Can she wake up to her responsibilities?

by cv harquail on July 11, 2009

Here’s a request for advice from a Host Mom in VA

Our au pair (our 4th) has been with us 2 weeks. She’s 20, fluent in English, is a rematch from other family (no fault of her own) after several months, and has 3 months left. We have 2 kids 2 and 4. I work FT nights, husband, FT days.

200907111300.jpg Our AP has a great relationship with the kids but is lacking in cleaning dept and reliability. Cleaning we are working on, but reliability has become a real problem. We had problems with her taking car for ‘appointments’, being gone all evening, not putting gas in the car etc., but we seem to have solved that issue.

However, in other areas of reliability, there is still trouble.

1. She "slept in" on her first 2 or 3 shifts, and for one shift she didn’t turn up — so I was late for work. We bought her an alarm clock and so sleeping in hasn’t been an issue again.

2. She is not keeping on top of the messes that occur. Early in the mornings, when my husband leaves for work and i am not home yet, we ask her to listing in with a camera/monitor to the kids. She is technically on duty then, but we do not expect her to get out of bed. The other morning I came home to entire contents of clothes cupboard and my jewelry box all over stairs (cv note: I’m assuming the kids did this? So the kids were up and about, not in their beds?) and the AP made no attempt to clean this up. (cv note: Nor did she get up to actively watch the kids.)

Clothes were soaked with water and after I investigated I discovered upstairs bathroom floor soaked in water. (cv note: The kids were playing with water?? Unsupervised?) I spend 1/2 hr cleaning up the mess (with her help). I asked her to put all clothes in closet, but later that day when I got up, all clothes still there waiting for me to put them away.

3. She isn’t actually getting up to mind them in the morning. She listens for kids from 05:15 but they get up 06:00-06:30. That morning, she says they slept in and she did not hear then till 8am (she is 2 floors down). Even with the camera/monitor, maybe this is possible.

200907111303.jpg The final straw

Well today I was home sick with flu and she is meant to be working 0515 again and I left her with those hrs thinking I would sleep in as I am sick. Instead, the kids got me up at 0620, then finally at 0640. The AP was nowhere to be found. I checked that the camera/monitor was on in the bedroom, changed baby, made some noise in the bedroom,– nothing from the AP. To cut a long story short: I took care of kids, made breakfast, etc. making plenty of noise including them running around like baby elephants above her basement room. She did not wake till 0845 when we went to the basement playroom for them to play.

She comes out, states "I am sorry, I cannot hear them even with camera on". Now I know what happened the other day.

So I added her hours onto end of day and asked hubby to talk to her tonight. I was too mad to talk to her. She wants to extend in Sept and hubby thinks it would be easier for her too as he thinks we would get no better with another Au Pair but I cannot put up with this for another yr.   Any thoughts? Thanks. Host Mom, VA

Host Mom VA: My immediate thoughts?

1. Do not invite her to extend.

2. Put her fully on duty at 5:15, which means she has to get her butt out of bed and be completely dressed at 5:15. No "fudging", no gray area– up and as dressed as she’d be if she was taking them to a playdate. Consider asking her to be up and dressed in time to ‘touch base’ with your husband or you at ‘shift change’. This way, you can not only give her a firm reason to be up and dressed but also one of you parents can go over with her what needs to get done.

I am assuming that regardless of when she gets up, she’s scheduled within the limits of the rules. Yes, I know it’s hard to get up that early, but lots of us do.

3. Recognize that you’re in the ‘endgame’… and play it out the way you need it to. In other words, you need her to be reliable, reliably on duty, when you need her, and without you getting too uptight or resentful. Tell her what you need, when you need it. When/if she ‘doesn’t hear’, don’t make resentful noise– call her on her phone, send in the 4 yr. old, or knock on her door yourself.

Moms & Dads, what would you add?

