Conflicting Foodstyles: Advice for an Au Pair

by cv harquail on August 31, 2009

Can someone advise me? I have been an au pair for 2 weeks and the family are really nice. The problem is the food. They have 6 kids and so they only buy cheap food like pasta and bread. Sometimes all we have for dinner is vegetables. I am desperate for some protien, but they only eat meat a couple of times a week and then only pitifully tiny portions. I have a heavy workload and this lack of protein is reducing my energy. I need some protein every day but I can’t afford to buy it myself as I live in an expensive country. What should I do?


From Anonymous:

I think you need to talk to your LCC. Maybe she has heard this complaint from previous aupairs but was unable to act on it. Maybe this is a philosophical lifestyle rather than an economic necessity. Read the other comments on this website about food – it is a tricky issue. If the family is committed to eating meat in very small quantities or not at all and you cannot live with that, you may have grounds for rematch. Are there other forms of protein that can help a little ? Do they eat other forms of protein like some fish or tofu ? Is there a real economic necessity . My undrstanding is that the agencies are supposed to do checks on the finances of the familes in the program. I honestly don’t know how careful they are. Pasta and veggies are not a well rounded diet but it doesn’t seem like this family is treating you differently than themselves. What do others think ?

I’m not in america, I don’t have a LCC and can’t rematch but i don’t want to rematch anyway, i like them.
They are not out of work, both parents are employed, I’ve just heard them say sometimes how expensive it is having so many kids. They have fish as infrequently as the other meat and never tofu, we usually just get pasta or vegetables for dinner. One night all we had for dinner was fried onions! They say if i’m still hungry later I can have porridge, but who wants to eat porridge before bed? I

am so desperate for protein i can’t stop thinking about it. For lunch i’m only allowed to eat leftovers from the night before, i can’t make myself anything fresh. How can I ask them to buy more protein for me when they’re not eating it themselves? I’ve casually mentioned how at home i ate meat every day and am feeling the lack, but it doesn’t seem to have registered. i don’t expect anything really expensive, some budget chicken will do! But is it asking to much to have a proper portion, like a chicken breast rather than one tiny nugget of meat that we get on the rare ocasions that we have meat? Their finances can’t be that bad, they are paying for a phone, travelcard and my plane ticket as extras.


From New AP Mom:

Katarina, I wish you were my au pair. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the conversation in the other direction – urging her to please eat some sort of protein so she stays healthy and has the energy to do her demanding job.

How about beans? Could you offer to cook some dishes from your home country that just happen to include meat? I absolutely think that healthy food is part of the deal, and that includes protein. If you can find a copy of a food pyramid that shows protein serving sizes (size of a deck of card) and say that’s what you’re used to, maybe that would help.

From My 2 cents:

I like the suggestion about alternative proteins, like beans. How about eggs and nuts? There are loads of things you can do with those three and they tend to be inexpensive. Vegetarian chili, omelettes, red beans and rice, all say yummy to me. And there’s all the fabulous Asian receipes out there that involve very little amounts of meat proteins but are chock full of taste.

Be respectful, but be direct, with your host family. Approach it as a health/work performance issue as opposed to personal preferences and comparisons to how much better food was back in your home country. Perhaps come prepared with some menu ideas that you could help prepare. There are loads of receipes on the Internet and on various food sites. Yeah, it’s more work on you to do the research and to offer to help prepare, but sounds like it’s better than the alternatives. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

Well, there are eggs in the fridge which I can have for breakfast but it’s just not enough. I really really need meat so bad! Cheap chicken would be fine, I just need a proper portion and the guarantee that i can have it every day. The parents want to do the cooking themselves. The other problem is half the week i can’t even eat the meals the parents prepare. tTey make weird things with loads of added ingredients which taste just awful, so alot of days i either go hungry or have to spend alot of money going out and secretly eating in a restaurant. I don’t know what to say when they put something i find inedible in front of me. I just don’t know how i can go a whole year like this.

I’m worried that if i make demands food-wise they might think i’m too expensive and troublesome to keep and get rid of me!


200908311753.jpgFrom PA au pair mom:

Katarina, I feel bad for you in your current situation.

