Despite bad Au Pair performance: “My heart can’t handle the thought of destroying her life by sending her home”

by cv harquail on February 3, 2013

AFHost Mom posted this in the comments of a different post, and I’ve moved it here so that it can have its own conversation.

Au Pair Moms, I need a reality check.

We’ve just extended with our South American AP. She is very loving, very sweet, and loves the kids a lot. Her care has been ok, but her help around the house and her positive attitude have both weighed in her favor. As a result I’ve let some things go. To be blunt, she’s not very bright, and she can be too permissive with our children. This is her first time living away from home (never again), and frankly, I wish she’d get a life. She depends almost entirely on us and on skype for her social life–which I find unfair because we’re in our mid-30s and married, and she is 22 and should be living it up in her off hours. We care about her but she can be clingy. (For instance when I tell the kids “I love you!” in the morning, she always says “i love you too!”….which is minor, but again, when I’m your only link to society, it’s exhausting). She also had a bit of an emotional breakdown recently and again, I was the one who helped her pick up the pieces.

I’m tired, folks. I have 3 kids and a full time intellectually demanding job.

Anyway, the urgent issue is that yesterday my husband was home sick from work. He and I were supposed to go out last night (shopping–nothing exciting), so he was going to relieve her at 1. He went to my little kids’ (2 of them, they share) room, and found my 4 yr old son jumping on the bed, my 5 yr old daughter pulling the nightlight out of the socket and plugging it back in, and the AP under their covers, seemingly asleep. She sat up suddenly and he said “were you sleeping?” and she answered “I was trying to.”

Side note: we do give her 5 sick days a year; she’s never taken one. He said “you need to be watching the kids during the day and not sleeping.” She said “oh, ok.”

He took the kids, emailed me (at work), and I tried to call her. No answer. I called the home phone….no answer. I emailed her and said to call me when she got the message. Never heard a word.

On the one hand, I know she was upset and talking to her family back home, but on the other, there was no need to ignore me for 3 hours. This is an ongoing issue too–oftentimes I’ll try to get her during the day on her cell phone and there will be no answer. Or I’ll try the home phone and it will be busy (usually because one of my children has played with it and not hung it up). I told her last time this happened that the communication issue was a non-negotiable and that if she couldn’t follow the rules, answering call waiting, answering her phone, etc, we’re done.

So, I left work (early), came home, poured a glass of wine, and we had another talk with her. Another part of the problem is that her english is not good. We told her we’d talk again tomorrow, and then talk with our LCC Monday, and we didn’t know whether we would rematch or not. She BEGGED me to talk to my husband and convince him to give her another chance. I said “part of the problem is that you don’t understand what we say when we talk to you. We said we don’t know yet. Not that we were committed to rematch.”

Anyway, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I think she is a nice girl, but the reality is she will not find a family in rematch, because I cannot lie about our reason for rematching. Also, I get the impression that her mom is very, very hard on her, and her going home would be devastating–and not something she could get over easily. Her care will never live up to my hopes–it just never occurs to her that “jumping” is not an activity, and my kids need to be playing structured games and prepping for kindergarten next year. She doesn’t take the initiative to do projects with the kids. I’ve tried, I’ve bought craft supplies and sent her ideas and talked till i’m blue in the face, but I just get the “oh ok,” then no follow through.

She asked me if, should we decide to rematch, we can convert her to a student visa so she doesn’t have to go home, because we had previously had discussions about her staying a 3rd year as a student, and I told her at that time I’d try to help her. First, I don’t think you can “convert” a visa, and second, her plan involves living with us, which aint gonna happen–because I need an au pair, not a boarder. And also, I don’t have the liquid assets in the bank right now required by the DoS–but that’s a different story.

How do I get out of this? I want to rematch, but on the other hand, we have put the fear of God in her, and one more chance doesn’t seem so bad, and my heart can’t handle the thought of basically destroying her life by sending her home.


