Can you help your Au Pair use her free time more wisely?

by cv harquail on May 4, 2011

Have you ever been slightly envious of your au pair’s year of adventure?

There have been many times that I’ve wondered what I mgiht have been like had I been an au pair (or an exchange student) and had the chance to live somewhere so different, make different friends, try new things, and experiment with life while having the support of a host family and the exit strategy of going back home.


Those of us who’ve imagined how we’d make our own au pair year great, or who have had au pairs who have taken full (positive) advantage of their years, often wonder why more au pairs don’t have more enthusiasm for using their free time well.

Consider this concern from Annonymom

How do host families deal with dumb off-duty decisions and behavior from an otherwise great AP?

We are finishing up our first year as a HF and we have a very good AP. The kids really like her, she shows up to work on time, clean and dressed and ready to work. She drives extremely well. She is polite, kind, interested in what we are doing and how our day goes. She helps around the house and unloads the dishwasher, does her own laundry and never complains about food. We really like her a lot and think of her as part of our family. As I write that, I think to myself – wow, really great AP…..but…..

I’m very disappointed by how she acts when she isn’t “on duty”.

Her friends and boyfriend are not nice people. The friends are all APs from her home country. The boyfriend is what I would call a loser (and is American). She does everything for him, he does nothing for her. And being significantly older than she is, he is going NO WHERE. She spends every weekend with him when he is not working and has not seen a single thing in our state (or out of state) since she met him 9 months ago.

In discussion about this topic, she says that she knows she doesn’t stand up for herself but sees nothing wrong in her choices.

I have two very impressionable children and am worried her “I will let you walk all over me if only you’ll be my friend” attitude will be realized and immitated.

So here is my question – how do other host families deal an AP when their off hours behavior when rubs them wrong way?
(For the record, we have already agreed to extend as she swears it is for the kids and not the friends…I hope she isn’t lying!)201105041455.jpg

Many thanks! Annonymomom

So parents and au pairs:

(How) Can host parents help Au Pairs use their free time (more) wisely?

See Also:
In Loco Parentis? Your Parental Responsibilities when your AP’s behavior challenges your values

image: Wrrr By kthrn Roadside Democracy by By Dead Air


Kit May 4, 2011 at 5:07 pm

While I think it is great that the HM is concerned about her AP, I think it’s really not her business how her AP spends her free time- it sounds she’s wonderful at her job, an all around good person, and she agreed to extend with her. She isn’t bringing negativity into the house and it doesn’t sound like she’s abusing the system. I know the HM’s heart is in the right place but she obviously trusts her kids with this AP so she trust her judgment in her friends and relationships. And so what if her friends are APs from her own country? I don’t see how that makes them “not nice people.”

If the boyfriend is loser then maybe chalk it up to the AP being young and perhaps naive. It’s to the AP’s benefit to travel and see the sites of your state. If she doesn’t, it’s her loss. I think all you can do is make your opinion known then let it go.

emmiejane May 4, 2011 at 7:34 pm

This topic strikes a cord with me, as we have recently experienced something along these lines-although different. Our au pair recently went on vacation, and when we met back up with her, we learned that she and I friend met a guy along the way (they did not know this man prior to their trip) who ended up putting both of them up in a nice Las Vegas hotel and paying all of their meals and so forth.

DH and I looked at each other and were filled with relief that she was OK and that nothing bad had happened to her. To us, it did not seem wise to accept those kinds of favors from a stranger especially of the opposite sex.

She is a great au pair, and we care about her and her well-being. We ended up expressing to her that it made us nervous. We said in many cases a strange man who would do something like that is in it for something (i.e. sex, or so forth). We are happy to see that she is OK, but in all honesty, we think there is significant risk in that behavior. We told her, and it is true, the only reason we are saying anything is because we care about you and want you to be safe. She is an adult and can make her own decisions, but we just want to express our concern and our desire that she have a safe and happy year.

If my au pair was seeing a loser boyfriend, and I was truly concerned for her well-being. I would do what I did above and express them in a nice way as a concerned friend. I feel like the good relationship I have with my au pair does allow me to express those kinds of concerns. I don’t really think you can go further than that with regard to the boyfriend. Additionally, if their are specific opportunities that you know of for her to see other things or go on outings mention them to her.

With regard to your children, if it really bothers you, then don’t extend. While I think you can try to influence her as a concerned friend, I don’t think you can really make it about how she influences your children since she it is about what she is doing in her time off. I guess you could ask her not to discuss her boyfriend and their relationship in front of your kids if you think it would help.

WestMom May 5, 2011 at 7:36 am

Great topic. I thought it was going in another direction though… Our Au Pairs have a 9 hrs break every day while our kids are at school, and while we are disappointed that she is not taking advantage of that time to learn and explore the city and everything it has to offer, I feel we cannot dictate what she does in her free time.

That being said, what she does during her free time would have a big impact on whether or not we would extend. Does she need more time to take extra classes she would not take elsewhere? Does she feel she needs more time to fully discover the US? Does she have a convincing personal growth reason to stay? Sorry I am a pessimist- I don’t buy that an au pair’s motivation to extend is for the kids…

Your girl seems like a decent Au Pair (clean, polite, and ‘no complaints’ hardly makes an ‘excellent’ Au Pair IMO). The older, loser boyfriend would be a red flag for poor judgment in my book, and I would be concerned that her main reason to stay is because of their relationship. Based on the situation you described, I would not extend.

Since you have already accepted to extend, I am not sure there is much for you to do, but hope for the best, and make sure not to get tangled with possible future problems: no boyfriend while on duty, no sleepovers at our house, and cutting the cord when the extension year is up (no F1, or other shenanigans to help her stay longer to be with BF).