Do you have a contract with them or could you leave and find a new family?
I know you say they are a nice family and that you like them, other than the food issue.
The problem is, if they aren’t feeding you properly, then they don’t have your best interest at heart. If they can’t afford to feed you, and themselves properly, then maybe they aren’t prioritizing very well. Hope you find a resolution soon. take care.

From My 2 cents:

Katarina, check out the “groceries: how much can AP ask you to spend” thread that came up last month. There was an AP on there with big issues about what the host mom was cooking and a bunch of people responded with suggestions.

IMHO, if your host family is reasonable they will want to make concessions to keep you happy and healthy. Of course, both sides need to be willing to work together and give a little each way for this to work, perhaps with them conceding to offering more meat proteins in more meals, but you expecting less in the quantity department at those meals. But if you are at all thinking of leaving your job or this family, or thinking you are really physically hurting due to this, then you must do the uncomfortable and talk about it with your host family in a direct, but constructive, manner.

From A:

Katarina, honestly it sounds like this job isn’t going to work for you. You say that you want a guarantee that you can have a proper portion of meat every day, and this seems important to you. Your host family offers pasta, vegetables, eggs, and porridge but very little meat. I don’t know if there is a compromise for you. Eating very little meat is a lifestyle that your host parents have adopted and probably aren’t going to change (given the financial, environmental, and health benefits). Perhaps your host family would be receptive to having more protein at meals–like beans or eggs. Could you honestly live with this?

From Franzi:

Have you openly told them that there are spices you don’t like? Try asking the family to put a serving aside for you without the spices added you don’t like.?ask them if they would mind if you would buy your own meat (that only you eat eg on a sandwich for lunch). i say this because i do not see why meat in this case is any different from other people’s cravings for chocolate, or veggies, or coke, or candy, or milk/jogurt, or anything else the AP might be used to but the HF doesn’t buy.

Tou might be too stuck on thinking that only meat will give you the power. like said before, beans or soy might seal the deal as well.
Please, i don’t mean to be rude. i understand your craving (i need carbs) and the fact that all you can think about is meat. but couldn’t this just be an adjustment to different eating habits?

I think that in the end it will boil down to either you buying your craved food (again, i don’t see much of a difference in buying meat than in buying coke or coffee to function), your family adjusting their shopping/eating habits or you going into rematch.

200908311754.jpgAnd a comment from cvh:

Katarina, you’ve got some good advice here from these women!… and I echo the suggestion to start first with a conversation to *understand* their food choices– it may be health concerns, politics, money, culture, cooking skills, tastes & preferences, or some combination of those. And whichever reason they give for their choices is the place where you can start with making suggestions or alternatives.

It doesn’t seem to us that your desires are unreasonable (esp. if you are willing to try inexpensive proteins like beans).

Do be sure to keep separate the conversations about the amount and type of food, and the kind of preparation. It is much easier to deal with the preparation issue (by cooking your own portion). The question of having them buy more food or even different kinds of food for you is harder, but still worth discussing.

Food is so important to us– it is nourishment, it is culture, it is love. Be sure to open the conversation with an interest in    learning what is behind the family’s food choices. Be willing to have more than one conversation before expecting it to be resolved.

Let us know what happens!

Photos by Rachel is coconut&lime on Flickr


Anonymous August 31, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I’m sorry Katarina, but it sounds like you’re totally fixated with meat!! In one line you say you cannot afford to buy your own protein (meat), then you say you don’t like the cooking (the taste is bad), so you eat out.
From your writing, I get the following:
* You don’t like the cooking, so you are finding excuses to justify your feelings.
My suggestions to you would be:
* cook occasionally for the family – with protein… like the others have said, beans, lentils and eggs are also protein.
* cook for yourself, with what you like to eat
* communicate. communicate. communicate! Tell your host family your thoughts, but don’t attack them for their choices. If they choose not to eat meat because it’s expensive, then that’s their decision! You CAN function even if you are a vegetarian, or vegan for that matter :)

