Can this relationship be saved? “Uncomfortable” or something else?

by cv harquail on August 19, 2009

“Our Au Pair tells us that she is ‘uncomfortable’.” … but what does this really mean?

Host parents, can you help with this request for advice?

This is our first aupair…(well our very first decided she couldnt handle it and went home after 1 month). She is 22 years old from Colombia and has been with us for 5 months….I have 2 kids ages 4 and 6. Both my husband and I work full time.

Our AP says she loves my kids and they do love her. She likes me, but does not like my husband (her HD).

photo (1)

She is a good aupair, but not a GREAT aupair. I say this because:

  • Although her profile stated she cooks…she NEVER cooks..doesnt even know how to bake a simple box of brownies.
  • She is not very organized.
  • She is almost always late. I many times have to knock on her door in the a.m. because I am waiting for her to get up so i can leave for work. Sometimes she even says “I have 3 more minutes!”
  • She has wrecked my car 3 times (within the first 90 days). I took away her personal driving priviledges and charged her my deductible.
  • She claims that all of the aupairs have had accidents and it is normal and not that big of a deal…(well tell that to my insurance co that just doubled my premium to keep her on the policy)

I think it is a personality mismatch between my husband and her. He tries to talk to her, she gives one word answers and hides in her room. Then she complains that he never talks to her. She thinks he doesnt like her but just says it is because some days he is nice and some days he isnt.

She has visited other aupairs in their host family homes and now is comparing the relationships and the situations.

Here’s an example: Once HD asked her if she wanted a hamburger on the grill. She said yes, and so he threw one on the grill for her. While it was cooking, she took off in the car to go run some errands. He thought that was very rude..thus…he stopped cooking for her.

Now, she thinks he is rude because he doesnt include her. The story goes on and on…

She has been with us for 5 months, and now 2 days ago she sat down with us and said she is depressed and unhappy because of this relationship. She is very “uncomfortable”. HD assured her he does like her but that it needs to be a give and take. He explained that we would like her to act like a member of our family if she wants to be treated like one, and not do things like go hide in your room with the door closed at night, etc.

Needless to say…the situation is now uncomfortable for all of us. We left the ball in her court about what to do, because again…the kids like her and she does a good job with them so I really don’t want to force a rematch. And, the thought of starting over again makes me nauseous.

However, I just can’t imagine this situation resolving….if 2 personalities collide…can you really change that? Any suggestions?

“I’m not comfortable either” Mom


Dear INCE Mom,

I think I can predict what APM readers will recommend… and that is that you rematch. The list of annoyances suggest that your AP isn’t showing much of a sense of responsibility in general, and the rest of the story suggests that she isn’t taking responsibility for her part in creating a happy family relationship.

Without her taking responsibility, there won’t be a change in the relationship. You’ll just have another 7 months of annoyance and disappointment– if nothing else comes to a head.

Yes, it is a drag to rematch, but the outcome is rarely worse than what you’ve already got, and most of the time is better.

Research shows that people overestimate the amount of pain caused by a single major operation (like rematch) and underestimate the accumulated amount of pain caused by a grinding, relentless annoyance. Ultimately, both situations are crummy.

That’s my $.02…. Let’s hear it from you Host Parents… Can this relationship be saved?

Images:  My own dog, Coco, on the dock.

Annoyed or Sleepy? by Doug Mc G on Flickr
Randy Annoyed, by muquelb on Flickr

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A August 19, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Three car accidents + being almost always late + being rude to host dad = not a good au pair.
Rematch! I have faith that there are many lovely young ladies who will be just as good with your kids and will be a better fit in your household.

Anonymous August 19, 2009 at 3:09 pm

This could have been written by me. I too am on the verge of a re-match for many of the same reasons. I needed help, and instead, got a 3rd, 20 year-old child. Despite her app, can’t drive( daily my rear!). Despite her app – didn’t know how to hold a bottle to feed a baby or when to change a diaper. Needs to be constantly reminded to start and complete regular tasks (oh, the wash is still in the washer? I forgot! AGAIN) I should have know that she was a slob who’s Mom did everything when her app said “I like for the place I live to be clean” and not “I like to keep the place where I live clean”. When corrected, she becomes sullen and pouty. She is inappropriate with the kids in minor ways (sticking out tongue, crossing arms and stomping away – all the crap I’m trying to teach them not to do!) And her conversations with DH are a series of grunts and mono-syllables, he’s pretty fed up. Up to this point, I kept telling myself the Devil you know is better than the one you don’t – but I think that may no longer be true. I hope September is a good month to find a new Au Pair!

