Can This Au Pair Relationship Be Saved? Real Concerns vs. Nitpicky Concerns

by cv harquail on February 8, 2012

If only the distinction between “real concerns” and “nit-picky concerns” were clearcut, we’d never need to share ideas with each other!

We all seem to face, at some point or another, that question: Am I being unreasonable, or are my concerns legit? We have to address this question before we take any action, like asking our au pair to change his or her behavior, or changing our guidelines, or adjusting our expectations. And absolutely, we much be confident with our answer before we initiate rematch.

119552649_6ccdaec4eb_o.jpg So I’m cruising my way down this email, asking “nit-picky or not?” and thinking at points 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 that the concerns are legit and that the host mom should talk with her au pair about these. And then I got to #6, and by #7 I was feeling pretty clear about what I’d advise.

But you read it through yourself, and respond in the comments.

Dear AuPairMom,

We are a first time host family of me, my husband, two girls who are 4 and 1 years and we have a 21 year old French Au Pair, who has been living with us since the end of October (going on 3 months now). Our Au pair is a sweet girl but we seem to be having lots of little issues with her that are piling up into big ones.

Here is the background story anyway. We decided to host an Au Pair because we liked the idea of the kids having a special someone to take care of them while we were at work, and we needed the flexibility because I had just taken a job on a farm which required sometimes long hours due to the nature of the work, and daycare hours didn’t fit with us. We went through an Au Pair company, and it took us ages to find one due to us living in the country. When we did get our Au Pair, it was only because of a rematch where her original host family’s son had gotten ill and the mother needed to stay home from work to care for him long term. I was assured by the agency that it was not due to her performance.

We made sure that the Au Pair knew that the hours would be long, however she was only required to look after the children when both parents were at work (HD often finished early), and that she would be paid at the agreed rate of $8 an hour for every hour of childcare over the alloted 25 hours for $150.00 as per the agency agreement. [cv’s note: this host mom is in the UK] We also made sure she knew that the area was isolated from the city (about 300km from a capital city), however there were lots of backpackers around that she could socialise with.

When she first got here she planned all these activities with the kids and I made sure we went shopping for art and craft stuff and games for the kids and gave her brochures about library storytime, tourist activities and playgroups. I took her out to the local pub a few times to meet other people while my husband looked after the kids and encouraged her to go and meet other people, so she wouldn’t feel isolated. Everything was great to start with, but has since gone pear shaped.

Unfortunately 6 weeks after starting my new job and the Au Pair, my horrible new boss fired me because of my family responsibilities and because I refused to work 12 hour days and weekends. My husband had to go back to working away to support us and I managed to get a night/day job in a local hotel. Now my husband works away for one week then stays home for a week, and I have a very erratic roster that changes each week and sometimes involves nights, sometimes days and always every weekend. I think she understands that my roster changes all the time and there is nothing I can do about it, and I have told her that she is not required to work at all when my husband is home except when we botbh have an event on, e.g. he is playing cricket on a Saturday and I am working. However, I still pay her $150/week for the 25 hours, regardless of whether she works them or not, which I think is fair enough.

The problems are mostly small but many. I don’t mean to be picky, I really do like her but I am terrible with dealing with conflict and don’t know how to approach it.

1. She almost cost me $3000 in excess usage charges on the internet.

We live in the country, and I only had 7GB of data, which was specified in the Handbook. After receiving the first bill for $2000 just before christmas because she was downloading movies and watching streaming TV, I told her that the internet was to be used for general browsing, Facebook and occasionally Skype only – NO MOVIE/TV. She apologised and agreed. Luckily I got the amount credited because of a glitch in the system which should have alerted me to the excess usage, and now the alerts are in place. I know she felt really bad and it was a mistake because she assumed that it was the same as in France, so I was very understanding about it and told her I didn’t expect her to pay for it because it was a mistake. She was upset because she thought I would rematch her, but I explained to her that we value her and wouldn’t do that.

2. She spends all her time on the internet still.

When I had a closer look at the bill, I discovered that she had been on the net for 7-10 hours at a time, when she was supposed to be looking after the kids. I haven’t approached her about this yet, I just now disconnect the router whenever I leave the house. Sometimes I use the computer on my lap when the kids are around, however I also run a small on,line business and am capable of spending 5 min answering emails then 15 min playing with my kids. Even now since I disconnect it each time – when I get home she still has her laptop up playing a game or watching a movie or something.