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 6:53 pm

I actually do like cooking, but the host parents insist on doing it themselves. I would much rather cook but they won’t have it. I brought 200 euros here to tide me over. I’ve almost spent all of that that’s how i afforded to go to restaurants until now. But that money is fast running out, then i can’t keep buying food – thats why i can’t keep buying my own food. I’m in one of the most expensive countries in the world. I wish to god i could just cook for myself with what i like to eat but the family seem very keen that i just eat what they’ve made to save money. Yes you can function if you are a vegetarian, but not very well. It’s also not just the lack of meat but the portion sizes are tiny, everyone, even the parents, gets a young childs portion.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Also, when I was discussing with them, before accepting the job, I asked what they ate and they said alot of chicken and fish. But its not true! If they’d told me I’d be eating vegetarian mixtures of random stuff, I would not have taken the job.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I know why they eat the way they do, they told me because it’s expensive to feed so many people. But I think they should have warned me in advance, and if they can’t feed an au pair properly they shouldn’t have one. But they are so kind and easygoing in other respects, this is the only bad thing but I don’t know if it’s something i can live with for a year. I don’t know how i can ask them to buy meat every day for me when all of them are eating the cheapest stuff money can buy.

NewAPMom August 31, 2009 at 7:24 pm

I think in this case you need to decide what your boundaries are, and clearly communicate them. If you think you can’t live like this for a year, then you need to tell them, and be prepared to rematch if they can’t/won’t provide more meat. If you think you can compromise by eating more eggs and beans, then perhaps try that route.

By the way, eggs are the perfect protein. Better than any kind of meat in terms of what kind of energy they provide. Beans + brown rice make up a complete protein as well. Meat is nice, but not completely necessary, strictly speaking.

But I really think it comes down to more what you can personally live with. Being an au pair (and being a host parent) is actually one big exercise in figuring that out and communicating it, so it’s a good lesson no matter how this turns out. Let us know…

NoVA Host Mom August 31, 2009 at 7:24 pm

You say you brought euros with you, but don’t you also get a salary from your HF? Just wondering. The way you worded it made me ask.

It sounds as if you are being provided with everything the family is getting, so I hate to break this to you, but you are being provided for. They are feeding the AP exactly what they are feeding themselves and their children. As an AP, you are not automatically entitled to as much of whatever you want. They are to make reasonable accomodations, but they do not need to bend over backwards as far as buying you all your own groceries each week.

For us, our first AP was not a fan of our “bland” american food. When she wanted to have specialty foods from her home country, she would buy them herself. I made sure we had plenty of the basics (fish sauce and other sauces, eggs, veggies, meats, frozen fish fillets, etc) for her to work with, but extras above that were up to her. Our current AP is much more comfortable with our food, and I make sure her favorite cereal is in the house, as well as juice boxes she likes. Otherwise, she has been getting creative (and learning to cook)with preparing her own lunches and she eats what we do for dinner (whether it is leftovers or take out or BBQ).

You do need to sit and talk with them, explain that you would like to discuss the food situation and how your meals are portioned. If you want far more than they are willing or able to provide and you cannot seem to come to a compromise, then that is what your spending money can go towards (like the fast food or specialty foods you prefer from your country). Or you can request a new family (or cancel the contract, etc. I’m not really sure about how your hiring process worked). I doubt this is the arrangement for you.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 7:44 pm

all i want extra is a peice of chicken every day. yes i’m getting a salary but this country is so expensive, i can’t be expected to spend my whole salary on food. and like i said it’s the portion sizes too. do you really think that a scoopful of fried onions is a reasonable dinner? you say you have plenty of the basixcs like meat and fish for your au pair to work with, i don’t have that! I’m not allowed to prepare any food at all. the parents insist on making dinner and i am only allowed leftovers (which is usually just some leftover lettuve leaves and mushrooms) for lunch. i am not into fast food or speciality food, all i want is adult portions and a peice of chicken!

