Dead End: When you need an Au Pair to drive, but your Au Pair can’t

by cv harquail on August 31, 2013

When you read the email, below, you’ll think the challenge is about the au pair not being able to drive.

And not being able to learn. And really needing an au pair who can drive. And deciding to drive her back and forth to her evening class. And more.


dead endIf the problem really were about the driving, we know the answer to this:

  • If your Au Pair arrives and can’t drive, you reassess how much you need a driver. If you need a driver, you…
  • Give your Au Pair driving lessons, and ask the Au Pair Agency to help you pay for driving lessons.
  • And if your au pair doesn’t seem able to learn to drive in a reasonable amount of time (say, 3-4 weeks TOPS), you go into rematch.

No harm, no foul on the Host Parents’ part: If the au pair can’t do the job s/he was engaged to do, especially if the au pair misrepresented her/his ability, that’s a problem to put back into the lap of the Au Pair Agency to whom you paid good money for a qualified candidate.

But that’s not what this email is about.

Look again, and you’ll see:

  • The host parents are bending over backwards to help the Au Pair develop the very basic skill to meet their needs.
  • Even though it should be clear by now that the Au Pair is not going to become a safe and competent driver, they are still pouring energy into teaching her.
  • What’s more, they are overcompensating for the au pair’s inability to drive, by driving the au pair back and forth to her evening class

But the most troubling part for me is that the two host parents no longer agree on what should be done.

Time for these host parents to revisit the reasons why they wanted an au pair in the first place. To talk about what accomodations are ‘reasonable’. And then to consider why they aren’t on the same page and what to do about that.

It isn’t unreasonable to want an au pair who drives competently– especially when that was explicit criteria in your search. It IS unreasonable to imagine that you can teach someone to drive safely in 4-6 weeks — especially when s/he seems to lack basic driving sense.

Host Mom, please sit down and have a long talk with Host Dad.

There seems to be a gap between what your family needs and what he’s willing to settle for. You need to stand up for yourself and your needs, and he needs to stand up for himself and your family’s needs.

Call your LCC, and start the rematch process.

Host parents, what else do you recommend?


Dear Au Pair Moms,
Our AuPair has been with us for 6 weeks. She just turned 25 and is from China. She is our first AP. …

I like our AuPair as a person and she is VERY good with the baby. Our four year old tests her on a regular basis and I hope this relationship will improve, but that is not the problem. She is helpful around the house when given specific tasks. She aims to please.  Also, she likes to take afternoon naps whenever the baby naps instead of helping out with clean up or meals, which I find irritating, but I suppose I can deal with that. 

The major problem I am having is that we absolutely need an AuPair who drives and were certainly under the impression she could drive! We were VERY clear about this when choosing an AuPair. She has a Chinese driver’s license. She knew that driving our older son to school and any activities daily would be required and driving the baby to daycare two days a week. I also wanted her to do some grocery shopping. This was all discussed ahead of time as we exchanged many emails for 2 months before she arrived and we discussed the driving when we ‘interviewed’ her over Skype.

She NEVER hinted that while she has a driver’s license she had next to no driving experience.

My husband has been taking her driving seven days a week, one hour each day, to teach her for more than 4 weeks now. Some days they even go twice a day, but her driving is not improving.

(I keep thinking about all. the. other. things. this host dad could be doing for his family, other than acting as a driving teacher. yoikes. ~cvh)

She still runs over curbs, tonight she hit the gas instead of the brake and jumped a parking curb and she does not understand general rules of driving or the general concepts in operating a car. She had to be taught how car mirrors work, what blind spots are, how to change lanes, how to respond when traffic lights turn yellow, etc..

I got her a driver’s manual her first week here from the DMV, but she says it is too hard for her to understand the english. My husband is considering signing her up for professional lessons, but at $50 / hr I just don’t think this is fair to us.

To compensate for her inability to drive, I have had to extend the baby’s hours the 2 days a week that he still goes to daycare so that I can pick him up after work since she can’t get him after just a half-day like I had planned and make changes in my schedule. I wanted our four year old to take karate after his preschool, but we can’t sign him up for these types of activities because she can’t drive him there.

She asks us to pick up things for her at the grocery store since she can’t drive, when really I’m thinking – shouldn’t this be the other way around?

I feel very tricked by the agency and by our AP and I am angry about it. I don’t think she has done it purposely, but the reality is that she can not presently drive our children or even drive herself alone.  It is a constant source of stress for me about when she will be able to drive. We do not live in a major metropolitan area so driving is not like driving in L.A. or Chicago and there is no freeway driving that she needs to master. That said, I am in NO rush to put my children in the car with her when she can not yet drive safely with just my husband in the car. My husband thinks in ‘a few months’ with them driving every night that she will be safe and understand driving.

Additionally, her college class starts tomorrow night and I am SO bitter at the prospect that we will have to drive her and pick her up two hours later two nights per week. There are not any bus routes near our home. I did not anticipate taking on this level of responsibility with an AP.

If people could please give me advice, I would GREATLY appreciate it. This is becoming a large source of tension for my husband and me as having an AP is not really improving our quality of life to the extent that I anticipated. I am VERY bothered by it, my husband is very relaxed and says that ‘we will just have to teach her and be patient’.

See Also:

Driving, Comprehending and Bonding: Can this Au Pair relationship be saved?
The Best $98 You Can Spend On A New Au Pair
5 Ways To Assess an Au Pair’s Driving Skill
Driven to the edge because my Au Pair can’t drive
If the Au Pair Agency failed in their “due diligence”, what can Host Parent do?


Image: Dead End AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by monstersweare


3grtkids August 31, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Rematch, rematch, rematch. Clearly this is not a good fit and you are putting way too much energy into it. Go to your agency now and demand a solution. If they don’t respond, go to the next level of management. This stress is not good for your marriage. Your husband sounds like a nice patient person but the cost of this to your family is too much. Hope you end up with someone wonderful. I know someone went though rematch and got an outstanding au pair realizing just how much they tolerated with the first one.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I was in a similar situation with a Chinese AP (OK, the AP who lived with us wasn’t THAT bad a driver, but still…). I’ll tell you right now that by 6 months in you’ll come to resent her inability to drive. If you live in a place where it snows, and she has never driven in snow, you’ll resent having to take time off from work to schlep the kids around or make arrangements with other parents. I had a Chinese AP, and after 8 months, DH and I were still sending each other emails about driving. She had made sufficient progress to drive places, when it snowed. And by the time it stopped snowing, she had forgotten how to drive!

The truth is, driving can’t be learned in 1 hour per day. Not like you need a driver. Truthfully, if she already holds a Chinese driver’s license, then she probably thinks of herself as a driver.

While my ultimate advice is, rematch now. You’re not getting what you asked for, there is another option – and that is to talk with your LCC. Is there a driving company in your area that will do review sessions? Where I live, off-duty police officers will review driving skills but they also teach beginner drivers. When our Chinese AP scraped the side of a car backing out of a pull-in parking space, we split the costs with her for 3 2-hour sessions. At the end, the officer said she could probably pass the road test, but would flunk on parking and 3-point turns. At that point, we went to our agency – and told them we would go into rematch unless they agreed to pay 50% of the cost of driving lessons (the AP paid the other 50% since her skills were not what she advertised).

We made it work and the AP reached the point I would call “advanced beginner”. When it came time to extend and she still didn’t have a U.S. license, we said, “Sorry.” Would I do it again? Absolutely not.

Since you’re not happy with your AP taking a nap while your infant sleeps (although she probably would stop if you told her to), I can already read the resentment in your writing. I think it’s time for you to call your LCC and warn her to come for a mediated meeting in which you tell your AP that she’s not the woman for you. You could offer to let her stay until your new AP comes (since you’re looking for an infant qualified driver chances are you’re looking for an out-of-country AP and not an in-country rematch).

Returning HM August 31, 2013 at 10:00 pm

We have rematched twice over poor driving skills in our seven years of hosting and have engaged the services of a professional instructor in one other situation to help a good driver build confidence enough to drive on the Capitol Beltway. Driving is a BIG DEAL to us, and I now spend enormous amounts of energy sussing out APs’ actual driving experience before we match with them, but before I learned to do this, as I said, we did have two matches who were poor drivers. In both cases, rather than DH doing the instructing beyond the initial drive-around a couple of times, we paid a professional instructor to come and do an assessment. In one case (with a S Korean), he said it would take 10 lessons to pass the basic road test, but she would still be the kind of driver who had JUST BARELY passed the road test. Since our job required a much better driver than this (I’m not about to put my children into the car with a newbie driver), and we were clear about that with the agency and in matching, we sent this otherwise very nice, sweet, and competent AP into rematch. She got a great rematch family in NYC who did not need a driver, and we got a great AP who actually knew how to drive. Two years later, we got another AP who said she had 6 years of driving experience but when she arrived, she ran two red lights the first night we took her driving. Once again, we hired the professional instructor, and in this case, he said he thought she could become a good driver if she really wanted to. This AP, though, didn’t want to work hard at anything, so when I started scheduling her midday hours when the children were in school to practice driving, she announced she was going home. Good riddance, as they say!

Anyway, I sympathize with this host family, trying to make their first match work, but really, this one is doomed. The AP is not able to do the basics of their job, it’s dividing the host parents, it’s requiring massive changes to the schedule, and it’s putting a lot of extra strain and stress on the HM, who is likely already strained and stressed by working FT on top of having a toddler and a baby. None of this is helpful in making the match work.

I’m never one to counsel rematch quickly at all, but OP, please call your LCC and ask her to initiate rematch. Think about it: Even if she gets enough skill to pass the basic road test, is THAT really the person you want driving your precious little ones around?

Good luck sorting this out.

BBBG August 31, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Oh, no! We had the EXACT situation! Other host parents told us, “You can teach her how to drive, but you can’t teach her how to be a great caregiver…” so we stuck in there for months doing the same thing – daily driving lessons from 6a to 7a (husband), nerves every time she got in the car, and later, the ticket (with recorded video) from our town after she blew through a red light with our children in the car. She also crashed our car into a snow drift, causing $1,250 damage (and this was while my husband was in the car giving her lessons). It’s just not worth the stress, the money, and your time!

Rematch NOW!! Do not think about this any longer. Our agency did not help us one bit. You have to help yourself. Chalk it up to experience, and when you rematch, go for Western European au pairs where the au pairs have lots of experience driving like we do in the USA. Our first au pair was from Bolivia. We won’t do that again. Last two have been German and Austrian, and we made sure that they had significant driving experience before we would even talk further about anything else.

This is a safety issue. Don’t take any chances. We are sorry that we did. Rematch now!!

LookingForwardToBeAP September 1, 2013 at 12:34 am

There should be a large sign on au pair’s pages that says

“Lying about driving skills is a major cause of rematch” (or about anything really…)

I can’t believe how many girls have problems with this… It makes me wonder whether they are naive enough to think that people just won’t notice, or if they have a wrong image of themselves and they just don’t really know they are bad drivers.

ReturnAupair September 1, 2013 at 3:33 am

I dont think that an AuPair who has a drivers licens is really lying. I think that most of that aupairs think they are good drivers. I thought i where a good driver and after a couple of years driving i just see the difference. You are never a really good driver after just getting your driver license. You may be a good driver after driving 3 Years every day in a row in your own car.

But if the AUpairs says i have driven in snow and when its snowing and then it was a ly, that would be a no go rematch reason.

