Can this relationship be saved? Our Au Pair rubs me the wrong way….

by cv harquail on April 15, 2009

Sometimes a host parent’s complaints about an au pair seem legitimate. Sometimes the complaints don’t seem legitimate. And sometimes, the host parent just really isn’t sure.

Here’s a long request for advice from Anonymous . She sets it up as though she might be a bad person… and let me tell you that by the end, you’ll be wondering why she hasn’t gone into rematch already! To make it a little easier to offer Anonymous your advice and perspective, I’ve broken up her request into (more or less) one paragraph per issue. Anna and A-mom-ymous have already offered some suggestions, and I’m sure others of you will have much to say. So jump in moms & dads!

"I wanted some advice and actually just wanted to see if anyone else ever felt like their au pair just rubs them the wrong way or just irritates them for no reason. Or am I just a terrible host parent/person?

angry girl.jpg

My au pair has been with us for about 9 mo now and we’ve definitely had some low and high points, but lately I really just find myself not wanting to be around her. We have 1 year old twins, and she takes OK care of them. This varies as well, she’s very inconsistent. Most of my issues with her don’t even have to do with her actual caring for my kids, it’s on a personal level, so I can’t really say anything to her about it.

So my issues with her caring for my kids are small, but I’ve been noticing that she’s awake all hours of the night meaning she has very little energy to do much with the kids during the day. I leave the tv on kid shows when I leave in the morning and she immediately turns it on music videos or a movie. Granted, my kids don’t really watch tv but my feeling is she’s the one watching tv all day long.

She’s becoming increasingly nasty to my dog, who is huge and at times also annoying, but I hear her yelling “MOVE” all the time at him, but then she’ll ask to take him for walks sometimes (but I think there’s another reason for this that I’ll get to in a minute).

She has become increasingly ungrateful for things. I bought her a $10 huge piece of chocolate cake last weekend when we went to dinner. I told her about it and rather than say “thank you” she says “why?” and then after she ate almost all of it (it took me 3 days to eat this piece of cake and I like sweets) I asked her what it tasted like and she said she didn’t really like it. 

A really big issue for me is that I just don’t think she’s a very nice person. She has a lovely boyfriend who we’ve had over to the house and he’s from Bosnia as well. He lives two hours away and drives up to see her all the time and will drive back. She tells us she doesn’t really like him and is waiting for something better to come along. They were planning on going to vacation together and she said she didn’t care how much it cost because he was paying for everything (he does not come from money). She got mad at him when his brakes broke on his car and he couldn’t come get her and insisted we tell him over the phone that she did not want to talk to him. It broke my heart for this poor sucker. She refuses to take the bus to his house which costs $15 dollars and says “If he loves me he’ll come see me!”.

I try to act motherly toward her and give her advice, but she thinks it’s funny to be nasty to him. I have a really hard time listening to her talk about all the horrible ways she is acting to this really generous and sweet kid (obviously he must like it!).

On top of that, I brought her to watch my kids at a work convention out of town for 4 days, and on the very last night, they were having an ice cream social for staff and I was going to bed but told her to go down. I happened to check on her before that and she came out very provocatively dressed and the next morning I found out that “something” happened with one of the folks I am in charge of. She was very sneaky about it and after returning to work I heard from several co-workers she was on the prowl with all of the male staff. I have to take the babies to several things with me this summer for work and I don’t want to take her, I can’t risk being embarrassed in front of people who are important to my work again, or risk her going on the prowl with the wrong person! one+woman+many+men+picture.JPG
We had a party at my husbands work (it was a family party but my hubby is in the Army) as soon as she heard the party was going to be at the base she changed her outfit so she l iterally looked like a prostitute. We tried to convince her to change her outfit becuase it just wasn’t appropriate at my husbands work (much less anywhere except a strip club) and she said she “didn’t care”.

She does take the dog for walks as well – so she can sit in town and have men approach her. We really just hate taking her anywhere with us now for this and other reasons. I am pretty young myself, and don’t expect her to dress conservatively, and know that all young girls like male attention, but it’s gotten bad.

Also, and I know this is petty, but if we’re out together she won’t correct people who think the babies are hers, she will converse and act like they are her children and I will have to go up and correct them. At first it was funny, but now I see she actually does it intentionally, because she constantly has to have attention. [editor’s note: This is not a petty complaint, imho.]

She also is very quick to correct ME at my house telling me to be careful, to wipe my child’s face, you name it. I heard her the other night complaining to my husband that I was throwing a lot of baby clothes out and that I “should save them” because she felt so.

