Can this au pair relationship be saved? Laundry list of “no”s

by cv harquail on March 22, 2010

Readers, this situation is a challenge on many fronts… I’ve listed them out in headings to make things a little easier. It looks like a no-win situation to me, so I’d recommend rematch. But I might be missing something… Read on and offer your thoughts.

“Where do I begin?

My partner and I are two full time working moms and have a 15 month old son. We just finished our first year with the most wonderful Polish au pair ever. Our new 23 year old Ukrainian au pair arrived two weeks before wonderful au pair left so wonderful au pair could be part of the training process since my partner and I are at work all day. Thus, we were able to get a little insight from wonderful au pair before her departure.

Homesickness & Making Friends

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At first new au pair was very homesick and skyped with friends and family, including a boyfriend she left back home, for 4 and 5 hours at night. The first full weekend new au pair was here, the LCCs for our area planned a weekend ski trip to the mountains which wonderful au pair and new au pair attended. Wonderful au pair had many, many friends during her year here, including both other au pairs and American friends she met through school and other social activities. Wonderful au pair brought new au pair with her everywhere to introduce new au pair to wonderful au pair’s friends and help get new au pair assimilated into our community.

After returning from the ski trip, I asked new au pair if she met any au pairs she liked and thought would be her friends and she replied that she didn’t really connect with any of the other au pairs, other than our wonderful au pair. Wonderful au pair continued to take new au pair every where with her until she left, two weeks ago. Even last weekend one of the local au pairs asked new au pair to go out on Friday or Saturday night and new au pair wouldn’t go.

Safety Concerns

Additionally, before she left, wonderful au pair let me know of a few safety concerns she had with new au pair, i.e. putting our son down for a nap with big beaded necklaces on and picking him up inappropriately, among other things.

We have addressed all of the safety issues we know of but I must say, my gut doesn’t feel 100% (or even close to 100%) comfortable with new au pair, especially should an emergency situation arise.

Doesn’t Follow Directions

Also, there are other little things. New au pair was doing small loads of laundry with four items each time, I asked her twice not to do small loads but to wait until we have a full load of laundry. The next day she did another small, four item load.

The other day she told me the woman that cleans our house was at our home for too long even though the time she stayed was expected and paid for; it just didn’t meet new au pair’s approval. I could go on about other small issues.

Boys on the Brain

In addition to new au pair’s boyfriend back home, new au pair has an ex-boyfriend who lives in another city and state, over an 8 hour drive from us. New au pair previously dated this boy for 4 years and their original plan was to come to the US together, new au pair as an au pair and ex-boyfriend on some sort of work-exchange program. Ex-boyfriend came to the US almost a year ago.

Shortly after ex-boyfriend left their home country for the US, new au pair met another boy (current boyfriend) and broke up with ex-boyfriend in the US. However, within the first couple of weeks of new au pair’s arrival, ex-boyfriend made the 8 hour trip to visit for the weekend (stayed at a hotel). Ex-boyfriend has made it very clear he wants to get back together with new au pair.

We made it very clear that ex-boyfriend was not to be inside our house when we weren’t at home.

Ex/New Boyfriend Hovering, against our wishes

Monday of this week I came home from work and ex-boyfriend was parked outside our house. I told him I didn’t know he was coming to town and he told me nobody knew, it was a surprise. They went out Monday night and when I saw new au pair Tuesday morning as she came on duty, I asked how long ex-boyfriend was staying. New au pair told me “he moved here and is renting a room in a house with two roommates. He loves me and came here to achieve his goal” (being with new au pair.) On Tuesday when I got home, ex-boyfriend was once again parked outside, waiting for new au pair. They went out.

Not Following Guidelines

She didn’t come home that night, nor did she call or text (as is written in our au pair handbook). She was back in time to be on duty Wednesday morning. We talked to her about the importance of letting us know if she wasn’t coming home and to call or text next time. Wednesday when I got home from work ex-boyfriend was there, ready to pick up new au pair. At 9:30 PM she called, leaving a voicemail (we were in bed) and said she’d be home in time to be on duty Thursday morning. Thursday morning she came home about 20 minutes before time to be on duty.

I scheduled new au pair to be off on Friday but to be on duty at 6:30 Saturday night. Thursday afternoon she tells me she is leaving after her on duty hours on Thursday to be with ex-boyfriend and will be back in time to be on duty on Saturday night. Our au pair handbook does not give our au pair a curfew. The car has a curfew, but the au pair does not. However, ex-boyfriend is driving new au pair around so effectively she doesn’t have to be at home at any certain time.

