Choosing an Au Pair: The Serious One or The Fun One?

by cv harquail on July 25, 2016

“There’s a lid for every pot”, we often say here on Au Pair Mom.

No matter how weird your situation, or how picky you are, there is an au pair out there for you.

Sometimes you’re lucky and you discover TWO au pairs who seem to fit your needs. So, how do you choose?

4069384258_686874d560_mThe problem is — there are 15 things that you think you want in an Au Pair, and you know you’re unlikely to get all 15. So you think, “If I can get 13, that’s great.”  But Au Pair “A” has one combination of 13 features, and Au Pair “B” has another combination of 13 great features.

Read the email from EenieMeenieMinyMoe HostMom, and then vote on which you’d choose.  Share your wisdom in the comments. 

We are seeking urgent advice on whether or not to hire an au pair, and, further, which one?

We currently have an 8 year old and a 13 year old- they have been latchkey kids for a year as I (mom) returned to work. Now we are expecting a baby in December! I am a teacher and have a good friend who will watch the baby on “teacher hours” for $40/day, but obviously, this doesn’t help with my bigger kids (appointments, sick days, different school schedule) as well as sick days, etc, for the baby, or general household stuff (kid laundry, tidying, small tasks we can expect au pair to help with). We have no family around, so we thought we’d just do an au pair as we can afford it and it seems worth it.

We have been interviewing au pairs and have found two we really like.

“A” is 26 and has been working as an accountant, and seems to have “an accountant personality” – very stable, hard working, reliable, helpful, etc. Air tight references and lots of them. She has some infant experience and loves babies/children (volunteers and babysits). She commutes like 40 miles a day so no concerns re:driving.

“B” is 24 and a happy go lucky type. She has a BA in education and is working on getting her daycare license. No real work experience, references are sort of random (3 month internship, people she babysat for years ago, etc). She has about the same amout of infant experience.  Has been driving for 3 years several days a week.   She seems FUN and, I think, would really really bond with my 13 year old as they share a deep love for Harry Potter (13 year old has social issues so a “friend” would be an enormous benefit).

We really really clicked with “B”, but she seems “riskier” in comparison with “B”.   However, the Agency for “A” has a lot more support in our area than the Agency for “B”.

 I’d love and appreciate any insight or advice you may have! Thanks!!!

Which Au Pair Candidate Would You Choose?

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

WestMom July 25, 2016 at 7:21 am

This is a no brainer for me. Neither have real childcare experience but candidate B is trained as an educator which to me says she want to have a career working with children. The accountant would need significantly more experience for me to even review her profile in the first place.

Driving almost every day for 3yrs is sufficient experience, especially if she is Western European. If not from WE, I would have to prove a lot more on driving skills.

Remember that you need flexibility. Candidate A seems a bit rigid to me, which sometimes can impact ability to be spontaneous and solve problems creatively.

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WarmStateMomma July 25, 2016 at 7:41 am

This is a no brainer for me – the accountant would be my choice. It’s easy to be fun when everything is going well. Work experience and driving ability are two of the biggest factors in whether things will be going well.

Most likely, neither has real childcare experience. A few years into hosting APs, we don’t care about childcare experience. A lot of it is faked in the country we host from and I don’t want to have to convince someone that my way is better than how her previous employer did things.

We currently host a brainy AP with a degree in math and a love for classical music. She is amazingly resourceful at finding great activities for the kids all over our community and she has the driving ability to manage it. I know loads of accountants and it’s mainly the old “lifers” who fit the rigid stereotype. The young ones are fun and outgoing, but they are used to working crazy hours during tax season and finding the flexibility to deal with it.

The people I know who have an education degree fit two models: (a) super bright and want to change the world or (b) flakey. I’d look for more info about Fun AP’s motivation for getting a degree in education and maybe ask about her grades.

Ask both APs if they have their own car. APs often inflate their driving experience and car ownership is a proxy for real experience. An AP who lives in a city with good public transportation maybe just drives her parents’ cars from time to time. That’s not the same as a daily commuter. Also, the country has a LOT to do with how reliable the driving experience is.

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Should be working July 25, 2016 at 8:36 am

I voted ‘other’ because I think this first-time HM needs to also consider first what her own management experience and style is. The “fun” one might require more oversight and training. I have come to think that lots of different kinds of people make good ‘raw material’ for an AP but training and management can make or break the fit. If the HM wants the fun one, she should be prepared to supervise and give feedback at some length. Likewise if she takes the serious one, is she prepared to give instructions and followup on how to bond with the older child?

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Mimi July 25, 2016 at 2:37 pm

I agree. I’m inclined to think that based on their ages, having other local APs from the same agency won’t make a difference (I hope others will correct me if I’m wrong) and personality is a much bigger factor that age sometimes in finding happiness in one’s surroundings IMO. You could also find yourself with a lot of agency support, but if the quality of that support isn’t there, numbers won’t matter.

There are many more factors we consider when matching; culture, personality profile (we are with CCAP), family size (we are 4 HK), and previous work experience (in that order). This has been a good formula for us over the last 7 years.

Culture is the biggest indicator for me and one I think people tend to underestimate when choosing an AP. I have a very structured HH and value cultivating independence in my children and I know that some cultures complement my family and HH much better than others do. I don’t know what countries your candidates come from, but if they are not that same, which might fit your home culture better? Some countries have specific beliefs about child rearing and it’s important to know how they will or will not mesh with yours. Communication is very influenced by culture. Some countries are very direct to the point of confrontational bluntness while others are much more reticent and you may have to work harder to know if your AP is truly ok or not. Food is another big cultural component. Knowing which works better for you might be helpful in narrowing your selection if you know more about their culture.

It’s helpful to think about how personality will fit into the overall household structure, especially when it comes to managing their training and overall experience. Would it be helpful to have an AP that has a more playful attitude than you (or less of one if you are fairly carefree). If you think AP A is being too rigid about something how will she respond when you approach her about softening her approach? Can she take constructive criticism? If AP B is flaky about getting chores done, are you ok with a happy (but untidy) home or will it stress you?

There are a lot of resources on this site for interviewing and narrowing your selection which I would encourage you to look at in addition to talking to agency placement folks or resource folks if you can.

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Anna July 25, 2016 at 8:46 am

Good points from both moms above.

I want to say though, that I had two au pairs who had education degrees (both were preschool teachers) and they were both excellent – not flakey, not super idealistic. One was the most intelligent au pair I have ever had.

I voted for “B” because I believe that your intuition is a good predictor of the successful year. I would discount agency support locally – when the au pair is great, you don’t really need the agency. Also being “fun” usually means her adjustment will be easier and she will be able to enjoy and appreciate things here more, which is also uplifting for the family.