Calif Mom May 5, 2011 at 9:34 am

OP, I hope you don’t really think that the BF isn’t around during the day. Because he is. Or she’s at his place. Either way, I doubt that establishing a “ban” to prevent an AP from hanging out with a BF during the school day will work. If you set that expectation, you are putting the AP in the position of either being resentful of you if she does comply with your rule, or hiding it from you, or lying to you when she sees him anyway. I remember being in my 20’s….I remember high school for that matter! (Aw man! Your mom’s opening the garage door! Quick–put your shirt on!) :-)

I’m also very skeptical that AP is extending “because of the kids”. She’s extending because she has a good situation here, she thinks she’s in love, and she has friends nearby. She can delay having to deal with grown-up life things like figuring out where to live, moving back in with her folks, and looking for a job back home for another year, and she can keep enjoying what she has. That she likes your kids and family and has no problems with them is a plus, but as amazing as your kids are, they are not the “because of” in this scenario.

Be aware that toward the end –or even the middle– of the second year, this AP’s behavior may change dramatically as she gets short-timer syndrome and starts to realize that she will have to either marry this loser in order to stay here, or leave him and go back home.

I don’t think anyone –even close friends– can really stop someone from having a relationship with a loser. This is one of those things that people have to figure out on their own. You can help them, you can share your opinion early on and throughout the process as possible, but you do have to be careful not to get yourself alienated. You want to be available as a resource later on when they really need you. And you don’t get to say “I told you so,” either.

We had a fabulous extension AP (not just OK) who fell in love with a nice young man a few months before she was scheduled to go home. Her job-related duties absolutely fell off, and my kids were no longer her primary concern. My hub and I understood this, and we basically just gritted our teeth. The change in her definitely confused our kids, though, because she was clearly distracted, always tired, and rarely around anymore. She did go home, came back on a different visa, and they are still together several years later. Love happens. But don’t believe that your au pair’s relationship with this guy will remain a back-burner issue. As her time ticks away, it will move to a front burner, and it sounds like you’re already simmering….

How much you worry about the role-modeling issue in this situation presents depends a great deal on how old your kids are. My 5th grader just told me yesterday “You know, Mom, [former AP that we sent into rematch] really wasn’t a good role model. All she cares about is really superficial stuff.” Uh, yep. Really superficial stuff that I noticed this same kid was starting to care too much about herself. But kids are resilient: Kid the Elder is *much* happier with our new au pair (who only has 2 or 3 pairs of shoes, I’ve noticed, none of which are Blahniks), even while we’re still working to unravel some of the problems with Kid the Next that got really bad with Superficial Girl. Life isn’t exactly joyously harmonious quite yet, but the role modeling turns out to have been more of an issue than I even thought it was.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s good that you like this AP and want the best for her. But you’re kind of up against a very strong force that resides outside of your relationship with her. The deck is stacked against you.

I’m not sure that the OP is saying that *because* her friends are all from her home country they are not nice; just that these happen to both be true. I think the OP was just sharing evidence that this young woman isn’t very good at choosing friends who build her up.

Our new rematch au pair was only given the names of the girls from her own country when she rematched into our cluster. (Thanks, counsleor!) She quickly discovered that these girls are really “girly girls” and not anything like the girls from her former cluster who were also from her country and to whom she was quite close. So now she is in search of au pair friends who are better aligned with her interests, and who probably won’t be from her own country. This isn’t a condemnation of hanging with people from your own country, because I think we all know that that sort of naturally happens and au pairs have to work to avoid being clique-ish, or just decide that it’s okay with them to stick to compatriots.

What the OP can do is continue to make sure there’s an open communication line between her and the AP during the second year. Make sure you are explicit about performance expectations and that when she starts to slip you don’t just let it slide. Because an entire extension year is a very long time for the host family to be living with disappointment. Try to anticipate and minimize the effects of (what I see as) her inevitable slippage.

Who knows? Maybe her girlfriends are telling her the guy’s a loser too, and one of them will get through to her! Maybe he’ll do something egregious and she’ll have an epiphany. Maybe two years from now she’ll come tell you you were right, and tell you about her new BF and how she can’t believe she wasted her AP years with that Loser.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

Westmom, it’s an interesting, but perhaps separate thread, of the issue of what APs do between their “morning shift” and their “afternoon shift” when they are caring for school-aged children.

My last four APs have only cared for school-aged children and have had a split shift. What I generally see is that at the start of their year, when they are dealing with the stress of adjusting to an English-only situation, a different style of parenting, a new household and a new country is that they: sleep, Skype with friends and family at home, and read. I wouldn’t call it laziness. I would call it adjustment. What can be frustrating as a HP is that the outgoing AP used that time to go to the gym, meet friends, study, volunteer, walk in parks, etc. (Rarely have I had an AP sightsee alone during that 6-hour break – and I think it’s because they tend to do that with friends.)

In time, a new AP will use that free time differently. However, in the case of the AP who did not start to leave the house after 4 months, I contacted my LCC to see if she could intervene. Sometimes APs are not self-starters, and need some tips on how to use that time. The AP may be shy or not used to reaching out to others. Even that AP eventually used her time to meet her goals.

The only time I ever dictated what APs do in that free time was with the AP whose driving skills and English speaking actually started slipping (she was in severe culture shock and pulling back). I asked her to spend time driving and practicing English.

I do find that asking APs how their day went and what they did generally helps them to get moving.

CO Host Mom May 5, 2011 at 8:35 am

We had to deal with a loser boyfriend situation. It was (and still is) awful. AP was a beautiful, sweet, intelligent woman who could have had her choice of any man out there. And she goes and picks a total loser who treats her terribly, is going nowhere, and has nothing to offer her. We had gotten to the point where we no longer allowed him in our home because he was so disrespectful to our family.

Fast forward nearly two years – she married him, stayed in the United States, moved across country with him to where his family lives, and is now miserably unhappy. She stays with him because she wants to stay in the U.S. and finish her college degree, but I think she knows now we were right when we advised her not to marry him. It is heartbreaking, though, so see a young person with so much potential get in to this situation.

So, I guess I don’t really have much advice for dealing with it. It was definitely hard, but beyond doing your best to share what life experience has taught you, I’m not sure there is much else you can do.

Calif Mom May 5, 2011 at 9:43 am

heartbreaking! And you’re right. You can lead a horse to water and even describe how healthy the water is, how refreshing, life-sustaining, and wonderful it will feel, but you really can’t make them drink.