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 7:45 pm

btw i don’t think i’m entitled to as much of whatever i want, but i think i am entitled to more than a 4 year old child’s portion.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 7:57 pm

as host mums how would you feel if your ap said, “I’ve been trying for the past 2 weeks but i’m really having trouble adjusting to the meals, their timing and they type of food. I just ate much less frequently at home and had alot more protein, and i’m finding it really hard to eat the way you do here. i was wondering if i could just have some chicken bought for me and just make my own food?”

an au pair August 31, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I can totally relate to the being in an expensive country thing because I’m in Scandinavia (and I’ve also been here for only 2 weeks!). If you buy a bottle of water here it’s (equivalent to) $5-6, and the cheapest meal I’ve been able to find when I’m away from home and need to eat is a sandwich at a convenience store for at least $9-10. But the parents I live with eat more meat than I do in the US so I definitely don’t have your problem!

I’ll say right off the bat that I completely disagree with Franzi about this being the same as if you were craving soda or candy, especially since the family originally told you that they ate lots of fish and chicken! I’m all for vegetarianism if you choose to be a vegetarian (and I DO think you can get by perfectly fine as a vegetarian if you eat beans, whole grains, brown rice, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, good fats like the ones found in avocados , and lots of fiber), but you should not be forced to become mostly vegetarian against your will and you obviously need to be offered more food!

Furthermore, since fresh vegetables and fruit do not tend to be cheap, I’m guessing that the family is cooking frozen vegetables(??), and cooked veggies don’t have as much nutritional value as fresh, raw ones. I’m also completely assuming, and could easily be wrong, that when you said the family is cooking things with lots of “added ingredients”, you are referring to unhealthy mixes, etc. that they might be adding to pasta or rice, which normally contain MSG and other stuff that’s definitely not good for you.
If I’m right about either one of these assumptions, you are not getting adequate nutrition, and have every right to complain and to want meat.

I do think you are doing a couple things wrong though. Instead of eating out, you need to go to the grocery store and figure out what meats are cheap in your country, and then buy those and cook it for yourself.

Buying something in the grocery store will pretty much ALWAYS be cheaper than eating out. Just make sure you pay attention to the trends in pricing where you are- I’m used to chicken being very cheap like it is in the US, but where I am now, chicken is expensive, and fish is much cheaper since I am near the ocean. You could also see what the prices on lunch meat are like…maybe you could make sandwiches or wraps for lunch? The rule about only eating leftovers is ridiculous- I think that most families want to save leftovers for dinners throughout the week and DON’T want you eating them for lunch, so that situation is just odd.

I also agree with the people who said to eat beans. They provide lots of protein and are cheap. Personally though, I hate most beans, so I can’t preach about that. I’m guessing nuts could be expensive there, but if they have peanut butter or other spreads like that, try eating some on a sandwich or a banana.

I think the main thing you need to do is communicate! I realize this subject is a difficult one to communicate about though and I feel for you. If all else fails, you’re gonna have to try to switch families. When you don’t go through an agency there’s a lot of guilt involved if you do that, since the family paid for your plane ticket and since you just arrived. I would avoid that at all costs too, as I matched with my family through a website and no agency was involved. In my case, I have a contract with government based stipulations…the family I’m staying with or I can back out if we give one month’s notice. I hope you have some way to back out if you need to also. If you don’t have a contract, I guess you are under no obligation to stay? Good luck and let us know what happens!

an au pair August 31, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Sorry I’m going on and on…again. I just read your latest comments. I think you need to get out of this situation ASAP. I have never heard of a family not allowing you to cook for yourself, even if you buy the food with your own money, and strictly enforcing the rule of leftovers-only at lunch. You need to know that this is RIDICULOUS and not normal at all. You are not asking too much. These people do not seem relaxed or reasonable at all if these are their rules.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 8:11 pm

I’m in Scandinavia too and yes it’s very expensive. The family buy only cheap fruits and veg. we have only bananas and oranges but the kids seem ravenous and eat them more quickly than they can be replaced so there’s often no fruit. the only veg we have is lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes, nothing else. we have mainly only fried onions, or pasta or white rice covered in salty sauce, so i really feel this is very nutritionally inadequate. the family really don’t seem to want me cooking for myself plus they are always just hanging out in the kitchen. on the rare ocassions there are leftovers from dinner, they always go in a box and that’s what i’m meant to have for lunch. there actually isn’t anything else apart from some stuff in the freezer. the weirdest thing is hat the freezer is full of boxes of ice cream even though the family don’t allow the kids to eat sweets and the parents don’t eat sweets. we don’t even have beans. seriously, apart from first thing in the morning for breakfast, i am not supposed to prepare any food for myself. i am meant to eat what the parents make for dinner and leftovers for lunch, and thats all. i just want to know whats the best way to bring this up.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 8:16 pm