If i would be a hostmom i would google about how the aupair iam willing to match made a drive license. (Does she just had to pay money, does she had to learn signs, past test, how long does it take?, how is the gererally driving in this country? are they following rules?)

But since the Aupair is aleady theire, i would call the Agancy ask if they are willing to pay here lessons. If she is not improving or if they are not willing to pay, rematch. Nobody will be happy with a non driving Aupair, nether you,the Kids or the Aupair who stucks at home.

HRHM September 2, 2013 at 9:29 am

I think in the US (especially for first time HPs and people who haven’t lived abroad) people are not aware that in many countries a license is a PURCHASE! Very few countries require a person to pass a reasonable test. We base our assumptions on our own experiences. In the US, most 16 year olds with a license would be able to drive safely (no comment on individual judgement!)

Should be working September 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm

True, HRHM, although our German au pairs in contrast find the US driving tests to be a joke! They have dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of study and practice when they get their license. And then they come here and see that you have to get something like a puny 16 out of 20 written questions right and do a simple drive-around.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

I think that varies from state to state. My state requires teenagers and all APs to do a 3-hour drug & alcohol test. Teenagers have to prove that they spent 80 hours on the road (sure, parents can lie), and break down how much is to be spent driving on a 2-lane road, highway, parallel parking, 3-point-turns, and nighttime driving. The practice, I guess is supposed to equate the minimal practice to pass the test.

When AP #5 had her accident, we added time to practice driving into her week (we were only booking her to work for 30 hours in most weeks, so asking her to spend an extra 10 hours practicing her driving skills was within our right if she wanted to stay, we felt). Our state permits many Europeans simply to take the D&A course and turn in their license to receive our state’s license (it wasn’t always that case).

Our licensing is cheaper and easier than in Europe, because in the U.S. driving a car is treated like a right not a privilege. (I once took DH to court – he had failed to carry his license one day and got caught rolling through a stop sign – and the number of people caught driving DWI who were still permitted to drive to and from work amazed me.)

Didis September 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm

I disagree. In several European country’s ( I can’t say for others) you are required to go to school for writing test, minimum 8 weeks and pass very hard test, and in my country I had to drive 2h 2x a week with instructor in 3 different cars for 2 months and just after that I was allowed to go take a test.

In my country and country’s near me it costs tons of money and effort to get license and if you are not prepared fully it can take you several months to get it done, so most of the young people are prepared and good driver.

I believe it’s hard for au pairs when they first come to relax enough to drive. Hosts have expectations, you are driving (usually) big car and kids you are responsible for, traffic is disaster almost everywhere and not to mention that it’s all new. I am pretty good driver but it took me long time to orientate
give your au pair control over it. take her to some abandoned parking lot and let her drive around. I believe it is not as much her driving skills as much it is fear of messing up hurting kids, disappointing you

Should be working September 1, 2013 at 2:15 am

One of the regulars on here once posted a stunningly thorough and revealing list of questions to truly determine driving experience, maybe on the “5 ways to assess . . .” post that CV linked to.

I paid for a two-hour lesson/evaluation for our experienced northern- European AP upon arrival, totally worth it. Just to show her the basic differences in driving habits here, go over some tricky intersections on the way to kids’ schools, and to give me a report on whether I should have any concerns. The AP had gone along with it reluctantly, thinking it was superfluous, but afterward said it was a great idea.

Meanwhile, CV is right that this post is about a marital disagreement. HM sees it is not a viable situation. And she is right. I wonder how often partner tensions arise over AP issues? At my house we have had some.

hOstCDmom September 1, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hi SBW – I think that was me. :) My original post is on the “5 ways to assess . . .” post that CV linked to, but here they are again in case anyone is interested:

*What is your driving license number?
*When did you receive your license?
*Do you own a car?
*Does your family own a car?
*In whose car did you practice for your DL exam?
*When did you start practicing for your DL exam?
*When does your driving license expire?
*Have you ever driven alone in a car? How often do you do this?
*Have you driven with friends?
*Do your mother and/or father have driving licenses?
*Do your siblings (if any) have driving licenses?
*Have you looked at the X State Driving license website that I sent you?
*Do you understand the kind of questions that will be on the written test?
*What kind of cars have you driven?
*Have you ever driven a “minivan” or “van” or “SUV” type of car?
*Do you usually drive an automatic transmission or manual transmission?
*Have you ever driven a manual transmission (“Stick shift”) car?
*What is the furthest distance you have ever driven?
*What are the usual speed limits on the roads you drive on?
*What kind of bad weather have you driven in? (snow? heavy rain?)
*Have you ever driven on icy roads?
*Have you ever used a GPS navigation system?
*At home, when you need to figure out how to drive somewhere, how do you get directions?
*Have you ever gotten lost while driving? If so, what did you do?
*Have you ever been on a road trip (a driving trip to someplace far away) with a friend?
*Have you driven at night?
*How often do you drive at night?
*In your experience, how is driving at nighttime different from driving during the daytime?
*Have you ever driven with children in the car?
*Is it typical, or the law, in your country to use seatbelts?
*How often do you wear a seatbelt when driving?
*Do passengers in your car wear seatbelts?
*What do you do if a passenger in your car does not want to wear a seatbelt?
*Is it typical in your country/town to use “car seats” (baby and child restraint seats) for children?
*Have you ever put a child in a car seat?
*What would you do if you were driving with a child and the child unbuckled its seatbelt or got out of the child car seat?
*Is it illegal in your country to drink alcohol and drive a car?

cv harquail September 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Although asking all of these questions might be overkill — this list really covers all the different angles you can take to circumvent lying. Even though some of the questions arent’ about the prospective au pair’s driving experience per se, they do open up the chance to talk and to see whether the au pair takes driving seriously.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I tried asking the seatbelt question in my verbal interview, and then found myself having to look the word up in whichever language the candidate used. I gave up. I do find that asking lots of driving related questions that are not yes/no or brief answer questions is useful. Of course, our dare-to-match with us letter now includes a driving paragraph after our experience with AP #5.

hOstCDmom September 1, 2013 at 9:28 am

The above are mydriving questions that I send to prospective au pairs when I think I’m interested in matching. I send by email, along with links to our DMV website, sample DMV questions, and rules for getting our state’s license. (Our APs have to get our state’s DL) and expect they provide written answers, then we discuss, in detail, in a driving phone call.

I find that if an AP’s family doesn’t own a car, that is a huge red flag (although one of our best au pairs was in this situation, but was upfront about it, and borrowed her cousin’s car 2x/week for 6 months before her arrival (we match very early!) in order to improve her skill (she already had the license and had driven enough to pass it w/o paying a bribe (I ask explicitly how much of a tip/black money/money under the table/gift one must give to the driving instructor to get the license – note, I don’t ask IF they had to pay it, I ask HOW MUCH they paid…sort of like the “when did you stop beating your wife” approach to cross examination. ;))

cAupair September 1, 2013 at 4:13 am

You clearly need a rematch, there’s no point you keep an au pair because it’s good with the baby or you. It doesn’t matter when you need to put your four years old on the back seat with her driving, I’d be terrified

I can say driving rules from America to Europe or China are bit different you can turn to the right when the traffic light is red if there’s no any traffic signal that says the opposite and there’s no cars coming… For us in Europe is crazy to do that!

traffic lights are behind the intersections and not before,even though it seems silly for us is not, because it’s confusing.

So at first we need some training for many reasons as you’re driving in a foreign country where driving rules are different, also learning to drive in a different language which can drive us crazy to understand some rules.
We’re talking about the security of your children’s, if your au air cant drive when you specific asked for that skill there’s no way to keep her.

Talk to her and explain why she can’t stay, because you need a better driver and tell her you’d be more than happy to help her in her rematch process to find a good family that luckily wont need a driver.

Dorsi September 1, 2013 at 4:51 am

We had a marginal driver this time around (the first year we have required a driver) and after a few drives I was pretty sure we would need to rematch. However, because the advice had been given so many times on this website, I contacted a local driving school and had her evaluated. The instructor actually said that she could be a “safe driver” with a handful of lessons and some practice. We paid for 7 lessons (the number they thought she would need to pass the state test). She was able to pass the test on her first try. It was all pretty stressful (and fortunately, I was on leave, so I could deal with the driving for a period of time).

I tried a few times to teach her, but I lacked the patience and the stomach for it. I do think there is a skill to teaching someone to drive and most of us have forgotten a lot of the basic physical skills that we had to learn — because they are instictual at this point. I know the driving instructor had very specific movements he taught her for turning around a corner (when to move the wheel, when to start letting it slip through your fingers and when to brake/ gas during the manuver). I think the people who spend all day teaching people to drive are much better at this than I am.

I taught her a very safe route (no freeway, no unprotected turns) from our house to preschool (the only place she needed to drive) and rode with her 10 times or so. After that, I let her start taking the car by herself on small trips. We haven’t had any real problems. She has not gotten unrestricted access to the car, but I think she is grateful she wasn’t rematched for this. As I have said before, our AP pool is fairly limited, so I am glad we worked with her to make the driving functional.

I don’ t think this is particularly relevant to the original post (she needs to rematch for all of the reasons outlined above), but I wanted to share my success for people who are in other driving messes. It was worth it for us to invest in this AP because she was trying hard at the rest of her job. We actually waited a few weeks to decide if she was a decent child care provider before we tackled the driving issue.

Host Mom in the City September 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

I don’t have any experience with driving specifically as we’ve had two excellent drivers, but what stuck out to me is (and I recognize it because I’ve been there), confusion over what is reasonable. COULD you spend hundreds of dollars and take her driving for hours every single day? Yes of course. And that may work to get her to a safe level of driving (though honestly, it doesn’t sound like that will even work here). Should you have to spend hundreds of dollars and hours of you time that could be spet with your own children just to have a child care provider who can meet a very very basic requirement of your job? NO. It is not at all reasonable for either the AP or the agency or for yourselves to expect to do that.

Don’t do it, OP. You will be more and more resentful as time goes on. It will also cause marital issues if you and your husband continue to disagree. Been there done that too. It is amazing the amount of stress and AP can put on someone and on a marriage when people disagree about what is reasonable to put into training and living with an AP.

Also, it seems like people always have these questions – should I extend? Should we try harder? And the answer from the experienced host moms is yes, extend. Yes, put a little more time and money into. BUT only if the AP is AMAZING. Your AP doesn’t sound amazing. She’s not good with your 4yo, she doesn’t get that sleeping on the job isn’t appropriate without at least asking. She’s willing to ask you to spend lots of time and money on something she basically misrepresented herself on if not straight out lied.

And even if she was amazing, when you get to the point where you’re prwctically spending more time, thought, and/or money on your AP than you do your own children, do not let yourself continue with the relationship. There are many host families who don’t need drivers (we’re one!). If its clear that you only rematched because of that, someone will take her. And it will work out better for both of you.

CaHostMom September 1, 2013 at 7:26 am

I was in the same boat as your family, but for me I was the one in denial about our first Chinese au pair’s driving ability.

Here’s what I did to help me realize that I had to rematch:

The bad driving was really bothering me, and I told both my husband and au pair that we needed to talk after the kids went to bed. I asked each of them individually how they felt the driving lessons were going. I really got no new information, other than more practice.