NewAP Mom August 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm


It’s hard because as a first-time host parent you’re looking for the One Big Thing that tells you unquestionably that you should rematch, and instead, it’s really just a series of little things. From an external perspective I can tell you that there are many big things, but I can see how from your shoes it wouldn’t seem justified.

Based on my experience, if things are this bad at 5 months, they will only get worse. Rematching is stressful but think how great your life could be with a great au pair.

StephinBoston August 19, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Agreed, none of those things are good. You need to live with someone who can get along with everyone in the house, not just the kids. Sorry you had to go through this with your first AP, there are GREAT APs out there, I promise! You’ll probably be better at “sniffing” out the things you want out of an AP in the next application now that you’ve dealt with this one.

NY hostmom August 19, 2009 at 4:12 pm

REMATCH! She has had 3 accidents and doesn’t find that serious. What if one of your children is in the car with her? The interaction with host dad is concerning. She is exhibiting personality disorder signs when she says she “likes mom, but dislikes dad”. That is splitting behavior and it will only get worse and create havoc in your home.

HulaDad August 19, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Rematch as fast as you can. That goes for you too Anonymous.

huh August 19, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I agree with everyone so far for the most part.
However, to NY hostmom, I have no idea how you concluded that “she is exhibiting personality disorder signs when she says she ‘likes mom, but dislikes dad’.” Oh please. Sometimes people have clashing personalities. Just because the girl likes one of the parents and doesn’t get along with the other does NOT mean she has a personality disorder. She obviously does have some maturity issues and is not a good match for the family, but don’t make it into something it isn’t.

First time host mom August 19, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I’d totally rematch. I can very well relate to your nauseating feelings and if you don’t change things, you will start to dread going home, at least that is how I started to feel. I decided to take a break from the au pair system and it has been almost a month since ours completed her first year and went to another family since we didn’t want to renew with her. It is amazing how relieved I feel for not having to see her anymore every time I come home from work! Good luck!

Talliecat August 19, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I would say that you should rematch as well. Consider this …there are a ton of girls that are looking to become au pairs I am sure your agency could get someone here in a month.

Calif Mom August 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Yeppers to all the above. Including to Anonymous who posted early.

I like CV’s big operation analogy. For those who are new, background: I’ve rematched more than once (not proud of it, it just is. I didn’t find this blog until AFTER our last rematch. We are now happily starting our second year with rematched AP. Advice contained herein would have prevented a lot of our early mistakes.).

I agree with something I read recently in another comment string: the “getting along with kids” part of AP’ing is the easiest part. It’s the responsibility part that is harder, and the adult relationship building. And yes, driving. Trust me, your kids aren’t benefitting from the anxiety in the house and they will love a new AP, too. Maybe even more — mine have.

So don’t do this “staying together for the sake of the children” thing. No percentage in it for the grown ups who are footing the bills. You don’t need to be held hostage in your own home.

Call the LCC and tell them tomorrow. And don’t let them talk you into “giving it one more go”. A big waste of energy, IMHO, once you’ve reached this point.

Historically, the end of summer and early fall is a great time to be rematching.

And I’ll say it again (sorry, old timers!) our two very fave APs were both rematch girls. This is a great article and string. I highly recommend local rematches — details are in the comments, along with tons of good tips from those of us with some mud on our boots.

Darthastewart August 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

I’d rematch in a heartbeat- you’ve both got major issues. 3 car accidents is a HUGE issue in my book.

Also, it’s a “good” time of year for rematch. There are still many au-pairs in the system waiting to come over here, but this is also the time of year when many of the au-pairs who arrived in summer end up in rematch. You should have plenty of choices. It is far better to do it now, than wait until November or December, when the candidate pool is much, much smaller.

lidi August 20, 2009 at 8:29 am

I agree with everyone else…rematch! Our first au pair just left a couple of months ago after we endured her for 9 months. It is such a relief to not have to deal with her drama. And I didn’t realize how much tension there was at home because of her until now that she’s gone. I think our girls are also happier and it’s just a nicer environment.

We now have a new AP and she seems much better with our girls and we don’t the unhealthy environment we had before. Unfortunately there’s still room for improvment, but I’m hopeful we can work some little issues out.