well the thing is i haven’t brought the subject up with them in a serious way yet, i’ve just been mentioning things like, “at home i usually eat chicken every day,” or whatever. I mean the times when we have inedible mush for dinner and i don’t touch it, the mum never comments. also, when we have nothing but a tiny portion of vegetables for dinner and i don’t join them for the porridge or slice of bread they eat before bed (because i just can’t face eating that at that time of night) the mum never asks “but aren’t you hungry?” i just don’t know how to broach the subject seriously but politely.

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 8:20 pm

they didn’t actually say i’m not allowed to buy food with my own money, i never talked to them about that. i just leave the house staright after dinner and go to a restaurant, the parents never ask me about it. but i hardly have any money left now so that can’t continue. i seriously can’t spend a whole year buying my own food, i can’t afford it. every day the mum just says “for lunch you can eat the leftovers in the fridge” but its always like a wilted bit of salad thats been there for days and nothing else.

NewAPMom August 31, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Katarina, I don’t think that saying that you’re not eating like you’re accustomed to eating is going to win you any points. That’s pretty much a given if you’re moving in with a new family in a new country. I think that if you expect your host family to address it, it needs to be from a purely nutritional standpoint. i.e. “I don’t feel like I have the energy to do my job well given the limited amount of protein you’re providing. I understand that this is how you all eat; however, it doesn’t feel healthy for me, and I know you want me to be healthy in order to provide the best possible childcare for your family. I am happy to do my own cooking so I don’t cause you any inconvenience but I can’t afford to buy meat with my stipend. Would it be possible for you to buy an extra kilo of chicken for me every week at the grocery store, and let me cook that for my own lunch?”

an au pair makes a good point. If chicken is expensive where you live, that may be why they’re not buying it, so maybe request something else instead.

an au pair August 31, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Wow. I really don’t know what to tell you. I might have better advice tomorrow but I need to go to bed- it’s 2:20 here and I’m guessing it’s around that time for you too. I’ll let you know if I think of anything, but honestly I don’t think I’d be able to stick with the family if I were you.

By the way, are you in Norway by any chance? I’m guessing not if you came here with euros, but if so, I need to meet people!

Katarina August 31, 2009 at 8:31 pm

at home i’d have like, eggs & porridge or fruit for breakfast, chicken and veg for lunch and maybe prawns or rice for dinner. Here we hardly ever have fruit, the parents only buy bananas and oranges and the kids eat them at once, quicker than they can be replaced so we often don’t have fruit at all, the parents never buy enough. the only vegetables we have are lettuce, tomato and cucumber, nothing else. the meals basically consist of either fried onions with nothing else, or pasta covered in weird sauce with nothing else, or rice covered in some strong salty sauce, or fried potatoes. sometimes dinner is potatoes WITH pasta and nothing else. sometimes there’ll be a couple of tiny nuggets of chicken in it, sometimes a fleck of fish. then they have either porridge or a slice of bread before bed. the things like potatoes get totally eaten up at dinner time, the only leftovers are usually wilted letuce leaves and sometimes pasta. that’s my lunch and i have to ration it because on the days when there are no leftovers, what will i eat? there is nothing else in the fridge. and the mum often eats the leftovers too, sometimes when i go for lunch there is almost nothing left! all of the pasta, rice etc is white, whch makes it even worse! we just get cheap fillers with no real nutrition.
yeah just noticed the time it’s actually 3.20am here, i’m on eastern european time! I’m in finland. someone else told me not to say that the lack of protein feels unhealthy in case they think i’m critisising the way they feed their kids.

Emma September 1, 2009 at 2:49 am

Hi Katrina.

