Can This Relationship Be Saved?: Host Dad’s au pair is causing problems for me, in my house

by cv harquail on November 20, 2008

Host moms–your advice is needed on this one– and it’s a pretty unique situation. There are THREE relationships — maybe even four– in this request for advice.  Relationship 1: Between the writer and the au pair , Relationship 2: Between the au pair and the Host Dad, and Relationship 3: Between the writer and the Host Dad who is also her boyfriend.  Let’s assume that things with Relationships 4 & 5, between the Au Pair & kids, and Dad & kids, are working out okay.   This situation is complex, maybe we can each just toss in an idea or two?

Re-assessing my perspective: Am I crazy?

Arguing, au pair advice, low cost childcare I am in a weird situation. My boyfriend, his children, and his newly acquired au-pair all moved into my house. He is a widower and his children are young. People said this would be hard, but I never realized the trials I would go through.

I am a career woman. The demands of my job make it impossible to be a hands-on mom for the time-being.

My boyfriend is trying to make the best situation for everyone- giving au pair child rearing responsibilities, allowing me to meet my deadlines at work, etc. My problem is that I’m not happy. I love the kids and my boyfriend. i personally can’t find common ground with the au pair.

She wants to “serve” me, but I refuse her offers to wash my clothes or make me food. She manipulates situations – using the cell phone for international calls- to the tune of hundreds of dollars per month, she overflows the shower and the washing machine regularly, she doesn’t clean the table after the kids eat- leaving dishes in the sink and food smeared on the table.

My boyfriend feels that it is too hard on the kids to have numerous caregivers (the previous three were poorly selected) and wants to stick with this one because she has a positive attitude with the kids. He also wants to avoid having a “hot young au pair” because it won’t be healthy for our relationship because he calls me the jealous type- therefore he has another excuse to keep this au pair.

She will be finished with her contract in a few months. I have indicated that date should represent the termination point. He indicated she could stay on “somehow”. This mostly comes down to inertia, I think. He doesn’t want to change because it is easier not to.

He hasn’t ever contacted a babysitter.

I don’t know how to deal with this. Can it be handled, or should we part ways?

Are my feelings relevant, or should I just be handsoff and let him handle this situation however he sees fit? UnhappyCouple, au pair advice, bad host dad

My house is really taking a beating because it is being damaged – it’s my only investment and I don’t think the discipline is up to par. I know my friends and family members would never be so lenient in their own situations. Yet I don’t have the leadership position- I am given equal or less-than-equal say compared to the au pair, depending on the situation.

I feel that if this is going to evolve into a family situation, a temporary au pair can’t be given so much power that those other bonds and family environment don’t develop.

I’m trying to hang on to some sanity and find a way to make this work. But I am on the verge on living alone intentionally, because I can’t find a workable solution.

Moms & Dads– your thoughts?

{ 4 comments }

L November 21, 2008 at 3:49 am

First of all, these may not be your kids or your au pair, but it IS your house and you are her boss. You should talk to your boyfriend about choosing the next ap together– and, if neatness is important to you, find out how neat the ap is in the interview. I think that for things to work out— at least as far as living together goes— you have to be in command, with your boyfriend, and the ap has to see you as her boss.

Second, it is not unreasonable to ask her to clean up after the kids. The thing is that some young girls just are not neat soooo you end up thinking that they have not cleaned and they think that they have. If the ap is great with the kids and everything else is in line, it is up to you to decide if you want to see this as your “negative” with her— and then ask your boyfriend to see to it that the kids are cleaned up after— if it falls on him, he may get on her a bit more.

Third, the cell phone this can be stopped by having her pay if she goes over the limit. We have done this– and it is fair. A lot of au pairs are in the process of learning how to live on their own/how to budget— I am sure that you would make your own child pay is s/he went over, and you certainly would not let an employee slide, so apply the same rules here.

As far as discipline goes, discuss it with your b-friend— this may be a fine amount of discipline for him but you cannot imagine raising kids that way— something to think about. Is he as lax as the ap, does he just not bother because he is too busy? How are the kids when they are not with the au pair?

I do think that having boundaries for the kids is important— the au pair is with them enough that she cannot just be the good time girl without it be confusing for the kids and ultimately detrimental— they, like all people, need lines and a fair amount of consistency. You and your b-friend should work with her on how to discipline them in a way that you both find reasonable.

You have bitten off a lot— someone else’s kids in your house— wow. I did not even live with my husband until we were engaged— not for moral reasons but just because family bonds are so complicated and deep and difficult to navigate, I think it would be hard to do without officially being “family.”

Good luck, L

C November 21, 2008 at 3:05 pm

I agree with L.

I do want to say, that after endless searches for babysitters and part-time sitters, who were tardy, inflexible, inconsistent, wanted $19 per hour, quit w/o giving advanced notice, and could never work weekends…we were finally convinced by a friend that having an au pair is the way to go. The flexibility of having someone devoted to your family is a benefit. Having them live with you can be a drag sometimes, but their close proximity has benefits. My work throws me a lot of curve balls and being able to change my ap’s schedule each week, even mid-week somtimes, is amazing. My last sitter said rudely, sarcastically “So what’s the schedule this week.”

As far as “serving you” she might just be trying to help you out or try to bond with you. My au pair sometimes goes the extra mile and will fold my laundry or make us dinner.

We established clean-up as part of our ap’s daily tasks. I learned the hard way that unfortunately many of your expectations need to be stated beforehand, sometimes it is hard to establish new rules once they are set. But they are not set in stone, you can put them down on paper, and if your ap adapts to the new expectations, maybe she is worth keeping.

I also agree that you have input into choosing an au pair if you decide to have one the next time around. Our ap is very neat and tidy, she picks up after my children, she cleans the dining room and cleans the kitchen after cooking them a meal. It is not unusual.

Another note, my husband doesn’t get annoyed by the same issues as I do. Your feelings are important and relevant, even if they are not justified by your boyfriend. Maybe it is time to set aside time to have a “town meeting” in your home and address the cell phone, the shower, and cleaning. Put in writing. If things change, keep her, if they don’t..might be time for a new ap or a situation that suits you better.

cvh November 21, 2008 at 4:57 pm

C & L– your comments are so thoughtful and kind. THANK YOU! cvh

lanna November 21, 2008 at 11:42 pm

I agree- these comments are awesome in that they are very supportive, objective and nonjudgmental, and overall extremely helpful!

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