Checking Facebook for Insights About Your Au Pair’s Experience

by cv harquail on October 13, 2010

Who needs to snoop in an au pair’s room or flip through an au pair’s journal, when there is Facebook to tell us our au pair’s inner thoughts?

Not that any of us would intentionally snoop.  (As we’ve already discussed, there are very few and very specific times when snooping seems even remotely reasonable.)

And, it’s not really snooping when an au pair posts information for anyone to see. When an au pair shares thoughts and feelings on Facebook and they’ve already ‘friended’ — that information is fair game.201010131011.jpg

Or is it?

Host Mom Julie asks:

I’ve got a question for the gang:

What do you think about looking at what comments your au pair puts on Facebook about the experience of living with you? If that information is all publicly viewable, so that anyone can see it?

For the record, I would never read her diary or invade her privacy in her room.

Our au pair often posts on Facebook her feelings about being with our family. She also posts on a Facebook page provided by our Au Pair program. Sometimes she writes in her native language, which I also speak. Although she is very shy in person, our au pair has posted extensively.

I recognize that these sites (especially the one for the au pair program) are for young au pairs venting and I do take comments with a grain of salt. When our au pair said a few things that were not positive about my children, it did not bother me because I know that complaining is part of what people do when working.

Now, we’re in rematch because although she is very nice, our situation is not working well for her.   She’s explained that she wants to be in a home with just one child. We knew that out AP has been very homesick, and we’ve talked about it in her native language. However, we had no idea if the homesickness was getting better. And, we weren’t sure if she was still very unhappy. I really wanted to see how she was feeling about being here, and so I did check the site to see what she’s been saying. It’s how I learned that she really liked us, that she liked or didn’t like certain parts of staying with us and that she wanted to leave.

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We are okay with the outcome (being in rematch) and there are no hard feelings. Still, I’m curious what the group thinks about looking for more information about your au pair’s experience, especially in a situation that’s respectful and not angry.

I’m wondering, because although these pages and this information is totally public, I still feel bad for knowing thoughts she didn’t tell us. Thanks!

-Julie

 

[This may all be a moot point, now that Facebook has created the option of having an inner circle of friends that other friends won’t know they aren’t a part of. Now, your au pair (and your child, and yourself) can create a smaller network of epople who get the really honest stuff versus the self-presentational, audience-aware stuff. But still …]

Families and Au Pairs, do you think a host parent should keep an eye on an AP’s Facebook for insights?

See Also:
You’re on YouTube! Is that okay?

Is Snooping in your Au Pair’s room ever okay?

Checking Facebook from ialja
I Like this!
from ialja

{ 49 comments }

Lisa, PA HM October 13, 2010 at 11:48 am

If the AP has friended you, then I think it is fine to check-in. This is how we found out our last AP (who was with us for 2 years) was putting herself in a potentially dangerous situation. If I hadn’t check her facebook page I would never have known what was going on and as her “parent’ do feel a sense of responsibility for her well-being. To make a long story short:
She planned a visit to Chicago on one of her weekends off with our knowledge – she told us she was going to visit another AP. From FB I discovered that this was not the case, she was in fact planning the trip (which required a plane flight, we live on the east coast) to meet a “boy” she had met online. When my husband and I confronted her about this, it was unpleasant (lots of tears, it’s none of your business, I’m an adult, etc…) and she did unfriend me on FB as a result, BUT it also turned out the “boy” was a 30 year old man
with a minimal work history and suspect all around. While I lost access to what she was had to say on FB, which I must admit to missing, I did feel good knowing that I didn’t lose her! And as unpleasant as the confrontation was, she ended up feeling that we did care for her and the remainder of her year and our relationship is still storng.

JBLV October 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Unless an Au Pair, or anyone for that matter, specifically sets their privacy settings so that you or anyone else cannot see their posts, then the AP should have no expectations of privacy. Our former AP blocked us from seeing her updates on her Facebook page after our LCC mentioned to her that we could see her rather pissy comments. However, the AP did not block our friends and relatives who had also friended her on Facebook. We would hear from them, or be questioned by them, about our AP’s comments on Facebook. So point is, Facebook is not a private place. It is not like e-mail. Our former LCC talked to her cluster about Facebook and what is appropriate, what isn’t appropriate, and how to make comments and status updates “private.” I think it wise that we remind our LCC’s to have that kind of talk once in a while.

azmom October 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Our AP friended us before she came to the US – it is how i know how miserable she has been and how much she hates where we are, though via facebook i also know she’s either saying less about it or getting passed the culture shock, a bit.