But I would probe a little more on “B” – I would ask her what her typical day is, in great detail, down to the approximate hour (I usually look for lots of activity and a packed schedule, i.e. school, work, gym, etc. all in one day; not sleeping in, lounging around, and eating the food mom prepared), what her typical weekend is. I had one candidate who said she quit her job in preparation to her American trip, while she is looking for a host family. I didn’t have a second conversation with that one.

I would also ask about grades, making sure I understand their grade scale. Best grade, worst grade, favorite subject and why, least favorite and why. I don’t hire C students or below after one very unfortunate experience.

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Taking a Computer Lunch July 25, 2016 at 9:52 pm

I agree. Ask questions, and while you may personally chose one candidate over another, pay attention to the answers. If your preferred candidate doesn’t seem to have a lot of initiative and sleeps in, then that’s what you’ll get (on the other hand, if she’s gone out of her way to see the kids for whom she has cared – then you’ll get someone sorta lazy but loving).

Personally, I’ve lived with a bunch of AP “types” – and once I learned to recognized them, I adjusted (not them). I will say, I eat passive aggressives for lunch and avoid them at all costs. But that’s just me. As another HM has written, “Your mileage may vary.”

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Fortysomething HM July 25, 2016 at 10:03 am

My big concern with B is that she’s 24 and has had no real work experience. Do you have a sense for why that is? Is it clear that it’s b/c she threw her energies into school and got really good grades as a result? Was she active in a sport or other team activity or anything where other people were relying on her for something? Was she helping out at home for some reason (younger sib/working mom/some kind of situation at home where she put her time/energy)? If you are going to be her first real boss, and she’s 24, that would concern me.

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Oh! It's me! July 25, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Hi I’m OP. This is definitely what concerns me most about B. She graduated from high school six years and has no work experience listed at all! I guess I do need to figure out more “probing” questions to dig deeper. Thx for your insight!

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momo4 July 26, 2016 at 10:11 pm

I agree. My best APs have all had real work experience, even at age 19. Having to show up consistently for work really seems to correlate with taking AP responsibilities seriously. It doesn’t always guarantee they won’t be lazy, but at least they know what it means to have a job.

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ExAupair in Germany July 30, 2016 at 6:59 am

I don’t know about the prospective aupair but I would like to tell a little bit about my experience.
I’m turning 24 this summer and, apart from being an aupair for 7 months, I have no “real” work experience. I have a degree in modern languages and cultures (4 years + 1 due to a family problem). During the extra year I presented my project and aupaired in Germany. I just finished my Masters in marketing and still can’t find a job. Why? Well, I’m living in Spain, where I would need tones of experience to get a job but I need a job to get any experience.
So, even if it sounds strange, I would suggest you get more information about the reasons why she has no real experience before making any kind of assumption.

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massmom July 25, 2016 at 10:46 am

I would probably lean toward A. We’ve found that real work experience is a good predictor of the ability to handle the au pair job. Also, what do you mean by better agency support? Does that mean there are a lot more au pairs placed in your area? We’ve found that being part of a large and active cluster makes a big difference in the happiness of our au pair, and having a great LCC makes the whole experience better for all parties involved.

That being said, fit is hard to discount, and would be nice to have the option to extend. B could work out great, if you do more vetting to get comfortable. But if you’re a first time host mom, I might lean toward the candidate that seems more likely to be reliable and drama-free.

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WestMom July 25, 2016 at 11:09 am

Do you know anything about their motivations?

I seek people with education-related degrees, and I typically find them passionate about children, and want to be APs because they like bring with children. Have you asked candidate A what she wants to get from this year abroad? What does she want to do when she returns home?

Motivation is less clear for candidate A. She finished her studies. She is already working. Why does she want to come here at 26yrs to come take care of someone else’s kids? Is it to perfect her English? What does she plan to do when she goes back in one/two years?

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Oh! It's me! July 25, 2016 at 12:39 pm

So I’m the OP and am so grateful for your insights!

One of my biggest concerns with the accountant is that my personality would cause her great stress. I totally appreciate meticulous, conscientious, organized, “responsible” people- but I am not one in any traditional sense.

My sister, who has had 8 au pairs with no rematches, agrees I might stress her out. Could we all potentially live with it? Yes- but I don’t want my AP to be having those feelings on a regular basis and I DO want the best possible experience for both of these ladies. (sister also approves of either choice)

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WarmStateMomma July 25, 2016 at 9:21 pm

HD and I are much less structured than our APs (he’s a financial analyst and I’m a lawyer so we aren’t all that out there) they rave about the freedom they have from the structure and social expectations in China. We hosted high school exchange students like this, too. What makes it work is that they love the relative freedom and we love not having to be Enforcers.

It’s worth asking whether A is actually rigid/structured (this may not even be the stereotype in her culture) and whether it would be easier for A to adapt to a less structured family than for B to find some structure (24 and no job experience….).

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NZ HM July 25, 2016 at 9:50 pm

If she was German (not sure about other European countries) I wouldn’t be too concerned about no job experience (for her career, it might still be an issue for her as an aupair) as she might have gone straight from school to uni and currently be in the process of finishing up her degree… age-wise that would about fit!

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Former AP Now HM July 26, 2016 at 8:13 am

I’d still be concerned.

I wouldn’t expect her to have years of experience, but I’d expect her to have some work experience on there. Has she never had a Saturday job? Waited tables at a friend’s wedding? Done an internship? If she’s doing an education degree then I’d expect her to have spent time in schools, at minimum. If she hasn’t, I’d be wary.

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German Au-Pair July 27, 2016 at 6:46 pm

IF she is German, she will have been forced to do internships during high school at the very least (usually two for several weeks each) but maybe they weren’t childcare related and she didn’t feel like they were important? I worked at an animal shelter and a vet and I’m not sure if I included that in my application, either.
Getting a degree in education does require you to work in schools. I’d also aks more questiosn about this.

In general, I do think personality matters and since you cannot be sure either way, I would go with the fun personality simply based on your hunch that she will click with your teen. That’s so hard to get :D It’s possible but not sure that the accountant works harder but it’s also possible but not sure that your kids will enjoy her less…especially with teens, I would go with my gut on the personality if you can find out more about her career.

HappyHM July 25, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I would choose B largely based on my own (limited) experience. Our AP2 had lots of babysitting experience and was also a 26 year old with a solid work history and lots of city driving experience. What she turned out to be was a trade-in au pair who was mostly interested in her experience here rather than being a great AP for our family. She wasn’t really a jerk, just so used to her life working her own way and not comfortable when things were different from what she hoped/expected. We have had best luck with APs who have done childcare as a job as they are used to the daily challenges of kids. So much of it depends on the individual family and AP, though, that it’s hard to say what’s best for YOU. B is just who I would choose… :)

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CO Host Mom July 25, 2016 at 5:07 pm

So, I’m pretty new to the AP world but have been part of hiring over 1000 people in my career.