Is this a case for a re-match?

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If I wanted someone to come in while we are at work to provide childcare and then leave once we are home, I would simply have hired someone locally and paid them hourly. After all, an au pair is “live in childcare.” I feel like this is a waste of my agency fees.

However, I’m torn because if I don’t have her scheduled to be on duty, then she does have the right to go out during her free time. I don’t need my au pair to be “on call” when not on duty, but I do expect them to be a member of the family and contribute a little more as a member of the family beyond being on duty within the 45 hour limit.

My LCCs have been very supportive and think it might be heading towards a re-match. I honestly don’t know if I can spend a year with new au pair as her very being now seems to just get under my skin.

Looking hard for something positive

I should add that new au pair plays wonderfully with our fifteen month old son. They spend lots of time outside, which I love. She sings to him and is silly with him, which I also love.

But overall I still have those concerns in the back of my head that she might not handle anything out of the ordinary properly and would be overwhelmed in an emergency. Could she help him if he were choking? I don’t have that level of confidence I had with wonderful au pair. The boyfriend/spending all off duty time away seems to be the icing on the cake. Any advice is welcome.”


Oh moms, this one seems absolutely right for a rematch. For many of us, a safety concern would be the immediate trigger. But in addition to that, you’ve got the boyfriend distraction (and related question of her acutal motives and commitment), not following directions, not following guidelines, and more.

And, while it is nice of you to look for the positive, being friendly with your child is just not enough. There are many great au pairs and candidates out there who will be great with your son, fit in with your family, follow your guidelines, and manage her social life in ways that to her au pair experience rather than detract from it.

Parents and au pairs, is there anything this mom can do (in addition to rematching) to make this situation work?

Sad Toddler from Squiggle
Crouching by the Car from Phil Dragash

{ 29 comments }

SeattleHostMom March 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Rematch, and be done with it.

It’s easy to say, hard to do. (Been there, done that).

Good luck :)

PA au pair mom March 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I guess the thing that really bothers me is the boyfriend hovering and being around all the time. This happened to a host family in our cluster. 2 weekends ago, their au pair went to NYC for the weekend and she never came back.

If you aren’t comfortable, for whatever reason, I would suggest talking to the LCC. maybe you could have a mediation and see if there are things that she can agree to work on.

good luck.

franzi March 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm

while i give your AP the benefit of doubt and think she chose your family because you seemed a good fit for her, i think that her ex(now again)-bf has completely shifted her priorities.

you are means to an end. you provide her with an income while she can be with her bf. you do not approve of him yet she does not seem to care. and quite frankly, he should know that the driveway is also part of your property so he should not park there!

your family, but primarily your son, is not her top priority and that should concern you. personally, i would rematch.

like you stated, the situation you are living now is that of an live-out child care provider and that’s not what you signed up for.
good luck on the next match!

Anonymous March 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm

What bothers me most about this is that it was so well planned so far in advance. Whereas I think that a mediation could help in terms of the safety issues , I do not think it is going to make a whit of difference in terms of the boyfriend. This is an aupair gone awol waiting to happen. I don’t think it really matters if you like or approve of him ( he hasn’t done anything really wrong ) ; hovering outside your house is annoying but not terrible. What is terrible is that this girl is here to spent her time with him ; she does not want to be with you or any other friends. I am not sure what grounds you have for rematch except incompatibility. I think that your LCC will go to bat for you. If this young man can travel 8 hours to visit her at your house, he can drive 8 hours in the other direction.

'sota gal March 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Rematch ASAP. IMVHO, it will only harbor resentment in you and your partner if the two of you invest the time and emotion into “fixing” the relationship assuming she does not do a complete 180. I am not sure what conversations you’ve had w/NAP and perhaps she would respond to a tough heart to heart where you laid it all out on the line. If it were just safety concerns, job performance and integrating into the family that might work. But I think with the US BF she may be a lost cause. Like someone else mentioned it seems to be the type of situation for an AP to will go AWOL as soon as she has the chance.

If you do rematch, I would also suggest finding back up child care for the interim, effective the date of the rematch. With the BF in town now it seems like she would already have a place to escape to rather than working at all during her last 2 weeks; unless you worded the first available date to be the last day of her 2 weeks.

Good luck!

Anonymous March 22, 2010 at 7:12 pm

She may well be providing adequate childcare for your son, but you are not comfortable with her, and she is going against your rules.
Rematch, and find your next wonderful au pair.

Should be working March 22, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I agree. Initiate rematch before you spend more energy trying to make yourself feel better about this one.