Then I asked our au pair how driving is different here than from China and her hometown. She gave me a long list. I’m glad she told me, because it helped me and my husband understand why certain things about driving in the US were difficult for her. And to help her save face, I explained that I’d probably be a really bad driver in China, because of all the different driving laws and conditions. I asked our au pair if she agreed that her driving habits from China are not helping her while driving in the US. She agreed, and said they are not.

Next I took out a piece of paper, and I asked my au pair and husband what they thought has gone well with the driving. And then I added my feedback. For each item mentioned, I wrote it down. Then I asked my au pair and husband what they thought did not go well, why it was bad and how it could be improved. For each item, we talked about it extensively, and I wrote everything down. When I saw how long the list was, I was horrified and (by the way) still in denial. With my optimistic attitude, I asked our au pair, my husband and myself if it was realistic that she can really make these significant improvements quickly, because our family will need her to do this for our family. Our au pair said yes (of course, to save face), my husband said he’ll try, and I said I would try to help too. I asked our au pair how we can help her in teaching her how to drive. I wrote everything down, and I thought it was reasonable, and said we as a family will try to help her.

A week went by with practicing everyday, and we talked about each driving outing about how it went the good, the bad, the improvements, and again wrote it all down. To my horror, the improvement list did not get better, the list grew longer everyday with new problems.

I honestly wanted her to drive better, but in the end I realized that this driving problem was a burden to my family, and our hard work in helping her was not helping our family. At the end of the week, I showed my au pair and husband the list, and asked them if they thought this is really going to get better. I told them that I set the expectation clear in our host family letter that we wanted a driver to help our family. And honestly, our au pair is suppose to be here to help our family, and not the other way around. I also realize that I should not be endangering my life, my husband’s life, or my kids life for this au pair’s inability to consistently follow our driving laws by teaching her to drive anymore. I realize that my family and kids should always come first. I’d rather spend time with my family than help my incompetent au pair drive. My best friend pointed out to me that I would not let a 16 year old with a brand new driver’s license to drive my kids around, and that my au pair’s inexperience is no exception to this fact.

Even after our au pair and I both paid for professional driving lessons, the driving still did not get better. I declared it a lost cause. It was no longer reasonable for her to stay. And I gave her two weeks notice.

I hope my journey of what I did to convince myself will help your family.

I’ve rematched twice in the last 10 months. All 3 au pairs are Chinese. I can tell you from the range of driving experience from the 3, that if au pair is really can drive, and is able to quickly adapt and learn new things, that applying US driving laws should not take 6 weeks.

DarthaStewart September 1, 2013 at 9:12 am

I’m sorry you’re going through this. We went through this once with a Georgian AP. She flipped the car in the first couple of minutes driving it with my husband inside. We persevered, and got her lessons. The day I was in the hospital, after having a baby, she was on an unfamiliar road in a nearby town, and felt lost, so she stopped the car in the middle of a four lane road, got out (accidentally locked the keys in the car), and walked to the nearest intersection to see where she was, and to try to figure it out. She couldn’t understand why people kept stopping to see if she was OK. Somehow when the cop stopped to figure out what was going on, she talked herself out of the ticket.
We needed a driver too, and ended up not letting her drive, and got a second au-pair. (And I would probably just break the match nowadays)
IME, au-pairs that come from non-driving cultures should not be matched into families that require a driving au-pair. They just don’t follow the same thought processes, and they don’t “get it’, because they haven’t had the thought about driving since they were knee high to a grasshopper. So, in general, we require drivers, and only talk to au-pairs from western Europe. (we would talk to south american au-pairs from certain areas, but I’m a nearly native speaker of both Spanish and Portuguese, so that doesn’t go so well either).

Chicago Host Mom September 1, 2013 at 9:26 am

Ughhh – rematch now. We had a problem with a Thai au pair who underrepresented her driving skills. Although she had a license, she later told me it is possible to buy off driving instructors there to get a license. We spent too much time teaching her to drive, and she never really became a good driver. At first, while we practiced, we hired someone to drop off and pick up my son at activities – at an extra cost of about $100/mo. It took about four months before our au pair was a strong enough driver to drive the kids independently, and she ultimately only drove them to and from school because I didn’t have enough faith in her to drive to other enrichment and activities. That alone will be a source of friction if you stick with this girl. The bigger problem that we did have eventually was that she damaged our car repeatedly — severely scratched the body, hit the tree in our yard, and backed into things several times (including driving through the garage door), which caused endless problems dealing with who was going to pay for what and sending the car to the shop etc. Fortunately nobody was ever hurt, and she was an honest girl who tried hard, but she just was not a good match for our family. That’s why REMATCH exists. Don’t put yourself through any more stress. Tell her she is a lovely girl but it is just not a good fit. There are plenty of lovely au pairs who can drive and fulfill the childcare expectations.

maggie September 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

Everyone’s comments have been SO extremely helpful. I am very appreciative that so many of you took the time to respond with your experience and advice. I am going to have my husband look through the responses so he may get a third party perspective.
Thank you all so much again.

Anna September 1, 2013 at 10:31 am

With a first au pair or a first rematch situation, I also tried longer than I should have for the sake of my children and family. In hindsight, I should have rematched much sooner. One au pair lasted 10 months that should have been gone after 2 – my kids showed the consequences of her unsuitability to be with them for a long time after.
It is supposed to make your life easier. If it makes it harder, learn from us, rematch sooner than later.

MidAtlantic Host Family September 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm

I agree. I think the inclination with the first AP who also happens to be a rematch situation is to go way overboard blaming yourself for things not working and make too many accommodations. The AP program is meant to make your life easier as part of the cultural exchange. Think back to the discussions you had with your spouse about whether to try the AP program and host someone in your house. If the primary purpose for joining the program was to help get your kids where they need to be, this AP is clearly not for you.

hOstCDmom September 1, 2013 at 11:20 am

DH should stop teaching her to drive — you got an AP and now he has 7-10+ more hours of (uncompensated) work a week? That is NOT reasonable. I don’t even spend that much time driving with my teen!

Don’t take her to class. You got an AP and now you have 4 hours of driving time, in the evenings, per week. That is NOT reasonable. Her inability to drive is the cause of her inability to go to class (contrasted with a situation where the AP can drive and the HF won’t make the car available and thus must drive the AP). Inform your LCC that you will not be driving.

She is your AP, not your child, not even your neice. This is not a charitable endeavor — this is meant to be a job and a mutually beneficial cultural exchange.

Your life got significantly more difficult, and expensive (beyond the typical AP costs) when you got an AP. Keeping going with this situation is NOT rational — not emotionally rational, not time-management rational, and not economically rational. YOU SHOULD REMATCH and STOP THE MADNESS NOW.

PhillyMom September 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I would rematch and replace this Au Pair, just as I would be replaced at my job after lying about non-existing skill pertinent to job performance. I think it is pretty simple:)))

Taking a Computer Lunch September 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

I don’t think Chinese APs are lying about being able to drive. It’s just the rules and standards for driving are so different. When I read Country driving: A Chinese road trip by Peter Hessler, I gained a lot of insight into why AP #5 was a bad driver. There should be a representative for the agencies in China testing for American driving standards, not Chinese (they don’t get an International license either). After all, the APs have to pay a fortune in fees (AP #5 spent months paying back loans from family members) to come to the U.S., so everyone loses when they arrive unable to drive.

APIA warns HF when an AP’s language ability is sub-standard. There should be a standard warning for driving for APs coming from countries where it is likely to be an issue, too.

Old China Hand September 3, 2013 at 9:15 am

This is a great idea, but I think the agency representatives are part of the problem. They are the ones who told our AP to lie about her swimming ability, after all. The one our AP came from told the girls to say that they have a license (which they all do) and to say that they are uncomfortable driving in bad weather and when there is traffic. I think those are the key questions on the GAP app to show that Chinese girls can’t drive even if they have a license. Most of her friends have gone into rematch because none of them can drive, although they have licenses. My husband and I think that it is partly a culture of driving thing (we both have Chinese licenses and have driven extensively there and here). We all grow up with safe drivers and ride in private cars a lot. That is part of our learning to drive years before we even start to think about driver’s ed or something like that. In any case, our AP admits that she can barely drive and hasn’t challenged our no driving rule for her. It helps that we only have manual transmission cars and her Chinese license doesn’t authorize her to drive those, although she has a few times. She doesn’t know that in the US there isn’t a distinction between manual and automatic on our licenses.

Seattle Mom September 8, 2013 at 12:36 am

Great idea! A driving test should be part of the application process, just like the interview and language test. Then we would all really know.

lola September 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Running over the curb??? This is madness! All your wasted time, energy and effort, plus marital stress. After about a 4-6 week adjustment and training period, your life with an au pair should be significantly less stressful than it was before. It is not. Rematch now. There ARE au pairs out there who are not only better fits for your family childcare-wise, but who will be excellent drivers right off the bat. Our LCC does not recommend anyone who needs a driver look outside of Western Europe because of the headache, uncertainty, and cost it will bring the family. Germany, Sweden, Denmark…our au pairs from these countries were all far better drivers than me when I first got my license.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I would like to add, based on my own experience, that a non-driving AP will only be an advanced beginning driver by the end of one year. If we think of the acquisition of a driver’s license as meeting the minimal qualifications to be a driver (anyone who has raised a teenager knows that parents still hold their breath when they drive away alone). It’s not about being good or bad driver at the time of acquiring the license, because the process of becoming a good driver takes practice, practice, practice. If you have the time and energy to help your AP get the needed practice to become a good driver, fine. If you don’t, then don’t feel guilty about going into rematch. HF pay good money to have a 3rd adult in the house that assists them in raising their children, not to have another child in the house.

AP #1 had bought her license the old fashioned way, but she had good instincts about driving (and had owned and operated a car in her country for two years). At that point in our lives, DH did have time every evening to practice with her (she was really really really good with our special needs child and infant), but it wasn’t until she acquired a boyfriend that required a 30 minute drive on four-lane highway that her driving really improved. Within 6 months of her arrival she had enough practice under her belt that we had no qualms about letting her drive anywhere.

AP #8 had two distracted driving incidents – blowing by a school-bus with flashing lights in front of another parent in our carpool (she claimed not to have seen it even though it was on a narrow road with cars parked on one side) followed by a failure to yield at a stop sign that nearly totaled the AP car (fortunately no one was hurt, although DH did have to get up at 11:30 on a weekday while I rang AAA to quickly acquire a membership so the car could be towed). We did not rematch, but we did institute two restrictions – the AP had to pay for a two-hour driving assessment and the car had a 10:00 curfew (8 hours before she started working in the morning). In hindsight, I should have gone into rematch (even though it would have meant waiting for an out-of-country AP) – it wasn’t just the accident but it definitely affected our ability to bond with her as a family member. Our car insurance required her to acquire a US license to remain on our insurance (and instituted that all APs coming into our household now have to acquire a license within 4 months – even though our state does not require it during the first year).

OP, you have too much on your platter – now is not the time to be a driving coach as well as job coach.

Resi September 1, 2013 at 5:44 pm

So a somewhat relevant question, does it really just take 3-4 weeks to get a drivers licence in America? It takes most people about 5-6 months here (Germany).