3. I have tried to teach her to cook but it doesn’t sink it.

Egg, rice and a little bit of vegies is not a meal. When I cook a meal, it must have meat, vegetables and then carbs like a pasta or rice. I have shown her how to make stir-frys and cook steak but she doesn’t eat a lot of meat herself so she doesn’t seem to cook it for the kids. Even sandwiches for lunch are fine, as long as they are substantial.

4. She is dodging paying for her own fuel.

She met another French guy who became her boyfriend. At one stage she was driving out to his house (because he didn’t own a car) every night, often driving him to the pub and other towns. I explained to her more than once that it costs us $20 in fuel everytime she drove out and back (70km round trip), and that she must pay that each time she does the trip, She would often dodge it, saying she put fuel in the car or not putting the full amount in. She would often stay overnight or come home at 1-2am but that didn’t bother me as long as it didn’t interfere with her work. (However she has been slightly late several times and I detest lateness).

5. She doesn’t give us any space

Since the boyfriend is now travelling Australia, she spends all her free time at home, and usually in the loungeroom with me and the kids. I have to go to my room to get any privacy. I have had Pay TV installed in her room, we have wireless internet, and she has a nice big room but she prefers to spend her time with us, which is ok some of the time but not all, especially when my husband is home. Now in this – it is awesome that she helps me out all the times but it seems like that if she is home, she is working, which isn’t necessary. I am not paying her to look after the children when I am there because I can do it. I feel guilty because she seems to think she has to help all the time, even though I have told her that it isn’t required. Although, at times it would be nice to ask her to take the kids for an hour while I do some painting – (I sell my art online), but I feel guilty if I were to do this too.

6. She seems to dislike my older daughter.

DD1 is 4 and not an easy child. I love her but she has my sort of personality and is a highly strung, argumentative, tantrum throwing, often disrespectful child that can be difficult to entertain. Even I struggle with her at times, but I demand total respect, politeness and manners from her at all times. I deal with her tantrums by giving her time out but like all parents, sometimes I lose it too. We struggled from an early age because I had PND (post-partum depression, in the USA) and never truly bonded with her.

7. I have pulled the AP up twice now for yelling at DD1 to “Shut up!

I have lost it once or twice and used those words but apologised straight away – and I have told her to do the same – but it’s not acceptable. DD1 and AP seem to always be bickering and I am sick of listening to it – she tells her off for the tiniest little things, even when I am home and it annoys me…. I am the parent not her! It gets to the point where I have to tell DD1 to leave AP alone! DD1 seems to like stirring her up too and AP’s disdain is starting to show. In contrast, AP loves my youngest, DD2 who is 1 and still in that adorable stage. She often cuddles her to sleep (much to my dismay as I am trying to teach her to go to sleep by herself in her cot).

My husband is starting to dislike her because he is very very protective of DD1 in particular (she is a daddy’s girl), but lets me deal with AP because he thinks I am more diplomatic. I am unsure what to do though – I am terrible with conflict but think I need to suck it up and deal with it.

I know I am not the best parent and may not always set the best example but I try my hardest. I struggle with depression and anxiety, medication helps but does not eliminate it dramatically. I sometimes have bad days where I cannot cope with the children and need some space. I struggle to deal with conflict because I sometimes have a Panic attack when attempting to bring up issues.

I feel terrible, because I like her even if her behavior annoys the hell outta me sometimes. But like any mother, my family must come first. Cheers, Ellie

Image: Chasing the chickens, on Flickr AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Troy B Thompson


Should be working February 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm

The OP should realize that this is not an acceptable situation. #1 worked out fine, she understands about streaming and internet costs. #3, the cooking, is to me also not a big deal, but if you spent the time to show her and made clear what you expect, then she should comply. #5 does not speak against her as an AP, she wants your company, and it would be an issue of communication to get some time alone with kids and DH (see an old post here about HPs needing time alone with their kids).

BUT #2, #4, #6, and #7 are dealbreakers if nothing changes. Not ok.