We had a friend from college who married a total Loser. No one from college nor his family really liked this woman or understood why he was marrying her. Fast forward through kids, drug addiction and messy divorce, battles over visitation and custody. Finally, he has sole custody (kid’s now 12 or so) and a wonderful new family with a wife who is the perfect woman for him. We all would have spared him this pain, but it was something he had to screw up and dig himself out of on his own. But we all stuck around for him anyway. Hurts to watch, though! That’s for sure….

nj LC May 5, 2011 at 9:12 am

Dear Annonymom,

There are some things that host parents have no jurisdiction over, (even most parents don’t) and that’s someone else’s personal time.

Whether it’s spent productively or not, so long as an individual isn’t hurting themselves or anyone else, their down time is just that – *their down time*. 18 years old = adult.

Why should we micromanage everything an au pair does? Most of us did or didn’t do things in our own youth which we probably look back on now and wish we could’ve done differently. But isn’t this all part of growing up? Making choices that you learn from?
If you tell her who to date and which friends to make, how will she grow on her own?

As long as your au pair exhibits a good sense of judgement and care with your children, and you believe that fundamentally she knows how to keep herself safe (physically and emotionally), I think you should grant her the space to make her own choices.

azmom May 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Yes but….

there’s the whole “adult member of the family” aspect of the AP program that many of us “like” or so we thought when we entered the program. Some see it as someone to assist in general household functions, others see it mostly for the role model part. Au Pairs are adult role members for our kids, and if she wouldn’t want her kids making the same decisions, she may not be ablet to DICTATE, but she can advise and choose against extending if she feels that it will not be a good situation for her family. It is like saying the NBA player who shoots himself in the foot, shouldn’t have to answer to the public because it was on his own time. Sorry, you’re in the limelight, you’re a role model, whether you like it or not, and you can be fined for something you do “off duty.” If you are in a role where someone’s looking up to you, then you need to be responsible for the most part. Yes, au pairs are growing up, making decisions we know they’ll regret, but there’s a difference between making a few bad choices and a family extending a second year when we know there’s a dead end sign in sight.

We can’t pick and choose when an au pair is off and on duty in the minds of our children, so yes, as host families, we can guide decisions based on the decisions the au pairs make in their “off” time.

avena May 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I believe you were looking for “marry poppins” and not regular human being. If you want an ideal baby sitter who will follow you around and smile the whole day pay more than what you are paying now for au-pairs. My friends are paying a lot of money for regular babysitters here in US and they don’t interfere in their babysitters’s personal life. I am really trying to understand what is wrong with the families that think they have any right to interfere in someone’s else personal life, even when they think it is justified because of the sake of their children. If you are afraid that your child may be corrupt by the life style of the babysitter – don’t get the babysitter, shelter your child in your home away from the world and everyone is happy.

Steff May 6, 2011 at 12:18 am

that’s just so out of line, if you ask me, not that you are, but I think this whole topic mainly rose because a host parent is indeed worried and *cares enough* for her Aupair to be concern as to what she is doing with her life and wants to help. If you look at the alternative, a hostmom not caring at all for her AP, then you wouldn’t see a hostmom concerned for the wellbeing of the AP as that much of a bad thing and an “interference in her personal life” as you noted here…. :|

Plus, is it really a crime to want a *positive* role modeling on your children as they grow up? I really don’t think so.

Julie May 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Avena, you obviously don’t have children, nor have you had an au pair who you cared about. Please make your negative comments elsewhere.

momto2 May 5, 2011 at 10:09 am

We had an AP who began a relationship with a married man, who had children and whose wife was pregnant, but the man stayed married b/c he was trying to get a green card/citizenship through his wife. We were horrified! The role model issue was a concern for us, as we work hard to teach our children our values and beliefs about marriage–and I am sorry, there is no way to 100% separate the impact of these decisions from the host family. The AP was often in a frenzy texting and calling the man at all hours of the day and night, was jealous of the man spending time with his family, was depressed when he didn’t return call, etc….

From a safety standpoint, we were also concerned about the what if’s about what could happen when/if the wife found out about her man being in a romantic relationship with our AP. We were concerned about retaliation, or some type of confrontation that could occur while our AP was caring for our children. It was certainly poor judgement on the AP’s part, and was an unfair, unsafe predicament to put the host family in. When AP’s do things like this, the mantra that “what I do on my own time is my own business” cannot be invoked, in my opinion. The AP had to make a choice to date this man and find a new family, or be our AP. She ended the relationship, finished her extention year with us, and it all worked out, but we had to take a stand.

My 2 cents May 5, 2011 at 10:36 am

IMHO unless her off-duty behavior somehow directly impacts you, violates establish house or family rules, it’s none of your business. You can offer advice, opinions, and help re-direct, but otherwise, it’s her life and she needs to make her decisions and suffer the consequences. For many of us, that’s how you learn and make better decisions in the future, as painful as it may be to our parents, siblings, or friends watch us make these errors despite all best-intentioned efforts to counsel and guide. In the end, you meddle too much and she will resent it or cut you off to the point where you can’t even try to help.

Now, if it does directly impact you or her work performance, that’s a different story. But that’s not what I’m hearing here.

Kit May 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Well said!

Dorsi May 5, 2011 at 11:40 am

We didn’t offer to extend with our last AP for several reasons (who knows if she would have agreed?), but her failure to use her free time wisely was one of them. Her off days were spent Skyping with family back home. She saw few of the sights of our city, and really nothing in the region. She did see quite a bit of the US — on trips with our family — where she made little to no effort to enjoy the area or go out on her own.

I couldn’t tell her what she had to do with her time off, but I could agree to keep that laziness out of my house. From a role model issue, I want my children around dynamic individuals who are interested in the world. Also, part of the reason I participate in the AP program is because I feel it is a good thing to bring these young women here and offer them awesome experiences and opportunity; I have little patience for someone who does not intend to explore it fully.

avena May 5, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I don’t think you should expect things like that from au-pair. You paid money to have her work and thats how she see is – work. Her personal life should be non of your business just because you are her employer (and don’t forget you are paying these girls very little money compared to how much they cost in US) and not her mother/sister. These girls already have tough life back home and they don’t need some socially awkward family to top their misery.