I’ll ask you the question that I often ask hiring managers that are in a similar situation – think about how the situation might play out and what your potential complaints would be with each. Which situation seems better? Granted, I’m playing up some stereotypes based on what I was able to pull from your write up.

Option A: She is very structured. We’ve had to show her activities the kids would enjoy. I really wish she could find things the kids enjoy without having help all the time. She tries very hard but I wish she could be more creative. However, the house is clean, the kids are on schedule and we feel very organized.

Option B: She is a lot of fun. The kids really like her. She comes up with creative ways to entertain them. She can be absent minded at times and I’m often frustrated when she doesn’t understand the importance of having the kids on schedule and organized.

Take a moment and be very honest with yourself. What are the things that drive you crazy? What are the absolutes for you to have in your AP? You mention having 13 of 15. What are the top 4 or 5 of those 15 items? Is fun more important than schedule? Is your family structured and routine based or more go with the flow?

We’re hosting our first AP in a few weeks. I worked with 2 agencies and reviewed more than 400 profiles and conducted 15 interviews. It’s a lot of work. I also thought a lot about who I would want to spend time with. My husband travels every week so after the kids go to bed it’s going to be just me and the AP. I wanted to find someone that I felt like we could connect and have something to talk about other than the kids. One of my worst nightmares is just staring across the table night after night with nothing to say or not being interested in a recap of the latest episode of some teen drama (sorry, not for me).

And most importantly, remember, interviewing is an art not science. There is no magic formula to ensure a perfect match. I think you’re doing one thing that is VERY important – don’t get swept up in the moment, pause and reflect before you make a decision. This will be someone that is living with you and caring for the most important thing in your life. It’s best to be as sure as you can be :)

Good luck with your search. I hope it works out!

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txmom July 25, 2016 at 8:44 pm

We went through this a couple of months ago…the AP we chose arrives next week, so we’ll see! We ended up picking our A. We love her and think she’ll be great, although I think we bonded a little more with B. B seemed so FUN, but she also had a serious boyfriend at home and it worried me enough that we went with the more reserved A. That said, after we committed and have been communicating with our match over the last month, we’ve really bonded with her too. I think she’s just a little more shy and reserved. So maybe your A will become more fun/playful once she warms up to you.

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NZ HM July 25, 2016 at 9:47 pm

I like a structured, organised, well-run household and food dye traces in the fridge and paint splodges all over the wall behind the sink drive me made BUT I feel it’s more important for the kids to be happy and well entertained and to have close connection to the aupair. I would go for B!

Just wondering if your kids have had a skype with both of them and if this gave you a feel for which one is better suited. If not: do it! It can be most revealing (saved me from the one we liked and looked good on paper but didn’t even ask my kids one single question…)

Also supporting the statement that culture (and values) are more important for a good match than experience and personality!

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Taking a Computer Lunch July 25, 2016 at 10:20 pm

I’m the HM who would throw the baby out with the bath water. Start over. You’ve got plenty of time. Why do you want an AP? Do you want someone to driver your older children around and keep them occupied while you care for a newborn? Or do you want someone who can care for your newborn after you return to work (March, yes?) and do I bit of chauffeuring? If the latter, then forget everything (except having a driver’s license for at least 3 years) and look for someone with real infant experience. Don’t worry about language, your older children will help your AP master English – you want someone who has worked with infants full-time (you should only be able to see infant-qualified APs – unless you haven’t been quite honest with your agency) – because, quite frankly, that’s a steep learning curve.

I personally feel that it’s hard enough to adjust to a new culture – if your AP doesn’t have real work experience with children (even if its not the focus of her life now or in the future), then you’re setting yourself up for failure on day 5 when she realizes that her new life in America is not all about the party.

Neither impress me. But then I’m picky as all get. Plus I have a teenager with special needs who has been personally eliminating the “good time party girls” for 16 years. (Yup, I’ve been hosting for so long that child #2 might actually compete with the AP for use of the car in a couple of months.)

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TexasHM July 26, 2016 at 9:33 am

Ok several things (though in summary I might be agreeing with TACL here).

First off, at this stage of the game (6 years into hosting) and being well known for being a meticulous interviewer (our APs joke its easier to get into the CIA) I will give you some advice I have given many over the years that thought they were in this situation. If you interview hard/long enough there will never be two candidates in the running. Every time I hear this my first thought is “they either don’t know what they want (criteria) or they haven’t interviewed long enough. Of the HMs that I have told this to (and given a long list of additional interview questions) every one has come back and said that after a few more days of interviewing it became crystal clear.

Second, your criteria is most important so while personality is nice, I would never use “more fun” as a deciding factor because as many have noted, the APs that are nervous or take more time to warm up are at a disadvantage in that scenario. (Another thing that can be fixed by interviewing longer btw – as noted by the poster above that said she matched and kept Skypeing and AP warmed up!) It is VERY hard to not get emotionally involved in the interviewing process and fall in love with personality or a single thing (AP loves Harry Potter and so does one kid!). I actually ended up making myself a super simple spreadsheet of my key criteria and when I start to get serious about a candidate I type their info into the spreadsheet and you’d be surprised at the clarity I get from that. It cuts out all the noise and helps me focus on them (and potentially others side by side) and their odds of being successful in the job/role/program and then the rest is bonus.

I agree that motivation is important and is one of my key criteria. Why do they want to be an AP really and what are their plans when they return home? If they say they have just always loved the US from the movies and they want to stay as long as possible and no idea when they get back I am likely to pass (some HFs love this profile though because they have no plans and stay as long as possible). I like/want highly motivated intelligent driven APs that will serve as a role model to my kids (particularly my girls). We had a commission only real estate agent/reporter that needed to learn English to take her career to the next level and had tons of infant experience, a new business graduate that dreamed of being an international flight attendant and needed very strong English to pass the interviews, an ER nurse that needed strong English to join an international aid organization and this round we took a chance on an AP that stopped her degree right before her senior year of college because she knew it was not the right fit for her (very difficult choice given her family/culture) and wanted to work and get some international exposure for a year to help her gain perspective before going back to school. The combo of making a very hard choice, standing her ground with family and her history of strong grades and competition (she was the runner up to the Olympic team for rhythmic gymnastics in her country) convinced us to give her a try and she’s been great as well. Our one rematch was one where I got tired of interviewing and she seemed to have an awesome personality (super warm and excited) so I didn’t dig as hard and compromised a bit on my criteria and the person that arrived was not at all the person I interviewed and she didn’t have any of the skills to be successful (she misrepresented several key things as well). After that burned out I went back and read through her answers and our exchanges and I saw the gaps where I settled or didn’t dig in when I should have.