Can the match be saved? Possibly. It would require some very stern conversation and follow-through. I get the impression that the OP has not taken on the responsibility of actively managing the au pair and making expectations clear. The rules on internet and computer use while performing childcare need to be made clear and enforced. Has the HM created a handbook? Posted basic childcare rules on the wall? The fuel should be black-and-white, and the HM needs to be straightforward and enforce the rule, even if it means having everyone write down their mileage. The rules around how to speak to DD1 should be made absolutely clear, and warnings given.

The AP might be able to step up to the plate if the HPs make an effort to really manage her. The OP sounds like she struggles a lot and might not feel comfortable being the boss, which she is. I think having an AP requires an ability to be the boss, to set up strict rules, to follow through on them, and then maybe later to relax them.

If they had LCCs in the UK, this would in my view be a situation where indeed the LCC should say, “Make your rules clear, make it clear that AP has 2 wks to improve, and then monitor progress.” I think this AP has not had the guidance she needs to see if she can live up to this job. Maybe she can, maybe she can’t, but to me a serious effort at managing her might be worth trying.

DCMomof3 February 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm

One thing I always wonder when I read these types of posts is what do YOU do when you walk into the house and see her on the computer? Do you say, “You know, I expect that during your work hours you are not on the computer. This is a job and we need for you to be fully engaged in it.” Or do you go to your room to calm down, complain to your husband, write a blog, etc?

If you are not addressing the situation head-on, you need to do so. A bit of a positive spin can help – i.e. “the kids get so much out of their time with you and its much better for them if you are focused and engaged and the computer is put away while you are working.”

If you do this and she still is on the computer, then get rid of her. I am sure that there are people looking for work in a rural area who could come in as babysitters – especially since you only need 25 hours per week of care.

The Host Mum in this Post February 8, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Hi, I’m the HM (I’m not sure what OP means). Ahhh, the truth hurts. I know that I’m not confident enough to be the boss, and would rather whinge about her to my husband. And I dont say anything to her when I see her on the computer. I’m the “nice guy”, or gutless as such. It’s strange because I manage people at work all the time, but I guess I’m not confident in my own home. I did write a handbook, but I was a bit vague and I’m not honestly sure if she understood it completely. And it’s my fault for not making sure she understood it completely.

I have been researching your posts and found a few that I am going to implement. One of them was called “Caring for the Children”, which was awesome information, and a lot of it is in our handbook, but it seems I need to be more firm with it. The guidelines are excellent too.

It seems we need a “Reset” – (I got this from another post). We will be moving to the city again so I can go back to University and become a Teacher. Obviously AP will be coming with us and her hours will go up again. The house we have applied for is smaller than our current one, and we will be in eachother’s space but if I open up the communication we will be right. We really do like her, most of the time but all people clash at times.

I think me losing my regular job and working casual has thrown a spanner in the works as we no longer have any form of routine. My hours are so erratic and she has had to work mostly nights so she can’t socialise unless my husband is home. Anyway, when I start University I will have a set timetable and we can get into a routine again.

Back to the Reset – I think I will have to type up a FIRM set of rules regarding EVERYTHING (just about) and explain why we have set them and the consequences if they are not followed (not sure about consequences yet – must do some more post research). Make it more like a workplace and completely Black & White – i.e. No personal calls or text on mobile phone or computer, or television during work hours.
If you use the car for personal use you must fill in the log book and pay for your own petrol costs at $0.20/km. (Can I deduct this from her wage?).

I honestly thought the rules for speaking to DD1 would have been common sense. She has not done it since I told her that it was unacceptable for the second time. That was about a month ago. I have also told her to ignore DD1’s constant picking at her and we both use the 1-2-3 system for bad behaviour. I honestly think DD1 is bored, so thats why she is being so obnoxious. Anyway, DD1s behavioural problems is a whole different issue.

Basically, you are right, I need to suck it up, get some courage and tackle it head on. Sit down with my husband and her and go through the typed list with her, and make sure she understands that these are concrete. Oh yeah and follow my own rules too.

We dont have LCCs in Australia, in fact I’ve never heard of them.

WestMom February 9, 2012 at 8:23 am

Dear Ellie,
I think you are right that clarifying your handbook, its delivery, and follow up will help you a long way in saving this relationship. There are good examples of house rules on this site which you could use to bring clarity to your own.