I am also in Scandinavia (Denmark.) That salty sauce they put on white rice is probably soy sauce, my HF likes it too. I’ve done some of the grocery shopping here (my family actually prefers me to cook) and I’ve found that chicken is actually weirdly expensive here, and so is beef. Turkey, fish (esp on fridays?), canned beans and this meat spread called leverpostej (it might be called something slightly different in Finland, I’m not sure. But its a liver spread so definitely full of protein) anyway those things are full of protein and relatively cheap. If you buy these things at the grocery store (ask where there is a discount grocery store! They have them in Denmark so probably in Finland too) it shouldn’t cost you more than a weeks salary to supplement your diet for a month (actually it should cost you much less than that, probably about 35-40 Euros, I’m pretty sure Euros are used in Finland, right?) You may want to label your food also, so the kids don’t eat it.

If you are really unable to buy your own food at the grocery and your HF will not make concessions (with you also conceding a bit, compromises must be made) than you really should rematch, otherwise this issue will lead to bitter feelings and likely make your stay with them miserable, no matter how nice they otherwise are.

Katarina September 1, 2009 at 6:14 am

The way I’m feeling about the food is actually highlighting other things I’m not happy about. I feel the family have misled me about a few things. Firstly they claimed we’d be eating lots of chicken and fish and we’re not. Also they told me the 2 year old had been potty trained but he’s not at all! He doesn’t wear nappies, just normsl underpants but he poos in his pants up to 3 times a day and wees in his pants a few times a day, nearly every day. when we put him on the toilet, either me, the staff at the nursery he goes to or his parents, he screams and struggles to get down and won’t use the toilet, then messes his pants a few minutes later. The mum provides rubber gloves but this isn’t what i was led to believe i was signing up for. It’s a nightmare having to watch him constantly but he still messes his pants anyway. He makes such a mess i have to shower him every time to wash the poo away. The 4 year old is a vicious little thing who beats the other kids and pinches and scratches me, my hands are covered in scratches, she refuses to do anything i tell her, saying “you’re not my mum, you can’t tell me what to do.” The older kids seem to think i’m their maid, they never clean up their mess but leave it for me. The 2 year old wakes up screaming and crying about 4 times a night, which wakes me, i wasn’t warned about this. The mum plays full volume rock music from 6.30am nearly every day, and my room is right next to the kitchen where the family spend nearly all their time, i can’t ever get a good nights sleep or a lie-in, I’m so tired, plus lack of privacy. The saving grace is that the parents are easy-going and friendly and not mean to me like i’ve heard some hp’s are. Also, I quit my job and unversity to come here, I don’t have anything to go back home to! If i went back home i’d have to go back to uni which i really don’t want to do. I just don’t know what to do. Maybe the lack of good food is affecting my mind, i don’t know, but i’m finding the whole situation harder to deal with every day. Plus if i did leave, how could i tell the parents i’m leaving after they’ve been kind to me? But then i don’t really want to leave, i like this city. Oh i don’t know what to do!

Katarina September 1, 2009 at 6:21 am

also the family just leave their dishes for me to do, even in my time off, even if i didn’t eat with them. we’re not allowed to watch tv so it’s really difficult trying to entertain the kids when it’s raining outside, or cold, which it usually is. being stuck indoors with 5 kids and no tv or anything is becoming so boring. They are always calling me, to eat with them, to entertain them, leaving toys and dishes for me to clean away that i haven’t used. I just feel like constant demands are being placed on me all the time, i just want to be left alone!

Emma September 1, 2009 at 7:43 am

Rematch, fix the problem, or leave. Complaining about it isn’t going to help the situation any.

Host Mom VA September 1, 2009 at 7:58 am

If things are as bad as you say and you are not exaggerating then I would leave right away.
Most 2 yr olds are not potty trained, especially boys but he should be in pullups or some sort of training pants. Do you have the kids to yourself all day or can you take some of them out for activitites?
Do you have access to a car?

Katarina September 1, 2009 at 8:24 am

No car, I don’t drive. I can take them to the forest but they don’t want to go and scream if i try to take them, plus the 2 year old messes his pants when we go.

My 2 cents September 1, 2009 at 9:56 am

This strikes me as a situation where the host parents are either incredibly clueless, or they do know and don’t care.