Though, I guess I go above and beyond since I use translate.google.com to see what she’s saying. I did find out she saw Dh in the shower this way as well… Now DH locks the door when he goes in our private bathroom, lest our 2 year old opens the door and she goes in to get the baby who sleeps in our room. :)

franzi October 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm

facebook has plenty of privacy settings. if your ap befriends you and does not block you from seeing certain content (such as status updates or pictures) then i think it is fully ok for you to check out her site. the ball is in her field when it comes to keeping information private.
i would step in if you see something that is a defamation or endangers your family (such as stating your address on her info and then posting when everyone is going on vacation).

on the other hand this does not mean that if you are blocked to see content the ap is trying to shut you out. it may just be a way to keep something private (we all know how privacy can suffer when you live and work together 24/7).

using google translator to find out what ap has been saying…i’m not sure about that. because posting on facebook in my native language is a way for me to deter my english speaking friends. they can read it but they don’t necessarily have to understand it. again, if i wanted them to not read/understand sth i would block them.

ExAP October 13, 2010 at 6:00 pm

I fully agree with Franzi.

If your AP is on FB, maybe a quick talk about the privacy settings in general might be good. And in my opinion it’s even better when this talk comes from someone that’s more neutral than HPs, like an LCC (as was said by JBLV already).

On translation websites: Often, the translation provided is a really bad one and so the original meaning of a sentence can be mixed up. There might be misunderstandings as results.

azmom October 13, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I definitely don’t take the translation websites to be valid, but it did give me a good sense of what we could do to try to make her more comfortable since her answers are hardly ever more than 4 words when we ask her anything. week 6 and still seems to be major culture shock (LCC is involved)

ExAP October 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm

If that’s the case I understand why you used a translation website. I’d probably have done the same… :)
Good luck with your AP!

Taking a Computer Lunch October 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Facebook, unless you apply privacy settings, is public. End of story. You’re not snooping in her room, you’re not reading her diary, and you’re not listening in to a telephone conversation. That being said, if you mention something that you could have gleaned only by reading her Facebook page, she will feel violated. For those of you who are not yet in rematch, and have learned something about your au pair, you can have a verbal conversation to draw it out of her – but you might have better luck using email – English writing skills often come before English speaking skills. And I have found that shy APs will reveal more about themselves in writing than verbally (there is that buffer of space…).

Since you are already in rematch, OP, then look at it as a growth experience for you – how sharing a language doesn’t necessarily translate into sharing an experience. Since you don’t bear a grudge against your AP, then I recommend being positive about her when other HF call – especially when they have one child. I don’t think her homesickness will improve, chances are she’ll rematch with a family that doesn’t share her language and feel even more isolated.

Meanwhile, in my experience, shy APs aren’t always the type to land on their feet (how they ever got on the plane alone is beyond me). I had one shy AP in 6, and she had the toughest time placing herself in the US. Your AP’s difficulties are not your fault. There are ways to ask questions of young women when you are matching, to determine whether they are capable of developing a circle of friends. One question to ask in a telephone interview is, “Are you usually the person who organizes an evening out with friends, or do you wait for friends to phone you.” “Do you have one best friend with whom you always do something, or do you have a group?” Shy people are not bad people, it’s just emotionally tougher for them to deal with social and cultural dislocation.

OnceAnAuPair October 14, 2010 at 2:54 am

I’m shocked that an au pair would write negative things about her HF on Facebook that they could see? Why wouldn’t she be smart enough to 1) not friend you 2) turn the privacy settings on. If she’s clueless enough to be writing mean things about your family that you can obviously see then you should read it and have conversation with her, etc.

Euromom October 14, 2010 at 6:51 am

Can I just say that I have never checked my AP’s face book page. However I am an extremely private individual – I do have a page myself which was set up by a friend – which I hate – but my AP knows I never use this although she has “friended” me.

But while we are in the FB subject can I just say that I regularly monitor my teenage daughter’s FB page – she is not allowed to put up personal information – she does not use her real name – nor is she allowed to put up any pictures of herself – she has friends who have far too much information about themselves on the internet and are prime meat in my opinion. There are pictures of them in their school uniform – which gives away their age (approx), location, and time of journeys to and from school to anyone (friend, friend of friend, foe!).

I am dead set against FB/Bebo etc, as a parent and as a person.

I have told my AP if she puts up any information (good or bad – I don’t care) about myself, my family, my home etc, on the internet, then she is out. I will not have my way of life broadcasted across the net for any wannabe rapist/burglar to see.