Dorsi May 6, 2011 at 7:09 am

Avena — I feel like we have met before. You are an AP who is angry with the program and your family (and maybe all HFs) and have discovered this website. You have decided to come here to vent your frustrations by explaining to us how hard everything is for you and how much we all have taken advantage. After a while, when people dispute your claims, you will leave and find a more welcoming outlet for your bitterness.

The short answers: 1) APs cost us a lot of money. There are numerous threads on this (though maybe it is time for a new one, CV?). In addition to the regular expenses of having an AP, I spend thousands of year on travel for my AP — not all of it fully necessary for child care purposes. 2) As her employer, I have every right to choose a person whose lifestyle and values align with mine. If the off-time was irrelevant I could just have a live-out nanny. Anyway, I didn’t get rid of the lazy AP (though maybe should have), just decided to not offer her more opportunity. 3) “Socially awkward”? That is a bit small of you, don’t you think?

Anna May 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

avena, people who are miserable caring for children and cordially co-existing with a family, have no business becoming au pairs. If they want to travel and see US, there are other more appropriate avenues for that, than using an innocent family and their children and dragging them through misery of putting up with a selfish and distant au pair.
Tough life back home? Why should my children become an instrument of getting them out of there?

CO Host Mom May 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

Avena, you are lumping all host families in to a category where most families don’t belong. My family is in the program because we truly believe in the cultural exchange aspect. Because our children are all school age, it would actually be cheaper for us to just pay for the care we need through a local babysitter. But we love learning about new cultures, trying new recipes from our au pairs’ host countries, and developing a relationship. We are currently interviewing for AP #4, and we look forward to having another au pair.

My first AP was absolutely a sister to me and still is. We spent lots of time shopping, going out for lunch, did a girls’ trip to Vegas together, spent hours sitting on the patio drinking wine and talking about life together…and yes, it was heartbreaking for me to see her marry someone who treated her so poorly. Just as it would be heartbreaking for me if my sister did so. You could argue that my sister’s personal life is none of my business, but the fact is, when you care about someone, you do care deeply about their well being.

I’m sorry your experience as an AP has turned you so bitter and angry towards the program. But please don’t assume all host familes are the same.

Noelle May 5, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I think every repeat HF eventually has an AP that will have a loser boyfriend or questionable friends, or both. In my case it was with AP#2, and even she seemed to see him as a loser, but continued to date him because (I think) it’s a social outlet. Their relationship just naturally dissolved when she went home. We have a “no BF in house” rule so we didn’t have issues with our kids being exposed to him (or her conduct around him). I think it comes down to boundaries, ones you’d probably set with your own teenage daughter if she were a young adult still living in your house. Do you need to welcome him as your guest? No. But can you interfere with her choices of friends or BF? Unlikely, unless you are willing to risk alienating her. If she were at risk of bodily harm or doing drugs, etc, then that’s another story and one the HF would be within their rights to get involved in. Hopefully she will see the truth about the loser BF, sooner rather than later, and come out of this having learned a life lesson of what not to do / who not to date. I hope your extension goes well! Given my rematch – success ratio, that is a big accomplishment!

On a side note, our current AP doesn’t get out much either, by choice. She’s more of a quiet homebody type who likes to read. And that’s okay. As much as i think this is her best and cheapest opportunity to sightsee in the US, it’s not her thing. She’s otherwise a good AP and I’ve learned to focus on what impacts me and the family, and not how she spends her time off duty (particularly since it has nearly no impact on me – not a partier, not at all reckless, no AP friends eating all of my food, etc). It took a long time and alot of mistakes, but I think my expectations are finally in check and appropriately realistic. I doubt I will ever have the absolute perfect AP situation, but this is workable for me and the benefits do tip the scales this time. I just wish car insurance was cheaper, but there’s nothing we can do about that. :-)

OP May 5, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Thanks everyone for your thoughtful wisdom, as always…..It is very hard, and probably very good practice for mothering through the teen years, to manage ones expectations especially when you think you would do/act/be very different. And I hear you all when you say that she will have to learn from her mistakes just as we all did and the best I can do is try to influence (vs. control) the situation. It’s just painful to watch the titanic head to the iceberg even if you know she’ll probably end up in a lifeboat.

Sadly, I don’t think she will have an epiphany given her past history with BFs and GFs at home. She sticks it out until they leave her. So, yes, West Mom, she shows bad some bad judgement when it comes to people – and it is concerning. Luckily with gas at $5/gallon and an old gas guzzling car, she can’t afford to drive the 30 miles to see LBF (loser boyfriend) and of course, I have the GPS on the phone :-). Though now with Calif Mom’s comments, I am going to have to start checking it more often!

While she probably won’t ever realize that we have a whole campus of museums 30 minutes away, she will be able to tell us when the Forever 21 store opens at the outlet 30 minutes in the other direction… least until the short-timer syndrome strikes!

Thanks again – I think I’ll draft a little “extension ammendment” to the FHB with some guidelines and expectations.

HM Pippa May 5, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Be careful what you wish for. Our AP was very resourceful about making use of her free time, and certainly got a unique taste of our fair city. Her very first weekend she spent exploring the seediest bars in one of our city’s crime-and-drug hotspots, coming home after 3am. (Yes, she had been warned about the areas to avoid–that seems to have driven her decision.) The car immediately got a curfew and she immediately found a “boyfriend” with a car. Not the best judgement, in my opinion, but she’s 23 and makes her own decisions about how to spend her free time.

We have a simple rule in our family that applies to everyone, not just the AP. It is a matter of basic respect: we need to know where she is and when she intends to be back. She finds this meddlesome and annoying and thinks it’s none of our business. We explained that when she fails to tell us where and when or gives us evasive answers (“out” with “friends”, be back “late”), we assume she has something to hide. It is not our intent to be nosy or restrictive. We are responsible for her well-being while living under our roof.

