Cut Your Losses: When your Au Pair starts lying before she even arrives

by cv harquail on February 10, 2013

Our conversation about “when you discover that your au pair is lying” could go on forever, since there are so many different situations in which a lie can be a problem — or something to gloss over.

cut your losses, au pair who lies

We lie (parents and au pairs) to save face, to avoid consequences, and sometimes to deliberately deceive someone so that we can have things our way.

For all of us (host parents and au pairs) lying raises two sets of questions.

The first set of questions is about trustworthiness

    • Is this person who just lied to me someone I can trust again?

The second set of questions is about the relationship itself –

    • Is my/our relationship with this person who just lied to me a relationship that we value?
    • Can the relationship withstand tolerating the lie (i.e., facesaving)? Or, can the relationship withstand a more direct discussion of the lie and the problems we feel it has caused?
    • Can we forgive the person who lied?
Our recent conversation about lying prompted  AlmostANewHostMom to send this panicked email (below). She thinks her au pair is lying to her– and the au pair hasn’t even arrived yet!

We can wonder whether the host mom has cold feet and maybe needs a reason to drop out of the program — but let’s take some time to address her concern at face value.

Dear AuPairMom-
We matched with what appeared to be a lovely girl about 2 months ago.  She will be our first au pair.

We wanted to get to know here better as we prepared for her arrival, so we’d set up bi-weekly chats by skype, and then moved to weekly the month before she was scheduled to arrive.However, the last two weeks she hasn’t bothered to log in to skype to chat with us at our regular time.

The first time this happened, she said that she was at her grandmother’s house and that there was no internet there, and her grandmother “wouldn’t let her leave.”  This seemed odd to us, but we decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Then this weekend she also didn’t bother to log into skype.Our au pair coordinator who told us to call her, which we did.  When we got her on the phone, first she said that she had “forgotten,” and then she said that she thought we were supposed to talk on Sunday.

I know she is lying to me, but I feel like there is nothing we can do since she is supposed to arrive in two days.

1) What if she doesn’t get on the plane?  What recourse do I have?  Can I get my $8000 back from the agency?

2) Worse — What if she “forgets” to take care of our child?

Our local coordinator told us that they would “never” consider a rematch until after 4 weeks… but if she’s really unreliable I will DEFINITELY want to get rid of her faster than that.

Sorry to freak out… but we’re kind of freaking out here!  Thanks! ~AlmostANewHostMom


See also: When You Suspect That Your Au Pair is Lying. A lot.

Image: Die Cut Owls from ThePaigeSpot available on Etsy


Julia February 10, 2013 at 2:04 pm

I’m picking the au pair said and I say the last two weeks before leaving your home country are just packed with things to do. You want to hang out with your friends, see your relatives, have to run errands and yes I emailed with my future hostmom almost daily but the weeks before my departure I would barley spent any time only because I wanted to spent my time with friends and family. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It’s just a very very busy time. My hostmom understood it that I would just write a very very short email.
So dont worry about it

AFhostmom February 10, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I don’t think her two “excuses” are inconsistent-saying she forgot doesn’t mean she was also not confused about when you were supposed to speak. Could be a language thing.
And I agree, she has a lot going on right now, it’s a big change for a young lady to pick up and move, and she does need to say goodbye and spend time with her loved ones before she leaves. I certainly wouldn’t draw any conclusions about her reliability based on those two experiences alone. And remember, when she does arrive, she is a young (presumably under 25-ish) lady and depending on her life experiences, there will be some moments of flakiness even if she is a super au pair.

Want to be Wonder Women February 10, 2013 at 6:29 pm

First, take a deep breathe. We are about to welcome a new au pair next month. I am also experiencing the anxiety, second guessing, and hand wringing that goes along with this, even though this is not our first au pair. I think that is only natural. But I wouldn’t make a judgement of her character based on these events. Like others have said…this is a very busy time for her. The AP might see it as she will be able to talk to her host family every hour for the next 365 days, yet she will not be able to be at her grandmother’s house for a whole year. Also, I was surprised how flakey this age group can sometimes be with plans (based on my current au pair and her friends), even though they are organized and responsible in many areas of life including child care. Even though I was once a teen/twenty something, I guess it had been too many years for me to remember that now I am a bill paying/activity scheduling/calendar controlled adult.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Give her the benefit of the doubt. Her grandmother may have very well kept her. Imagine saying goodbye to your grandchild for a year – especially if she’s always lived close by. I understand that this is your first experience hosting, and that you want to develop a relationship with your new AP (how things have changed since 2001 when my first AP didn’t have email much less Skype – after we matched, I sent her a couple of letters!). Now that I’ve hosted for 12 years most of the APs have Skype and all seem to have email (some don’t have Internet at home so it may take a while to get a reply), which makes communication much easier!