Aussie mum September 1, 2013 at 6:53 pm

You can’t trust her with your children in the car, she isn’t the aupair for you. Do what’s best for yourself and take the pressure off, thats why you wanted an aupair in the first place. After 3 years of hosting, if it isn’t going to work, rematch quickly. Your resentment will spill over and poison the relationship to the point where she is unhappy living with you and feels persecuted.

maggie September 2, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Well, the AuPair agency emailed this morning that they have a strict policy that they do not pay for driving lessons or driving assessments. Without my asking, in the same email, the agency gave us information regarding rematch and how the process works. Ug. Our AuPair is going to be devastated if we go this route. I know, I know, this is an ’employment’ that is not working and I would do it in a heatbeat if this was an American babysitter.
Thank you everyone. It was extremely helpful for my husband to read all of the advice. It got him to recognize that our overall needs are not being met and how much stress the AuPair’s lack of driving is creating for me.

Angie host mom September 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Rematch. If she was teachable with a few lessons and some practice, you could keep her, but that isn’t your situation.

We’ve had a non-driving au pair we have taught to drive. It took really a year. It was ok because we didn’t need a driver at first. You need a driver!

Current au pair can drive but not great. So we just have her drive short distances. It’s fine.

Skny September 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

Rematch. After 2 terrible drivers we decided that it would be one of those all or nothing skills. Some families say no smoking, if I catch you rematch. We’d say: must drive well, if not rematch.
It killed me that both terrible drivers we had felt entitled to driving privileges and rides whenever they wanted. Seriously. Lots of stress

Old China Hand September 3, 2013 at 9:19 am

I just posted above in response to TACL but also have a general comment.

The afternoon nap thing is cultural. In many parts of China lunch is 3 hours long (11:30 to 2:30 so that people can take an afternoon nap). It drives me batty that our AP takes a nap and then doesn’t always get done things that she is supposed to do. However, she almost always works past 5 pm finishing up chores, so she makes up for it. The culture is to stay up late and then sleep in the middle of the day. Could you talk with her about how there are things that she needs to do before she naps? Explaining things as a cultural difference helps a lot rather than just getting upset with her. (FYI, that’s how I dealt with the toilet paper in the trash can. “In the US we are able to put our TP into the toilet, so we don’t put it in the trash.” Matter. of. fact.) So with the nap, you could say something like “I know you are used to napping in the afternoon but in our family it’s not ok to nap or rest until you are done with x, y, or z chores. If you have other chores that aren’t urgent and you can’t get them done during the day, you’ll have to finish after work.”

All this being said, if you need a driver and don’t have one, you need to rematch. Your husband is wasting your time and you are changing your schedule to accommodate your au pair in unreasonable ways.

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

Good reminder about cultural differences, Old China Hand. Thank you!

Host Mom X September 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

This is so totally off-topic, but I just had to post an empathy response to the “no TP in the trash” comment! This is a cultural difference between the U.S. and some other countries that totally grosses me out, and is also really uncomfortable to bring up with an AP who does this – no matter how matter-of-factly you do it! Our AP who couldn’t speak or understand a word of English did this (we rematched quickly with her; NOT over the TP issue, don’t worry!), and it got soooo awkward because we could NOT make her understand that she should stop throwing poopy TP in the garbage (and her bathroom was also our “guest” bathroom, so we REALLY needed that to stop!). I have a basic competence in her language, or so I thought, but my saying it, and then my google-translating it ten different ways somehow didn’t seem to do the trick. (And I think this issue is too awkward to be raised by a male to a female, so I didn’t want DH to reinforce.) Maybe it was just a too-ingrained habit, I don’t know. Still shudder just thinking about all the poopy TP in the trash. (Of course coming to a new country creates some digestion and processing issues in the first few weeks.) I’m sorry – I am being juvenile now.

LookingForwardToBeAP September 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

you made me grin Host Mom X!!

Ohhh the cultural differences!

In my country you cant put toilet paper in the toilet (because it clogs), it has to go in the trash, BUT we have bidets!!! So you only use TP for number 1 (and trash cans have a lid, and you take the trash out frecuently).

For me what really grosses me is the fact that you clean yourself up with paper after number 2!!! I just can’t do it! Can’t understand how people do that! I lived in a country that didnt have bidets for 6 months and after a week of trying with TP I ended up buying baby guipes (sp?) for myself.

Yes, its gross, I am sorry

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Actually, I think it’s becoming more common in the US to use these newer flushable wipes for exactly that purpose! Just don’t flush the baby wipes!!!

LookingForwardToBeAP September 3, 2013 at 2:41 pm

That is actually a very good news to me!! thank you!

Host Mom X September 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I agree with you that the U.S. could learn from bidet culture!

LookingForwardToBeAP September 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm


Old China Hand September 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm

That is so funny, because I didn’t even find the discussion at all awkward with our ap. I speak her language close to fluently (certainly better than her English) and I just threw out there on the second day when I noticed it, “so in the us plumbing is different than in china and you can put paper in the toilet. But still no pads.” Sort of the opposite of explaining to westerners that they will clog their toilet in china if they put tp into it. I should just post how to say it in Chinese on here so people can just show their aps when it’s an issue. :) totally was a non-issue for us.

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

Has anyone had any experience with a driver from a country that drives on the other side of the road? We almost matched this year with an au pair from Australia, and decided against it for other reasons, but the left-side driving gave me pause too.

Emerald City HM September 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

We are dealing with that just now. Our au pair is from Japan. Not only is that the left side, but the signs are all very different too. Compared to some of the stories, she is actually a pretty good driver. I am not sure if she will pass the exam this Thursday, because of the backing around a corner and parallel parking manuvers. There are some rule breaking things that we have observed, but she has corrected them since we have told her what they are.

She has had her license in Japan for 4 years, so she is not new to driving. I would probably not pick a newer driver from a left driving country.

I think her biggest problem with the test might be if they re-phrase an instruction and she does not understand (her english is not great and she has only been here a little over a month).

I think if the au pair is experienced enough with driving they still know how to operate a car anyway. It takes a little bit extra concentration to drive on the right side of the road when you are used to driving on the left, but it shouldn’t take too long to adjust.

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thanks for this – good to hear!

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair September 4, 2013 at 11:26 am

I usually cope well with driving on the left side, even though I am used to driving on the right. It is only when I get back home that I struggle to drive on the right ;)

The other thing that came to my head is, that I always found it a LOT harder to drive my hostparents cars, because they were my hostparents cars ;) I was a lot more nervous driving their car, than I would ever be driving mine..

Melissa September 7, 2013 at 10:23 pm

We’ve had 5 South African APs and they all adjusted fairly easily to driving on the other side of the road. They all did lots of freeway driving too while with us. Some were better drivers than others, but it seemed to be related to how long they had been driving at home. We had one AP who didn’t have her license for very long in her home country, who needed more time adjusting to driving in the US. Now we look for applicants who have had their license for at least two years. Ironically, our worst driver, by far, was from Germany. She lasted two months and then we rematched (not due to the driving).

Momma Gadget September 6, 2013 at 10:27 am

We had 2 South African APs. One was an excellent driver, one was a good but nervous extremelt cautious driver ( she lost her mother and 2 siblings in a terrible car accident when she deas a child) . They both adjusted quickly to driving on the “wrong” side of road and driving our large SUVs. FTR-We live in a heavily populated, aggressive driver area.
The nervous driver always had the GPS set to avoid highways- my older son used to complain that she always drove through the “Ghettos” to take him anyhere ( instead of driving on the highway).
She did have one accident (not her fault) .

OP- your AP position requires a driver. Rematch.
Are you really willing to endanger your children and everyone else on the road?!!! “Rematch” is a scarey word for first time HFs but it is not as stressful as keeping an unsuitable match. You and your DH have tried. Your sanity, and your children’s safety deserve a compitent, safe driver. Rematch- You all will be happier in the long run.

Momma Gadget September 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

Sorry for all the “fat finger” typing!

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Another driving-related question – how does the timing work out for you with adding your au pair to your insurance, practicing to get her license, actually getting her license, and then actually beginning driving duties?

Our car insurance won’t add our au pair unless she has her license, which she can’t get until she practices and passes the test. It’s like a chicken and an egg thing. How have others made this work?

Also, what do you do if you need someone to start driving right away? Presumably it takes a few weeks to get a license (need the SSN card, which takes two weeks, then passing all the tests, etc.). Do you just do the driving yourself those weeks?

hOstCDmom September 3, 2013 at 2:56 pm

APs from most countries, in most states, can legally drive on home license + Int’l Drivers Permit (IDP) for one year. Doesn’t mean that every police officer knows about the convention to which USA and most countries are signatories to…but it is the law in most states, with exceptions for a few countries. Varies state by state, but your DMV should have your state regulations in this regard (ours does on the DMV website).

Our insurance permits us to add the AP without their having a state license. We add them on the day they arrive (we just call and get them added with their national DL number, and passport number.)

WE, as HP, require the HP to get a state license. But it takes a long time in our state due to new law that ALL folks who didn’t previously have a state license, even those over 18 yrs old, MUST have a permit for 90 days. So AP must get SSN, then take 8 hour drug and alcohol course, then take written driving test to get permit, then wait 90 days, THEN can take on the road test. A huge process; lots of agro and lots of admin. But we make them do it even though our insurance company does not.

Should be working September 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Our AP has had a lot of trouble getting her DL because of new “Homeland Security” rules. Apparently HS has to receive, review and send back to the DMV her DL application before she can get the DL. And because she postponed getting the DL (international license was acceptable for insurance), she had less than 6 months on her visa and so HS held the application.

Anyone else run into this? It adds a round of HS to the DMV, which really makes for long waits.

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Is this because she was from a particular country or is this typical?

Should be working September 4, 2013 at 12:26 am

She’s western euro, so I would think its a wider phenomenon.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

I recommend calling your LCC. She should be versed in licensing procedures in your state.

Emerald City HM September 4, 2013 at 2:00 am

Our state isn’t compliant with Real ID yet as far as I know, so I have no idea how this will affect us this year or in the future. Seems like more ridiculous hoop jumping and reading more into it, I sure hope I’m able to board a plane in 2014… Ugh.

NoVA Twin Mom September 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

Our new extension au pair (arriving today!) ran into this “can’t get a driver’s license because within 6 months of visa expiration” problem in Pennsylvania – are you in Pennsylvania? I haven’t heard of the problem here (though will apparently find out soon as the wrinkle meant that she has to get a Virginia license now instead of transferring a Pennsylvania license to Virginia…) She’s from Western Europe.

Should be working September 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

Not PA here. But I am interested in how this would affect all 6-month extension APs.

LCC had no idea of the issue, but she is our 4th in 2 yrs.

NoVA Twin Mom September 4, 2013 at 9:38 am

Luckily our extension au pair is here for 9 months (or I might have insisted she get here for a weekend to get a license between match and move to avoid the “within six months” problem just in case it applies here – it would be a long drive or bus ride from where she was to here but doable!)

As it is we’re going to try to get her to the DMV this week. As she’s an extension au pair she should already have a SSN (not required in the past to get a DL here) and our LCC had her get something “business like” mailed here in advance – that piece of mail is what the DMV wants to see to show her address.

Emerald City HM September 3, 2013 at 3:24 pm

As host parents we also require a state DL for her to drive the kids. Our insurance is permissive use. So he is covered if she has permission to take the car. We do not put her on until she will be a regular driver, so as she is practicing for the test, we don’t have her officially on insurance an they have stated thi is ok. It was the same for my son until he got his license.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 4, 2013 at 7:03 am

Until our AP gets her SSN, we treat her as if she were a guest driving our car. So far that has worked well for us. Even with AP #8, who nearly totaled the car 7 weeks in, our insurance covered the accident (minus the deductible, which the AP paid). However, when it came time to renew our policy, the underwriter told us that they would drop her from coverage unless she had a state license and gave a deadline.