German Au-Pair May 5, 2011 at 4:00 pm

I know many people who wouldn’t even tell her REAL parents about where they went and who they went with.
To me it’s just normals as trust needs to be earned and I have nothing to hide. Besides, I really want my hostparents to care where I go, simply because they want to share some parts of each other’s lives.
To me this rule you have would definitely be extremely appealing and I already told my HM that she should never ever be shy about asking me things like that because I’m more than happy to share and also believe that it’s a true relief for a caring hostmom to know where her au pair is and I’m glad if I can contribute to that by simply telling her stuff about my personal life.

aupair25 May 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm

my Host mom would say I’m good au pair.. but I’m pretty sure she would say I dont to anything in my my breaks during work ( usually 3 hours ) but the truth is I would love to go out and explore… but my city is boring and all the au pairs who live here tend to go to the next big city ( Washington DC) to have fun and explore. But i have the limitation of that when i’m working my friends are not doing it, or I’m too tired to going out and I rather to stay in my room and try to rest a little and I only can use the car around the limits of my neighborhood (even she is allowing me to take it now a little further) I have my Us driving license… but still how can she expect me to explore and have fun (when i really Dont have time to) during the day on my breaks on week days???

HM Pippa May 5, 2011 at 1:57 pm

After several weeks of suspicious behavior and even more evasive answers about whereabouts: “i’m going to spend the weekend with friends and will be back late sunday” and returning disheveled and exhausted, I decided to snoop. I already make a practice of checking her room each time she leaves after she left and candle burning and the space heater running when she left for the weekend (week 2 with us). This time I spotted a large spot bleached out of her desk by her hair dye and upon that spot, a pouch that contained condoms, USB drives and a used crack pipe. She’s our third AP this year, and made it a whopping 9 weeks, 2 days. It makes me nostalgic for the neglectful homophobic princess (month 1-2) and the thieving liar (month 3-6).

The irony: At the same time I was googling “crack pipe” to figure out what the heck this thing was, I was also helping AP1 revise her English language CV for an volunteer internship with a non-profit in Indonesia. I was simultaneously filled with love and pride for this remarkable young woman whose horizons were broadened by her AP experience, and incredulous at the beyond-poor judgement of AP4.

German Au-Pair May 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm

I’m really sorry for your experiences but someone it really cracks me up (no pun intended here!) to read what truely facinating personalities are out there.

hm Pippa May 5, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I know, right? As my grandmama said, “it takes all kinds.” I’m glad that I can shake my head in (amazement/horror/disbelief?) and laugh about it.

Should be working May 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Ok, so now I want to hear more of this story, Pippa! Condoms I have nothing against, in fact that’s all good. USB driveS? I can imagine finding one, but more than one? What’s your guess with that? And then of course the dealbreaking crack pipe. I had to look that up myself, not knowing how it would differ from other pipes I have myself employed in the past. Sounds very distinct.

Any tips you have on how these gems snuck through your interviewing process, please pass them on. And good luck next round, keep us posted.

HM Pippa May 5, 2011 at 5:33 pm

This happened just yesterday, so I am still reeling a little, and scrambling (yet again) for back-up childcare, and sleep deprived because my 5th grader is so freaked out he had to sleep with me last night… (incidentally, I couldn’t have devised a better lesson for him on the very real impacts of illegal drug use. I hadn’t anticipated having the full-blown drug talk yet, but it was an optimum teachable moment)

For all the APs out there, I am not an advocate of snooping, but in this case my gut told me something was going on. If this were my teenage child, you can bet I would give the room and drawers and books and pockets and cell phone a thorough inspection. While AP was at class in the evening (or claimed to be at class–another AP says she often didn’t show up) I did my usual candle/space heater/incense/lights check. I think I would feel a lot more uneasy about the snooping if I hadn’t found a crack pipe in the very first place I looked, which was a pouch/wallet in plain sight, directly on top of a badly damaged bleach spot on the desk, entirely visible from the door. I actually wondered if something was leaking from the pouch to cause the stain. I picked it up, opened the zipper, and there was the crack pipe. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest, and my mind raced to come up with an alternative explanation where this wasn’t really a device used to smoke crack. I never imagined I would need to do a google image search for “crack pipe”: in this case, a 3 inch long glass tube, slightly enlarged at one end with slight indents in the tube on the other end. Brown tar and spots of black gunk inside. Nasty acrid smell. I took a picture of the pipe for evidence. I decided not to speak to AP about this until the area director could be present, so I avoided her when she returned home from class. In the morning I contacted the area director who immediately came over. I showed AP the picture and asked if she recognized it. She said she did. AD asked what it is. AP said that “some people use it to smoke.” AD asked her what she used it for. She said that she used it to smoke weed, but (wait, you won’t believe this…) it didn’t belong to her–it was her friend’s. She just found it and was going to give it back. I asked her to go get the pipe. After 5 minutes (4 minutes longer than it should have taken–who knows what else she was hiding) she returned with it. She was smart enough not to say anything else, acknowledging that nothing she said would improve the situation. AD told her that she’d be going back home and that she should start packing up her things. AP was shocked that she would need to pack and leave right then and there.

Being utterly naive in these matters, I don’t know if one would use a pipe like this for pot or not. Friends with more experience in these matters say no way, the pot would get sucked right into one’s mouth. And it would still smell like weed. Crack (or maybe opium) would be more likely, they tell me.

And so ends the nine week tenure of AP2.3. She was a rematch AP from MI. I have to wonder what the real reasons were for the rematch–her previous area director never responded to my inquiries and APC wouldn’t allow contact with her family.

To the APC family who wound up hosting our AP2.1, my apologies. I just learned from AP 1.0 that AP2.1 is back in Germany 4 months short of the end of her contract year. I would gladly have given the new potential families an honest account of our experience with her. Thanks to APC no-contact policies, I’m afraid they had to learn the hard way. To the agencies: shame on you, foisting these failed AP with questionable moral character and very poor judgement upon new families. It grossly unfair to the area directors who have to manage these situation, not to mention a hardship on the host families.

German Au-Pair May 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Wow…sorry for repitition but wow…I’m amazed by what kind of people become caregivers. Wow.

Oh and don’t worry about au pairs judging on your snooping…I would be concerned if a hostparent opened my drawers and went through my stuff (’cause my underwear is in there and stuff like that) but when you do what you always do and she has crackpipes lying around…then well, go snoop :D

Taking a Computer Lunch May 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Like, you, I don’t go into my AP’s room unless there is a candle, a heater, an open window in a rain storm, or an alarm clock buzzing endlessly. Fortunately, I’ve personally never had an AP who wanted to get caught breaking the law. I’m glad your LCC backed you up in getting her out of your house fast – and prevented her from joining another family!