This would clearly fix #1-2 (internet usage). As for #4 (car fuel), it sounds like you need some rules there too. I find unusually generous that you would allow her to take your car overnight on a 70km trip to go drinking with some guy who doesn’t have his own transportation. Our car rules state a radius of normal travel (10m), a max mileage per month (300m), a car curfew (midnight), and that the car is not to be used as a taxi. Anything above and beyond requires a special permission and added costs for the AP. I also automatically ask for a weekly car usage fee to cover for her off time usage. Again, handbook clarification needed.

I agree with one of the previous responder about #3 (cooking). Also in our handbook, I have clear meal expectations (protein, starch, 1-2 veggies) a full page of dinner ‘ideas’. This might come handy to a novice cook. If you need to be more prescriptive, I would suggest making a rotating weekly menu of easy things to cook.

The issues with your daughter (#6-#7) are of a different nature, and clearly cannot be addressed merely in a handbook. What works for us is our weekly family meeting where we set rules, goals and expectations for our family. Everyone is involved, including our AP, so everyone contributes to the solution and we get consensus on our decisions. DD2 is clearly too young for this, DD1 could participate and contribute, especially as it comes to decision about behavior and discipline. I feel that the family meeting is also an opportunity for the AP and parents to share how we all feel about certain situations. It helps us getting her to buy into an approach, and it makes her look like normal parents who don’t always have the solution to every problem! Pick a day for a recurring meeting, write up a weekly agenda, and communicate!

I too believe this can be saved. There is so much to learn from this first AP relationship, and it will surely get better over time. Communicate, communicate, communicate…

Taking a Computer Lunch February 9, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I would say that having granted the AP the right to drive to see her boyfriend, it would be hard to take it back, especially if you don’t want her sitting with you in the lounge every night. However, if the city to which you are moving is too far to drive to see boyfriend every night, then that’s a good time to cut access to the car. However, it goes without saying, if the vehicle is commonly used by all, if you’re driving that far, put gas into it. I would give her a warning that her access to the car would be eliminated if she doesn’t refill after driving to see her boyfriend.

DCMomof3 February 9, 2012 at 8:43 am

Its really very, very common to be a great manager at work and a terrible manager at home. My first nanny would never do any chores around the house. I would just do her chores for her on the weekend, after spending long hours all week in my corporate law firm. I don’t know why I was too scared to tell her to vacuum the playroom or wipe down the counter. I bossed around more junior lawyers and staff at work all day long. I fought with difficult opposing counsel and even difficult clients. Yet, I could not bring myself to ask the nanny to put down her cell phone during working hours. My best friend from the law firm similarly would come home and do the work her nanny should have been doing all day – not only for her own kids, but for the other kids in the nanny share at her house as well. Fast forward 7 years and now I really don’t do much housework at all. I have a much easier job now but I also am just way better at managing at home. My au pair is fully scheduled with household tasks related to the kids (which honestly is most of the work in our house) for her full working hours each day. In addition to weekly chores, i.e. Tuesday is kids laundry day, she has special daily chores from me written down in her book each morning. If I don’t feel like asking her about it directly, I just write down something like “organize all kids shoes in mud-room, put shoes that are not seasonally appropriate away in their rooms.” And she does it. And I think she actually respects me more than nanny # 1 who knew that she could walk all over me and did.

Should be working February 9, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Wow, thanks for that comment. I always wonder how I can be SO competent and confident at work and then spend hours fuming and scheming because the AP doesn’t pick up the kids’ rooms and doesn’t do the laundry the way I want. It is nice to know that I’m not alone.

I think what happens with me is that the new AP comes, she is so nice and excited, so I get all friendly and don’t want to be so strict, and then after 1 months she slacks off (although our au pairs have all stayed nice and been great with kids and with us) and I feel like it’s too late to introduce checklists and daily logs. And I say to myself “with the next au pair, it will be different”. I need to really figure out how to commit myself to managing, even during the honeymoon.