EastCoastHostMom February 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm

In addition to my “day job”, I am a crisis counselor and hotline responder for domestic violence and sexual assault. I’m going to offer a comment that occurred to me while reading your post –

Often, domestic violence (victims of physical AND/OR verbal abuse) adjust their normative frame of reference over time. Acts that would seem “awful” or abusive or manipulative to someone in a healthy relationship, don’t seemt that way to someone in an abusive relationship, because over time they adjust to the “new normal” that is their life. It isn’t that they are unaware of what is going on, or that they like it or feel good about it, it is rather that their barometer for what is ok, acceptable, or even what is a sign of love or normal behavior, shifts. They congnitive dissonance between what we like/expect and what we are getting shifts. This can lead, in my field, to hearing things from otherwise competant women, such as “he only spat at me, he didn’t hit me” or “he has a stressful job, he doesn’t mean to do X to me (when X is some controlling, hurtful, abusive behavior, be it physical or verbal). Most often stories of what their partner has done to hurt them, are qualified by “he’s a good guy”, “he had a hard childhood” “he’s under a lot of pressure at work” etc.

Also, women in abusive partnerships often feel responsible for the happiness and well being of their abusive partner in an unhealthy way. The abuser makes them feel that they will ruin his life if they leave him; abuser threatens suicide; abuser blames poor job performance on deficiiencies in the woman etc.

So, given that background, here is what came to mind when reading your post –

Based, of course, on the very limited info you posted here, it seems that your “HP Barometer” has shifted over time, and you are looking at your APs behavior and performance in a way that you wouldn’t if this were a new AP, or if these actions were occurring to a friend of yours and not in your home, daily, low level over time. Maybe your expectations have shifted downward? Inertia is a powerful force, and the thought (and logistics) or rematching can be burdensome. You have natural, logical, if subconscious, motivations to adjust your expectations as a HP when things aren’t going great. (Again, similar to a partnership, women have strong reasons to adjust their expectations because the prospect of a failed relathionship, divorce, custody etc. are strong incentives to “make it work” at all costs).

Her response to your husband, and then ignoring your calls is UNACCEPTABLE. You are her employer and you are the children’s parent(s). It is imperative that she be responsive to you (and you have told her this previously). (Perhaps this isn’t the first time she has been sleeping while on duty? And that is why you can’t reach her? She might be depressed. Which doesn’t make her a bad person, but if untreated it might interfere with her ability to uphold her responsibilities as an AP.)

My overriding thought is that you are not describing a great AP (based on what you wrote); you described someone who is immature, needy, doesn’t follow your (repeated) directions (including regarding safety), and who isn’t overtly harming your children, but who isn’t actively caring for them, isn’t engaging them. She sounds like an AP who is executing the bare minimum of “do no harm”.

You are not responsible for your APs life being ruined. (To be clear, I am NOT saying that one shouldn’t be kind, considerate and think about the impact of our actions as HP on the lives of our APs). But, at the end of the day, her relationship with her mother and the potential negative consequences for her in that relatiohship or otherwise if she rematches, are HER responsibility. Not yours.

Please, please take my comments in the spirit they were intended — I am not really trying to liken you to a woman in an abusive relathionship, or in any way criticize you — rather I wanted to share the strong impression I got when reading your post. My impresssion is of course informed and influenced by my role as a DV counselor and the fact that I intersect with these issues almost dail.. But, FWIW, your post had shall we say a tone that, to me, harkened to the kind of frame of reference change that can occur in a long term DV situation. So I thought I would post this for your consideration.

Good luck in figuring out what you want to do!

ShouldBeWorking February 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Fascinating insights, ECHM. I agree about the slow slide in expectations.

If you WANT to give her ‘one more chance’–and if you haven’t been in touch with the LCC, the agency may push you toward mediation and a 2-week reboot–you need to write out all the expectations in detail and have her respond to them, in my view. Pretend it is a true do-over. I think you also might then need the “WHY?” conversation–why is she not answering, why is she sleeping, why is she not doing what you ask? Depression sounds likely. Immaturity too. Are you willing to work with her or do you just want it to be over? Sounds like the latter to me. You will feel very relieved if you go to rematch, I imagine.

Forget the student sponsorship.

Gianna February 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I , too, appreciated the thoughtful comments by ECHM. I imagine that some of this adjustments apply to aupairs in inappropriate circumstances, too. I remember one week of my life when I had an undiagnosed sinus infection and I gathered by kids in my room , closed the door and turned on the tv. But I slept with the telephone in my hand and answered it immediately.