The Hallicrafters AM Alarm Clock by Whiskeygonebad on Flicker


Franzi July 11, 2009 at 1:32 pm

here’s a former AP pov: i totally agree with CV, demand that she is awake at shift change. the parent handing over and the AP should talk about what will go on during the day and when the other parent is expected back. specifically ask your AP not to go back downstairs but instead be on the main floor until the kids are up. check on this by going back to the house unannounced. she can have breakfast while waiting for the kids to wake up, or email, or do whatever, but not go back to sleep in her bed! (my guess is she’d take a snooze on the couch but that’s still better than her bed).

make it very clear that you do not tolerate her behavior and that she needs to step up her game.

i don’t think i would extend with her because she does not seem to have the enthusiasm for the job. she’s new with you, wouldn’t it make sense if she showed off her best side now so that you do want to extend with her?
granted, she might be drained (at that time of my year, i was) – but thing is, she had the chance to start new but there is a lack of effort, it seems.

Dorsi July 11, 2009 at 5:36 pm

A few points (and hopefully not too much repetition). Not all of this is applicable to your situation, but I think I have some insight. We also have an AP who is required to work odd hours. My DH is out of the house about 60 hours a week (7-7) and I work a rotating schedule (some days, nights, eves).

1. This has probably been said in other threads, but it bears repeating:
RESPECT the schedule. We make a schedule in Google Calendar. I expect the AP and the DH to check it regularly. I also schedule days off, weekends off, so that we all know that we are in compliance.

2. RESPECT the AP’s time. I don’t often schedule less than a week in advance, and if I do, I clear it with the AP (unless it is an emergency). Hey– you have Friday off — wouldn’t you rather have Sat off? We have a thing we would like to go to. Do you mind if I swich that? Also unless there are strange circumstances, I make sure the AP has a 8 hour night, and usually a 10 hour night. (Off at 11p, no work until 7a). We also strictly follow program rules. On a side note, we do this on vacation too (since many of our vacations are not vacation for the AP). On an upcoming work/personal trip to NY, I have scheduled the AP’s day off so that she can make plans for tourist activities, etc. if she wants). Also, I do alter the APs hours for her (to go to a class at the gym, coordinate with an AP friend, etc.) if it is not a big inconvenience.

3. Expect the AP to respect your time. I absolutely cannot be late or not show up to work. We have been very clear on this and have not had problems. I hope that it is partially because I have set the AP up for success in this.

So, especially because you are early in your time with this AP, I think you can change the expectations and procedures. “Things aren’t quite working as I planned — let’s see if we can come up with a better solution. Here, I have written out your work hours for the week, does this make sense?” Do NOT forget that your AP has a good situation — if the first three hours of my workday could be spent watching TV, checking email, etc and just listening to a baby monitor, that would be great. You are paying $7-12/hr for her time. Is it really worth $30 to you to have someone sleeping and not taking care of your kids every day (assuming those are part of her scheduled work hours)?

Finally, I will add that it took me a while to warm up to our AP. If you can clean up the scheduling, she could be an extension candidate. I don’t think that would be crazy. Set her up to be successful….

Anna July 11, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I think it is outrageous that she endangered your little kids (and 4 and 2 are too little to be left unsupervised for hours!)
Clearly that is what happened on the day you found the mess, and she lied to you about it.
This alone is a reason for rematch, if you were so inclined.

But if she is good with your kids, I would put her on duty squarely at 5:15, asking her to get up to talk to you (dressed) 5 min before, for instructions. And I would ask her to spend time on the same floor as the children’s bedroom, until they wake up, if her hearing is so bad that she cannot hear the monitor. Who says she’ll be able (or want) to hear them if you let her hang out in the kitchen eating breakfast (which I presume is on another floor).

I also don’t see her as being responsible, which is critical when working with kids. Assuming she realized what happened the first time (or was it first?) when she slept in and kids played by themselves and messed up, she should’ve been scared out of her mind for it to happen again, because she plainly endangered their lives (can you imagine where playing with water + bathtub could lead to?). Yet she allowed it to happen again.