Yes I am extreme but I do not allow my AP broadcast my plans around my local neighborhood. I do not put signs on my door saying I am going on holidays for two weeks. So how can anyone justify letting another put personal information (including identity, probably address or location, etc) up in the net.

It is completely irresponsible and should be seen for the dangerous (playing with fire) habit (not hobbie) it is.

We all talk about telling our AP’s not to talk to strangers – well “Friends” on the internet are strangers.

Does anyone else share this view or feel as strongly as I do?

Calif mom October 14, 2010 at 9:55 am

The world is a “safe” place and it is a “dangerous” place. Everyone has to figure out where the boundaries of acceptable practices and behaviors are for themselves, their family, their children, and as it relates to their AP.

We have stipulated some parameters for our AP to use on social media–no discussion of trips that make it clear that our house is empty, etc–and while we are both avid FB’ers, we have not friended each other. I do tell her that I NEVER bad mouth our APs on FB and expect the same respect. Here’s a funny irony–in personal conversations after dinner, we often tell each other status updates we’re particularly proud of, or point out what a good one would be as it arises during the day.

To me, FB updates are a reflective act, a way of staying grounded during the day, and an artistic outlet. A good update is like a line of poetry, capturing the human condition in a beautiful turn of language. (But I’m funny that way.)

We haven’t decided how to deal with our daughter’s imminent request for a FB page. She has had a LOT of cyberbullying curriculum at school, I’m happy to report, and she isn’t eager to jump into it, at least not yet. For now, she can email her friends, like we all used to do. It seems like a nom de plume is a good idea, which we will consider as the issue bubbles up.

As most here agree, if I were my AP’s FB friend, I would absolutely read her posts without a shred of shame! It’s not private.

Karin Six October 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

I love your comments and will use your solution from now on for my au pair group!

Busy Mom October 14, 2010 at 7:41 am

I don’t think that looking at an AP’s facebook page is snooping. If she has friended you, she should understand that you may see her posts.

Our first AP pointed me to her blog when we were interviewing. I continued to check it periodically. At first, I didn’t consider it snooping, just being friendly and seeing what her interests/likes were. Then, she started posting critical things about our family – how we washed fruit, Thanksgiving dinner, etc. I continued to check and became increasingly resentful. It became a downward cycle. She was an okay AP. However, her overly strict manner toward my youngest and the blog comments soured the overall relationship and I couldn’t wait for her to leave. I think that had I not read all her complaints, we would have had a better year. But, all my interactions with her were colored by the fact that she complained about us.

She subsequently friended my daughter on Facebook and has the gall to post something nasty about us in the previous job section! I don’t think my daughter has ever noticed…

Consequently, I think I would avoid friending an AP on facebook during her AP year. I just don’t want that much information and I certainly don’t want to see what she says about us!

I’m friends with all but 1 of my former nannies. Former AP2 doesn’t really use facebook much, or I’d friend her.

On a separate but related note, I’ve heard from several parents who have college kids looking for summer jobs that the kid has been asked in the inteview to pull up their facebook page. An instant snapshot of character.

calif mom October 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

Really? Asking to see their FB profile? That seems intrusive–if the profile page has a birthday prominently posted, it might also be illegal, because an employer cannot ask one’s age. I’m sure there will be a court case soon, if there hasn’t been already. fascinating!

Taking a Computer Lunch October 14, 2010 at 11:46 am

It’s now a standard procedure when checking out a potential employee – see what they choose to publicly reveal about themselves.

MommyMia October 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Yep, I can also verify that that is true. Although I’m not sure in the cases I’m privy to that they were asked to pull them up, or whether the employer who was hiring just checked him/herself by searching the name.

Jennifer October 14, 2010 at 11:05 am

Hmmm…. I know at work that anything I access online – personal email, facebook, this website, etc. my employer can look and monitor. Employers check FB accounts, myspace etc before hiring. If they put something out for the public to see it is NOT private. I rematched due to what my last AP had on FB. We were friends and she posted all kinds of pictures from a trip she lied about (family vacation – not her vacation). She was shocked I checked FB because I guess although we were “friends” she thought I was too stupid to look???!! The current AP I have had a public profile until we matched. I’m sure she heard about the prior AP. With everything out there I think it is best to help them understand they really should have “private” profiles and teach them some internet smarts/safety.

