found a family in LA with a pool who would take her and then told the Boston family that she was going to rematch. My French AP thought this girl was so smart and lucky to figure out a way to go live the Baywatch lifestyle. Third, with practically free education in France, subsidized housing while in university and other government benefits, I found that my French AP was kind of disappointed by the “tough” American lifestyle. I’ve had APs from South and Central America who really used the AP program as a way to better themselves and get some credentials for a better career back home. With all of the government benefits at home, the French do not have the impetus to really stick it out in a difficult situation or with a less-than-ideal host family.
Again, I may be totally generalizing but perhaps these are some reasons to consider?

Seattle Mom January 16, 2015 at 6:52 pm

I’ve had two French APs for a full year, the first was amazing and the second just so-so, our children didn’t learn a single word in French from her because she has no teaching ability. She told me that all of her French friends from training eventually went into rematch. I have since decided that I look at the French au pairs first because of language, but in the end I choose the au pair that seems best for our family regardless of language or nationality. Our next au pair is coming from Japan.

old au pair mom January 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm

Wow this is an amazing chain of responses, all in agreement, which, new poster, does not always happen. After over a decade with APs, I know you will find a better one that will work with your schedule. While it sounds cynical, all these agencies want you to sign up sooner rather than later. You could find a better AP with another program, you could win the lottery, etc whatever bottom line; they want your money now. Case in point, CC wants me to pay to “save money” to search for a new AP when I have already committed to renew with my current AP. “Just in case she doesn’t fulfill her academic requirements.” Seriously? Why don’t they just commit to helping her learn the opportunities to get the credits? I will make sure she does but the particular CC rep who called me gets no good karma. Good luck and as one HM said, a good LAR is really helpful, ask to speak with the local representative before matching to s/he is helpful or a dud

FormerAuPairinEurope January 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm

One thing that came to my mind when reading your posts, was that you could consider meeting your AP in Ireland. If she is European it would only be a short flight (France to Ireland should not be more than a 2 hour flight and would probably be around 70-200€ return). That way you and your son could meet her before she is in the US. While I am not sure if that would really work out, it might be something to consider?!

andrea conrath January 17, 2015 at 6:35 pm

maybe someone already said this, I only skimmed the replies – but another thing is that technically the ap doesn’t start earning vacation until I think 3 mos. so you would basically be giving her an ‘advance’ (paying her at same time I assume), and then if things don’t work out a few weeks later – you are out the add’l 2 wks of pay. and it seems a bit unrealistic for her to go an entire year then w/o any real vacation. might cause a bit of a strain when in the actual situation.

Kathy in Boston January 21, 2015 at 10:25 pm

I have been an au pair host mom for 8 years and I would absolutely recommend that you immediately pass on this au pair. She is starting out her year thinking about herself and how things will work for her, and this is an attitude that will continue. It’s a reflection of her personality that she even thinks it is appropriate to ask this of you. BTW weddings are one day events, not two week long events. I am with APIA and am currently searching and they have a lot of au pairs from France.

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