Now that I have hosted multiple APs I have developed standardized emails that I send out in staggered intervals before arrival. “You must find it hard to say good-bye to your family and friends, here’s your American cell phone number and our street address. Tell them to send you plenty of letters!” “Oh, you must be packing by now. You can’t imagine how hot it is here – don’t forget to pack summer clothing – autumn is a couple of months away here.” At the end of each brief email I offer to answer any questions they might have. Over the years, I have developed a checklist of FAQ: no you don’t need to pack towels and sheets, yes I provide a blow dryer, do pack your international drivers license…

You’re excited, but don’t take her lack of availability to Skype for lack of interest or lying. She’s overwhelmed with last-minute good-byes, shopping and packing before she heads to the airport to live with you for a year!

TexasHM February 17, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Wow – this is great! Any chance you can email me these? I’d love to see your transition emails plus anything for the first week you use. (

MAHostMom March 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Yes I’d most appreciate those emails too! Can you post them?

NYHost Mom March 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

I would also love if you posted the emails. I always feel like I should be in more contact with my matches before they come over, but never know what to write.

JJ Host Mom March 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Me too! This is such a great idea. Since I saw this I’ve been working on my own set of emails. Would love to know what you’re sending, TACL.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm

OK. I’ll work on it and let CV edit it down!

German Au-Pair February 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm

The grandmother “keeping” her could very well translate to a grandmother who would be deeply offended if her grandaughter who is about to leave for a year cut her visit short to skype with the very family she’s gonna leave her for. I would not worry about that.

Maybe she really was confused the other time, or maybe she firsts aid she forgot but then didn’t want you to think you were unimportant so she changed the story to “I thought it was a different day”…that might technically be a lie, but isn’t that what’s considered a “white lie”? Surely being busy the last weeks before leaving your home country doesn’t mean you will not get on the plane or forget to take care of your host kids.
Just try to be relaxed and unbiased and get to know her when she arrives. Don’t EXPECT a lie at every corner or you’re setting yourself up for failure.

SKNY February 10, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I agree with the previous posters.
I am a host mom now but used to be an au pair (in 2004).
Those last few weeks are hard. You cant imagine how much come in our minds. First because it finally sinks in. Until then it is just an idea…
And then on the last 2 weeks I started wondering: “my grandparents are veeeery old. What if something happens while I am away?”. What if I never see my Great Grandmother (who was actually alive, etc)? and spending some precious time with dear ones became very very important.
Yes, it is only a year, but a lot can happen.
Also, there were all the things I had to do but left to last minute (a procrastinator): power of will for my mom to deal with any problems or bank account, that last visit to my MD for pills (I took them to regulate my period), some medications I might need… Last minute shopping for presents, clothes, personal care items…
Finally, I can tell that not my grandmother but my mother would not let me talk to my host family on those last weeks. She was OK with the trip but would much rather have me at home. And yes, she was very jealous of the host mom. She always complained of the fact I would spend so much time on the computer when I should be spending time with my family….
And just one last (and very silly thing)… the same fear you have, the au pair most likely will have too. All the au pairs heard from their families on the first few days of training, but I didn’t. I kind of panicked that maybe they changed their mind. On the last day of training there was a bear (saying: my first American Friend in it’s sweater) from them. I was soooo relieved. I am now a married woman, mother of 3 girls, but I still have that bear.

HRHM February 11, 2013 at 10:56 am

I’m with the others here. It seems like you guys have done PLENTY of chatting on Skype over the past few months and she may just not have anything left to say. I’m not a big “talker” and after 20 minutes on Skype, even during the interviewing portion of the show, I’m pretty much talked out. So here you are, days from leaving your home, friends and family for a whole year. You have spoken with your host family at least 10-12 time since matching. You have ZERO questions left. BUT, your host Mom wants to continue talking every week? Do you, as a recently hired 20 year old feel comfortable saying “No thanks. I’ll see you in a couple weeks. Email me until they if you need anything specific and I’ll do the same.”? No. You smile and agree and then when the dreaded time comes, you find yourself busy with other things and make excuses.
Cut the poor girl some slack. You will have a whole year to talk to her ad nauseum. Give her some breathing room to say her goodbyes and welcome her with open arms when she arrives at your home.