Host Mom VA July 12, 2009 at 1:56 am

Thanks for your thoughts!
I post the schedule 1 week in advance every Sunday on the fridge and have several days(mostly her days off) up to 1 month in advance where we can all see them so she can plan accordingly. She does her max 45 hrs per week as I work 40 hrs per week and my DH 40-50 but she never works outside of her allowed hours, not would I ever ask her to.
She has early mornings but has only every had 2 evenings when we went out ( I think the latest was 10pm) and then I made sure she was not working early the next day. I make sure one of her 2 days off is a day off over the weekend as her Au Pair friends are off on the weekend. This last week I have scheduled her until 7pm to help out my husband when I have worked nights but she has not had to work early that morning.
We have had no more problems with her getting up early but she continues to be unreliable in many ways and I am not happy with the care she provides my children.
ie Washes laundry and never dries linen so no dry linen that night to put on kids bed, dishes up dinner tonight (in front of me), never checks temperature and almost burns mouths as both kids spit out food stating ‘hot’, basic stuff like that that tells me she has no common sense.
After some long talking this weekend my husband and I have decided not to continue with the Au Pair program when her year is up in a few weeks. I will be telling her in the next 1-2 days so she can start extending with another family if she wishes.
I have a new job nearer to home and we will be doing parttime daycare(one I reied between Au Pairs and loved!) and preschool come the fall term. We may revisit the Au Pair in the future but although there are great Au Pairs out there we are very disillusioned with the whole program right now and need to take a break.

Anna July 12, 2009 at 8:40 am

Host Mom in VA, I do think your au pair was in rematch for reasons that were totally because of her! I had a similar story last year where I got an au pair from rematch with an innocent sounding reason, but then I realized that there was more to it than I thought.. I am now sure that the reason her first family gave her a boot was the same one I was having problems with, only they realized it sooner.

PA Mom July 12, 2009 at 10:45 am

Try the day care and see if that works for you. For us an AP makes more sense as it’s more flexible and less expensive over an entire year. Also, make sure you start with a new AP if you decide to come back to the program. With your unusual work schedule, you’d probably do better with a new AP then one who is switching. Also be sure you really discuss the schedule with an AP candidate and your home rules. After 3 APs that may not seem as important but it is and it helps set expectations. If you make it clear the weekends will include work, you’ll be looking for an AP who is more of a family type than a party type – and yes, there is more than 2 types but those 2 ends of the spectrum are pretty different. By 1/2 way through the year, even a middling social AP has lots to do outside your home and can become scarce at meals and ‘off times”. This always upsets my kids who like our APs and miss them if they are disappearing in their free time too much. I usually find that a chat about 6 months about not flaking on the kids, and how much they mean to the family in a personal sense is helpful. Remember APs are still pretty young and when you were in your 20s hanging with friends was far more attractive than family and younger cousins. . . . Maybe invite a few AP friends to the occasional family dinner – it’s a great cultural exchange and hey – maybe you’ll see more of all of them.

Alma July 12, 2009 at 11:36 am

I like your “no nonsense” attitude about this. It is so easy to get caught up in being understanding and giving more chances but the truth is, this is a JOB and it would be a disservice to this young person if she left your home and got busted for irresponsible behavior when it really matters at a real job(and it matters now, too, as this is a real job).

Hula Gal July 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Deciding to go into rematch is not as easy as it sounds as my husband and I are struggling with this decision right now. I think if the children are being cared for with competency and it is the other stuff that you are challenged by (such as waking up late, laundry not done etc) than working with her is the best approach. I do find it concerning that she feeds them food that is too hot to the point that they spit it out. I suppose you could just remind her in great detail of how to safely feed young children. A lot of au pairs seem to need micro managing (such as mine – I’ve finally accepted it). It sounds though that you only have a few weeks left with her and then you are out of the program. I don’t blame you for wanting to leave the au pair program. It comes with a whole load of challenges. I have found dealing with having an au pair living with us to be very distracting because of the daily management issues. And we have only been doing this since April. Good luck!

Calif Mom July 12, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Host Mom VA — sounds like you’ve come to a decision that works for you and your family. That’s the important part.

Anna — totally agree that there is more to her reason for rematch than the agency/girl told you. Which is not to say that there was not ALSO a legitimate reason beyond the AP’s control. Sounds like performance issues for sure!

There is so much YMMV in this au pair thing! It seems like families have to be able to adapt or be so good at interviewing and knowing their own needs that they have the (strength? wisdom? temerity?) to not choose badly in the first place, or deal with what they’re dealt quickly and effectively.

Best wishes, VA mom..