So, similarly to TACL I would recommend you first write out your criteria with DH and discuss it with your sister potentially. Then dig deeper on these two candidates (IF they still meet your criteria) AND continue interviewing others. You will find that when you find the right one you will know. You will start comparing all the candidates to that one. You will lose interest in interviewing anyone else. You will start envisioning her in your house, with your kids, in the AP room, driving your cars. You will become more sure with every Skype/interaction that she is the only one for you. If you are not there, keep interviewing (new and currents) until you get there.

Not to be a naysayer but take your sister’s advice but the 8 APs no rematches could be for many reasons (I know a family here like that and they tolerate everything and its a free for all) and your household is different so definitely consult her but you make the decision.

I strongly agree with real work experience. In fact it is in my top 3 criteria. An AP that has had a real job for 10-14 hours a day thinks this job is a breeze. They also generally know the importance of being on time, checking in with a boss on performance and getting constructive criticism, working with others to accomplish a goal (being part of parenting team) and managing money. My ER nurse had mine when my youngest was going through her terrible 3s and she was not ruffled in the least! She said “when you’ve helped sew a guy’s severed hand back on dealing with a 3 year old tantrum isn’t even on my stress radar”. Current AP did catering (setup, serve, tear down) and farming in the summers (field laboring) so she thinks this is a cake walk and has energy to spare!

I also echo the culture matters. Without knowing more about these candidates I couldn’t even answer the question above because it is that influential/important. Plus I think you need to dig harder into your core criteria topics (driving – I have 30 questions just on driving, swimming – another 15 questions, etc).

Lastly on the meticulous vs fun question in general I think you are missing a key point. I have known many families that regularly match with opposites (they are carefree and want Germans to introduce some order, they are very strict and organized and want someone to be the fun one with the kids) and it can absolutely work IF both sides are prepared and fit. Meaning if you are open to her introducing some order/rules into your household it could be an awesome match. As in, you have a weakness in that area and she has a strength so together it makes your household better overall vs two carefrees running the show and the place is always a mess and everyone is always late to everything (just trying to create an example not saying that is AP B).

I am very organized but have hosted artistic types and type A types and it always worked out because ultimately they were hardworking, coachable and had the necessary skills to be successful in the job (back to criteria). I can teach someone how to change a diaper, wash clothes and read stories. I can’t teach someone how to have a strong work ethic, be coachable or have a positive disposition.

As a complete aside I would never use boyfriend as a decision factor either. We have hosted two APs with very long term serious boyfriends and it was never an issue, in fact it was a huge blessing (no interest in husband hunting, additional support for AP during the tough times). I have seen parents be worse than boyfriends in several situations (particularly single moms) and again, its all about the context. Is he supportive? (Don’t just accept a yes, dig into it.) Ask how they will communicate? What he will do during that time? (Our APs boyfriend was in an apprenticeship in another country at the same time so they barely saw each other anyway so it had little/no impact on their relationship.) What did he say when you told him about the program? What would he say if you Skyped him saying you had a bad day or wanted to come home? Etc

I don’t know if any of that diatribe helped! Apparently I am a little passionate on this topic. ;) A great match will be 100x better than any other childcare option so the extra time spent in matching will be well worth it I promise! You are doing the right things, just tighten up your criteria (and rank it) and then dig in!

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Mimi July 26, 2016 at 10:41 am

This -“I can teach someone how to change a diaper, wash clothes and read stories. I can’t teach someone how to have a strong work ethic, be coachable or have a positive disposition.”

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momo4 July 26, 2016 at 10:35 pm

+1000!

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txmom July 29, 2016 at 6:25 pm

The boyfriend was an issue for us because when I asked her how he felt about her living in the US for a year, she said she hadn’t discussed it with him yet. That was a red flag for us, especially since she knew we were seriously considering her at that point.

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Too many kids July 25, 2016 at 10:52 pm

I have hosted both types. The serious one was a much better fit for me. But that’s me. You have to go with your gut and what’s right for you. Fun can also mean party girl and drama. I can’t handle the drama. I agree with TACL, look more. When you find “the one”, you won’t need advice. Good luck!

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SA_Au Pair July 26, 2016 at 7:29 am

Just a different perspective regarding the little/no real work experience since a few host moms have commented on that. I think it would be helpful to ask B why she’s never had a job. I’m 23 years old and I finished my second degree last year; I also decided to take a year off to help look after my little sister who was 4 months old when my mother passed away. I think it’s important to find out why someone doesn’t have any/a lot of work experience before writing them off completely.

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ExAupairNowHM July 26, 2016 at 9:24 am

I would probably not pick either, but that’s just because our personal preference is to have younger au pairs as we find them easier to integrate with us as a family.

Of the two choices above, I’d probably pick B because after 6 au pairs I’ll say that we have had better experience with the girls that either had experience with kids (our current one is a trained preschool teacher) or had plans to work with kids in the future or at least in a care-giving kind of role (social service workers, pediatric nurse e.g.). Of the two that weren’t that great (one ended in rematch), the one had worked in an office for a few years and the other one intended to become an accountant after her year.

Having said all of that I have to admit that our next one is going to be more like A (but younger). That is because our needs have changed. Previously we have always had at least one baby/toddler to take care off and needed the au pair to be more loving and caring than fully organized. This year, we will have all three kids in school for the first time, so our priorities have shifted and we need the au pair to be more about schedules, organization, getting the kids from and to activities etc. Hopefully this shift will work out for us.

So bottom line, I’d recommend for the OP to really examine their needs and priorities for the coming year. What’s more important to you and your family. Compromises will have to be made either way.

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Quirky July 26, 2016 at 11:08 am

I voted other.

I am not sure I understand your plan for the baby. Is the AP going to need to provide care for the baby? I can’t see how $40/day = $200/week=$800/month on top of au pair expenses really makes sense in the long run — for that amount of money, it might make more sense to hire an experienced nanny who can care for the baby as well as your older kids, plus handle many of the household-related tasks while the older kids are at school. I get that as a teacher you will likely be home in the summer, but the double-paying for childcare during the school year seems like it would cancel summer savings out. It also seems like a lot of juggling of two different care providers — logistically it seems more of a hassle to me than otherwise.