Karin Six October 14, 2010 at 12:49 pm

As an au pair coordinator, I ‘friend’ all of the au pairs in my group. If I see something an au pair is posting that is questionable (or a family photo), I will email the au pair to discuss. Some au pairs just don’t know what they are doing and want to look cool to their friends. Some say they really didn’t mean what they posted or were just in a bad mood that day. They sometimes look for sympathy or are bragging so that they can get a response from their friends. The ‘heads-up’ really comes when I say that their host family may be checking their posts as well!

DC mom October 14, 2010 at 1:05 pm

All that stuff is public, espcially if she has friended you.

Our first au pair had a blog and we were also FB friends. She gave us the blog password – I said it was a condition of her being able to post any family pictures – but her posts were in her native language. My husband and I were constantly amazed by how cluelss she was when it came to FB…she posted all kinds of things and photos on there knowing we were friends on FB – and obviously assuming we’d never see them. We never showed our hand, so to speak, and never out and out confronted her about the things we saw in her pictures, etc. We felt like it was more important to have a window into what she was up to…

Westchester Mom October 14, 2010 at 1:18 pm

This AP seems a bit clueless, posting these feelings online, where you can see everything.

I friended our last Au Pair *after* she completed her year with us. I would never ‘friend’ a current Au Pair. I feel Facebook is an outlet for both AP and I to be ourselves without worrying of implications of seeing each others posts (just like I would never friend a current boss, or someone I manage at work). That being said, we have a clear agreement about what DH and I do post (we would never post anything negative about our APs), and what AP is forbidden to share online in any way: any reference to our names, location and pictures of our family, on Facebook, blog or other mean.

I do check out candidates profiles on Facebook (the profile picture can be very telling, so are friends and fan pages…).

HRHM October 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I am friends with APs past, present and future and use it for all it’s worth. When interviewing, if an AP balks at friending me, it gives me the hint that she may not be exactly as she says she is. Once friended, I can see whether she is a party princess, how she dresses, how many friends she has (AP2 has 4727 – sign that she has not the best judgement in my book and fairly consistent with how her year turned out) and I can see if she is lying about her BFBH. Once here, it allows me to see what she is up to in her off-time without giving her the 3rd degree (and yes, I do translate as needed, although I don’t always understand word for word, I can usually get an idea). And once their gone, I use it to keep in touch, they can see pictures of “their girls” and I can say hello and send an e-hug when they are having a rough day with their new family (who is not as awesome as us!) IMHO, it’s a sign of poor judgement and niavete’ for them to friend me and then post 1) something rude/mean about our family 2) pictures and/or info outing themselves in a lie they told me 3)stuff I explicitly told them that was forbidden (pics of my kids, our home address, etc). It is no more “checking” than it is when I see my husband or sister posted and read what they said.

Melissa October 14, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I feel it is perfectly fine to view your AP’s FB page if you and she are “friends.” She chose to make her page public to you when you friended each other and vice versa. Personally, I feel that if someone is embarrassed by or would be upset by someone reading their posts, then DON’T POST IT! (duh)

I have a related question. Many posters have said they don’t want their AP to post pics of their kids on their FB page. I tend to agree with this way of thinking, for security reasons, and have a blurb in our handbook (under computer usage) about not posting pictures of our children without checking with us first. However, on the other hand, I do understand an AP’s desire to share her life here in the U.S. with friends and family back home. Particularly if she is acting as a ‘family member’ and participates with the host family for Halloween, birthday parties, etc — all those types of activities are things that our APs have liked to share pictures of with their families back home. I realize that we made do just fine years ago by calling and sending letters (with actual pictures enclosed), but it seems like social networking is the only way that 20-somethings communicate these days. So, our current AP has posted a bunch of pics of our kiddos on her FB page, without checking or telling us that she did. She is responsible and mature, and has no inappropriate pics or obviously sketchy FB friends, that I can tell, and is a great AP. However, it bugs me a little bit, especially since she didn’t consult with me and it is in our handbook. I’m wondering whether I should make an issue of it or just let it be? After all, I also have some pics of our family on my FB page, although my ‘friend’ list is fairly limited, while our APs generally have a HUGE and ever-growing ‘friend’ list.

HRHM October 15, 2010 at 5:55 am

I think it’s entirely up to your comfort level. I have this rule because I have VERY tight security on my FB and I only “friend” people who I know personally and I never actually identify my kids by name on FB. I can’t rely on each of my APs to be doing the same, some may and some may not (see above for AP2 and her several thousand “friends”) I don’t want some creepy 50 year old guy from Yemen knowing what my kids look like, what their names are and where we live. (chose the age and location at random, so don’t think I hate Yemenis or something!)
If it makes you uncomfortable, just say “hey I saw that you posted those pics of DD and DS on your FB and I just wanted to remind you that our HFHB specifically states that it’s not allowed. Please take them down before you go to bed tonight.”