Momma Gadget September 6, 2013 at 10:49 am

We did the same. All our APs have had internationsl licenses. We require that they get a state lisence within the first 3 months ( NJ state law)
They REALLY don’t like international licenses.
Our rematch AP had an accident in our driveway- the 1st week on her own. They gave her a really hard time.
All our APs were able to take the state DL test on their own with the paperwork from the agency, ss, passport, proof of residency (mailed bank statement)and ID’s. We never had to sign anything.

oranje_mama September 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm

OP – rematch now! You and DH are spending WAY too much time and effort on trying to make this work. Get your LCC involved ASAP and move some of the burden of figuring out next steps onto her shoulders.

We have had only German APs. One of the reasons is that you can be sure that if your AP has a German license, she really does know how to drive. The German license test/requirements are particularly rigorous (even compared to other European countries). It’s also very expensive to get a license, so people take it seriously.

Still, I pay for a US/local driving refresher – beltway-driving acclimation lesson, even for my German APs. In our state, German APs can exchange their license for our state license without taking the written or practical test. I do require that my AP studies the manual and takes the practice on-line test. The refresher lesson is a good way for the AP to learn the differences in rules and get used to driving on the beltway. I think that everyone (AP & we) feels better once the driving instructor has given the seal of approval.

Re insurance: our insurance company has given us the same line – that they can’t add her unless she has a local state license. However, when you push back, they then will say, OK we’ll add her, just make sure she gets the state license within a few months. We have GEICO insurance.

We have our APs test drive with us on day #1. Assuming all goes well, one of us accompanies while she drives as much as possible in the first 3 days. Depending on how it’s going, we may or may not have her driving the kids solo to activities in the first week. Fortunately, our kids after-school activities are close by & don’t involve difficult driving.

Anna September 3, 2013 at 7:11 pm

And I hate to add this but I will:
I also think your husband is so nice and accomodating to her because she is a girl/female. If she were a male au pair he may not have put up with this. There is nothing wrong with this, it could be instinctual “damsel in distress” helping instinct that males have toward young females.

Host Mom in the City September 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Eh, I don’t know. That’s pretty presumptuous without knowing anything beyond what was written here. It’s just as likely that he just wants his first AP experience to work and doesn’t have a grasp of what is reasonable versus resentment-inducing yet.

My husband wanted to kick our AP to the curb after month two and I was the one trying to give her a second, third, fourth … chance. I am a fixed and an accommodater – kept thinking “if I just try this one more thing…” And don’t really like to give up. Maybe the Dh here is the same? But maybe not – we really have very little to work with here.

maggie September 4, 2013 at 4:23 am

Thanks again for all comments!
Nah, my husband is not acting this way because she is a “damsel in distress”. He is just truly the nicest guy in the world. He would help anyone who asked for his help with anything. He is the kind of guy that when I would likely throw the towel in on a friendship, family or other challenging situations he perserveres and it serves us both well.
Update: we are going out of town for 2 1/2 weeks on a cruise that has been planned for a year and so the AuPair is staying here as was always the plan. We are having a close family friend who is a retired military pilot who has taught MANY young drivers to drive who will work with her very regularly while we are gone. She has exactly four weeks from yesterday to obtain an Idaho driver’s license and so the day we return she is expected to have her license. This involves passing both the written and driving test. We explained to her that if this is not possible for her that we will have to rematch. I explained our plan to the LCC and the agency and everyone is on board. I know we are being a bit soft, but we will know better next time when interviewing AuPairs. My husband thinks she will be able to pass (not surprising given his optimism in life); I have my doubts.

Eva future AP September 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I am just finishing my application to become an AP with CC but I am wondering, speaking about driving: I am about to take my licence any day now and was wondering how host families feel about APs that hasn’t had their license long before moving to the states. I really am a good driver, (I come from Sweden and Spain and speak both languages fluently) and the driving in both countries is good but I was wondering if you think I might have problems matching with a family if I havn’t had my license for that long before moving (I do have a lot of experience and I drive almost every day, both with my mom and driving school and even with kids in the car).

AuPair life line September 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Hi, as a former Au pair I totally agree with American families when you need a Au pair to drive. As like in my country South Africa your driving is a essential of everyday life in this country and so in America. I do see the frustration from your side about communication. South Africa is known as a rainbow nation and has official 9 languages you have to learn in school. So I understand the communication frustration you all go thru when taking on Au pair that barely know how to speak English. But please bear in mind one of the main reasons that they Au pair is to learn English in America.

AuPair life line September 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Ohhh and one more thing….. You ladies rock!!! I must say as a former Au pair you ladies helped me a lot with some sound advise even thou I did have my ups and downs but still you need some one like you ladies to call a spade is a spade. Keep it up!!!

gianna September 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I was glad to read the comment by Host Mom in the City because I was thinking the same thing. The consensus seems to be for rematch. I am wondering about one of the concerns identified by CV : how to deal with a difference of opinion between host parents on a issue as serious ( and permanent as rematch ). I know my husband would argue in favor of hanging in there and I would not want to be cast in the position of the wicked Snow Queen. On the other hand, I would feel a need to consider his feelings if he were the one who wanted to go for a rematch.

Should be working September 4, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Gianna is pointing to the larger question CV’s setup focused on: how do HPs sometimes get into (and out of) conflicts over AP handling and decisions.

This seems to me a huge issue that we haven’t talked about much here. As in:

1. I (based on experience) am stricter and by-the-book, my husband leans toward loose and play-by-play without considering rules I’ve set up. It can lead to tension when he contravenes my rules (because HE has never read my handbook!), like suggesting to a newly-arrived AP to take the kids somewhere that requires that she drive the freeway BEFORE I have had time to give permission for freeway driving. Or giving her extra money sometimes when I have a “lending policy” (generous, but not without payback) spelled out.

2. He has no patience for the kind of scrutiny that AP selection requires, so I do that work, and even prefer to do that myself; but then when I present him with a few vetted candidates to consider he wonders why none of them are x or y, or if we shouldn’t be looking at a different country instead.

3. I will confess to sometimes feeling jealous of the time and energy he spends on our APs. NOT anything inappropriate, but rather friendly-paternal. He really enjoys talking, giving paternal-style advice, joking, hearing their stories, buying what they like to eat, considering birthday presents etc. Once in awhile, when I feel like *I* need more solicitous attention I wonder some of his reserve gets diverted to the AP. Now, in the end it is worth it because we have an affectionate, family-style relationship to our AP and it’s nice if he provides the AP-HP connection that I, frankly, don’t spend much time on. But when attention and energy are in short supply, I can get ruffled feathers over this.

Host Mom in the City September 5, 2013 at 8:17 am

This could be a post all it’s own as my husband and I have had some major disagreements in the way we manage our au pair. I do all of the searching, interviewing, selecting, setting up, writing the handbook, training, scheduling, etc. And then he wants to swoop in when something is going poorly and start being strict and making demands. He doesn’t seem to grasp sometimes what the program is – I think I’m sometimes a lot more lenient with an au pair than I would be with say, a nanny. Unfortunately this year I was way too lenient, so I think I might take a bit of his advice and be a little more forward.

I do think it’s confusing for our au pair sometimes to be double-managed. He’ll say one thing and I’ll say it a slightly different way and she’s confused what exactly we want from her. Also since we have such totally different styles, I think that’s confusing too.

Would love to hear more about this topic and how others handle the two parent management team.

Emerald City HM September 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I feel like I could have written this post.

I do feel like CV was trying to hint at that in the inital post, but yes I agree it would be nice to have this as a topic all it’s own.

We are still learning. My husband and I have conversations and do try to be on the same page, but I do feel like I end up doing a LOT of the legwork. This year I did have him specifically home to do the first few days of training and I’m thinking of attempting to keep it that way.

We are discussing things we need to have a method for: what is worth our time to do, what we expect the au pair to do, and what we should be paying someone else to do.

Examples of that is how much hand holding we do to get them not only trained, but set up in US. SS card, bus pass, bank account, driver’s license, etc. We struggle with the line between adult that should be able to figure out a lot of this stuff and not very accomodating systems with the combination of poor english on first arrival. We also don’t have school age children, so the au pair doesn’t have free time during the day to figure these things out on her own time because she’d have to schlep 2 kids with her to do them.

For other things, we really do try to discuss and have a consistent message. We try (don’t always suceed) to have weekly family meetings to address any concerns with both of us there in an attempt to avoid her receiving two different messages.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

DH and I spent a lot of the matching process in tandem or together, which slows us down but also forces us to communicate about what we like/dislike in prospective APs. Because he is a very involved parent (he quit his job and cared for our special needs child for 21 months because I was the parent with benefits and recently turned down a promotion that would have taken away a lot of his flexibility to be with the family), he does a lot of the training. We agree on the “face” of the family as we present ourselves – our “dare to match with us email,” our agency application, and the AP handbook.

However, once we’ve matched, I’m in charge of communication, buying the train ticket from orientation, remembering to buy the fruit platter to be delivered to the AP’s hotel room, scouring the AP suite, and buying the little toiletries and desk supplies to welcome her to our family (he buys the flowers and meets her at the train station).

We try to stay on the same page in dealing with AP. He sees her in the morning, and I see her in the afternoon, so we tend to discuss different things with her, but I think our basic message is the same. He’s more likely to take a day off from work so she can go to a concert. But I think our AP management styles are pretty much the same as our parenting styles – we talk a lot.

We did have one AP who played us off each other and it blew up in her face. She got what she wanted in the instant, but lost our trust in the long run.

Momma Gadget September 6, 2013 at 11:56 am

I got too caught up in the “bad driver” thing I totally missed the spousal strife caused by the AP program.

I am fortunate to have one of those tall dark hansonw and silent type of husbands. Which is a double edged sword- usually I always get my way, but it means that I carry almost everything on my shoulders.

Usually I go through the dossiers and then pass along any that I think might be suitable.My DH is very quiet, yet when he does venture an opinion it is usually spot on. He is also a much better judge of character than I am.
So far the only thing that we dissagreed on in the matching process is having a male AP. It took a disasterous match during a very busy stressful period to get him to agree to try a male AP. Incase Anyone hasn’t seen my raves- we are a loyal bro pair family now.

We do have tiffs every once in a while when he has an issue with An Ap like not emptying the lint basket, putting too much mileage on the car etc, because he expects me to deal with any of his issues with an AP rather than just telling the AP himself. But on the big stuff- car accident, or an AP illness/hospitalization, he is right there
helping out.

I truly enjoy all our APs. I often end up sitting in the kitchen chatting with them about their experiences here and at home well after everyone has gone to bed. My DH tends to keep more distance though he enjoyed the our 2nd APs wonderful sense of humor, and our 1st bropairs interest in cars and micro-brews.