Furthermore, despite numerous efforts, she has poor boundaries. I will put the babies in bed and they may be awake or whimpering, and I’ll walk out to see her in the middle of the room with the light on. I tell her to leave them in there and that they can cry for a few minutes and she’ll try to argue with me about it – or she’ll run in the room right before bed and start getting them excited and laughing…so they won’t settle down. I’ll see her try to sneak in the room later if she thinks she hears them. I’ve talked to her numerous times about this and she just refuses to listen.

So I feel like I am a prisoner in my house where I can’t let my kids cry for even a few minutes without her sneaking downstairs and she’ll carry on about how mean I am. She’s always just in the babies face as well – if she comes into the room, they are never able to just sit, play alone, or relax, she is constantly in their face and she won’t even really allow them to play with each other without getting in the middle to make sure she’s getting attention from one of the babies.

It’s almost like the person you just don’t like, even though they really have done nothing to you [ editor’s note: nothing? she sounds awful!!!] and I know it’s horrible but it’s really gotten to a point where me and my husband just feel constantly irritated by her. We’re moving early in two months and she’s staying here, and we’re hoping just to ride it out. I try my best to be nice to her and incorporate her with us, but she has no friends besides her boyfriend, and that’s because I don’t think it’s just us she rubs the wrong way.

So am I a monster and has anyone else EVER felt the same way I do? After reading this I feel terrible for even thinking this way!"

Anna replies:

Anonymous, Is this your first au pair? It sounds to me like you have VERY legitimate complaints, why are you feeling that it is all in your head and you are being unfair? [editor’s note: Great question, Anna!]

After reading your post I can list already a few things that with other families would put this au pair in rematch or going back home pretty quickly, such as:

  1. Not following your requests in the work parties and actually hurting your and your husband’s reputation at work! this is a real biggie. As a result you cannot use her help on your business trips, but isn’t this help what you are paying for in the au pair program?
  2. Not following your requests in caring for children and disrupting their bedtime routines and schedules. This is also a rematch-worthy complaint. Sleep and sleep habits are critically important to children’s health and development at this age.
  3. You suspect she is watching TV all day long… while taking care of your kids? Are you sure she takes good care of your children?
  4. She seems to be really unsuited for being an au pair, immature and with possibly some mental issues, self esteem issues.

I really hope your next au pair is great, if you choose to stay in the program. Your feelings at this point are completely reasonable and understandable.

a-Mom-ymous adds:

I second Anna’s perspective! These are not problems with you being petty. I’m not convinced she is trustworthy with your kids! Talk to your LCC and get a plan of action together — shape up or ship out conversation needs to happen.

Host parents– your advice?

{ 14 comments }

Anonymous April 15, 2009 at 6:00 am

Thanks for the advice, this is our first au pair. Granted, these things w/ the exception of the in the babies faces all the time, no boundaries, pretending the babies are hers, and being just mean to others – have occured over the last few months in stages. What’s funny is I actually trust her with my kids, but I don’t think she does a great job with my kids – so that is where I have been torn recently. It’s really gotten to a point, where I just try to avoid her, becuase the constant questioning when we tell her something and it’s even gotten to the point where I just feel like my skin crawls when she’s around…. counting down the time before we leave and after reading what I wrote it was actually a little clearer for me to that it’s maybe worse than I thought!

First time host mom April 15, 2009 at 6:08 am

I definitely share your feelings and understand how you feel. I also have had my ups and downs, there were moments that I just wondered if there was a way to return this au pair and not even think of reimbursement. I just wanted to have my safe and peaceful home to go back to. At the end of the day, I dreaded having to go home and have to deal with my au pair. I am really counting the days for her year to be finished. She is not a mean person like your au pair but her lack of initiative, shyness, absence of feed back or motivation (i feel she is just waiting for time to pass by with minimal work effort) among others have tired me out. I guess you are in a similar situation where the year is almost up and it would be too much of a hassle to change au pairs now… trying to train them again, having them bond with the kids, etc… Good luck and just try to think that for the least, she is keeping your kids safe. That is the thought that keeps me going and lets me bear another 4 more months until she leaves.

Alma April 15, 2009 at 7:30 am

Wow, you have a lot of patience! If you are not comfortable with your au pair, you have every right to have her leave your home. She sounds extremely disrespectful to you and your requests (which are all fully legit, btw) and this is not good for your children to witness, no matter how young they are. I admit to laughing out loud at some of these stories, as they were so over the top! Good luck!