AnonHM Europe February 10, 2012 at 3:32 am

Would it be correct to say: “The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot” – in this case or is there any other/better apropriete proverb for this?
By the way: Same profession, same here…

HRHM February 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm

yep – order the residents around at work all week, and can’t get up the gumption to ask the AP to do her job at home. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I keep swearing I’m going to do better with the next one! I guess we’ll see in July! LOL

BLJ Hostmom February 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Love this. So true. We are on #3, and WOW what a difference. I run my house like a well oiled machine, so different than when AP #1 arrived. I also write stuff down because I don’t feel like telling her stuff. I have a daily log (by the way, staples will spiral bound these for $1.49!!!) and at the bottom there is a space for additional notes and chores, I write a lot of stuff down. Whether it is, remember to wash bedding this week, or please sweep under the table, or have the kids help you clean up toys in the backyard from last week, I love to write it and not discuss it, and it just gets done.

By the way, I tell them at the beginning that I am big on writing things down or emailing because it is sometimes hard to find time to talk in the busy morning, NOT because I don’t want to talk to them (not entirely true, but it makes sense to us all).

I’m watching 2 friends with new first time nannies struggle with expectations, etc, and it makes me see how far I’ve come, because every issue they are running across, we have addressed in the beginning and have had absolutely no issues this 3rd time around.

Good luck with reset, you can do it. And it WILL get easier the longer you do this.

Seattle Mom February 9, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I think you are definitely on the right track, that you need to essentially hit the “reset” button.

However, please try to see things from the AP’s side as well- you have not been clear about rules & expectations up until now, so it might seem heavyhanded to lay out harsh consequences in a punitive way. Really, the consequences are that if she doesn’t live up to the expectations she’s going to lose her job, and I think she might be aware of that.

I would come out and be honest- “I am not happy with the way things have been going, but I recognize that I haven’t been clear about my expectations. Let’s change that. Here is what I need to change: .” You could also give her a chance to air frustrations and needs and see if you can help her, or if her problems (e.g. schedule doesn’t allow her to make friends and socialize) temper some of your expectations (regarding internet use, car use, or being in your space). It sounds like it’s time to air out the laundry, for sure, but I wouldn’t go from being completely spineless to being a drill sargeant- that might just drive her away.

AnonHM Europe February 9, 2012 at 4:40 am

Oh, it is Australia – I assumed it to be GB (CV mentioned UK) and I was wondering where on Earth you might live in GB 300 km from the next city…
I also believe the match can be saved. And honestly I think it’s not all the APs fault.
Due to those erratic working hours you need to understand that she has little chance to socialize with other people. So what happens is: she is on the Computer as much as possible – probably to chat with friends etc. The computer is always there… What else could she do? Go for walks? Read? Play with the kids? Are there any other people her age close? Even if there were the possibility of classes she could take – due to her working hours she couldn’t attend regularily… She is probably very eager to speak with adults after working all day with the kids – thus she spends much time with you as part of some intellectual (as well as cultural) input… Most likely she feels very lonely and is rather bored…
I believe the situation will improve immensely once you move to some bigger city.
You already found out that you must be strict and clear about your rules. Honestly – it’s not so much different with APs than with your children (my experience). If you say no Internet/Computer it must be no Internet/Computer. Be very specific! If you say she must pay for her gas then she must. Of course you have to check and see if she behaves like expected. If there is no consequence for disobedience, there is no reason why to obey and the AP (and the kids eventually) will ignore your rules…
If you tell her that she has to prepare Steaks, Potatos, Brokkoli and a Salad for dinner she should cook exactly this. If you tell her to “prepare dinner” for the kids you (unfortunately) cannot expect that she knows what you will find suitable for dinner. Even if you told her 20 times. That’s just the way it is with some APs. (No offence – I’m sure there are plenty APs out there – especially those who read this page – who do know about nutritious food and cooking) but as HF you cannot take it for granted, that every AP is like this) Most APs need very specific (and written!) advises about our customs and cultural issues.

We all hope for the perfect AP who arrives, bonds with the kids immediately, sees all chores we expect from her, is a wonderful cook and a perfect driver and vanishes as soon she correctly interprets our wish of being a couple (and preferably takes the kids with her). It won’t happen. If we are very, very lucky in month 11 of the APs year it might come close to this. But it is a lot of work during the first 10 months (although after month 2 latest it should work without too much difficulties..)
Good luck!