Calif Mom May 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

Does she realize how lucky she is that you didn’t call the cops? Who knows what a trained dog would have found.

Of course, we’re held hostage because we don’t want to invite cops in with dogs to sniff our au pair rooms in front of our kids. We want the mess to go away.

Your poor son! Keep talking with him… a lot! As the owner of a 5th grader, this is indeed a grade when the kids are starting to diverge and sort themselves into groups, so he has probably heard about drugs before. Where I live, they are also starting in with “health” curriculum, so this may fit with what’s hearing at school anyway.

If you had met this third au pair in person (assuming you are not in MI) would you have chosen her? Can you try for local rematch candidates this time? (And by local I mean within a 3-hour drive or so.)

HM Pippa May 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I was seriously thinking about having the room and the AP car searched by cops and a trained dog, and came this close to calling the cops, but I worried that if something were found, it would become a nightmare scenario for me and my family. What worries me more is that she would kidnap my 2yo from preschool or break into the house in the 7+ days she is out of our house, out of contact with area director, but not yet out of the country. I was very quick to tell preschool that she was fired, why, and that she absolutely does not have permission to contact or remove child from their care. (And I make my mother-in-law, bless her, stay at the center just in case.) Ridiculous worry, I know, but clearly there is a lot I don’t know about this AP and what she might do.

In retrospect, the drug activity doesn’t surprise me too much (nor other AP friends), but I would not have seen it in an in-person interview. She presents well. The only hesitation I felt was because her German wasn’t adequate to help 10yo with school work, but she was the only German speaking rematch available at the time, and waiting 4+ weeks and extending our contract by over 7 months didn’t seem like an option.

Since we don’t need anyone during the summer, and 2yo is now 3 and can attend full-day preschool of choice in the fall, we’re taking a break from APs. As it was, I had just reduced my work schedule to half-time to deal with the accumulating effects of multiple APs on the kids. I only need to cobble together care for a couple more weeks, and then it is time to focus on Rebuilding Family for a bit.

Julie May 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm

HM Pippa. Might be time for you to go with an agency that encourages families who take transition au pairs to talk to old families. drop me an email–I might be able to get a good deal for you from my agency (igelwelch at What an awful situation you’ve been in.

Former Aupair May 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm

If you aupair shows up to work on time, clean and dressed and ready to work.
If she drives extremely well
If She is polite, kind, interested in what we are doing and how our day goes
If She helps around the house and unloads the dishwasher, does her own laundry and never complains about food.
If you kids really like her

Ma’m, thank God for the aupair you have, keep her as long as you can, and just forget about her personal life, with is none of your business anyway..

It seems to me that you are trying to protect her (in a good way) about bad choices she seems to be making, but this is just part of life, she will go through bad choices, god ones, things she will regret and she will learn from it. It is just part of being a 20 something yrs old. I would just let it go…

OP May 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

After HMPippas 2.3 flameout story I agree completely (not that I had any intention to un-extend).

Pippa – I am so sorry about what happened. APC better think about the APs they bring over as where I live drug paraphernalia is illegal. I would have at least threatened to call the cops….

trisha May 6, 2011 at 12:37 am

I´m in a similar situation, my host mom has a loser husband. any sugestions?

Anna May 6, 2011 at 10:25 am

Sure. Don’t gossip about it to everyone around you, and don’t steal him.

HRHM May 6, 2011 at 11:34 am


Calif Mom May 11, 2011 at 10:06 am


Sandra newman June 2, 2011 at 10:12 am


MsA May 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I don’t think you are in the position to judge the hostparents relationship. Your hostmom knows her husband longer and better than you do. And even if he is a loser husband, in this matter it’s really none of your business. Would you tell your boss at work, that his wife/her husband is a loser? You probably find yourself in an awkward situation and maybe unemployed. There are just some things that are a no go and this for me, would definitely ruin the relationship to the hostparents.

German Au-Pair May 6, 2011 at 4:19 pm

MsA, I actually don’t think that Trish REALLY wanted an answer on that one but rather that she’s trying to make her point that a hostmom wouldn’t want to hear about her loser husband from her au pair the same way she wouldn’t want to hear about her loser boyfriend from her hostmum.
Funny how things can come out wrong (and lose their irony) when written, not said.

MsA May 6, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Personally, I didn’t mind when my hostparents told me their view on my boyfriend. They care about me and I have always appreciated their opinion. I think it all depends on the relationship you have to each other and how freely you express your feelings and worries in conversations. The Au Pair lives with the family and the family with the Au Pair. The Au Pairs actions affect the family and vice versa. So if you don’t want your hostparents to interfere with your business and your actions, then don’t apply for the program. You’re supposed to live together and of course you are going to be in each other business. No matter how old you are, the family is responsible for you as long as you live with them, so I think it is reasonable when the family expresses her worries and thoughts etc.

German Au-Pair May 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Yes, MsA, I agree. I wouldn’t mind either (it depends on the way though..someone telling me “Wow, your boyfriend is the biggest loser I’ve seen in my entire life” would not be greatly appreciated) but that depends on the human being I guess.
I know au pairs who are ending their year and mainly have a work-relationship with their hostfamilies and that seems fine with some people, too.
They are just so many different possibilities out there when it comes to relationships between people, I don’t think it’s “either you want you hostfamily in you personal business or you shouldn’t be an au pair”.
Just my two cents.

MsA May 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Most Au Pairs want to be treated as a family member and saying they don’t want the family in their private business just doesn’t go together. If you are a “family” then it is obvious that you share things about your life.
But my point is that the family of course will be in your business no matter what relationship you have to them and if you do decide to apply for the program you have to be okay with that (coz like I said, they are responsible for the Au Pair). I rather have a family that tells me what they think than a family who doesn’t care at all about my life. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch May 6, 2011 at 11:21 am

In my opinion, if your AP is reliable, attentive, beloved by your children, willing to pitch in when she’s off-duty, then she IS a good AP, not just a “decent” AP.