There might be families out there that are fine with the au pair being gone when not on duty; if you want the member-of-the-family experience, however, this is not going to be it. If she already is under your skin, it is unlikely to become a very good experience with her. Maybe it would be tolerable, but why settle?

While her laundry and instruction-following issue is small, and even the bf parked in front is not necessarily bad, your gut is important.

An agency might be emphasizing ‘improving communication’; this happened in my last match. But after following all their suggestions, my gut was still not happy, and I rematched. Should have started with the gut, rather than dragging it out 4 more weeks.

CV did, however, ask if there are things to make this match work. If you really want to try that (and I’d go for rematch instead), then LIST in writing your expectations. You can, in my understanding, require the au pair to spend some evenings at home even if they are not working hours, or at least my agency told me this when I had an au-pair-with-boyfriend problem. You could also suggest that things aren’t working out as you wished, and give her a chance to WANT to stay with you and perhaps improve. In fact, you might be her only chance to be with bf, so she might really change.

But these measures are for ‘fixers’. I’m not a fixer, I’m a start-over-er.

cv harquail March 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

SBW- I was trying to balance out my extreme ‘rematch now’ reaction by asking for suggestions about repairing this. But I’m right with you– rematch. Hard to do, and easier now than later. Lucky for these moms, they know that there are good au pairs out there… they can find another one who fits with their family. cv

Amelie ex au pair March 22, 2010 at 8:53 pm

What if she comes to you and tells you she’s moving in with his boyfriend or something like that, which seems very likely, and you suddenly find yourself with no childcare at all?

I’d get rid of her first.

CT Host Mom March 22, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I would really question her motives. She doesn’t appear to want to be part of your family– she is literally leaving the second she is off duty not too be seen again until it is time for her to work again. As long as the boyfriend is there it doesn’t look like it’s going to change. I would rematch ASAP and find someone better suited to your family. Good Luck!

NY Host Mom March 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I should say up front that I am slightly neurotic, but a male person hovering around my home would make me nervous. I would ask for a rematch. It’s really not that painful. There are wonderful au pairs out there in bad situations just hoping for a family like yours!

Janet March 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Rematch!!! I’d rematch since you’ve got most of the year to live with her, and she’s only been with your family for a short time. We matched w/ an au pair who was in rematch – she stayed with the first family for 18 months and rematched w/ us for 6 months after our au pair couldn’t get her visa.

I didn’t think to ask if she had a boyfriend, but she did. After the first month she admitted to having a boyfriend, and then she spent absolutely every moment when she was not watching our kids with him. I felt like she had not been honest with me about her reasons for wanting to join our family. It also really bothered me that she never bonded with our family or did anything with us, but on the other hand it was kind of nice not having to include her in our activities or to cook for her. We considered rematching because of the boyfriend deal but decided not to because it was only 6 months, she seemed to take good care of the kids, and the boyfriend was not a distraction to her during the day time.

I personally think the boyfriend in this case sounds kind of creepy or maybe even controlling. I wouldn’t want him hanging around my driveway waiting for her, and I’d be concerned that he might be at the house during the day when the host family isn’t home.

The small laundry loads is annoying, but all of our au pair’s have started off this way plus they use way too much detergent. I try to appeal to their green side and point out how it’s a waste of water, electricity, and soap. Most of our au pair’s finally get it.

Anna March 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Rematch. I have a similar story to tell about my Russian au pair, and a couple of friends – similar stories with Ukrainian au pairs.

From the safety concerns with you son, I doubt her experience in the application is true, or fully true. Anybody who’s handled a child of this age should know those things! I think she is winging it, and luckily it is going mostly well.

And it is clear as day that she is here to find a boy and to marry, or have all the fun she has in all her waking hours. You, your kids and your home are just means for achieving this goal.

“Not clicking” with friends of a wonderful au pair is also telling a lot. Our Russian au pair “clicked” with one or two girls, ALL of whom went into a rematch shortly after their friendship started. She wasn’t interested in good normal successful au pairs who were the majority of our cluster. Obviously, she “clicked” with the girls whose goals matched hers …

I felt used, I felt like a hotel, I felt like she didn’t even want to try building a relationship with me. I rematched, only too late. It is a lesson for me for the future, I will not wait so long again.

maleaupairmommy March 22, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Yes there are many things you can do to repair the situation but from an experience host mom who has been there done that.

I implore you just rematch now. You are a good family many au pairs would love to take care of one child etc. You obviously are patient and understanding. Just rip the band-aid my friend and move on.