Newhostmom February 9, 2012 at 11:11 am

You also might want to keep in mind that what has happened so far and what you are proposing for the future is a LOT of change in a short period of time. Obviously, a lot of the changes are not your fault (you can’t help losing a job), but even so, the situation now and after the move again will be a lot different than what she “signed up” for. I can’t exactly keep track of all the changes myself, but it sounds like working hours have chaned drastically, the kids may be in upheaval themselves because of the stress of job losses and working shift changes and moving, etc. And now you’re proposing moving, possibly changing hours again, and instituting a number of strict rules (reasonable, yes, but again, a change from what she came in on).

I would suggest making expectations clear, but also, be sure you’re considering her needs and wants and feelings in all this too.

JBLV February 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I agree mostly with Should Be Working. #1 #3 and #5 are not deal breakers – and things you should accept as a Host Parent. However, #2, #4, #6, and #7 are immediate grounds, at least for me, to rematch. It sounds to me that this au pair does not have the maturity to be the caregiver for young children. A good au pair knows not to be spend time on the internet when she is to engage with your daughters, bond with them and help your daughters develop. A good au pair knows that being 4-years-old is tough, and, more importantly, it is never acceptable to bicker with a small child.

I don’t think you should spend more time with this AP. She simply doesn’t have the maturity you and your daughters need. I spent the better part of a year trying to “guide” our first AP. It was a waste of my time and my child’s time. When we welcomed our next AP, I could see what a difference a little maturity could bring to our household and my son’s happiness and development. (Note, my son was never unhappy and has always been an early learner – but, he really blossomed with the new AP).

I say, start anew with someone new. There is someone out there better for you, your family and your situation.

Anonthistime February 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm

“I know I am not the best parent and may not always set the best example but I try my hardest. I struggle with depression and anxiety, medication helps but does not eliminate it dramatically. I sometimes have bad days where I cannot cope with the children and need some space. I struggle to deal with conflict because I sometimes have a Panic attack when attempting to bring up issues.”

This paragraph kind of gives me pause. While most of us find that an AP makes our life better and provides us the kind of help and flexibility that we need and love, I think we can all aknowledge that not everyone is cut out to be great HPs and sometimes our situations put us in a place where having a live-in AP is not practical. I know there have been earlier posts here about the unfairness of having APs during the turmoil of a disintegrating marriage. I wonder if asking a teenager to cope with her HPs poorly controlled psych issues isn’t a little unfair as well? I’m not trying to criticize the OP, I just wonder if you have thought about the possibility that maybe it’s not really the best form of childcare for your family right now, things being what they are.

Should be working February 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Good point. Because having an AP is more than just having childcare, it is dealing with a teenager (or young adult). I definitely would find it too much on my plate if I had unmanaged depression, anxiety and panic AND the kids to manage AND the AP. So indeed, this HM needs to take very good care of herself, get herself to the doctors and get the right balance of meds so that she can be less stressed out. I can see that a professional nanny might be a better fit, or even outsourced daycare so that the HM has time at home to herself.

DCMomof3 February 10, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Agree. Sometimes a super-amazing au pair can be good for taking care of a host mom in need, but this girl does not sound like she fits that bill.

The HM February 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm

I get your point of view, but my psych ‘issues’ – also known as ‘medical condition’, are not poorly controlled, they are as controlled as I can get them with medication. And she NEVER sees them – I am very good at hiding my mood swings. I have never lost it in front of her. It’s not like I’m psychotic! All it is, is sometimes, I have a crappy day like anyone else and I’m not in the mood to deal with her not doing her job.

Seattle Nanny February 11, 2012 at 1:15 am

“I know I am not the best parent and may not always set the best example but I try my hardest. I struggle with depression and anxiety, medication helps but does not eliminate it dramatically. I sometimes have bad days where I cannot cope with the children and need some space. I struggle to deal with conflict because I sometimes have a Panic attack when attempting to bring up issues.”

I am really trying to see things from your perspective, but honestly, if I were your aupair I would have gotten the hell out of there a while ago. For your AP not liking your four-year-old, as a nanny, let me clear a few things up–the younger the child is, the less of an individual personality they have and the more their behavior is influenced by the parent. As you’ve already stated you have struggles managing things, my instincts tell me that your daughter’s behavior is not corrected in a constructive way by you or your husband. To throw your AP in the mix and then blame her for “not liking” a four year old is just rough.