If you are planning on having an AP do any of the baby-related childcare, you need to have an infant-qualified AP up until your baby turns 2. I wasn’t sure from your post if A and B are both infant-qualified. Even if you plan to use your friend as your baby’s primary caregiver, your AP has to be infant-qualified even if she’s the backup care provider.

If you do decide to get an AP, rather than choosing A or B, I think you would be better served extending the process, reviewing additional candidates, and interviewing more candidates — with a very clear understanding of what your needs are and what type of AP is going to meet your needs.

As TexasHM says — you need to articulate your criteria for matching. Do not compromise on the safety-related criteria such as driving and swimming — I would never accept a candidate I wasn’t 100% sure of on those fronts based on an optimistic assumption that the AP could get her driving or swimming up to snuff while she was here. But beyond that, you need to articulate a clear vision of what your needs and wants are for an AP. And make sure your screening process is intensive — I’d recommend looking up TexasHM’s past posts on the interview process. I have cribbed liberally from her questions and I absolutely follow her model of several rounds of emails/questions before ever thinking about Skypeing.

As a corollary, I also look for APs who ask detailed questions in return — I want the AP candidate to make sure that we are the right fit and the right family for her. I had a candidate this go-round who didn’t ask a single question in the email rounds. I decided to Skype anyway — and she couldn’t think of a single question to ask. Big red flag that she is so keen on her “AP adventure” that she will just jump at the first family to make an offer without having a clue as to what would make a good match from her end.

I echo the commenters above who said take your time on this — you still have plenty of time to make this work and find the right person. If you have coverage for your baby, your older kids can be latchkey for a bit longer at the start of the new school year if you haven’t found an AP candidate you are really comfortable with. Don’t ever make a rush decision because you need an AP by a date certain — it’s much better to take your time, especially because this is your first time, and make alternate childcare arrangements as necessary.

I also echo the concern about the age of A. Our first AP and our least successful was 26 years old. There were a number of reasons for why she didn’t work out, but one issue I will mention is that she was so much older than the other APs around here (and there are many, from multiple agencies, as I live in a very large urban area) that she had a very difficult time making friends. Thereafter we have only matched with APs who fit the profile of the typical AP around here — either post-high school or post-college gap year candidates who are mature but not too old to fit in with other APs and find friends and not too old to relate to our kids (14, 11, and 8) as a big sister.

At least based on the information you’ve provided, I definitely wouldn’t match with B. B sounds flaky, not fun — no matter where she’s from, I wouldn’t hire a 24 year old with no real work experience. I agree with TexasHM 100% — work ethic matters, and the way to demonstrate work ethic is via work experience. I now look for candidates who have had paying jobs where they had to show up every day, and especially where they had to do repetitive tasks or work with potentially cranky customers. To me that is a better indicator of having the chops to deal with AP responsibilities than childcare experience per se.

For childcare experience, I look for multi-kid/multi-aged babysitting gigs that the person has done longer-term, not institutional childcare experience such as daycare or teaching. Institutional childcare is just a whole different kettle of fish from APing multi-aged kids — institutional childcare is about same-aged groups in a setting with much more structure and much better-defined routines and expectations where (generally) kids are more likely to do what is expected of them because they know the drill. That calls for a different skill set than feeding three kids breakfast and getting them out the door on time to three different schools with three different start times (as in my household), while dealing with sibling squabbles, making sure the backpacks are packed, doing the breakfast dishes, and throwing some laundry in all in the same 2-hour stretch.

I’ll throw out some other criteria that we look for in an AP in case they’re helpful — we want someone with younger siblings, and preferably younger brothers, who will have first-hand experience with sibling dynamics and especially the drama of the teenage boy and the preteen girl. We look for someone with two working parents. We look for someone with close and healthy family relationships who will want to develop a close family relationship with us. But we also look for someone who is outgoing and adventuresome who will develop strong friendships with other APs. We have found that our best APs are perfectly happy to hang out over Saturday breakfast and chat with us but are also making plans to get out and do things with their AP friends as well. We look for APs without dietary restrictions who are used to eating healthfully and we are very upfront about what we eat and don’t eat in our family.

Good luck!

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Fortysomething HM July 26, 2016 at 11:47 am

Such great advice from TexasHM and Quirky. I applied a lot of this (which I learned from reading through old posts here at APmom) to our interview process and really feel like my current match was amazing because of this sage advice (and i have high hopes for the soon to arrive next AP as well, fingers crossed).

Because of the country we match from and our time of year (summer) we tend to end up with gap year 19 year olds, so they sometimes have had only summer jobs or small part time after school gigs, but they have to have had SOMETHING. I also look for team sports – not only because i have a sporty, busy daughter and the APs will be accustomed to her busy after school schedule, but also because it shows they are probably good at time management, having others relying on them, team spirit and working toward a goal.

Agree also with Quirky’s point about working parents – that’s key for us because my APs will be making dinner for my DD and herself and an AP who was used to home cooked family meals every night would be likely be disappointed in my home.

I also echo that you need to determine whether this AP is for the baby or your older kids. I find that there are APs who want to work with babies and/or toddler/preschool and those who do better with older kids – some can do and like begin an AP for all ages, but in my experience, most have personalities and/or experience that makes them better suited for either younger or older (and as mentioned above, infants are an entirely different ball game). If the AP will be more for your older kids, look for APs with siblings that are or recently were in that age range and/or APs who coached a sport or worked at a camp with older kids. Managing the needs of kids who are on the edge of or in teenage years could not be more different than managing the needs of a preschooler or young elementary age child.

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Jennc July 26, 2016 at 12:19 pm

I hired a banker as my first aupair , educated organized , kids liked her but she was used to 9-5…. And that showed . She was 26, responsible good driver , but she still wanted to go out a lot at night , weekends , she was very independent , maybe too much. She was a real adult and didn’t care as much for the family environment although we did have fun when we did stuff. I think she was too used to working in the adult world , so she found the constant childcare a little much even though she had worked in a kindergarten . Her primary motive for coming to US was to improve English to pass an exam at home required for further career advancement and degree. I personally think you may have an easier time with aupair b she is geared towards childcare , if she is easy going she may take direction easier in how you want things done . Your kids need an adult but also someone fun. Aupair a will probably handle all great but be seen as a stricter “adult” in the house . I would go with aupair B, but also making sure she understands her responsibilities . I have found the aupair who work with kids or spend more time do better as aupairs as they genuinely enjoy it. Someone in a completely different career not child focused yeah they can be aupairs but you can tell the difference in how they are with kids and they tend to shutoff the minute their “work ” hours are done. I prefer aupairs who prefer family environment that understand kids don’t get off/on time. I like aupairs who will let my little one hang out in her room even for a bit, it strengthens the relationship with kids. Kids know when the aupair is just doing their job vs being their friend and family . My best aupairs truly love working with kids, I had a pediatric dentist she was flexible awesome but she loved working with kids, I’ve had a teacher , etc…. Good luck

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Au Pair Sis July 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm

I strongly believe that the most important thing in the initial matching process is finding the “click”. The click should be followed up with setting expectations and open communication. When your personalities are a good fit, or you just get that feeling about someone, the little things that you are sure to go through along the way will remain just that, little things.