I believe that it is in the agency’s interest to promote mediaton but I suspect if you have a great LCC who is trained or skilled in mediation, it is a lucky accident. Perhaps it will alleviate some anxiety if you stop worrying about your aupair’s ability to find a rematch family. My impression is that many agencies will not permit or encourage prospective families to talk to you. If you tell the agency the truth, to my mind, it is their responsibility to present her credentials to other families. If your agency allows other families to talk to you , you can tell your LCC that you prefer not to give a recommendation of any sort. I think that your agency will respect your wishes.

I have heard that many aupairs who could not make a success of it with their first family do very well with another family ( that is no reflection on you, either – it is called experience ) Good luck

MommaGadget February 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm

ECHM- you are brilliant!

We all want to fair… And give people the benefit of the doubt, but there are a few things that are immediate deal breakers (for me).
Endangering or neglecting the safety of my children would be number one… Perhaps it sounds witchy with a capital “B”, but I wouldn’t care why the AP did/ didn’t do what she did. It doesn’t matter that everyone was OK…. This time.

AFHM- from your letter you sound absolutely worn out. I felt this way with my 1st au pair… After months of trying to work it out,we finally went into transition. Even with the scramble for coverage while we waited for our new AP-It was like a huge black cloud was blown out of our lives And was the best thing I could have done! We ended up with an awesome match for us, and she went to a family that she was a better match for.

As far as the student visa issue- that was probably a premature conversation to begin with ( live & learn)That offer becomes null & void the minute her AP contract is cancelled with you.

AFHostMom February 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm

thanks–just saw your comment. I am worn out. We are in a very fortunate situation where both sets of grandparents are retired and only a direct flight away….so at least there’s that.

AFHostMom February 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Thanks so much to ECHM, GIanna, and SBW. You are right. There has been a shift in what’s acceptable, and the comparison you made, ECHM, makes perfect sense to me. I truly think that her lack of responsiveness before was a product of her flakiness and lack of understanding that we expect to be in contact with our childcare giver in near instant time. But who knows.

I think she very well may be depressed (the emotional issues she’s dealt with were tied to an impulsive decision she made on vacation, and now deeply regrets, and based on her reactions then and how long it took her to sort it out, I can’t believe she is over it). If that’s the case, she should get help. You are right that it is not my responsibility to ensure she has a happy ending–it’s just hard to approach this in any other way since she is, at this point, part of our family. I am unfortunately neither qualified nor emotionally available to be her life coach or counselor, and I’ve been sitting in both roles for awhile.

And yes, any ideas we had of sponsoring her as a student are no more–even if she does make it through the year.
I kind of just want it to be over. I’ve known for a long while that we could probably “do better” (and she may very well find success with another family, but yes, inertia is a powerful force for a busy family. More importantly, I don’t know if I can get my husband to agree to a reset, either.

I hate this. There is no right decision.

(and so to anyone who ever argues that we host parents don’t AGONIZE over what to do in these situations, and don’t care about or love the young ladies we invite into our home–take your argument elsewhere)

Southern Hm February 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Though a secondary issue, with regard to her ability to rematch, (notwithstanding that this cannot be a primary concern given her performance), it is quite possible that she will still be able to find a new family in rematch.

With our agency, they write a paragraph about the aupair in rematch, and when we went through our own rematch, I must have read through 25+ descriptions… I’m no expert, but my guess is they would say there were communication issues in the second year, but that the family has described her as a very loving, sweet person (as you probably have in the past). No car accidents, half-way decent English (enough to get through a year in the US), and my guess is she will rematch. My agency discourages any communication between families.. just my two cents

NoVA Twin Mom February 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

In my own experience when our former au pair called rematch before we could (so we had some definite issues with her performance), the agency chooses how to present a rematch candidate in the best light. For instance, when my comments were something to the effect of “after we discussed the ways our children were unsafe in her care, XXX made some effort to change” they were presented to the prospective rematch family as something like “she makes an effort to take host family suggestions.”

Actually, I was surprised that they didn’t ask me for comments – then when I asked if they *needed* a comment, was told what they were already using.

It WAS a quote – but they basically took the one positive comment I made and made it into the only thing I said. I don’t remember the exact wording as it’s been about a year, but I remember beginning my conversation with the prospective rematch HM by asking what they’d been told and being surprised by the creative editing.