In any case, you have major issues that aren’t worth your stress or time. She’s supposed to help make your life a little easier. Get rid of her!

Dory August 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

Rematch. We were in a situation very similar to yours several months ago. I just kept giving it “two more weeks” and then, even though things didn’t improve, I did nothing about it because of the whole devil you know thing. She finally asked for rematch (thank god) but in hindsight, I am furious with myself for letting it go on for so long. Rematch is hard, but we now have an au pair who is a much better fit for our family. I also agree with the poster above that getting along with the kids is the relatively easy part of an au pair’s responsibilities. Bite the bullet and rematch. You’ll be happy you did.

LVMom August 20, 2009 at 11:01 am

I would rematch in a heart beat. I had a 22 year old Colombian girl for a year, VERY sweet girl but had NO clue. I had to wake her up every day . . . 2 months into her being in my home she tells me “oh my mom has to call me every day to wake me up and my dad and brothers too”, really that wasn’t on your application. She never figured out how to take out the trash or pick up after herself. She didn’t appear to want to be a part of our family, it was frustrating. I spent a year asking myself what to do. This time around I have a 19 year old Swedish girl and LOVE her. She wants to be a part of our family and is a joy to be around. After a year of tension these last 5 months have been a dream! REMATCH as fast as you can!

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 11:02 am

Three car accidents , a doubled insurance premium , and the fact that she told you she is uncomfortable is a very good reason to rematch.
Ask your agency a lot of questions about the rematch procedure.
Also, if you don’t want to end up housing her for a while maybe you should think about asking the agency to put her into rematch. Once she finds a family, you can probably find someone very quickly.

Host MomVA August 20, 2009 at 9:02 pm

You could have been writing about my Au Pair except luckily mine is a great driver. Ours is on vacation right now and I am feeling soooo much better with her out of the house. There is less tension and the kids have not missed her at all!
One more week when she comes back and we are done with the Au Pair progam.

Hula Gal August 20, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Yes, my husband is now reading this blog and is going by HulaDad (not HulaDude – that would have been much better!). Anyway, this describes our experience as first time host parents pretty closely. We went through two au pairs in three months. And there is nothing wrong on our end. We just had bad luck, immature au pairs and personality mismatches. We now have a 3rd au pair and we are not even at the 6 month mark. But our new au pair is a dream! Glad we did not hang on to the last one for too long. You’ve already hung on for longer than you should, cut the cord and move on. There is better out there!

PA au pair mom August 20, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I know what you mean Host mom VA. My AP went on vacation last week and it was the best 6 days I have had in a very long time. She is leaving 2 weeks from today. the countdown is on.

I guess the biggest problem is that I had so much hope for a wonderful match and exchange. I’m bummed that it didn’t work out. Here’s hoping the next one is a big improvement.

Jane August 21, 2009 at 9:07 am

Just wanted to chime in here–I’ve been reading but haven’t commented in awhile. I totally agree with the advice to rematch right away. I agree the pain of rematch seems like too much, but sticking it out can be even worse.

Our new au pair arrived last month (we didn’t rematch but stuck it out with the au pair from “Feeling Smooshed by Your Au Pair”) The change is amazing with a new, happy girl in the house who is a better fit for our family. Workwise our last au pair was great, but she put a real strain on us emotionally. A mismatch in personalities should not be dismissed. It can be the difference between a great year and a very, very long year. Just my thoughts…

Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 9:57 am

I finally have a wonderful au pair. The first one left after 6 weeks and we stuck it out with a rematch for the rest of the year. Boy, was that a mistake. We were miserable, but just couldn’t do the rematch again. I spent a very long time interviewing our current au pair. We communicated via email weekly. When she arrived, I really felt that I knew her. She has been wonderful. What a difference!!! Please do yourself a favor and rematch. Be sure to talk to the new au pair before you hire her and do not settle. I took the rematch because she was close by and I was able to interview her in person. She seemed shy and answered the questions correctly. It turns out she wasn’t shy, and someone told her how to answer the questions. Everything was about her and not the kids. We also suffered through a major car accident. She wouldn’t even acknowledge the kids birthdays after we gave her a huge birthday party. I am not talking about buying presents, but how about a cake and a home made card. The kids were so upset. We didn’t have a gap, but we did have a miserable year.