If I were you, I’d hit the reset but try to see things from your AP’s perspective. Many aupairs WANT to be a part of the family. That is why she’s in the loungeroom. You’re trying to “get away” from her? That just sounds odd to me. To be completely honest, if I were your nanny (forget about live-in aupair) I would have been out of there as soon as I realized the parents themselves didn’t have a handle on their own darn children and live. I understand that life is stressful at the moment because of work, but at the same time, you have a new person in your house from another country and you seem to be projecting your frustrations on her. If I were you–find a good solution for everyone involved, maybe help your AP rematch, maybe agree to certain rules, whatever but honestly…don’t get another AP again. You don’t seem emotionally mature enough to be a HM. Just being blunt.

The HM February 12, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Well you would be happy to know that once her contract is up, I will probably not be renewing it or getting another AP. I can really see why APs and Nannies are not popular in Australia. I prefer the structure, learning and social development that the childcare centres offer, rather than some teenager using the TV to entertain the kids all day while she is on her computer talking to her friends on Facebook.

Any parent knows that a child’s personality is developed before birth. Different babies have different personalities. If my inadequacies to handle my children are the reason for DD1’s highly-strung personality, why is DD2 so laid back and cruisey?

Even in saying so – I actually have a good handle on my children. They don’t behave like the crazy children you see on “Supernanny”. DD1 has to use her manners all the time or she doesn’t get anything, she gets a timeout if she is disrespectful or hurtful, and I use the 1-2-3 system if she is misbehaving.
AP will not let her do anything – don’t touch that, don’t do this, etc etc. She is not letting her be a child, and that’s why DD1 is acting out.

I am only trying to get some time with my husband and children alone sometimes. I understand that she wants to be part of the family, and she is – we took her over the other side of the country to visit my parent’s farm, we do everything with her!

I am not projecting my frustrations on her. I am kind to her, I give her everything. She takes my car whenever she wants, she uses my internet, my phone. I give her a horse to ride, I take her out to meet people, I take her on weekend family holidays, I buy her special food, I help her with medical issues. All I ask in return is that she does her job properly. I am sick of all take and no give.

KW February 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Hi, I’m an au pair, just chiming in. Personally, I think simply from reading your original post that you have gone above and beyond in your effort to help your AP fit into your family and your region. It sounds like some of your problems were made worse my miscommunication, but still, that’s not all your fault. Some things (such as “don’t be online/entertaining yourself the whole time you’re supposed to be with the kids”) are reasonable expectations that shouldn’t necessarily have to be spelled out, but of course it’s safer and clearer if you do so. My family, when I first talked with them, mentioned that their first au pair spent all her time online, and I told them I’d be happy to reserve my computer use for when the kids were in bed or I was off hours.

So I think it’s a good idea to come up with a clear set of rules and a “reset.” But I would just be warned that, if you adjust the terms of your arrangement, your AP might not be on board. For any number of reasons, she might decide that it’s not the arrangement she’d prefer, and choose to leave. I am a very conscientious au pair, but I would feel uncomfortable in a situation where my work hours and duties were subject to so much change. That’s not your fault of course, but APs too have to have some sense of control over their situation, even if it’s just for a year!

Good luck solving your problem! You said you weren’t interested in finding another au pair after this one’s contract ends, but maybe don’t rule it out entirely. Responsible and mature au pairs are out there!

The Host Mum in this Post February 14, 2012 at 10:53 am

Thanks for that KW. I actually completely understand her point of view with the hours not being what she originally signed up for. I would be uncomfortable too, and I wouldn’t be happy with that situation if I was an Au Pair. However, I am hoping like crazy that things will settle down in a few weeks. I will be on a regular 4 day uni timetable.
We will see about another Au Pair maybe. I will need to extra help while I am studying, but I have to get rid of my own ‘stuff’ before I try to take on management of someone else in my home.

We seem to be getting along better anyway. We went shopping together and I bought a heap of recipe bases for her learn to cook, and she is cooking nutritious meals for the kids each night. I am talking to her about my expectations more and DD1 is starting to behave herself a lot better now that she is attending kindy twice a week and both her and AP get a break from eachother. I think we can make this work.

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