Lesson learned –this was unexpected because who knew she had an ex so close and they would get back together. I wouldn’t be surprised if she disappears into the night to be with him once you are in rematch, so be prepared. Good luck. There is a wonderful au pair that truly wants to be a part of the family. This is another example of why I love male au pairs I can’t even get mine to admit he has a girlfriend even though he talks to her all the time and she came to visit LOL. They were very discrete never holding hands or kissing in front of us or the kids. I just hear about it from my friend who took them out for me. Too cute

NoCAMom March 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Yep – rematch.

Taking a computer lunch March 22, 2010 at 10:59 pm

You didn’t get the type of au pair you wanted, no hard feelings, just, “I feel that you’re not interested in participating in family activities. When we entered the AP program, we had that in mind. I’m sorry our goals are in conflict, because you’ve otherwise don’t a good job at taking care of my child.” End of story.

Do start documenting issues that you have with her behavior in writing with your LCC now. (And I would plan an unannounced return home, just in case that boyfriend has been venturing indoors during your child’s naptime, if you catch my drift.)

My guess is that she’ll be gone the second she can, and if ends completely negatively then, then tell her not to use your name for a recommendation because you don’t think you can give her a good one.

Calif Mom March 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Did you call the agency/counselor yet to tell them you are D-O-N-E yet? Flee. Get it over with.

I agree with CV that it’s wonderful you can take solace in knowing there are fabulous APs out there. Go find your next one.

Good luck!

West Coast Mom March 23, 2010 at 12:13 am

I had a strong sense of deja vu when reading this … I’m about 6 months ahead of you in a nearly identical situation, so I can tell you what it looks like now.

Our wonderful AP (she was actually a nanny but started out as an AP about 5 years before we met) of 4 years helped us select new AP, helped decorate the AP room, stayed around for 2 weeks to help train and introduce new AP to her friends, and then …

New AP didnt “connect” with any of them, did not go to any of the cluster activities, and spent most of her time with the single AP she was friendly with (who was the LCC’s “problem child” I would later learn). It was through the freind that new AP met her boyfriend, about a month into her stay with us. And then …

We basically never see her, except when she is working. SHe leaves within minutes of her shift ending, comes back at 11 pm on work nights, is gone the entire weekend unless she has work scheduled. Because our car has a curfew, but she does not, we have the same situation with the boyfirend driving her away on the weekends. (We have a rule that says, Be home at least 8 hours before your shift).

Boyfriend is a smoker, so AP always returns home smelling like smoke, or strong and icky perfume to cover the smoke. In the beginning, she was having BF meet her out with my kids to go mini golfing, etc. We put a stop to that, but by the time we found out, the kids had already become a bit attached to BF. Ugh. Oh, and BF’s family invited AP for a week long vacation, after she had used up her vacation time … and AP asked for the time off anyway. When we said no (hello! we work full time and would have to use *our* vacation to accommodate hers), things have really started to deteriorate.

Probably goes without saying, but we’re pretty sure she is texting and facebooking him and others all day during her duty hours as well.

We have about 5 months to go, and I really wish I had seen the red flags a long time ago.

It’s worth saying that she is reasonably good with the kids. I do not worry about their safety, but I know that she does not engage them in play, and does not enjoy the job. And of course … no connection with the family, at all.

She didnt come to the kids’ birthday party this weekend. We have never had a nanny miss their birthday party. She was with the BF, naturally.

So there you have it.

I would, obviously, recommend rematch. Even if your son is safe, she will never be as engaged or connected as someone who really cared about the job or your family. You are a means to an end. And trust me when I say, it doesn’t feel very good.

Good luck.

Melissa March 23, 2010 at 12:36 am

Couldn’t agree more – rematch and don’t feel bad about it! I sympathize with wanting to try and look for the positive and give her a fair chance, however, in addition to all of the points that everyone mentioned, the big red flag for me is that this behavior is happening SO EARLY in the match. If she is out constantly now, and has no concern or is naively oblivious to how creepy it is to have her overbearing boyfriend hovering in your driveway, it will only get worse, way way worse. We’ve had similar issues with a partying au pair who was gone constantly. Luckily there wasn’t a boyfriend issue, so we put up with it, but I’m with you that it is very annoying and made us feel like we were just a hotel for her. Like you, I felt if I wanted that, I could have hired a live-out babysitter. It is also tough when she follows a wonderful au pair. When our mediocre au pair arrived after our amazing one — and we also did two weeks of overlap, the difference was so apparent and I felt so let down.

Au pair March 23, 2010 at 9:18 am

Have you tried talking to her about your concerns before? She might change as she won’t want to leave since the bf is living close to you..