If you have not had a candid converstation with your host family about the issues (the food, the toilet training, discipline, the music, how the job is not how it was represented in X,Y, Z ways), then do that and do it now. It’s the only thing to do if you really want to try to stay. Be prepared with constructive suggestions on every single issue and give it your best shot. If you need help thinking of suggestions or how to express your complaints, but constructively, then post back here and I guarantee you will get ideas. These folks have 6 kids so you will have to absolutely schedule with them a solid amount of time to sit down and talk with no distractions. Make them commit to sometime this week for you 3 to sit down and talk for at least 30 minutes.

If you have and they are not listening or not willing to collaborate with you with ideas as to how to address these issues, then leave. This sounds like a miserable situation and there is no reason to continue on like this. You should not feel guilty about the plane tickets. And these host parents are not being “kind” to you. This is not what you signed up for as far as I understand it from you and certainly not what I expect our APs to live with. Your parents will understand.

You sound as if you feel you have no control over this situation, and your life in general. You should never feel this way! You can leave and pick back up either where you left off or take another path.

Katarina September 1, 2009 at 9:59 am

OK, I would like suggestions on how to broach the subjects, firstly food. But there are somethings I don’t think can be changed, like the 2 year old screaming down the house and waking me up every night.

Katarina September 1, 2009 at 10:20 am

I thought i’d give you a food itinery. Here’s a typical day:

breakfast – an egg or 2 if there are any (I would eat more but there aren’t enough) and a little bowlful of baby porridge (theres nothing else.)

lunch – leftovers, so either less than a handful of pasta, or some leftover lettuce and mushrooms.

snack – I can take a few peices of chopped fruit from the communal bowl, so a mouthful of orange and a mouthful of banana. (if the kids haven’t already eaten it all.)

dinner – either vegetables on their own, or a handful of pasta, or a handful of some mush, god knows what it is. sometimes fried potatoes if we are very lucky. Ocassionally there may be a nugget of chicken or a flake of fish found in the mush.

then in the evening before bed we can sometimes have a slice of bread, or sometimes one scoop of porridge. I don’t know how many calories this is, but it can’t be enough.

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 10:27 am

You have been given a lot of helpful suggestions already on broaching the subject of food with your host family. So you might re-read some of the posts here to remind yourself of what has already been said on that topic.

I think your struggle is bigger than the food. It seems to me that you are experiencing culture shock and it doesn’t seem that you have much support other than this Au Pair Mom blog to give you advice on how to make the transition easier. I’d suggest you take some time during your free time to really think about what you wanted from this experience before you arrived. Then you need to decide if the experience you are having now meets that idea and if it does not you need to decide if it will ever. I’d suggest committing to sticking it out for a pre-set amount of time (say one more month). If nothing changes despite your best efforts than you will have to end this arrangement and choose another path for your life.

I think you have had enough opportunity to vent on this blog entry. Now it is time to take action. Make a plan and have an exit strategy if it doesn’t work out.

Hula Gal September 1, 2009 at 10:28 am

That Anonymous posting at 10:27 was Hula Gal by the way.

[ cv note: Hula Gal, I think you’re right that there is at this point enough good advice that Katarina should go try some of it…. so I’ve closed off the comments. K, you can let us know when you’ve tried some of the ideas, what’s worked….]

Host Mom VA September 1, 2009 at 10:49 am

The issue of the 2 yr old scraming at night is not an issue you are going to be able to suggestion and I am not trying to sound unsympathetic (my 2 yr old has been waking up recently but thank goodness does not scream!) is to buy earplugs.
Other issues address with parents, put up with issues or leave.

Another Au Pair September 1, 2009 at 11:02 am

Off topic, I apologize, but this is to Emma. Are you an au pair too? Where in Denmark are you? I’m working as an au pair in Denmark for a month now and still looking to make friends…

Anna September 1, 2009 at 11:09 am

with the night wakings, there is nothing you can do about a child screaming – buy good earplugs. With the rest of the situation – you have to talk to your host family and come to some kind of a compromise that is satisfactory to you both. Good luck.

Emma September 1, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Another Au Pair,

I am an au pair, I just got here two weeks ago and don’t really know many people yet. I’m in Silkeborg, where are you?

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