EireAuPair October 15, 2010 at 10:57 am

I use Facebook as a communication centre for me and my real friends back in my hometown/-country and the friends I made over here. I use it to meet new au pairs as well but only “befriend” them after I met them. I never accept a friend request from someone I don’t know at all. All my information about myself, my family is private as well as my status updates and stuff. I would never even think about putting pictures of my hostfamily on Facebook. I know I put lots of picture of me and friends on Facebook but that’s because I want my friends in my homecountry to see what I am up to and make them feel like they’re right with me.
Again, when I use the word “Friends” I mean real friends not based-on-internet friends.
I, for myself, would be okay with my hostmum seeing what I write and if not I would simply block her from that. As an AP who befriended their HP on that side I should be aware of the fact that they ARE able to see what I wrote. And always keep that in mind when I write smething new or maybe even something about them.

HoBath October 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm

I’m an au pair and I’m not fb friends with my HPs (I’m not even sure if they have facebook) but if I was I know that I would have trouble working out what privacy settings to put etc. Facebook is the centre of my social interaction – outwith actually seeing my friends in person it’s the number one way in which I communicate. I would have my doubts about being ‘friends’ with my parents, real or host, for various reasons. It’s not that I have anything to hide but I think a certain degree of your life should be private. My parents know that I drink, they know that I go out with boys and they know that I probably have in-jokes with friends that nobody else can understand. What they don’t need is proof: my mum has said it in almost those exact words. I also think that whilst you can grasp a lot from someone’s fb there is also a lot that you can’t see. The fact that I am a member of certain groups indicates what I am like at certain times: yes, I may get drunk from time to time but how I behave at the weekend at home with my friends is different from how I would be with your kids. I wouldn’t blame your AP for declining a friend request, it would maybe be better if they gave a reason though (ie state that it is a private place for them to connect with friends). If their profile isn’t private and they decline you then you should probably pick up on the fact that they aren’t the brightest and it would be a cause for concern. If I write something on facebook then I am doing so in the knowledge that all my facebook friends can see it (depending on the privacy settings). I frequently browse people’s pages to see what they’re up to and I accept that anyone might do the same. In terms of bringing up things that an AP had said on fb I think a pinch of salt is needed. Obviously if there is a cause for concern then go for it but if there is a chance it is a flyaway comment or you have seen no evidence in real life to make it seem more important then let it go. I often post on fb things that I am missing from home not because I am desperately homesick but because the people on fb are the ones that know what I am talking about. I think a little common sense goes a long way.

Poor Au Pair October 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm

My HM and me are fans of FB, but we are not FB friends, and we never commet what’s going on on our FB. Our LCC told us (AP) that we should NOT post any information of our HF or photos of the kids. I do not have a computer for myself, so I put all my photos in FB, ALL of them, but you can pick what album goes public and which one doens’t. I am a “private setting FB” crazy, I have my friends in different list (school friends, au pairs, family, work friends, etc), so is easy for me to block what each one can or can’t see/read. I also have Albums that no one but me can see. I asked my HM if was ok with she if I posted photos of my Host Kids on FB, I have settings that only allow people in my “Family list” can check out the album, so pics of the kids, house and trips just my family can see it. I also not have a public profile and I only add people I actually know, not even friends or my friends that I don’t know.

B. November 11, 2010 at 1:43 am

I read pretty much all your comments and I think it is all about common sense, from both parts involved.
But here’s a thought: Did it ever occur to any of you host parents that your au pair might need FB as a form of communication? maybe she/he has a hard time reaching you, talking to you?
Sometimes to express yourself to your friends and people living the same experience as you (au pairs friend a lot of other au pairs o fb) might be easier than trying to share her feelings with you, whether they’re good or bad.
I’ve put things on facebook, good ones, that I would like to say to my family when I was feeling really happy or sad or lonely(never angry, don’t think fb is the place insult the people you live with), and I didn’t say it out loud because I’m shy and never know for sure how interested they are.
Most of them didn’t have any effect, which was very frustrating, so I stopped, but still felt like leaving a comment here so the same doesn’t happen to anyone else. :)

cv harquail November 11, 2010 at 6:23 pm

While I agree with Anna that your au pair year is a good time to experiment with different behaviors, I appreciate your suggestion here.

if you had friended your HM/D, and you knew that they were on Facebook, this might actually give you a way to communicate indirectly when direct communication feels awkward. You could just as easily post “Had so much fun w/ DHC at the playground today. She rocks on the swings!” as you could post “I’m really missing my family and I could use some decent Belgian chocolates.”