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Chicago Host Mom July 26, 2016 at 7:23 pm

Wow – lots of great advice here. I echo the suggestion that it seems more interviewing is necessary. There are resources on older posts with lots of questions and it is hard to vote A or B because our families all have our own quirks and needs that actually change a LOT over time as kids age. Two new questions I asked this time that were revealing –
1. What is your biggest weakness and how have you adapted, if at all, to address the weakness
2. Give me an example of a disagreement you have had in the last year – what was it about, how did you settle it and work through it.

We also ask lots of questions about driving because we have found the extent of that skill is often misrepresented, whether intentionally or not.

Agree that culture and age, past work experience are big criteria for us. Lately we’ve had more success with younger au pairs but we’ve had success with both. I think “fun” is a risky deciding factor because many cultures are more serious in the interview process but the AP may really warm up in person. I vote keep interviewing – there is a great AP out there for you!

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Taking a Computer Lunch July 27, 2016 at 8:48 pm

My riff on #2 is: Give an example of a stressful situation you experienced and how you handled it. Any candidate who provides an answer that does not involve childcare is automatically eliminated. It’s my secret little what-is-the-focus-of-your-life-in-America-you-are-being-interviewed question.

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OP again July 26, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Hi again,

I am so grateful for all this sage advice, I’m working hard on spreadsheets and researching interview questions. :)

I’ve decided to continue interviewing other people, as well as dig deeper with these two.

BUT now I have a new concern- in reviewing B’s file, I noticed in her medical file she has amenorrhea (with no medical explanation of why) as well as a BMI of 16. I know people are naturally skinny- but this seems really skinny and coupled with the lack of a period I’m suspicious. I’m not really sure how to address this- what would you do?!?! Thanks!!!

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Quirky July 28, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Yikes, that is a huge red flag for anorexia, disordered eating of some kind, or some other significant health issue. I know that there is a huge range of normal body types and weights, but a BMI of 16 is significantly underweight by almost any measure. Being significantly underweight is a risk factor for a number of health problems. Anything below a BMI of 18.5 is considered underweight.

Honestly, that would be enough of a red flag for me to ding an AP candidate. I would never risk bringing a young woman with a potential eating disorder into my house, especially as I have 11 and 8 year old daughters, one of whom is short and naturally very slender and one of whom is tall and naturally large-framed. They have already starting picking up societal messages that skinny=good and fat=bad and have both expressed views about “dieting” and “right and wrong foods to eat” that are already very concerning to us as a family and that we are having to work very hard to deal with.

If she is anorexic she is highly unlikely to admit it. And if there is a legitimate reason why her BMI is so low and she’s amenorrheic, why wouldn’t that be in her file already? And even if there is a credible explanation — significantly underweight people are more likely to get sick more often, become anemic, etc. In other words not the profile of the person who’s going to be healthy enough to keep up with your kids.

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experinced host mom July 26, 2016 at 8:27 pm

After 8 au pairs we are pretty well versed as to what is going on and what works. As to unsafe behavior we found another twist that initially confused us then not so much. Most of the countries that the au pairs come from prostitution is legal. We have had to deal with this overhang in different ways. One girl quit the program after 4 months and became a full time working girl in Brighton Beach. (We were told as much.) Another girl was acting funny and difficult as to quitting time and needed to be off at exactly at a certain time. We thought nothing of it till she left and we saw the texts on the phone we lent her. Wow. And a third one was effectively pimped by her dysfunctional parents in the old country although not extensively. Or so she explained to us as we got to know her better.

We were amused that this topic is not addressed at the au pair school in that this behavior is virtually illegal here but legal there. Two of the girls proved very problematic to our child’s safety, the third one we got under control and was pretty good. Our second one knew how to play the innocent little girl very well. This area is virtually impossible to research properly. It is just play it as you see it. Most of the au pairs hardly see the HD. Some really love the attention other could care less. But our take is that these girls are not nearly as naïve as our local home grown girls are. They are on their own as of 17 or 18. Some are well aware of remuneration potential and setting things up is ever so easy on the internet. Most US HP never get to know them well enough to get anywhere near this subject. Now it is one of the hidden items we try and screen for. At least with third one we caught it and addressed it. Things are much better as a result. The other two were real trouble. We hope it doe snot cross our path again. Another perspective…..

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Anna July 27, 2016 at 9:34 am

I ask question 2 all the time! I also ask this question of references: did you ever have a disagreement or a difference of opinion with the candidate, and what happened? (I like to keep it open ended; what if it wasn’t resolved? I had an au pair who didn’t speak to her stepfather who lived in the same apartment; I wish I knew it before! In that case she would not have “resolved” it, but she would say she distanced herself from the person and they were not speaking anymore)

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Anna July 27, 2016 at 10:08 am

I will contribute some more questions that I personally ask, hopefully it will be helpful.

These are probing questions to ask a candidate (lots of bang per question, some coming from experience that you wouldn’t think up)

1. Are there any people in your life that you don’t speak to anymore? Why? (had an au pair who didn’t speak to her stepdad who lived in the same apartment… didn’t know before she arrived… was a testimony to her unbelievable stubbornness)

2. Give an example of a disagreement at work/school and what did you do about it? (don’t ask how they “resolved” it because it may not be resolved)

3. How do you spend your typical weekday (hour by hour, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed) (I like to see a busy day full of work/school/exercise/helping others).

4. How do you spend your typical weekend day? (this is different than asking for hobbies; often hobbies are what we wish we had more time to do; but this tells you what the candidate really does in their free time).

5. Do you have a lot of friends or just a few close friends?

6. How do you plan to make friends in America?

7. How did you find out about the au pair program? Do you know someone who was an au pair or is currently an au pair? Do you know anyone in America?

8. What are you grades? (average grade, best grade, worst grade)? What is your favorite subject and why? What is your least favorite subject and why? (Need to see good grades – testifies to smarts – easier training and understanding, seriousness about school so good role model for kids)

9. What three words would your friends use to describe you? (probing for happy and optimistic attitude here)

10. Did you have any plastic surgery? Do you want/plan if you had all the money in the world to have any plastic surgery? (this question comes from experience… had a failed au pair who turned out to have had a nose job to make her nose more “European”; found out after she arrived. Wouldn’t hire her if I knew because it testified about her perfectionism about her body and skin – “whine whine whine for weeks, your kid accidentally SCRATCHED me… showing the “scar” to the LCC”)

11. what are your favorite foods? Least favorite foods? What can you cook?

