A Host Mom writes:
Hello! I am writing because I have a bit of a princess situation on my hands — a princess situation with nuance. I am looking for advice on how to try to make this work.
Our new AP, 19 years old, arrived about a month ago from a Western European country. She is our 3rd AP – 1st was wonderful, but left to return home to university after nine months. 2nd was horrible – simply put, was mean to my kids. She didn’t even last a month with us. Had a temporary nanny for three months until new AP’s arrival.
I already have two kids. I don’t want a third. I want to be able to feel comfortable leaving AP in charge. How long do we give this situation to work? What else can we do to help her grow up and toughen up? Thanks so much for your advice!
My focus in interviewing for this AP was to be sure that we found someone who was nice and gentle. It was also important to us that she be committed to developing a social infrastructure here quickly. She is nice and gentle – she is good with the kids (obviously this is the most important thing to us and the reason that we’re not willing to rematch at this point) – and has already made lots of friends.
The issue is, I think, in how she was raised and the expectations that has created in her mind; instead of the princess mindset coming from “I deserve this,” instead, I think it’s just how she has learned to be treated. She is certainly not self-sufficient. I think her parents doted on her. I think they coddled her and treated her as a child and she simply was raised to expect those things from “parents.” We were very upfront about our expectation that she join our family as an adult, with all of the attendant responsibilities.
I think she is experiencing culture shock of a different type – the shock that comes with having “adult” expectations thrust upon her.
We have addressed each issue as it arose and have been firm and consistent. She seems to understand each time I provide this feedback and mostly works to rectify the issue. She’s never been negative to me about the feedback.
It’s just that as we address one issue, another comes up! I don’t think she realizes her sense of entitlement. I have been at the point multiple times where I believe that there really can’t be any more issues to address, then another crazy one comes up.
A few examples of the “princess” behavior:
Again, she is good with the kids, but each issue has caused me to question her underlying sense of responsibility – her ability to have my kids’ interests at heart at ALL times, versus her own kid-like (self-absorbed) interests.
I trust her at home with the kids, with me here (I work from home). I do not trust her to walk my oldest to school. I do not trust her to take my youngest out in the stroller. I don’t think she could handle a morning without my husband or me working alongside her to get everyone ready. My husband and I have been upfront about this and have told her that she needs to work to gain that trust.
I have kept our LCC in the loop and she will talk with AP as well (I asked her to do this yesterday).
Dear Host Mom —
You seem to be putting a lot of effort into being positive and optimistic, so I feel a little mean in saying this but — Rematch.
Unless you have already seen your au pair start to ‘get it’ and start to take on a more adult and self-sufficient approach to things, you need to rematch. You are not going to be able to change her perspective and her behavior very quickly, if at all. It will take a lot of effort to nudge her towards self-sufficiency; this effort may or may not pay out in the end, but it will take a lot out of you. If you don’t want another child, you need to get a different au pair.
Your situation is exacerbated by your being a work-at-home parent. As long as you are in the house you are theoretically her safety net. She doesn’t have any psychological incentive to be self-sufficient, because you will always be there. And, you don’t have the opportunity to just leave her alone to work things out, which a work-outside the house parent would. She doesn’t have the upbringing, and you don’t have the work situation, that will move her towards self-sufficiency with any urgency.
Even if you put all the ‘princess’ concerns aside, you comment about not trusting her to get the basic job done would have urged me to suggest rematch. When you can’t trust an au pair to do the job, you should not keep that au pair.
I appreciate that you tried very hard to find an au pair that had the loving qualities that were so lacking in the au pair who came before her. That you were concentrating on qualities you really needed, and somehow missed whatever signs of a princess that this au pair might have displayed, probably makes it harder to recognize that this relationship cannot be saved. (Dear Host Mom, that list of examples is to long to be “a few”.)
Start planning for a rematch.
Get the kind of childcare help and au pair relationship that you need and that you deserve.