We probably have more dissagreements with our older kids about the AP. I’ve had to explain that we have made a commitment to bring an AP to our country, and that we need to give them a chance.
We don’t just send them home because they tell you something you don’t want to hear (or enforce our rules!) Finding the right AP was much easier when they were younger. We were determined not to raise “lemmings” and now have the added pleasure of dealing with very creative thinking teenagers, who also know everything.(LOL)

Tristatemom October 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Your husband sounds like mine! I don’t like when he wants me to speak with the AP about a behavior etc. that he observed and didn’t like but doesn’t want tell her directly. Oh, and I am also supposed to figure out a way to tell her without it being obvious that I got that info from him. [insert eye roll]. I call it wanting his cake and eating it too.
But when we talk rematch etc., my husband delivers the news because he is more diplomatic and softens the blows.

Skny October 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm

With My husband what kills me is that he won’t talk any issue with the au pair. Even if it is in his face. He will see the thing going wrong and talk to au pair as if all good.
I will get texts at work with: why is ap not cleaning? why are kids watching tv? will she not do that? I will then get home, and have to deal with
it. So it is like: hi au pair, how are you? So can you please not do this, or do that, and by the way you are the one responsible for that.
And I am pretty sure some of them wished I’d work 24hs days, because life with HD is soo simple.

Seattle Mom September 8, 2013 at 12:48 am

For my DH it always comes down to whether he likes the AP or not. If he likes her, then she can get away with a lot (though he’ll whine about it to me). If he doesn’t like her, she’s out. This is my read after 3 APs though (and one rematch). I’m more forgiving in general.

I’m also the one who does all the initial interviewing & reading applications, though when I find someone I like I have DH read through their application with me before skyping. After reading this blog I’m now doing a very extensive email exchange with lots of “interview” questions before getting to the Skype part. The last 2 times I matched we jumped to Skype almost immediately. My husband is pretty discriminating so he vetoed some candidates from Skype that I thought were ok, but in the end it’s really important that he like them too so I go along with his judgment. I probably veto some people that he would consider, so it’s only fair :).

Also DH spends more time at home than I do (work hours, etc) so he spends more time dealing with the AP. Which is too bad, because I’m more diplomatic and have better cross-cultural communication skills (though he has lived abroad and speaks Japanese, German and French well- I barely speak some French).

Leaving a Comment September 8, 2013 at 2:16 am

I can see how sending interview questions via email can save you some time, but aren’t you afraid that the answers could be well prepared, consulted with friends, parents, whoever and not as honest as they would be if the question was asked face to face?

Seattle Mom September 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

It is possible… but I ask a lot of open ended questions where I’m really looking for a thoughtful person with a good communication style. A lot of the specific answers don’t matter that much. Attitude is the most important thing in my book.

TexasHM October 25, 2013 at 4:40 pm

We also send email interview rounds before Skype and if it takes the girl 8 minutes to respond to 10 questions there is no way she is “polling” but if every time you send a round it takes her 24 hours to respond I would be suspicious.

Busy Mom October 28, 2013 at 11:30 am

This has never been a concern, as I ask the important questions again during the skype interviews. For me, emailing is a way to discern level of interest and to cover some basic fit issues. I ask a combination of open-ended and fact based (e.g., when did you get your license) questions in emails. There are no ‘right’ answers to the open ended questions, so the only benefit of getting help would be to improve the written English. If that happens, it’s easily discernible in the interview. (I alwasy do at least 2 skype interviews)

I disagree with Texas HM on the 24 hour turnaround being an indicator of getting help with answers. People are busy. Several of our AP candidates have been in school or were away for a weekend, so I think that you can’t read too much into a long turnaround time.

Seattle Mom October 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I also like people who take time to think things through. If I get a rushed response that seems like their AP application “re-canned” then I don’t go any further with that person. I really want someone who is going to think about the questions that I write, and really express how they feel. I tell them to take a few days to respond, if they need it. If they ask me follow-up questions it is good, although sometimes they do hang themselves in the follow-up questions.

We have just matched with someone who doesn’t have the greatest grasp of English, but from her responses I can tell that she is really trying and that she has an approach to childcare that I appreciate. I am hoping that she is smart and will catch on, like our first AP. We speak french, her native language, so we’ll get by either way. It is always something of a risk, because you can’t really know what a person is actually like until they are in your house and working. The AP we just matched with is actually the sister of someone who was an AP in Seattle a year ago, and she was friends with our first AP. She has been to our house a few times and probably heard all the gossip from AP #1, so presumably she told her sister everything she knows. We did match with this woman on her own merits but it’s an added bonus that she really has a better idea of what she’s getting into. And we liked her sister, so hopefully we’ll like her too!

Host Mom X September 9, 2013 at 10:35 am

DH and I seem to have a pretty good “split” on how we handle AP issues and communication. I tend to spend a bit more time on the matching process than he does (i.e. reading through applications, narrowing down selections, writing up the handbook and “dare to match with us” emails, etc. – though we both do all of the interviewing together), although in the end we have a horrible matching record no matter who has spent more time on the narrowing-down process. With re-match interviewing (which we have always had the good fortune to be able to do in person), we both actively participate.

DH does most of the training and helping with introductory and getting acclimated stuff because his work hours can better accommodate that (he works from home a lot, and generally has the ability to be more flexible with work and time spent on work tasks). He also tends to deal with our APs much more than I do on a daily basis for the same reason. So – the APs tend to go to him when they need to ask for something, I think because they are just more used to figuring out what his reactions might be, and he is also just around. Also – they can get him “on the spot,” and have realized that he is more likely to say yes when put on the spot. He was kind of upset about this (as was I – since he would make snap decisions that neither of us were really okay with), so he has since started saying, “I’m going to talk about this with host mom first, and get back to you.” Of course – this created the impression with our last AP (and probably the other ones too!) that I am the more evil and restrictive of the two of us (well, that is probably true!), and wouldn’t “let” DH make decisions on his own. So, even if I am around, requests that might result in a “no” tend to get asked to DH rather than to me, just in case they can get the “yes” without him waiting to talk to me! Also – DH does have the more flexible schedule, so if the request has to do with time off, switching the schedule around, etc., the APs learn that I will generally have to defer to him on those questions anyway because it is his schedule that will be affected. But my default generally is to be over-protective of his schedule, because I know he gets upset when APs get the impression that he doesn’t really “work” because he works from home a lot, and consequently think that it is never an inconvenience to ask him to change his work schedule for them. But that sort of reinforces the AP’s view of me as the “evil” one, since if a re-scheduling request comes to me, my first answer is usually – “I don’t know if that will work,” and then if DH says, “oh yeah that’s fine,” I look mean. (Except that frequently DH will complain to me later on that AP is taking advantage of his schedule….when he could have just said, “I’m sorry, not this time!”)

With APs that DH likes, he is definitely more chatty and develops the light-hearted family-like relationship better than I can. He just has that personality. (He was also more familiar with the language and culture of our best AP, so he could joke with her in her language, about funny cultural differences, etc.) But with APs that DH does not like, I tend to try harder to keep friendly communication lines open, ask about their lives, offer advice for problems, etc. Though DH is still better at faking a good, casual relationship than I am, e.g. with light-hearted teasing conversation, etc. that keeps the mood comfortable. He’ll just complain more later on about how much he doesn’t like the AP!

I am usually the one who is better at remembering the little-but-big things that are meaningful, like the AP’s birthday, learning about cultural differences, geography, history of their country, holidays, getting little thank-you gifts now and again, etc.

DH is also more willing to bend the program rules now and again in small ways (or rather, just isn’t as familiar with them as I am, since he doesn’t think a little give-and-take on some things is a problem, if it all works as part of the relationship, so he doesn’t always realize or think it is significant when he has asked the AP to do something that breaks the rules, like working fifteen minutes beyond ten hours one day, or something like that). I get upset when I learn that we have broken the rules here and there, and DH’s response is always that “well, I let the AP do XYZ, or switched my hours around for her at the last minute and gave her an extra four hours off,” etc., so “it is a fair trade” that, e.g., she work 15 extra minutes over then hours one day in exchange for four hours off the next day. And it’s hard for me to respond to those kinds of things because he is the one with the flexible schedule that always ends up accommodating the AP.

Anyway – I definitely think this is an interesting topic, the host-parent relationship as it relates to the family-AP relationship.

Emerald City HM September 9, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I to try to use the phrase, “Let me think about it and I will get back to you tomorrow.” if I am put on the spot by a request (that needs some thinking about). That seems to avoid the perception of throwing DH under the bus. I am the one that writes the schedule, so the au pairs have typically come to me with schedule issues or other things, like family member visits.

I’m realizing as I type this I really should get DH on board with using this phrase when dealing with extended family too. Hmmm.

Host Mom in the City September 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Too funny! I also am quick to “yes” whenever either of my APs has asked me anything, and then only think about the implications of my yes later. Has anyone else noticed that they always seem to ask you for something at the worst times? Like right when you’re making dinner after working all day with a kid or two hanging on to each leg and AP comes in: “hey, can I have off next Tuesday?” In those instances, I have in the past been like “yeah sure whatever” just to get it taken care of. After some instances of this causing issues, I have trained myself to say “Let me take care of this and I’ll get back to you” and then give her a time that would be better to talk. Even if it’s something I could technically answer quickly and right then, I politely say that I can’t manage even one more thought at that moment, but then I’m sure to bring it up again as soon as I have a free minute. I also say “let me talk to my husband and see if that works for him” depending on the request.

This is one thing I really like texting for even though texting has become like the bane of my existence this year. My au pair communicates mainly through texting, so her requests frequently come that way. Gives me a minute to consider and craft my response.

Host Mom X September 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Hmm, I will suggest to DH that we both start implementing the “let ME think about it” phrasing! That way I’m not always the evil one!

I have definitely noticed that the requests always come at inconvenient times. But I actually think this is less by-design than it sometimes seems. The requests just come at “shift-changes” because that is when the AP and host parents are most often interacting with each other (after that, the AP might be out for the evening, or doesn’t want to disturb the host parents when they have finally sat down together with a glass of wine in front of the TV after long days at work and bedtime struggles; or the AP might want to ask in the morning as the HPs are rushing off to work because the AP knows she might not get a chance until the next day otherwise).

I also think as HMitC points out that texting does actually help with these situations – giving time to think about the response. Of course, the texts seem to always go to DH and not to me! But at least then he can forward them to me and we can discuss before he responds.

Seattle Mom September 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm

I often say “let me talk to DH about it” when asked for any accommodation- even if it won’t affect him (only me) I make it clear that we’re making decisions together. He checks with me too.

Should be working September 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Host Mom X, I think we are long-lost twins!! My DH works more at home; is more of a softie and likely to say yes; and then gets resentful that scheduling is not to his advantage because he said yes to things without consulting me (or standing by his own priorities and needs). And I’m seen as the mean one, and he is seen as the nice one. But he also bends rules and I don’t, which the AP has noticed can work for or against her depending on the situation.

Host Mom X September 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Indeed! And I too “Should be working”!

Ruth September 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Wow, I can completely understand your frustration and irritation! Our very first AP said she could drive as well and offered up that she has driven in the snow, etc. Being new HP’s, we didn’t even think to question it since she was from Europe and I tend to think Europeans are much better drivers anyway. She got here and, not only could she not drive after both my husband and I tried to work with her, but, like your AP, she had no intuition for the mechanics of the car, ran a red light with the my husband in the car and when he took her to an empty parking lot and told her to park in any parking space, that was a challenge. We realized after one week we couldn’t be responsible if she were to hit a kid in our neighborhood, most of all, as well as put her on the road and likely endanger herself. Of course, there was no way I was ever going to let her drive my baby, but I knew we weren’t going to be driving her to her evening classes when those started, so we had to rematch. Otherwise, she was a great AP and I was sorry to see her go after we had invested so much into her (having matched 4 months prior), but it was too much stress on our family not to have someone who couldn’t run to the grocery store, etc after having a new baby, not to mention her own happiness, social life and cirriculum requirements.