Most of my APs have made questionable choices during their off-duty hours, whether it was how they spent their long off-duty hours during the day or their evenings. I did too, when I first moved away from home. As long as it has no impact on your family or your child care, then I would take a deep breath. I do my best to offer advice as neutrally as possible. Not, “I think your boyfriend is a loser.” But, “Don’t you wish he would —?”

Unlike many of you, I don’t have a no BF (or GF) rule. Some “loser” boyfriends have been fantastic with my kids – really gentle and loving people, which allowed me to see their good sides. (None of my APs dated abusive men, as far as I know, but some were young men with no clue where they were headed in life.) In fact, we frequently invite them to join us at the table. One AP broke up with a amiable but loser boyfriend after a dinner, because she saw how little he had to contribute to the conversation at the table.

There are many times when I would love to tell my APs what to do with all of their free time, and I do give advice if they spend a lot of time Skyping back home and not reaching out to people around them. For those from warmer countries, I warn them not to spend the summer indoors, no matter how homesick they are, because the weather will not hold. But I don’t force them, and I can’t hold it against them.

I feel that AP’s lives are theirs to live, and as long as it doesn’t harm my kids (or have the potential to harm my kids), I can keep my mouth shut.

Gianna May 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

This has been a very informative thread but I am a little disappointed that the original question got lost somehow : are you a little bit envious of your aupair’s adventure.
I am surprized to realize that I am not envious. Maybe this means that I am happy:
I love my family, I love my work and I enjoy listening to other people’s stories. I guess I had enough adventures of my own. After many months of reading this blog , I am very glad that no one suggested to me that I become an aupair when I was young.
Very likely , I would have run off and done it. As an adult, I think that the risks to the aupairs are very scary indeed. There are many wonderful families out there ( and on this blog ) but how in the world can a young woman make an informed decision about
who she is getting involved with : incompetant LCCs , self-serving agencies, manipulative familes. I thank God that I am doing this from the responsible adult side instead of the aupair end.

German Au-Pair May 6, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I don’t really think the risks are that high…when you happen to get that unlucky that you get an incompetent LCC, you hope to not really need her. If you get a not fitting family, you rematch. If it’s not working AT ALL you go home. Then you do lose some money yes, but that’s actually the only risk you take…losing some money. Which can be hard, yes but it’s also not *that* common I guess…
And even when you do, you still gain some great experience of life and a lot of opportunities for selfreflexion. I think, even the risks of making a bad experience are worth it and that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Taking chances?
And where in life do you get the opportunity to do that in a safer way? You have an agency you can turn to and who will at least in theory try to help you or at least send you home safely.
I am well aware of the possibility that this experiment goes wrong but I think that’s a part of growing up and I am really looking forward to every experience I will make.

Anna May 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I agree with you. I think because many discuss problems on this blog, sometimes it looks pessimistic…
But I am an optimist, even coming out of an entirely unsuccessful year… hoping the next au pair to join our family is the right girl for us.

German Au-Pair May 6, 2011 at 1:49 pm

I guess you have to consider that many hostparents find this blog because of a problem they experience, right? So of course here you can hear many scary thing but even in this small pool of experiences you can hear so many great ones.
I hope you find a fit for your family. I guess we au pairs feel left alone when something’s wrong and we ARE alone in a foreign country but reading this blog has really helped me with considering the other side, too. Yes, HFs are in their country with their family and friends around but still bad things have an impact on the HP and especially the children, too.
I find this blog so interesting just because it’s always great to see the other side of the coin.

HM Pippa May 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Have I ever been envious of my au pair’s year of adventure? Yes and no. When I was that age, I spent a year living in Austria teaching English. I was paid an amount equivalent to what au pairs make. I had to find my way from the airport to the youth hostel to the school where I was assigned to work. I had to find a place to live, at a time when Austria was experiencing heightened xenophobia. More than once I was turned away because I was foreign. For the same money an au pair makes, I paid for all my own expenses: roundtrip international travel, room and board, public transportation, culture and entertainment, local travel, phone calls home (there were no internet, skype, or cell phones). During that year I travelled all over Europe, saw everything to see locally, met a boy, missed the last train home and slept in the station, taught swimming lessons, established a young adult English language lending library in the school, chaperoned class trips to the mountains, and eventually found a family with young children to live with for the remaining few months of my stay. I was so young and naïve and inexperienced. It was a very different experience than the sheltered life of a college student and a lot of responsibility to take on all at once. I was alone with no one to help me find my way or translate the cultural landscape. It opened my mind, broadened my horizons, made me resourceful and resilient, and sent me to therapy for years.

When I look at the support network in place for au pairs (agencies, LCCs, host families, AP friends, cell phones, cars, private rooms, instant contact with home, health insurance, GPS, free reign of the refrigerator and pantry) I do feel some envy. I wish the au pair program had existed when I was that age. The chance for discomfort, adjustment and compromise are high, but the real risks these APs face are negligible.

Now as a mom who had her opportunity for free-wheeling adventure, what I envy our AP most is the ample, unpressured time she has to spend with my children and the wealth of free time and disposable income.

Should be working May 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

Not jealous here, not at all. I love my kids above heaven and earth, but I wouldn’t to take care of–much less live with–anyone else’s. I would not want to move to another country, to a family I’ve never met, and be committed to fitting in with them for a whole year, which is a long time. Yes, it’s an adventure, but I would never have signed up to do it.

I agree with Pippa, however, that I’m jealous that the AP gets all this fun, easy time with my kids, without trying to multitask.

cv harquail May 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

Hi Gianna et al.,

I actually wasn’t attempting to focus the conversation on the question of whether or not a host parent felt jealous of an au pair. I was trying to provide an explanation for why the host parent would actually care what the AP was doing in her free time, and how a host parent might be (more) empathic after considering what he or she would want to do with free time if he or she were an au pair.

So the intent was– if you think about how you’d spend your time if you were 20 and in a diffn’t country, would you want a loser boyfriend and to spend your days watching tv? No, you’d want an adventure. With that in mind, how would you advise your au pair.?