AnotherSeattleHostMom February 11, 2013 at 1:13 pm

I agree with the above posters, I don’t think this is a huge deal.

On the topic of lying or half-truthing…we actually decided to put something about this in our initial reach-out to AP candidates (we start by sending an email with some initial questions). I can’t remember the exact language but it was something like “so that we can have realistic expectations about our year together, we’d like you to be very honest in your responses to our questions and don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. We can work with most situations but need to understand each other honestly if we want our year together to be successful.”

We added this after several candidates were obviously just spitting out what they thought we wanted to hear: “I want to be part of your family all the time!” “I am a morning person!” “When I’m stressed out, I clean up the kitchen!” etc. Our current (and very awesome) AP told us quite honestly that she would like to have dinner with us a couple of times per week but wanted to have her own life too. She also told us (honestly) that she was a morning person and liked to go to bed very early. Both of these situations work fine for our family but we would also be fine with an AP who wanted to eat with us every night and is not a morning person (as was the case with our last AP). Just like to know what to expect of each other :)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Oh, that fits in perfectly with the follow-up to the “Dare to match with us email!” DH and I don’t think there are any “wrong” answers to our questions – we, too, appreciate candor and honesty.

CA Host Mom March 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm

We have recently started searching for a new AP (quite early this time) and I have APM up constantly as I prepare for interviews and sift through applicants. :)
I am wondering, along the lines of vetting AP candidates before they arrive, if anyone has recommendations for interview topics and questions specific to an AP who has reapplied to the program after a successful 12 month stay? And how about the previous host family (they have offered to be a reference)?
I have all of the basic questions covered, but I am interested in knowing if anyone here has had experience with a repeat AP (who has gone home, reapplied, and become an AP again) and could perhaps offer any insight or feedback that we should take into consideration? THANKS!

heidimia March 26, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I have another perspective…Our last and final au pair seemed really excited to join our family. We skyped, emailed and sent pictures. About two weeks prior to her departure we suddenly found out she had a boyfriend (I specifically asked if she had one when we were first matching). She mentioned in emails how much she was going to miss him, but that he supported her. I started to get nervous, but thought since she said she was fine and we were already close to her arrival, we would move forward. I called and emailed her when she was at school when she first arrived. She seemed really down and said she missed her bf a lot. Oh oh. I called her the next day and she said she was better, and couldnt wait to come to our family. She arrived Friday night and we started to get to know each other. She seemed kind of withdrawn, but I figured it was because it was a new situation, and tried to make her feel at home. All she wanted to do is get on the computer and skype. After a weekend of showing her around, she informed me that she was too homesick and wanted to go home. I cant tell you how upset and disappointed we were. I had talked her up with the kids, took days off to get her settled in, and make her comfortable. So what I am saying is trust your gut. If it seems suspicious, dig into it. Find out what is really going on. This girl was going to be our 4th au pair, so we are not an inexperienced family. It really devastated us, and I decided not to have au pairs after this happened to us.

IT-Aupair June 27, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I don’t know if this is the right place to post this, sorry I’m new to this blog.
I’ve heard a lot of host moms saying they wouldn’t believe an au pair candidate who says her first reason for being an au pair is because she loves children but what if that’s the truth?
I would like to become an au pair in the U.S. because when I will have my own children I would like to homeschool them in English.
Well, I think this is an uncommon reason for becoming an au pair in the U.S. should I say the truth to future host families?
Will they think I’m lying or I’m too strange?
Hope to hear your opinions :)

Host Mom in the City June 27, 2013 at 3:16 pm

I would absolutely believe you if you had a history of putting yourself in situations with children to back you up – an au pair that says she loves children and really means it will have tons of babysitting, volunteering or working at a daycare, education or training related to children, etc. She will probably be aiming to be in a child-related career and will have put steps in motion toward that goal. An au pair who says she just adores children but only has a handful of hours babysitting once a month and wants to be an international tour guide? Not so much :)

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