What I’m trying to say is let the agency worry about rematching her – they’re good at it! And to other hostfamilies sending au pairs into rematch for solid reasons that mean they shouldn’t be rematched – as hard as it seems, I guess you need to not say anything positive that can be taken out of context.

Dawn February 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm

NoVA Twin Mom’s comments about the agency’s positive spin on APs in rematch are dead on. It’s a shame, but since the agency saves money if they’re able to rematch an in-country AP rather than pay for recruitment and training for a new one, there’s powerful incentive to fudge the situation in a positive light.

AFHostMom – don’t beat yourself up. This young lady needs more help than you can give. Think of the example she’s setting for your kids. She is communicating the message that it’s ok to “sleep on the job”, be constantly distracted by personal distress and give less than 100% to your work. It’s amazing what our kids pick up from their APs – they are role models for our children’s behavior. You have every right to hire someone who can serve as a better role model for your kids.

CA Host Mom February 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Are there previous posts on this topic of questionable representation of HF comments during re-match? I just wrote out a long response and realized that it likely belonged elsewhere … thought I would check before posting here and distracting from this topic.

I searched and didn’t find anything. If no, I will email my question in to CV. Thanks.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 4, 2013 at 10:21 pm

The trick is to decide whether you want to throw the AP under the bus or not. We had one nice AP who was great with kids and lousy with adults, a mediocre driver, and whose English improved and then went downhill when we told her we wouldn’t extend. I was honest about her car accident, and indicated she would be better off with a family that didn’t need a driver, but otherwise gave her a good (but not glowing report). I guessed correctly which of my sentence strings would be quote by the agency.

The trick, when you want to make it clear that the AP should go home, is to write your sentence in a way that it has to be deconstructed completely by the agency. “It’s a shame that X made little effort to improve her child safety skills despite constant family meetings – we felt forced to go into rematch.” You need not damn a rematch with faint praise.

And the converse also works – if you cannot read what the rematching family wrote about a candidate, then ask your LCC to contact her LCC and see what’s up. You want to know if the candidate is wisely running away from a bad experience with a HF, or if she was the catalyst.

MommaGadget February 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I think the LC has a lot to do with how a rematch is presented too.
I know our awesome LC is very careful about who she “helps” find a new family. When I was considering an extending or transition au pair, I have always had my LC talk to the AP’s previous LC to get the real story.

In all fairness the experience of being let go, can be a wake up call -hopefully causing an AP to learn from past mistakes. Sometimes a bad match for our family has been a great match for another HF- but I have never has an issue with an AP who was emotionally unstable, or endangered my children’s safety.

AFHostMom February 3, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Thanks for moving this CV–I apologize for jamming it in the comments of an unrelated post, but I needed help and hoped it would be seen by lots of community members there.
As a bit of an update, everyone’s insight has already helped tremendously. Both in the idea that she might find the “right” family for her if we do rematch, and by helping me see that, by not being a you-know-what and saying “I AM NOT YOUR COUNSELOR, I AM YOUR BOSS AND HOST MOM,” I have been enabling her using me as an emotional crutch. I know I’ve presented her as a bit of a nut, but other than the recent vacation tryst and resulting freakout, she’s actually been very even-keeled. I’ve told her multiple times I appreciated that–I’d never seen her cry until a few weeks ago. (unlike AP1, with whom we rematched, because she had the emotional control of a 5 year old). She says this has nothing to do with the situation from a few weeks ago (there is much more to that too, but I don’t want to be needlessly “gossipy” and get into it), but I don’t know that I believe her.
Anyway….I did call the LCC’s “fill in” Friday (LCC is out of town), and we do intend to have an arbitration with the LCC tomorrow or Tuesday. Call me a fool but we’re considering one more chance, with very specific terms. I believe the kids are not in any kind of danger at this point because we have taken every incident where she didn’t have them under control (there were 3, this one the most serious by far) and had her tell us why that was wrong. Also my husband will be home tomorrow and I will be home Tuesday. We’ll treat it as a true reset, and nothing will get overlooked (by us, or by her–I admit my own fault in this too by not growing a stronger backbone months ago, and not pressing her to answer me on why she is not doing more with the kids). We took the most hot button issues of the handbook and reduced them to two pages.
After a week we’ll have another “how’s it going” meeting. That’s the plan for now, at least, pending a talk with the LCC, whose advice I really do trust (this is our 3rd au pair, first extension, second possible rematch, in 3.5 years).