A big problem, though, is that you *can’t be sure* they have seen what you posted unless you talk about it at some point. So, your feelings might be hurt if they don’t say anything, when actually they missed the update b/c they use Facebook too infrequently.

cv

Anna November 11, 2010 at 8:35 am

B., this is really strange to me that you feel that you cannot talk to your host family even about the good things.
If I were your host mom, I would have a terribly difficult time with that. Communication is a must for a happy relationship on both sides. If you are happy, they are trying to make you happy, but don’t hear any feedback, they might think that you are ungrateful and take it all for granted, or you don’t notice their efforts at all, and they might stop doing those special things for you alltogether.

It is a transformational year for you, most au pairs come here for new experiences. Why not let it transform you into a more open communicative person?

Of course things you “leave” on Facebook for your hostparents won’t have any effect, if you are not talking to them directly. It is like sending a letter to the neighbor of somebody that you want to get the message, and hoping that not only they will steal the neighbor’s mail and read it, they will do enough to in reaction to it to admit that they’ve done it. You are frustrated with it – so start talking to them directly. I can only imagine how frustrated they are.

NJ Mom March 31, 2011 at 3:31 pm

This was very helpful. I am worried, when our Au pair first arrived she friended both my husband and I on FB. I set some parameters with her in the beginning about privacy and posting comments about vacations and not posting photos of the family on FB, etc. I admit that I’ve looked on her FB page periodically and have not seen anything bad. I did notice this week that she is no longer friends with my husband. Should I be concerned? Is she partying like crazy now that she has been here awhile and posting the photos. Is she now unhappy here and saying negative thing about us? Should I just not worry about it or should I mention to her that I notice we are no longer friends on FB?

Calif Mom April 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

Um, if you’re her FB friend, you are “allowed” to look at her posts, notes, likes, whatevers. That’s not a breach of privacy.

I set parameters when a peer at the office–whom I considered a real friend, I’d share parenting tips and have drinks with her–became my supervisor. I don’t need her knowing everything anymore. I didn’t unfriend her, but she doesn’t get all my updates, either.

Should you ask her why she unfriended your hub? I wouldn’t. If I were an au pair, I wouldn’t want my host dad as a friend. I think she made a judgment error initially in even friending you both. I don’t want to do that with my APs.

Social media evolves; I think people are narrowing how they use different channels. At least, grown ups are! :-)

AFHostMom April 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I agree, I wouldn’t be concerned at all that she defirended your husband. Previous AP told us repeatedly she would be happy to friend us but I told her that FB was her personal space, and ours too, so we never did. Which was good because she didn’t work out…though she is a friend of a friend so I’ve heard some of her updates (re her new HF) through the grapevine.
I reluctantly ask, what would cause you to contact another HM/HD about an au pair’s FB behavior? Use of the kids’ names? Cursing, complaining, talking about disliking work?

Taking a Computer Lunch April 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I don’t have a policy about friending one way or the other. I am FB friends with most of my former APs and find it any easy way to keep in touch. Although my handbook asks APs to be careful about our privacy in posting messages about us, I don’t spend any time searching to see if they do. I wouldn’t have anything against them friending me, but I post very little personal information on my page – I use it as a means to gain professional contacts.

Personally, I would only contact another HF about what I saw on FB if the AP were revealing something personal about the family that they might not want publicly aware. I see that many people grouse about their lives on FB, and while that’s not my cup of tea, I don’t hold it against those who do. If you see something you wouldn’t like if it were about you, then you might insert something like “How’s your au pair working out?” into a broad-ranging conversation – but don’t cold call them and pose the question. Otherwise, you might stir up a hornet’s nest.

HM Pippa March 31, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Facebook allows one to create groups and customize what information is available to each group. A tech savvy au pair bent on deception can remain your fb friend and still exclude you from most of what is posted, including pictures of wild parties, negative status reports, etc. Conversely, she could also play you by blocking you from party pictures while planting pollyanna propaganda. Neither gives you a complete picture, and you can’t know what you are blocked from viewing. Don’t count on FB as a replacement for good old fashioned face to face communication.