That said- folks always pick out from the post set-ups & letters the issues that tweak them personally– either they have advice, they’ve thought of it, they’ve secretly wondered, etc. It’s like a Rorschach test sometimes, making it all the more fun for all of us, I think.

Gianna May 11, 2011 at 9:04 pm

I hear you, CV and I do understand why someone would want an aupair who makes good use of her time. It is a fine example for the host children to see a young person take advantage of cultural and educational opportunities in a new place and it can be very enjoyable for the adults to watch a young person grow intellectually and culturally in a new environment. Sharing life and time with someone from another country whose main interest in life is shopping , clubbing, etc. would not be an enjoyable experience for me. If I were spending a year or a month or even a week in Paris, you can bet I would hope to find a great little ( I wish ) black dress and a fabulous purse and some fine cologne so I think it is great when aupairs splurge on something wonderful that they can keep as a memory. Yes, I understand why a caring host mom wants an aupair to make good use of her time. I think it is a shame that so many young woman do all the same things that they could do at home ( at least if home is western Europe ). I known young women who volunteered at very interesting projects but volunteerism doesn’t sit so well with everyone.

OB Mom May 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Thanks Gianna for refocusing the comments. It does seem though that CV’s introduction and the email request are asking different things …

Re CV’s intro …
Am I jealous that my AP is living with my wonderful family in our beautiful home having only to focus on my fabuous children and find adventure in “America’s Finest City”? Hard to say (well perhaps, yes) … I have said on multiple occasions that if I could go back and live my life over again I would have tried to “slow down” and have an overseas experience either during college or before grad school. My brother was an exchange student in Indonesia in both high school and college while I was the overachiever on the straight and narrow working towards an oustanding career. I don’t think I would have taken the Au Pair route though given the chance because, honestly, I didn’t really like children until I was in my 30’s and had my own.

I do envy that the AP’s that come here and both love the kids and families that host them and take the opportunity to thoroughly live their lives. My AP’s have done fun things ranging from sky diving to surfing lessons to swimming with Dolphin’s at Sea World. Because of my own wishes, I would be diappointed if the AP didn’t do anything valuable in her “off time”, but if she was good at her job, I wouldn’t let it affect our interactions.

Re Annonnmom’s dilemma:
We have luckily not been in that situation. But honestly, having loser boyfriends at times is part of growing up, isn’t it? You can help her see the behaviors that aren’t most positive, but that probably won’t influence her. As one AP commented, how would you feel if she commented on some of the less than optimal behaviors in your own relationship with your husband (and we all have something I’m sure). I would probably just set up regulations so that my children aren’t affected (e.g. not at your house), and serve as a good listener if she gets her heart broken.

Good Luck!

AliMom May 7, 2011 at 2:47 am

I must admit this post has made me laugh. I am sure that my au pair thinks I have a loser husband… well maybe not a loser husband but a boring one for sure. She is a bubbly extrovert like me and he is shy introvert. Opposites do attact I guess and what appeals at 38 is certainly not what would have appealed at 20!

If I was the OP I would sit down and talk about what we would like to achieve for the kids in the year ahead and then ask her what she is hoping to see/ do before she goes. Ask her if there is anything she will regret not doing if she does get around to it. Is there anything you can do to help (maybe with planning a trip or an afternoon off to make a long weekend)?. Like other posters have said a loser boyfriend is a bit of a rite of passage but it might not hurt to get her thinking about the other things she might regret not getting around to doing.

Gianna May 7, 2011 at 11:31 am

This last post made me smile and I appreciate that. What do we really mean by
“loser boyfriends “? Do we mean that these young men are not of our social and economic class ?” Would we be happier if our aupair were dating our next door neighbor’s son and gossiping about us ? I am thinking of the chapter in The Nanny Diaries where the employer has a fit because her nanny starts dating ” Harvard hottie ” upstairs. I am also thinking about the incident in Mary Poppins when Mary Poppins takes the Banks children on an outing with her loser boyfriend , Bert , the chimney sweep and the parents go ballistic.

ap May 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Every au pair/ nanny/ caregiver should read The Nanny Diaries, I totally saw myself on that book. And the Mary Poppins example is very appropriate, I’d say. A loser for me is someone who drinks 5 nights a week, doesn’t have a decent job and doesn’t want to have one, has no interest on getting to know new things and new people…It has nothing to do with not making a ton of money, not being the most handsome man in town, not having a nice car blablabla.

Anyway, on the “loser BF experience”, I’ve been there and done that, and I think is part of growing up, and that the host family should give some sort of advice, but knowing that the au pair probably won’t listen or react to that.

Indi AP to be May 8, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Well, I agree with previous comments, have a nice chat wih her ans “suggest” some activities to do, or try casually to show her some great travel shows (I’m thinking Rachel Ray’s tasty trips lol) to encourage her, or maybe local classes on how to knitt/take photos/whatever you can think of.

I was thinking that maybe, one of her reasons as to not go out and explore may be the money, did she apply to the programm to save money for tuition/masters degree(other financial goals? For me, as an Au Pair, so far it’s the only reason that I’d find to not go out I like to learn new things and that’s hard to do staying always at home.

Carlos May 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I don’t know how things work out once you are with a family in the USA. I’m still waiting for a match, but I always think that I’ll have really good communication with my host family, that’s what I expect… maybe because that’s what is with my family, I do have a great communication with my parents and with my brother, so I believe that when you have a word with your au pair and tell them about your concerns about who are they hanging out with, at least they will know the risks or what they’re getting into so you can save them a disappointment. Thank you:)

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HRHM May 31, 2011 at 10:56 am

CV – TROLL looking for web site hits. Might want to delete this one

new au pair in colorado October 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I just move for my second year to Colorado, exactly Louisville, co. I dont know anyone here and my lcc told me I am the only one au pair that my company has in this city. The closest au pair lives 45 mins driving but she is not allowed to drive and I am not either!!!! there is bus but it works until 9 p.m. so when I am off and on weekends I will be so bored. I have been living here for 1 month already and even if I already asked the lcc to send an updated list of au pairs she did not!! and in the au pair meeting we were just 5 au pairs. I am soooo bored and thinking about rematch. Does some of you know au pairs around.. please help me!!!

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