I’d rematch as well because it’s way too many issues when you can have a great au pair…or not, you never know someone till they come to your house to live with you.

But deep inside, it makes me wonder:

I am an au pair who works at least 55 hours per week with 3 boys – i love them but they are a lot of work! – when i get off i usually don’t have time to do much till its time to go to bed again…but somehow i managed to start going to the gym, everyday, since i gained many pounds in America and I also started a relationship with an American. I do want to bond with my family and I love them so much for all they do for me – but it gets hard to find time to do everything! I am afraid my host mom is thinking the same..that I am only with my bf even tho i dont see him on weekdays but why would i come home if i can stay lazy at his house for the whole weekend …its a lot of driving and makes no sense to me so i just pack some clothes and leave. :( am i a bad au pair? :(

Darthastewart March 23, 2010 at 9:51 am

I don’t think you’re a bad au-pair if you need down time. I think that what the dividing line is for me is when someone leaves the second I get home. Like they’re just marking minutes until they’re off the clock. In your case, you’re already working too many hours, and you do need some down time- heck we ALL need some down time.

HRHM March 23, 2010 at 10:57 am

I actually have a line in my Handbook that says “I don’t want you waiting at the front door with your purse in your hand when I come home from work” LOL The truth is, no one wants to feel like they are a distraction from your real life, especially not after paying over 7K in agency fees. If we wanted a care giver who left in a rush to be with her “real family” or husband, we’d hire a live out Nanny and then wouldn’t have to worry about making space, hiding our favorite mugs, having you stain our towels with your hair dye etc :- We want a family member. She’s not going to be that. Rematch now before DS gets too attached.

PA au pair mom March 23, 2010 at 12:19 pm

I have a similar line in my handbook. I had this problem with my first au pair, although it wasn’t related to a boyfriend. She didn’t stay out all night but she would be waiting with her purse and keys in hand the second I came in the door to go to starbucks, target, etc.

NJMom March 23, 2010 at 11:09 am

Agreed. For all the reasons above, REMATCH!

Anonymous March 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Before even getting to the end of the post- REMATCH NOW! seriously. the concerns about safety should be a red flag. Not to mention the fact that she did not like cleaning person around too long- that should also be a red flag. forget mediation- in my opinion it will be a waste. You will not be happy, and you need to go with your gut. I know this sounds far fetched, adn I don’t mean it to scare you or other moms, but if your gut is not feeling it- rematch. A toddler down the street was killed due to bad caregiver (not an au pair) but point is, it was the day before what was to be the child’s last day there, as the mom felt it not right. Biggest problem we working women have, in my view, is our inability to follow our inner voices. This is YOUR child. You have the RIGHT to decide who YOU are comfortable with caring for your child.

Now, moving on to bf issues, that makes me uncomfortable on many levels. Your child is young, and there will probably be a lot of ‘down’ time for new AP to chat, hang out, etc. Too many opportunities for a nonattentive AP to not know if there is a situation needing her care. The one AP I had where I felt I should have rematched, I did not- and regretted it in the long run.
Good luck.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 6:33 am

Maybe try talking it through with her at first instead of not saying anything to her so she doesnt know what the problem is? She might be feeling uncomfortable within the family and it might be difficult for her to open up to new people (not clicking with people on ski trip) She is probably spending alot of time with her bf because it is someone familiar to her and someone she knows and trusts and for instance the skyping. im sure your au pair was wonderful before but you have to stop comparing her to the last one you had and if you had make it verbal of how wonderful your last au pair was maybe she feels intimidated.
they are completely different people by the sounds of it.

English Au Pair April 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

I believe you may just be constantly comparing her to your “wonderful au pair” and the way you refer to them as these titles in your message shows the status difference between the previous au pair and the current one.
Have you properly spoke to her about wanting her to spend more time with you as a family? New au pairs often don’t know the boundries, how much time they’re supposed to spend with you or not spend with you. It seems to me, if she’s good with your son and fun to be around when she is there this shouldn’t be a problem. You just need to wipe the expectations of your old au pair and start fresh with this one.

Darthastewart May 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

It’s in situations like this that you always need a back-up plan. How about using a temporary nanny from care.com or sittercity? It may also be that the agency also has an AP with a short time left on her visa or one who would be willing to float with you while looking for a new Host family.

Still waiting May 28, 2010 at 9:28 am

Stories like this make me really mad. I am part of an au-pair program at the moment and have been for 5 months. To date I have not found my “family”. It’s girls like this that make finding the right family for girls like me difficult. Families become skeptical about getting a new au-pair and are even sometimes the reason why families leave the program all together.

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