12. Describe your typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (different from favorite foods because shows reality)

13. How often do you smoke? How often do you drink?

14. If the parents are divorced, ask about the relationship (if any) with the other parent and possible stepfamily.

Probing questions to ask references:
probe whichever weaknesses you think the candidate may have; these may differ depending on the candidate. For example for someone that I am not sure about their initiative, I may ask if they gave them detailed instructions or if they could give general directions and the candidate did fine.

professional references questions:

1. How did you meet the candidate? (if they were recommended by someone else for a babysitting job for example that is a huge plus)

2. Why did the candidate stop working for you?

3. Did you have a disagreement or conflict with the candidate, and what happened? (keep it open ended)

4. What is the candidate’s best strength?

5. What is the candidate’s weakness? (try not to take “they are perfect” for an answer)

6. would you hire the candidate again?

7. When did the candidate work for you and how many hours/day (compare that with the “experience” claim in the candidate’s application and watch for discrepancies… you can’t always figure out a lie that way because the candidate may have pre-coordinated well with the reference, but if the reference doesn’t expect this question you may find out the truth)

personal reference questions:
1. how do you know the candidate and for how long?

2. What is the candidate’s best quality? What is their weakness? (don’t take “none” for an answer)

3. What three words would you use to best describe them?

4. Why do you think they will make a good au pair?

5. why do they want to be an au pair? (this answer may differ from what the candidate wrote on the application; watch out for that)

6. what to you most admire about the candidate?

7. any other questions you may need more information about from a third party… (for example if the candidate has many friends, how they like to spend their free time, their plans for the future, their experience with kids, the candidate’s family, )

9. How often does the candidate smokes? How often does the candidate drinks? (compare with the candidate’s own answers)

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Taking a Computer Lunch July 27, 2016 at 8:55 pm

I have found that by asking “What was the last meal you cooked?” you get a very true idea of your candidate’s diet and abilities. 90% of my candidates have responded with “pasta.”

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Anna July 28, 2016 at 10:13 am

I don’t require great cooking ability (I can train for what I need), but I really need to know what their preferred diet is and how it is compatible with my ideas of what I want to feed my kids. This is why I ask the daily meals question – it satisfies what I need to know.

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Frankfurt AP Boy July 28, 2016 at 8:55 am

Goodness, I am always taken aback by how in depth (and deeply personal) the questioning is there across the pond. Do you ever find that an au pair gets offended? I personally might feel slightly offended by my relationship with my father being used as a criteria; whether there are people I don’t speak to anymore (I think id actually have to say I don’t want to talk about that if a interviewer asked me) or my opinion on plastic surgery. In many European cultures, for example, you only talk about such personal things with people you deeply trust. I don’t mean to criticise – it is just a cultural difference I believe. I wonder whether the advantage of having that information about an au pair is worth the risk of offending a potential AP. Maybe if someone is offended by it then they don’t have the open character that you´re looking for anyway?

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Anna July 28, 2016 at 10:10 am

If someone is offended by these questions I will move on and interview other candidates.

I am not an equal opportunity employer. I don’t have to consider everyone who is basically qualified. I am selecting a person that myself and my family will LIVE WITH for a year. And yes, I need to deeply trust that person eventually, and I need to suss it out in a few interviews before I take a leap of inviting them to care for my most precious people in the world and share my private and personal home for a year. I can’t imagine living with a person who wants to live with me, care for my kids, yet withhold this “deep trust” you are talking about.

I need someone whose values, morals, and behavior are compatible with my family and model the values I want to model for my kids. Someone unhappy with their body or vain enough to pay and take a risk of an elective plastic surgery is a really bad match for me, and I don’t want this type of role model for my growing daughters. I don’t want someone who thinks its OK to use silent treatment instead of conflict resolution with close people – this is a serious communication/character flaw in my book, unless there is a good reason for this situation (and I am sure the good reason will come out in the conversation about it). But saying “I’d rather not talk about if there are people I no longer talk to” is just confirming that people and communication skills are not where I need them to be for my au pair. And if its cultural – understandable, but it is not compatible with my family culture.

Relationship with family – yes, it is personal, but if you are planning to be a member of my family for a year, this is important and telling about how your concept of family relationships differs from mine. I am not at all strict about it – I know relationships can differ – but I need to know. I had an au pair whose mother was an unwed single mom, and she didn’t even know her father until she was a teen. I still hired her but it is important for me to know about her family. Siblings, relationships with siblings – important too! I have several kids and they are siblings. This is relevant to the job. I have had good au pairs who were only children, but it is important for me to know.

And also, often the candidates embellish their resumes or outright lie. I want to sniff out those before I make an offer, this is why I verify certain things with references. I can’t trust my kids to someone whose concept of truth differs from mine.

In summary, I don’t feel a bit bad about any of the questions I ask. If the candidate doesn’t like them, they are not the candidate for me. I found none got offended when I asked those questions. They come from a sincere interest. I also invite the candidate to ask me any questions they want to know answers to.

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HRHM July 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Frankfurt AP Boy,

I will just give you a little example of why I dig VERY deeply into their family relationships when interviewing. I hire only females, so maybe (not sure) this applies less to male APs, but what I have found after hosting for 8 years is that in the HM/AP and HD/AP relationship (and also the HK/AP relationship for that matter) there is a lot of “transference”

When I have an AP who adores her Mom, Dad and siblings, I find that she quickly assimilates and treat us all warmly. With our AP who adored her Mom but hated her Dad, she was warm with me and the kids but very distant with HD. With the AP who hated her Mom, had no relationship with her Dad and was hot and cold with her sisters, she was never a member of our family despite our best efforts. With the AP who adored her Dad and had nothing but contempt for her Mom, she did a lousy job since I’m the one who manages the AP in our home. It probably took me until AP4 (the one who hated her Mom and was estranged from her Dad) for me to start seeing the pattern, but it certainly has continued to play out.

I now use this as one of my primary screening criteria in interviewing.

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German Au-Pair July 28, 2016 at 5:53 pm

I will say that I have an absolutely non-huggy family -Christmas and birthdays, that’s it!- but was cuddling with my little girl all the time. She needed it and eventually I really enjoyed it, too. On top of that I was dropped in a hugging culture and even though I was weired out at first, I do miss it now. I have very little extended family and am not on good terms with them for very valid reasons but love being around my friends’ big families with aunts and uncles and all that. I see that you have seen a pattern but I do find it a bit offensive. It is anyone’s right to choose based on any criteria they want -even looks if they wish- but saying the relationship you have with family members determines your other relationships and qualities as an au pair is not entirely fair to me.