Lidi April 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I can understand how many of these incidents happen over time and as a result you second guess yourself about whether they’re legitimate reasons for complaint or whether you’re being overly critical. At least that’s how I felt. We’re four months shy of our first year with our first au pair and I can’t wait for her to leave. She hasn’t done anything that is worthy of re-match (such as endangering the children), really, but if I add up all the little things it’s not worth having her around. I was recounting many of these incidents to my mom, who I hadn’t told before, and she wondered why I hadn’t rematched after the first incident (which was a couple months into it and the au pair was very demanding, rude and made me feel horrible). She validated how I was feeling and unfortunately my husband doesn’t quite empathize, although he’s in agreement that we not extend.

I’m hopeful that given our well-earned experience and the advice of other moms on this blog, our next au pair will be a great match. I feel much more prepared to screen candidates better and not to stand for someone I’m not 100% happy with. I hope you will do the same. But to be honest, I’ll be much happier once my girls at are school all day (they’re 1 and 3) and we can just have a part-time babysitter that can pick them after school until we get home.

Good luck!

CT Mom April 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

Wow, those are a lot of re-match worthy issues. First of all, I think you need to re-examine how she is taking care of your children. If you don’t like her personally, I would really be questioning myself how I could trust her with my children.

First of all, she needs to be told that she needs adequate sleep at night in order to take care of 1yo twins during the day. Do you have a household handbook where these sort of things are addressed? Also, if you actually stick it out with this au pair (I would have rematched long ago), she needs to be directed about appropriate behavior around your work colleagues. It also helps to bring up these issues as soon as they arise and not letting them fester. The longer you put off talking to her, the harder it is to correct. I would get your LCC involved right away.

I can understand why you haven’t rematched beings that this is your first and you’re probably not sure about what is acceptable or not. We are now on our third au pair and knowing what we know now, we probably would not have put up with things that our first au pair did (long story, but she had an entitlement mentality and she was here to get married and stay legally). We didn’t have any of these issues with our second au pair and our third one so far (she’s been here a month). So I guess you live and learn. Good luck!

Rayann April 15, 2009 at 6:36 pm

It sounds like you definitely need to be looking at rematch. Having an AP is supposed to be a fun experience for you and your family – and you sound absolutely miserable (understandably so!). Regardless of the fact she isn’t endangering your children, an AP should be a role model for your kids – and it sounds like your current AP is far from that.

PA Mom April 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Dear Anonymous – Agree with the other posts. We are having one of our best AP experiences and so feel your pain having had a some less successful ones (though not to this degree). Please keep in mind this is just one AP. We’ve had 4 with varying degrees of happiness on both sides. I suggest you call your LCC or your group’s equivalent and don’t take “no” for an answer. Your post alone should make them scratch their head. Start the hunt for a replacement AP – and quick. Then you can trigger the 2 week transition period when you want and have someone coming on the heels of that. In this economy you can’t afford a lot of time off while you are waiting – but there is no reason that you have to be super clear of your game plan with the AP. I’m sure she’s clear about what she is doing and so long as you take it – she’ll dish it. If you feel comfortable with the LCC, you and she can discuss how to “bridge the gap” in APs. This AP is not the first or last that will be a poor choice for the program. But remember that MOST of the APs are really good for their families. You might try and pick an AP with younger sibilings or whose parents have remarried and have new families. Also, try to focus on an AP with a life to go back to – I find that they tend to be happier, healthier emotionally and not on the prowl for a mate – I like to hear them talk about their sisters, cousins, etc. indicating good healthy family relationships. It’s ok to be interested in a BF but really – – her behavior would be unacceptable in any country — good luck, keep calm and remember it took 9 months to get to where you are, you can take a month to get out of it as it’s a few week process to talk to the LCC, get help on a rematch and then let the AP know you’re “done”. At which point, you may not feel good about leaving her with such little ones. Best of luck, a very lucky HM in PA.

Former Aupair April 15, 2009 at 9:13 pm

I fell so bad every time I read that Families and Aupairs are not getting along pretty well. Most of the times I think that the main reason is because they are not on the same page and there is a lack of conversation between both parts. No forgetting to mentioned the cultural part and the fact that host Moms are dealing with a “team-Young Adult”.
On your case, Me as a former aupair can pretty much see that you got the wrong person to be your Aupair. Looks like this girl are very immature, irresponsible and disrespectful . You should ask for re-match as soon as possible!!! Also, on my oppinion, 24-26 year old girls usually are more mature than 18-20 years – old AP. Hopefully you can find somebody better for you and your family!

au pair April 15, 2009 at 10:14 pm

I think that the main reason is because they are not on the same page and there is a lack of conversation between both parts. (2)

Talk to her and see what she has to say about the things that are bothering you.

Before taking any decision I believe conversation will help you understand the situation.