Jeana July 12, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Rematch, rematch, rematch. So far, your children have not been harmed by this situation, and you’ve been fortunate. Are you trusting this AP to lead your children to safety should there be an emergency such as a fire??? I have a pit in my stomach just reading about this. My mistake was trying to hard to make two situations work; I was bending over backwards for two of our five aupairs. Both of those situations escalated, before they were removed from the program. I’ve had three lovely, wonderful, enjoyable, mature, responsible, delightful aupairs. They are out there, and you can find them. I do not believe that you can remediate what you are dealing with. Please protect your children and remove this aupair before they are harmed.

Anonymous July 13, 2009 at 4:37 pm

I am guessing that this young woman had a dramatically different schedule with her previous family. Maybe she has not yet adjusted to the earlier morning requirement.
Working the hours your family needs isn’t just a matter of getting up earlier – it means that she is going to have to turn in alot earlier, too. The schedule you live is very different from the schedule most young people maintain and it just requires some lifestyle changes.
If you like her for a variety of other reasons ( and it sounds like you do ) why not talk to her about the fact that getting up much earlier necessitates going to bed earlier and maybe even reroganizing her eating schedule.
It might just be a matter of reorganizing herself. If it wasn’t her fault that she had to rematch, she may not have had too much choice about accepting your family – she may have needed to move fairly quickly. Maybe she never really thought about how different your schedule is from her previous situation. Even though you must have described your schedule, she may not have thought about the day to day effect of such a change.

FL Mom July 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm

We need our APs to function as adults, and adolescent excuses aren’t going to cut it. After all, if I don’t show up to work, my boss isn’t going to say “awwwwww, she’s just used to getting up so early”

high expectations lead to high results. Shape up or ship out!

Host MomVA July 15, 2009 at 2:32 am

Thank you! My thoughts exactly.Her being late makes me late and my employers are not impressed with any excuses! I get fired for repeated lateness.

HostMomVA July 30, 2009 at 11:58 am

Just an update for those that night be interested, and thanks again for your great advice.
Our Au Pair continues to demonstrate poor judgement. Today I found a lighter, a corkscrew(Au Pair that does not smoke!) on my children’s playroom floor(also her lounge area in the evening) and a cushion on the heater we have downstairs red hot (potential fire hazard) after letting her friend stay last night.
Luckily I went downstairs with my kids of the potential could have been nasty.
I told her we are dropping out of the Au Pair program and she has applied for an extension for 6 months (beware next family) with another family. She will be gone in 30 days……………yeah…..
Day care here we come………:)

FL Mom July 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I’m sorry, but did you say 30 days? Why can’t you drop her off at your LCC’s house TODAY?!!!!! I have a sick feeling. I don’t know you but am worried about your children’s safety. Please please please get this girl out of your house ASAP before it is too late. Your children need you to protect them and keep them safe. And please tell your LCC what’s happened. You may be putting other children in jeapordy too.

Please don’t take this the wrong way. Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a situation, we can’t see it as clearly as others. When you look back you will see more clearly.

Calif Mom July 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Seriously. Get her out of there. It will only get worse (if you can believe that, believe it!) She’s having guests over after you’ve given her the boot? This is not good…

HostMomVA July 31, 2009 at 2:18 am

Thank you for your comments. I am well aware of how dangerous this woman has the potential to be. I am at home with her most of the time sleeping off night shift, she is rarely alone with the kids.
We have not given her the boot as such, she is coming up to the end of her 1 yr (she was a rematch after 8 months and has been with us for 6 weeks) and we have decided we are not going to extend her at the end of her yr.
Out of this 30 day period she is on vacation(away from our house) and my hubby is taking 1 week off work to take care of the kids as I start a new job next week. The rest of the time I am at home most of the time.
And I will be talking with the LCC this weekend do not worry!

Host Mom VA August 31, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Just an update… our Au Pair did not rematch!
I refused to give her a reference and so did our LCC. She flies home tomorrow evening and is not so happy about it. The past 2 weeks have been a nightmare but we have kept a tight rein on her and I have been at home more to keep an eye on her and no more scary incidents.
So a huge sigh of relief…daycare and peace shall soon rein..she was off on vacation for 1 week and it was great…no drama etc,
Thanks again for all the advice from this site.
I shall keep reading to see if I can offer any perspective from a former Host Mom’s experience!!

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