NoVA Host Mom August 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

I agree with everyone else – Rematch! Now!

while you might think you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, it already has, and loudly. Not only the whole “3 accidents in as many months” issue, but her reaction to it (“everyone does it and is not a big deal”) says a lot about her level of responsibility, and just how mature she really is. You do not need another child. If you and your husband wanted one, may I suggest starting with an infant or younger child – one you can teach about responsibility, etc.

We are with our 2nd AP now – a rematch – and cannot be happier. We enjoy traveling with her when we go on family trips, she is open and wants to participate with our family, and she takes the responsibility of our child’s safety and well-being very seriously (maybe a little more than we do, seeing as how she will leap over a coffee table to keep the toddler’s tushie from hitting the floor while she is learning to walk, and I only do that to keep her head from hitting the floor).

The moodiness, the locking herself in her room whenever not actually working, etc. – all that is stressful on the family and the kids in particular. Give yourselves a break and REMATCH! FWIW, our LLC informed the APs at the local meeting that there are more than twice as many APs asking for rematch as there are families for them. so it sounds like you will have a pretty good chance of finding happiness already here in the country. Good luck.

INCE Mom August 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Just wanted to update you all….I truly have enjoyed everyones response to my situation. Yet took a 180 degree turn.

My dear AP went away for the weekend…came back yesterday tickled pink, says she is going to take a trip to Europe in December and then..yes..wait for it…thinks she might want to extend for another 6 months!!

hello???is it just me or do we have some mood swings going on here? btw..I have NO intention of extending with her

PNW-Mom December 21, 2009 at 4:49 am

LOL, I told our LCC I thought our au pair has a mood disorder. She has been with us for 3 months, and is rude and dispectful towards me, yet, changes when my husband enters the room, to all smiles. Enough that our children notice, she is only happy when daddy is in the room. I can’t enjoy a year with bipolar au pair, let alone what the stress is doing to the kids.

Jill August 25, 2009 at 4:56 pm

As an LCC, I think you might need to have a mediation with your AP. Sometimes hearing & talking about the issues with a 3rd party might help her to realize that there are issues. Sometimes AP’s are oblivious to how their behaviors affect others (part of being young I think). If you can all sit down and discuss the situation and come up with some ways to make changes, give her a few weeks to change her behaviors. If she doesn’t make an effort to fix the relationship, then I suggest a rematch. I always tell my HF and AP’s to never assume that someone knows what is bothering you. Give her an opportunity to hear the issues and address them first before you ask for a rematch right away.

ConcernedAuPair March 27, 2010 at 11:31 am

Hello! Well I don’t really know where to write this, so I hope it’ll be okay if my problem is under that theme..
I am an au pair. The next family I am going to stay with consist of single father and a little daughter. I don’t have problem with this..what I do have problem with, is that the father is talking about quite private and weird things. I mean, there is a lot of word ‘sexy’ in his comments and everything. I don’t know how to take this. Maybe he is just trying to understand how open-minded I am? But my lingerie shouldn’t be any of his business.. he and his daughter seemed really really nice until this came up. I don’t know if I’ll be safe when I’ll go there. There is no agency, we met through internet site (we’re both in Europe). I looked at his Facebook to try to understand what kind of person he is and he seems okay. So my actual problem is, should I trust him? How far can anyone go with personal questions? When I told that I think it’s enough, he said okay and changed the subject. But still…I don’t know what to think. Hope you will give some advice.

Aria March 27, 2010 at 11:34 am

Let’s be real. What do you think a single man asking about your underwear is interested in?

Dorsi March 27, 2010 at 11:52 am

There is not much else to say. A single father (or married father) should never use the term “sexy” in communications with the au pair nor talk about her lingerie. It is nearly impossible for me to come up with an innocent motivation for this.

Anonymous March 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm

As they say in baseball ” Look em over “. You’ve looked this one over- let it pass. There are so many other opportunities : why even take a chance on this one ?

ConcernedAuPair March 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Yes, I understand it’s quite silly of me even to think about going to this family..but he seemed so normal in other ways that it was just hard to admit that it’s too risky. I guess I have to forget about it and move on, I am sure I’ll find a family that causes no doubts :) Thank you everyone.

Should be working March 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

My experience–with au pairs, students {I teach}, and acquaintances–is this: if something starts out weird, it will only get weirder. People show you who and how they are very quickly, sometimes, and it makes no sense to assume that you are mistaken when you get a weird vibe.

Definitely move on.

Calif Mom March 28, 2010 at 9:40 am

Listen to your instincts. Say no. Find another family.

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