Former Aupair April 15, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Au pair, I think you didn’t understand the whole situation this mother is going through. When I said “lack of conversation” I didn’t mean on this specific case because it is clear for me that this mother already had tons for conversations with her AP. On this case, I don’t think there is room for any other conversation once it is clear that the AP has been very unprofessional and disrespectful especially about the parents work. I strongly recomend to this family to try the re-match.

Pearl April 15, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Although we had one ideal au pair who I always say was like an angel sent down from heaven to us, our second experience was not too much unlike yours. When our second au pair arrived, my husband and I immediately felt like she “rubbed us the wrong way,” just like you said about your current au pair. Throughout a torturous year, I gradually became aware of alarming behavior patterns in our au pair. My initial approach was to try to correct her in a constructive way and make her as comfortable with us as possible so that she would behave more appropriately (thinking I was responsible for her bad behavior because, due to our bad first impression, I had not made her feel welcome enough). By the end, although I learned a lot about how to manage her, I realized her behavior had nothing to do with how I treated her and concluded (and I’m no clinical psychologist, so who knows?) that she has a serious personality disorder. Whether I’m right about that or not, I’ll never know, but the important thing is that this year was a very bad experience for me and my husband, and I may never shake the uneasy feeling that I exposed my children to undue stress and possibly even risk of harm. My lesson from this experience is to trust our instincts, immediately address any behavior problems and immediately get rid of an au pair who repeatedly demonstrates unacceptable behavior (even if the types of behavior seem varied – they may all stem from the same inherent problem). Although your upcoming move seems like it would make it hard to rematch right now, if I were you, I’d work with the LCC and au pair agency to start the process of matching with a nice, responsible au pair right now for after the move, or, even better, maybe you can find someone flexible enough to come sooner and move with you. I hope my response isn’t overly alarming. Despite my hard lesson this last year, I am still optimistic about our future au pair starting next week – she seems like a very sweet, responsible, sane person who will be another blessing to our home and family. Best of luck to you.

Darthastewart April 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I think that what I would do, is go ahead and find the next au-pair, and let her know she’s going early. Most of the agencies will do this for you, if you don’t want a refund for the last few weeks. This should give you something to look forward to, and continuity of care.- So you aren’t in rematch in the middle of the move.

In fact, I’d look at having this girl leave shortly before the next one gets here, so there is no cross contamination. (and shortly before the move, so you don’t have this kind of stress going on during a move)

I questioned myself a lot with my first au-pair, and the Agency Representative in this area really made me feel like my issues were petty, but we should have ditched her much sooner. Think of it as living in an insane asylum, where other people are constantly seeing apparitions. Soon you start to believe in them too, and it’s hard to know where “normal” stops, and “crazy” starts. I think that this sort of thing totally happens since we live with the au-pairs. Over time, you do learn, but it is _hard_.

Hang in there.

Franzi April 16, 2009 at 12:00 am

anonymous, in the AP program you are not supposed to feel like a prisoner in your own house. i believe you and your AP are personalities that do not get along – this results in a lack of communication, misunderstandings, misinterpretations.

the fact that she overstepped her boundaries at that work event needs to be addressed by you! this is unacceptable as this is your job and your reputation on the line. she did not respect you and you cannot let this just slip!

please do not think that a move prevents you from finding a good AP in a rematch process (which is what i believe this story is leading to)! there are many girls (new or rematch) who are willing to move with their new hosts.

good luck!

D April 16, 2009 at 1:52 am

I call this trying to rule roost. Princess style.

Our first au pair, simply speaking lacked compassion. When I say compassion, the natural kindness & respect someone should have towards others in any given situation. When you don’t have that….then what your experiencing can force you to be a prisioner in your own home. This type of person you are dealing with….. you find out they treat their own family, boyfriend, friends this way. As to them, life is all about them. Sad thing is, they don’t even realize it….so they can’t change. Oh & yes, the love to have your children as “theirs” and they think they are helping you. They like to tell you how to raise them too & discount your values you set forth.

Our first au pair said things that absolutely were out of line. She would take stuff out of my grocery cart and say I didn’t need it or confront me to ask why I bought something when she felt we didn’t need it. She would tell us how to raise our children and argue about it. She make comments and say other au pairs were un-educated that were not her same culture & so on.

I think in the end….this type of person lacks self esteem. You are really far into this au pair year, but your children are worth a rematch. Or for their sake, install a nanny cam.

And don’t feel bad. An au pair is meant to be helpful, not embarass you. It’s not your fault. As you can you are really trying to like this person. You can help it, they aren’t loving you back.

What culture is this girl?

D

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