You are more than kind to have given as much time as you have to this AP and she should be more than grateful and busting her butt to compensate in other ways, which it clearly sounds like she’s not doing. I don’t blame you for being resentful. I was angry our AP had lied to us and put us in the precarious situation of rushing to find the next AP ASAP, which didn’t work out for us b/c you just need more time to interview, scour and sort vs being placed in a situation where you have one week to select an AP.

Please do yourselves a favor and REMATCH as soon as possible. I know it was a difficult adjustment for us with one baby, I can’t imagine your situation with a toddler and a baby and working full time. I wish you all the best in finding a stellar AP who is everything on paper as they are in person.

momto2 September 6, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Perodially I stop by here and read these threads to remind myself why it is that we left the au pair program a year and a half ago. Our family was in this situation with 5 out of 8 of our Au Pairs whom we hosted, and despite our best efforts, we just kept getting snowed on the driving issue when screening APs. We found ourselves being overly accomodating trying to teach them to drive after they arrived, just like the OP. We spent our free time being driving instructors, and we spent a lot of money paying for driving lessons for them. After living this scenario in re-run, over and over again, we became numb to how silly it was that we were trying so hard to fix a situation that was brought on by the AP’s dishonesty. It became our norm to try and fix problems brought on by the APs with each new one that came. Only one of the 5 who lied about her driving was ever able to become a good and safe driver. Another one was able to get a driver’s license, but crashed our car into a neighbor’s parked car due to her negligence. Our kids were in the car at the time. We couldn’t trust her to drive our kids anywhere again after that. Three others ended in rematch because despite our best efforts, they just could not learn to safely drive a car.

With our last and final AP, we knew we were getting burned out, and stopped being so accommodating. We paid for one behind the wheel session to get an overall assessment of her driving ability, and the instructor pointed out the areas the AP would fail on the road test. We discussed the assessment with the AP and provided her the necessary DMV manuals to study so that she could pass the written test, and she had access to a car to practice her driving during the day so she could pass the road test. We gave her a time limit of 30 days to pass the written and road tests and obtain a license, or we would seek re-match. We told her we would not register her for her class until she obtained a license because there would be no point in paying for the class if we were going to send her to rematch. This AP spent those next 30 days laying around in her room trying to master the Rubik’s Cube instead of trying to get a license. She went into rematch, and was unable to match with another family and was sent home. We left the program after that.

An option to consider with regard to tranporting the AP to school; can the AP car-pool with another AP and help pay for the gas? Can the AP take a taxi to school (at her expense of course, since her dishonesty caused this problem)? Can she withdraw from the class and re-register when she is able to safely drive?

Or, do a cost-benefit analysis of the situation and decide if this AP is really worth the trouble you are going through. I wish you the best of luck.

TexasHM September 7, 2013 at 10:25 am

Amen to rematch. Our first AP was not a good driver despite having a car and driving for 8 years. We coached her up to an acceptable level – only local driving, no highway, all practiced, familiar routes. It worked but was still a source of stress because she thought she was a great driver and wanted to take the car wherever she wanted, however she wanted. We told her 100 times we would practice highway driving with her but she never took us up on it, she just wanted free reign. Got worse when she got a boyfriend that lived downtown (30-45 min hwy depending in traffic and aggressive drivers here). Had one scenario where she asked to drive to lunch in front of another girl I had met 5 seconds earlier and I started asking questions (where? When will you be back?) and the other girl asked what the problem was! Our AP then proceeded to drive over an hour away straight hwy on only GPS and I found out where she was from another HM – we thought she would be in town (because we were very clear) but she said she misunderstood. I asked her what direction she had gone (N, S, E) when she got back to prove a point. She said “southwest?” Uh yeah you went northeast but good try! My long rambling point is this stress will never end. Even if she limps the line to pass the test you won’t be comfortable, you will continue to coach or spend money for lessons and she will take more classes or make plans that will ratchet up your angst and the marital division is HUGE! Once my husband said “I’m sick of spending my one hour before bed where we get to actually talk dealing with (AP)’s problem of the day, “needs” (wants) etc especially when she is the one that doesn’t fulfill the original job requirements. Would you hire a nanny and keep her if she had that driving ability? I know several nice girls that rematched into non driving households and everyone was happier – especially the girl! No more driving lessons every day, no more stress in asking for transportation, freedom to make plans without getting HF involved, win/win.

JJ Host Mom September 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

We took the great advice of some moms on this board and scheduled our new au pair for a single freeway driving lesson. There’s a school in our area that has a teacher that used to work for the DMV, and that’s who gave the lesson. For our au pair it was great because CA freeways are an entirely different animal than she’s used to, and it gave her a chance to get hands-on help navigating them, in a different car and from someone besides us. For us it was great because the teacher called afterwards and gave us a report on how it went, which meant we had a neutral, third party assessment of her driving. She did that within a week of arriving, so we knew right away whether her driving was going to be up to par. It cost us about the same as the APIA driving course they offer at orientation, but in our case turned out to be a lot more useful. I will definitely be doing that again. Thanks to the moms here who recommended that.

Also, before we match I send out my handbook, which makes it clear that I expect the AP to be ready to take the written driver’s test upon arrival, and to obtain a state driver’s license within two months or risk rematch. Also we don’t allow personal driving until the AP has her state license. I send out the DMV handbook a month or so before the au pair arrives, and expect her to have read it at least once and taken some practice tests by the time she arrives in the US.

The driving school we worked with said that CA does not recognize the international driver’s license, FWIW.

Dorsi September 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm

The state of California does not recognize an IDL, but allows one to drive legally on their foreign license. The IDL is simply a translation of your local license — in the US they are issued by AAA.

JBLV September 8, 2013 at 1:34 am

I suppose I will be the curmudgeon here this time.

The red flags to me are:
1. The au pair agency stinks!!! They didn’t warn a new host family that an au pair from China may not be able to drive even when she claims she can? Huh?!?! Anyone with a modicum of experience in the “au pair community” knows that if you a need a driver right away, hiring someone who comes from a culture known for good driving safety, skills, and etiquette is essential. Unfortunately, that rules out most Chinese au pairs. (It just does!) It’s far too much of a risk to match with them – your odds of getting a bad driver are high and significantly high at that. If everyone had the time and resources to pay for driving lessons, then hosting a Chinese au pair. But, alas, this isn’t the reality for the majority of host parents. An au pair agency who sends a Chinese au pair to a new host family who says they need a driver is just itchin’ for a rematch. Not until agencies start instituting legit driving tests for Chinese au pairs should agencies allow a match to go through with a family who needs a driver!

2. She naps when your child is napping?!?! What?!?! Danger Will Rogers, danger! No napping when you are “on duty.” Never, ever, ever, ever. This should have been impressed upon her by the agency and by the Area Director/Community Counselor/whatever your agency calls this person. If you experience an au pair who is napping/showering/or otherwise doing her personal business while “on duty” especially with small children, you should address that ASAP by calling your agency and AD/CC right away.

Look, it’s the case that there are certain AP Agencies who do a piss poor job of balancing the child care needs of host families with the experiential needs of the au pair. I won’t name names here (other than to say the worst agency probably has the initials that consist of two C’s and an A and a P.) Avoid those agencies. If this host mom can, she should try to get a refund as soon as possible. If not, tough it out with this agency for the year, and try a different agency next time.

Needless to say: REMATCH NOW! The stress this is giving you will take too much of a toll on your life and your marriage. An au pair should be an added value to your life, not the opposite.

Since you have immediate need for a driver, make sure your next au pair comes from a similar or better driving culture to/than the U.S.

Anneke September 8, 2013 at 7:48 am

I don’t think that “napping on duty” is something the agency has to decide, but rather each family itself.
I guess every parent knows that especially in the beginning taking care of young children can be pretty exhausting. For younger AuPairs, who have never had to focus 200% of their attention on children for more than 2-4 hours, the job can easily knock you out, so you’re just as tired as the kids are by the time nap time comes around.
I personally would rather have my AuPair have a light nap with my kids and be full of energy when they wake up, than have her/him be out of energy and not able to entertain my children the way the need to. Further more if s/he’s exhausted, the risk of her/him not reacting quickly enough in a dangerous situation is a lot higher.
It all depends, of course, on how deep the AuPair naps. If s/he’s able to have a light nap and is wide awake as soon as the babyphone makes a noise, I don’t see much of a problem. If on the other hand s/he fails to notice when the kids wake up or something happens, it’s a big no to naps.

JBLV September 8, 2013 at 6:59 pm

I have to respectfully disagree with you there, Anneke. Au Pairs have plenty of time to rest when “off duty.” What if the baby wakes and the au pair does not? And in this case, the host mom would like for her to do more things around the house while “on duty.” I always ask my au pairs to prepare meals, clean up, do laundry and prepare activities (crafts) for the kids while they nap.

There may be exceptions, like when the AP is sick…. but, generally, in our experience that has meant that the au pair is simply too sick to work.

Seattle Mom September 19, 2013 at 4:49 pm

My 2.5 year old naps better when the AP lies down with her in bed. Sometimes she falls asleep too. I don’t have a problem with that.

But I think that it is completely reasonable to expect an AP to stay awake the whole time they are on duty, it just comes down to what the HF wants.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 8, 2013 at 7:47 pm

While, I too, think the napping is a family issue (I was ok with it when my kids were little and my AP worked 9 hours a day, but when they stopped napping it wasn’t ok for her to try to force it).

However, if the HF needs and desires are not being met by the AP (and here I’m setting the driving aside and addressing the napping/chores), then it is ok to invoke the LCC. If your AP naps when you don’t want her to, sleeps too heavily for the safety of your children, and/or fails to complete chores because she’s napping for 2-3 hours a day, then it’s time to ask the LCC to have a chat.

Separate issue, but when AP #8 balked at the light house-cleaning and laundry chores, because “she didn’t come to be a housemaid,” I asked my LCC to have a “what is reasonable” chat. (My APs work 30-35 hours most weeks, sometimes less, and asking them to vacuum and dust one bedroom and wipe down one child’s bathroom, and do 3 loads of laundry (including her sheets with one child’s sheets and her towels with one child’s towels) was neither onerous nor time-consuming.

If you find that you’re constantly having to ask an AP to reset her attitude or level of work, then it’s time to use the word rematch in a sentence and arrange for a mediated meeting with an LCC. Sometimes hearing the word in a sentence is enough to light a fire under a mediocre AP so that she functions at a higher level.

But, if you’re finding that you’re ticking a long list of things that the AP doesn’t do, and then having major issues with her ability to do part of her job (including driving), then you matched with the wrong AP. It happens. Don’t apologize, start the rematch process (unless you have a special needs child, and then – good luck!).