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NZ HM July 28, 2016 at 8:30 pm

I totally agree on the transference part! I’ve seen aupairs who had a bad, or non-existent, relationship with their parents and they were hoping for something better with us, the HP, but didn’t realise how much they are a product of their upbringing and socialisation. They really thought they wanted a different type of relationship but in the end weren’t able, or willing, to enter one (and got annoyed by the closeness and interest in each other that means for us family).

As a response to German Au-Pair: I don’t think hugging or not is the issue. Degree of physical contact is not a measure of how close you are with your family or how well you get on, which is what both Anna and HRHM are looking for.

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German Au-Pair July 29, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Rleationships are a two-way street. Luckily it doesn’t apply to me but when I read this I do feel bad for all the people who were children of a messy divorce for example. When a parent leaves you in a terrible way and you choose to cut all communication, I’m sure this decision was not easy and has many layered reasons you would NOT lay out for a stranger who may not even pick you (especially based on that.) I have friends who don’t have contact to one of their parents and some barely, some don’t speak to them and in all of these situations there are valid reasons and breaking things off was a healthy choice. Explicitly saying this a communication or even character flaw is highly offensive in my book.
I also see a lot of hypocrisy here given that we just discussed on another thread that a HM doesn’t need to disclose personal information (about her health) before matching but an AP is expected to share her family history before matching?
I personally would not have been offended by those questions but I also haven’t personally experienced such a family history. What does offend me is the sentiment about the character flaw.
Again, anyone can choose or not choose anyone for any reason. I did turn down a family for less than valid reasons. But saying you have seen a pattern and therefore would like to avoid is fine. Judging other people’s character based on things you know nothing about is not okay.

Au Pair Sis August 1, 2016 at 4:31 pm

Hi all! I thought these Au Pair videos might be useful here. A Must-Have During Your Au Pair Interview is a post with videos that share what the interview and matching process was like for four Au Pairs. I think it might shed some light on what is important to Au Pairs during the interview and provides some tips for Host Families and Au Pairs. http://goo.gl/pdyUUA

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FullCircle August 2, 2016 at 11:13 pm

Here is something we learned about APs with teaching experience: that is absolute NOT a guarantee that they can handle being an AP. We were really heavily looking for APs with teaching experience or interest in a child related field because we thought that would mean a more natural ability to take care of kids. When we matched, we thought we had matched “B”. She was a teacher for the same age as our child and we thought she had the right personality. She interviewed very well, was very thoughtful with her answer. BUT…(oh the buts) she just didn’t have what it takes to be a good AP. It became apparent that what we thought was the “personality” we liked, it was really just her teaching background. Creativity, thoughtfulness, and other things we had liked were just a manifestation of her interest and experience with children, not her personality per se. I’m not if this makes sense to others, but I see it clearly now. For example, she wasn’t really creative, she knew how to search pinterest (but had no flexibility in thought about how to adapt anything or make changes, or create something new from an idea). She was dedicated and organized, which made her great at structured activities (aka teaching). She could organize and engage my child in al kinds of preschool type of crafts and activities. She really did well for that one hour of the day that she had the prepared activity. But she had no clue what to do with the rest of the day, and zero common sense about child needs outside of a classroom. She just could not get my child to do anything other than sing songs and color. Her preparedness and thoughtfulness for example: she told me she had prepared well for interviews, written out her answers, researched possible questions, etc. Sounds great, right? Well, what that translated to was a complete inability to think on the spot. She had to prepare ahead of time for everything. If she had a few hours to respond to an emergency, she would do great. But yeah….that’s not how things work.

So now I have learned to look at teachers with a very different lens and to ask other questions to assess ability to care for a child outside the structure of a classroom. And not to mistake professional interest with personality. There’s a little bit of this that is just like the “flip side” of personality types mentioned in one of the posts not too long ago. But what I am trying to say is more related to characteristics that we think are there, or that we assume mean something about someone’s personality because it is put in the context of “she’s a teacher”, but that are not at all accurate.

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WarmStateMomma August 3, 2016 at 7:50 am

Interesting! I would also add that being a “teacher” means different things in different cultures. Our first AP was a teacher in a culture where teachers don’t have any classroom autonomy – they just read from the book and and lead the class in drills, all as scheduled by someone else.

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Mimi August 3, 2016 at 9:43 am

I had this same thought. Different cultures look at education very differently and autonomy varies at different levels.

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momo4 August 3, 2016 at 9:22 am

This is a really good point. Interest in going into education doesn’t necessarily translate into being good with kids or all the organization that goes into keeping track of coats, hats, gloves, backpacks, favorite toys, schedules… Even extensive classroom experience really does not prepare someone for the reality of being an AP, especially in a family like mine with 4 young children. Also, children can behave differently at home than they do in the context of school, and at home there isn’t the same degree of “going with the flow of the other children” that can occur at school.

Out of 10 APs, our worst 2 both wanted to go into early childhood education. One was sweet but unable to set any limits with the kids or keep track of anything, let alone cook, tidy up or do anything useful around the house. The other one seemed incapable of getting along with the children, fought with them incessantly about the stupidest little things and was (by her own self admission) totally lazy.

Of our best 2 APs, one wanted to go into hotel management, and the other journalism. Neither had any significant experience with children other than occasional babysitting, but both had worked real jobs, one in a restaurant and one in a grocery store. They were warm, loving, set appropriate limits, got the kids to their activities on time, kept track of the kids stuff, and were all around great people whom the children adored.

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Hostmommac August 4, 2016 at 5:16 pm

HRHM and NZHM – so interesting to see your point of views on ‘Transference’ when it comes to family relationships. We made a terrible mistake hiring a ‘lost soul’ au pair who was only ever going to be temporary for us. She has almost no relationship with her mom and had just lost her gran who was her whole world. I filled the void, gladly at first until I realised that I had inherited one messed up kid and when she had a major life crisis which is too personal to share here, our whole family was sucked into the abyss. We spent a whole month spending more time sorting out our au pair’s life crisis than looking after our kids. We learned a valuable lesson which will never be repeated. I am interested in whether you’d like to contribute to something I am putting together for European host families – we have almost no regulation and structure around the au pair relationship here and I feel a lot of the mom’s who contact me could benefit from hearing from more experienced host moms. If it is something you would consider, i think it would be great to talk. Thanks Hostmommac

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