Tristatemom April 1, 2011 at 9:06 am

And then there was the au pair who, when caught sending over 1000 text messages in a few days and during work hours, simply got a second SIM card. So she would use our phone with our SIM card to communicate with us and everything looked good re her phone use and texting during work hours. Little did we know that the real action was still taking place but we were in the dark. She also had really trashy party pictures on her FB page but we did not know about those until after we rematched and people came out with all these stories about her. There were so many breaches of trust with this girl. I am almost pathetic for feeling this way but my trust was completely broken and it will take some time to regroup from this LIAR that lived in my house and “took care” of my innocent babies.

Concerned HM May 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I am hoping some fellow HMs can give me some advice. We are currently hosting an au pair from Thailand. She is wonderful with our kids, very hard working and responsible. We provide a flexible schedule of about 30 hours/wk, free use of the car, and we are supportive, and check in frequently about how she is doing and how happy we are hosting her. My problem is that she posts negative comments on FB about being bored, feeling that her home country is so much better than the US for various reasons (which she lists in detail). She complains about her salary (standardized by our agency of course) is not high enough, etc, etc.. These comments have started to grate on my nerves— I go out of my way to accomodate, she is always paid on time, and works considerably less than most of her AP friends. I have asked her pretty direct questions about whether she is happy, homesick, what her goals are, what she is looking forward to, etc… She insists to me and LCC that she is happy and likes us. Why then, all this negativity on FB. I have not directly told her that I am reading her wall, but I post on her page from time to time so of course she is aware that I have full access to it. It is frustrating and annoying- I want her to have a place to blow off steam to friends, but it is impacting me negatively. Could it be a cultural thing — ie, she is unhappy, does not want to tell me directly, so is using FB to hint? On the other hand, I can’t pay her more than her stipend, and can’t really do much about the US being more like Thailand.. .Please advise- do I confront it, ignore it???

German Au-Pair May 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I’m not a host mum but maybe I can comfort you in a way. I have read many many comments about how some girls really and truely loved their host families and where happy with them but where a little…frustrated? irritated? confused? or maybe just aware? about the differences between the US and their home country. They said they loved her year with their families and would always do it again but “boy, the US are strange in this way or that one”. Do you think it could be the same here? Do her complaints sound like that?
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you or the life she has with your family and it doesn’t mean she’s unhappy. In some cultures it’s normal to criticize countries you’re visting. I don’t know about Thailand of course but here in Germany no one would view that as anything unusual.
If you’re really that annoyed, I’d try the approach “I read on your facebook that you didn’t like this and that here, are you unhappy or is it just a general thing?”

azmom May 18, 2011 at 2:27 pm

we had a thai au pair and it was the same. it was so horrible and negative and DRAINING that we had to rematch. we thought it was our location (we’re somewhat in the suburbs and she’s from Bangkok so she wanted more city life). Once we got our new au pair I realized that the boredom and lack of wanting to go meet people were just a symptom of other things: she wasn’t here to be an au pair.

Concerned HM May 18, 2011 at 6:57 pm

Do you feel that it was cultural or her personality? It seems that many of her fellow Thai au pairs have complaints as well (on FB). I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations,but I am trying to put this into context and also deciding on nationality to look at for our next au pair match (still in the distant future, but would appreciate any insights)…

Busy Mom May 18, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I feel like being FB friends with a current AP would give me too much information. Our 1st AP was German and had a blog that, after we matched, she invited me to read and provided the password for. Once here for 2 months, she started including critical details from how we washed our fruit to the quality of food at Thanksgiving dinner to youngest’s behavior to her unhappiness over vacation policy (which had been verbally communicated twice, but somehow she ‘missed’ the bit her vacations coinciding with hers). Did she now know about Google translate? Did she forget she’d provided access? Dunno, but being privvy to all that whining soured the relationship. Never sour enough to rematch as she continued to do a good job, but I found it hard to be friendly because my interpretation of her blog was that she didn’t like me. Lesson learned: I friended AP2 AFTER she left!

Concerned HM May 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm

That sounds very familiar.. it is really difficult for me to not read it, but agree that it is too much info (like reading someone’s journal). Still, she is putting it out there for everyone (including me) and I have to wonder why.

Busy Mom May 18, 2011 at 11:25 pm

It’s impossible to not read it! It’s perversely addictive…what nasty things is she saying about us today? In my case, it was password protected but she GAVE me the password. I really think that she didn’t think I’d be able to read it since it was written in German. I began to resent her comments and the resentment festered. In retrospect, I should have confronted the issues head on. But, it was hard to do this because it was a semi-private blog written in German.

Since you know that she knows that you have access to her FB page, you may want to have an open discussion about it. “I noticed on you FB page that are unhappy about x, y and z. I’m concerned about this…” If you ignore it, it will probably continue to bother you and just get worse.