Julia September 8, 2013 at 3:15 am

I say rematch to the driving issue but the napping thing I can’t see. I normally worked long hours starting at 5 am and yes in the beginning I had to be up when my HM left but after 3 weeks she knew I was responsiable and I didn’t had to. I had a toddler with just a bit over a year and once in a while when we had a busy morning or I had a bad night or when I was sick and still worked I would take a nap when he was. He would normally napp from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and my hostmum had no problem with it. Yes I had to do my chores and they all had to be done before I was off duty but if I needed a nap while the kid was napping not a problem at all. Ask yourself when you would be home all your chores are done and you would have the chance to take a nap wouldn’t you do so? For me when I would nap I would never fall into a deep sleep because I knew I was on duty.

Seattle Mom September 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Yes, I agree, rematch! There may be another family out there who would love your AP and who doesn’t need a driver.

I think the agencies need to do something about this issue, because obviously having a driver’s license (even for years) and APs believing themselves to be good drivers isn’t enough! It’s a really stressful part of matching!

Our history: first AP from France was an excellent driver. She was 24 years old and had her license for years, had driven her family’s big minibus too. Second AP from France was only 19 and had her license for about a year- she was a pretty bad driver and I was nervous about her driving the kids. She might have gotten better, but we rematched for other reasons. AP #3 from Thailand is actually a very good driver. She’s 27 and had her own car in the Bangkok area. I think she drives a little fast/aggressively compared to what I would really like, but I can tell that her reflexes and instincts are great- I don’t worry about her driving the kids.

We are now looking for a new AP, and while it would be best to have a good driver we can live with one who needs time to practice. We have switched to a preschool within walking distance, and there are good bus lines from our home to pretty much everywhere. I am telling APs now that we will evaluate their driving skills when they arrive, and if it seems like they just need some practice we’ll let them drive on their free time (during daylight hours) without the kids, but they will have to get to a point where we are comfortable with their driving before they can drive the kids. They also won’t be allowed on highways or anywhere outside of the immediate vicinity if they aren’t safe. Also if their driving is really scary then they will not be allowed to drive at all. Thankfully we have a grocery store 2 blocks from our house, playground 1/2 mile away, busses to the zoo & downtown, etc, but with a car everything is easier and there are many more options- so it would be best to have a driving AP. It wouldn’t really affect our lives, just the AP and the kids.

SouthAfricanAP September 9, 2013 at 6:55 am

This post is very interesting to me as a future ap. I have been driving since the beginning of this year and only got my license in August. I spent lots of money on driving lessons and perfecting my driving so I could Pass the driving test here. In South Africa, there is a specific way they teach you how to drive and it promotes defensive driving and techniques to help you stay safe on the road. I am worried that my short driving history will make me unappealing to families looking for an AP. I can only drive 2-3 times a week as I dont have my own car and my mom uses hers to work. But I am confident in my driving and drive my siblings (aged 16, 14 and 7) around a lot, on highways and at night. Should I be worried? Any comments will be appreciated.

Host Mom in the City September 9, 2013 at 7:03 am

SouthAfricanAP – you sound very thoughtful and mature, so I’m sure that will come through in your application too. I would say in your application exactly what you’ve said here – how hard you’ve been practicing and the special way in which you were taught to drive. However, there will be families who will pass you simply because you haven’t been driving that long and also because of the left-side driving. Families that really need a strong driver will probably be looking for someone with at least a couple years of driving. But there are also families that don’t need a driver or who don’t need someone to drive so much that it matters that they aren’t super experienced.

Don’t worry! But also, tell the truth. That’s what you should take away from here. Nothing that gets a family thinking rematch like finding out shortly after an AP arrives that she misrepresented information on her application.

Best of luck to you! And keep practicing!

Momma Gadget September 9, 2013 at 10:24 am

HMitC is spot on.
Your goal should be to match with the right family, not just “A” family.
This means your skills and personality should match with the requirements of the position. If skills are misrepresented, chances are the HF will be angry, and resentful and AuPair & HF will all be very unhappy.
Because of the heavy traffic, snow, ice, large confusing highways and aggressive drivers in our area, we require an EXPERIENCED driver. It is important for the safety of our children,the Au pair, and everyone else on the road that a candidate have extensive, genuine experience driving. We stay away from APs from countries known for misrepresented this skill, or buying their DLs.
You do sound like a conscientious, thoughtful AP candidate. There is for sure a family out there who who doesn’t need an experienced driver who would value your levelheadedness and be a perfect match for you. You don’t need be defensive about not having more experience driving, you just need to give an honest representation of your experience and training.
Rematch is not the end of the world, but it is extremely stressful with a lot of extra pressure due to time constraints. Plus there is no guarantee that next HF will be a better match than the 1st. It is far better to take the time, be realistic and honest about your skills, strengths and weaknesses to make the best match possible before you come here.
I hope you find a great family.
Good Luck to you!

SouthAfricanAP September 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Thank you for your lovely comments and help. I completely understand that safety of the children comes first and I would never want to jeopardize that for a year abroad. Here’s to crossing fingers that I find my perfect match :)

Seattle Mom September 19, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I’m currently considering an AP candidate from France who *just* got her driver’s license. Like you, she sounds honest, mature and responsible. Plus we can live with the situation if she turns out to need some time to get better at driving.

You’ll probably do fine :)

Busy Mom September 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Chiming in a little late, but all 5 of our APs have been excellent drivers (1 Germany, 2 Brazil, 2 France). We ask lots of driving questions (like the list posted above). When a candidate says they drive every day to X, we ask for the address of X and google map the route & distance. When they say they drive on the highway occasionally to X, we google map it and make sure it’s our definition of a highway (love that satellite view). I don’t even look at profiles where the AP drove rarely, I might look at one who drove sometimes but for a long duration. I exclude APs from countries with lax driving laws or no highways (US definition) and prefer APs from western Europe or Brazil. Because we live in an area with lots of traffic, highways and agressive drivers, not to mention those kooky NJ u-turns, we place a huge emphasis on highway driving experience. The first email exchange includes driving questions as a pre-screen.

I do think that it’s the rare AP candidate who will outright lie if asked detailed questions, but you need to ask those detailed questions to really understand their driving experience.

I’m confident that our soon-to-arrive 6th AP will also be a solid driver, but I am looking forward to the following year when we’ll transition to a part-time US nanny and I won’t have to worry about this issue as much.

Momma Gadget September 10, 2013 at 8:53 pm

” not to mention those kooky NJ u-turns,”
A friend who visits us swears there are no left turns in all of NJ!

Busy Mom September 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm

And the worst are those highways lined by stores (Rte 17 and Rte 4 up by us) where the exiting traffic criss-crosses with the incoming traffic. Yeesh. The thought of an inexperienced driver on those roads makes me shudder…

I should add that we can afford to be choosy because we have a really easy au pair job (3 school aged kids) with a comfortable room/private bathroom and a car (though this is not made evident until we review the handbook).

Seattle Mom September 19, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I used to live in DC.. grew up in NYC.. driving was sooo much harder on the east coast!

aupairathome September 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm

While I agree that if an au pair says they can drive and can’t, or whatever like that then of course you have reason to be mad but I think saying “learn to drive in 3-4 weeks TOPS” is unfair…I’ve been learning to drive for 3 and a half years and I can’t pass my test! lol! and of course, being able to drive in your own country can be so very different to driving in another…I au paired in Italy and even though they can “drive”, if they tried driving in England like they do in Italy then they would lose their licence faster than you can say pasta! if you require your au pair to drive, then as for proof of at least 3 years driving experience!

personally, I wouldn’t allow an au pair to drive my children…and I am one! no disrespect for good younger drivers but I know drivers of my own age and noooooooooo way would I allow my children in the car with them…

Aussiemum September 15, 2013 at 9:14 am

The problem is the family expected her to already be a safe driver and they didn’t get the aupair they expected and needed.

The main problem is yes, the time frame available to learn to drive competently is not long enough. This aupair probably didn’t mean to deceive, the standards for judging driving ability are likely very different in China to the US. But this family is better off with a different aupair, and she is suited to a family who dont need their aupair to drive.

maggie October 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Final Follow-Up:

Despite all odds, thanks 100% to the completely devoted efforts of our dear family friend, our AuPair passed both the written and the skills test and now is the proud owner of our state issued Driver’s License. Truly unbelievable.

We had the serious talk with her that we would have to rematch if she did not have her license on the day we returned from a three-week family vacation that we had planned a year ago. She was being left here and her only responsibility would be to learn to drive. Our dear friend who is retired military took her driving for 2 hours EVERY day for three entire weeks and she passed each test on her second try. (At the end, our friend even got offered a job by the contracted guy who does the skills test by the DMV for teaching her to drive! Ha!)

She is a safe driver and is now driving the children every day. Our older son is now enrolled in karate 2 days a week which was one of my goals, she takes the baby to his Infant Swim Rescue classes 3 mornings a week, does all school drop-offs and pick-ups, grocery shopping and drives herself to class.

It was not an easy road for us to get here, but DH and I are now on the same page. Will we do the AuPair program again? Probably not. It has been too much work and required WAY too much training on our part. Would she have a license if it wasn’t for our dedicated friend who was ‘looking for a project’ (ie. teaching her to drive)? No way.
I suppose we could revisit the idea and screen AuPairs from Europe rather than China next time around and use all of the great driving questions everyone has posted here on this site. We’ll see what we decide next summer …

Thanks again to everyone for your support. Even though we obviously didn’t end up in rematch, it was SO helpful for my husband to read these comments and realize that I was not being unrealistic in my expectations of our AuPair. It made a world of difference!

Seattle Mom October 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Wow, I’m really impressed. It was good fortune that you had a friend willing (and able) to do that, and that you had the time to invest in training your AP.

Should be working October 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Great story, Maggie, congrats. If you decide to try again with the AP program, read all around this website. Matching is a huge deal, but in fact the knowledge and skills it requires have little to do with the skills of actually having the AP in your house. And training can (with a good match) be done relatively quickly. I give it 3 intensive days plus another week of semi-supervision.

AussieAuPair October 25, 2013 at 2:50 am

Although I have a driver’s liscence, I have next to no experience driving. And therefore, as an AuPair, if a family expressed interest in me and wanted a driver, I would explicitly tell them straight away that I CANNOT drive. However, if we matched and I turned up and it turns out they needed me to and hadn’t said so, I would understand COMPLETELY if they wanted to rematch straight away – I would not be offended at all

Taking a Computer Lunch October 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I don’t think you should be passive about this if you are applying to become an au pair in the United States. Don’t wait for the HF to bring it up. Assume they want a driver unless they explicitly state they don’t. As I have stated elsewhere, in another thread, non-driving AP candidates need to thoroughly research the availability of public transportation when they interview. The potential HM could say “There is public transportation, I commute to work,” and the AP could discover that means “There is a commuter bus which runs from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm Monday through Friday.” Nowadays, bus schedules are completely available on the Internet and are an easy Google search away.

Seattle Mom October 29, 2013 at 2:58 pm

I agree with this completely!

When I contacted an au pair candidate (from Thailand) one of her first questions to me was whether I required my AP to drive. She had only had her license for a few months, and was from a rural area. She said that she only practiced driving for a few weeks to get her license- she took a 15 hour course, got her license, and never drove again. I think it’s great that she’s being so honest, because it would be terrible to come to the US and then have to go into rematch because she can’t drive well enough.

We would have been OK with a non-driver, but even in our neighborhood life is sooo much easier with an AP who can drive so that is our preference. I think most American families are not ok with a non-driver, because we just don’t have good transit in most suburbs & cities. We are very car dependent in this country.

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