At least she’s not writing negative things about your family. Toward the end, my AP’s comments were about me. A whole post on how conniving & selfish I was to cheat her out of her ability to schedule her vacation when she wanted to take it. Can you tell that it continues to bother me!?

Melissa May 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

I think that is exactly the point that 20 somethings do not seem to get — that the internet, regardless of your ‘privacy settings’, is not the same thing as a private journal or diary!! It is on the internet, for goodness sake. While I understand that most young adults don’t know a world without Facebook and use it and other networking tools often as a primary means of communication, I too have had instances where I am frustrated and disappointed over my au pair’s lack of judgment and discretion online. I try to point out to them that some feelings and comments are much more suitable for a diary entry or a coffee date with friends, NOT posted for eternity on your internet site! Sometimes I think it is akin to if I had a similar gripe fest with a friend over my house while the AP with in her room overhearing everything. And then I expected her not to eavesdrop and/or not to be offended!

Busy Mom May 19, 2011 at 9:14 am

A good lesson for our kids as well!

Should be working May 19, 2011 at 3:32 am

If it were me, I’d confront it once in a planned meeting, and (probably before the meeting) un-friend the au pair on FB. I feel like APs need a place to rant and vent, and I don’t need to see it, even if I think it’s inappropriate. If my AP wanted to friend me on FB, I’d decline and tell her nicely that I think she and I both deserve our privacy since we already share so much.

This is a good reminder for me to not let an AP friend me (or a lot of other people whose negativity would possibly sour an important relationship–I have very few FB friends!).

Calif Mom May 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I have a “no FB friends with current APs” rule. I just think it’s cleaner. *Except* now that she is no longer our AP, I am FB friends with a former, terrific AP. It’s really the easiest way for us to stay close, I can hear what she’s up to, and she can keep tabs on the kids and see their photos, but we aren’t in each other’s stuff while she’s living here. It has worked well.

I’m not FB friends with people from work, either, except for former ones that I actually *would* go out for drinks with and trust. When a colleague turned into my boss, I did have to wrestle with what to do. I chose to not unfriend her, but I keep her blocked from my updates, since I do occasionally post about work-related stuff on FB. Mostly, I didn’t want her to realize how often I have to vent during the work day–not the content but the frequency! :-)

Anna May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I know that in some cultures, people are afraid of jealousy or “evil eye”. They won’t boast or tell their friends how good things are, in fear of “jinxing” it.
Maybe she is trying to do this, so that her friends are not jealous of her american adventure?

I would talk to her directly, to try getting to the bottom of it. If I were in your situation, a thing like that would hurt me and bother me in the background. It could be a deciding thing for me if I was considering extending with this girl or not.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Here’s Yahoo’s take on what NOT to post on your Facebook: http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/upgrade-your-life/upgrade-life-5-worst-photos-post-online-235821296.html, some good advice.

JMHostMom September 9, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I’m intrigued by all these posts.
My personal feeling about FB is that, no matter what my privacy settings, I won’t post anything that I don’t want the entire world to see, including the person/people who caused me to feel whatever I’m feeling/posting. Consequently, I don’t post statuses that are about other people or work or anything that may hurt someone’s feelings.

I’m really surprised by AP’s who post on FB about their HF’s, as I am by anyone who posts complaining about other people. We are about to enter rematch because our current AP is uncommunicative and has an attitude issue, and is an absolutely frightening driver (the real deal-breaker). She can usually be found in her room on her computer (for hours, even days, on end). And considering that we really don’t trust her at all, I have begun to wonder what she is posting about us on FB (we’re not friends on FB). Our LCC, who is absolutely INCREDIBLE, thank God, has told me she isn’t posting any pics of our son, but I don’t know about what she may be posting in terms of complaining about us or sharing our personal business.

Personally, I think that complaining about your HF, or an employer in general, on FB is unprofessional. And I think complaining about your HF or AP is a violation of trust, a betrayal, really, and I wouldn’t do it to an AP and thus don’t want an AP who would do that to us. We guard our privacy very carefully because of our jobs and positions within our community. I don’t want an AP who is going to blab on FB about what is happening in our house.

What are everyone’s feelings about asking to friend an AP during an interview? As we are facing interviewing our next AP, I know our LCC advises against it, but considering this experience with our current AP, my inclination is to ask to friend our next AP. I do believe there is a LOT you can tell about a person by what they post on FB, and I don’t want to end up in another situation like we are currently. If friending a prospective AP on FB would help, is it wrong to ask? Is it wrong to insist?

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