Taking a Computer Lunch February 3, 2013 at 3:39 pm

My advice, if you decide to give this AP a second chance, that you and your husband take turns “popping in” unexpectedly, because chances are this wasn’t the first time she tried to take a nap while the kids played.

If you decide to give her a second chance, then sit down with her and outline expected behaviors. Since her English is not great, put it in writing. When I hosted an AP who was fantastic with the kids, but lousy at some other requirements we had (like driving), every time we had a conversation with her about expectations, we followed it up with an email and openly copied our LCC so the AP would be aware that we were in communication with the LCC.

Another tool I recommend, is having the LCC call your AP for a check-in.

From the way you describe this AP she wants you to take on a parental role with her and is bogging you down with her needs. You need to sit her down and tell her that you expect her to be the third adult in the house. That trying to sleep in a child’s bed while the child plays with a nightlight is not protecting a child. Be explicit that you want her to engage the children, play with them, take them to the library, sledding, or to play in the playground, not to hide from them during her working hours, because that is not adult.

Do not feel guilty about her future. She is making her choices, whether she is doing so in an adult manner or not. You are not responsible for her choices. It is compassionate to say, “I care about you, but I don’t like it when…” Or, “As much as I would have like to sponsor you as a student, because I think you have great potential, we cannot afford to put you on a student visa or permit you to live with us when you are no longer our au pair.”

Don’t let her manipulate you into taking care of her because she’s backed herself into a corner.

Should be working February 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I think it’s a good idea to give it one more try, with full accountability and supervision, and recognition of your own weak spots until now. And it is key to frame the reset in terms of HIGH expectations, not meeting the minimum. Otherwise if she improves some, but isn’t so great still, you will feel stuck keeping her without really having achieved your goals.

BEmama February 3, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Wow, I could’ve written a fairly similar post six months ago. Our now former AP, who had come through rematch, also was from South America and I could not bring myself to terminate because of that. I knew she wanted to extend a second year to improve her English and enhance her employment prospects on return. She ended up matching with another family for her second year. Our agency allows prospective HF to contact current HF and I was shocked that the HM or HD never called us.

After AP was gone, I told my husband and LLC that I would never allow ourselves to be in that situation again. I allowed us to overlook too many dicey situations all because I did not want her to have to return to her home country. My sentiments were confirmed by a few friends, who complained about her after she left. Rematch is tough, but a great AP rocks.

HRHM February 4, 2013 at 9:01 am

“adjust their normative frame of reference over time”

ECHM hit the nail on the head with this one! I think I must be guilty of this with every single AP so far, even wunderkind AP4. I have started taking a step back and asking myself, “If this was her first few weeks, would I be correcting this behavior?” and the answer is consistently yes. But over time, especially with an AP you otherwise like, you just let more and more slide. I guess it’s just human nature.

Guess it’s time to start pushing the normative frame back where it belongs! :)

Taking a Computer Lunch February 4, 2013 at 11:51 am

If things are going well, it’s easy to let behavior and actions slide. If things are going badly, it’s easy to snap at every little thing. When pushing back, it’s helpful to the AP to say, “This is a little thing, but…” or “You had me really worried when you did…” so she knows if it’s a big deal that might lead to rematch if she doesn’t correct it, or just a little thing that annoys you.

Currently hosting an AP to whom I have said JRTF manual several times, and yet recently she did something for which DH snapped. Now I get to do clean-up and say, “It may have seemed like a little thing to you, but it’s a big deal to us…”

Push the normative frame once a month, so the little things don’t add up until big things – unless things are going so well that you can overlook the little things until she departs (in my experience it’s really hard to bite my tongue during the last six weeks, even with the best of APs).

Rookie HM February 4, 2013 at 10:12 am

You’ve already received great replies. I just wanted to add my experience in here as well. We hosted our first AP last year and she too was much like what you are describing your experience to be. So I stuck it out, made excuses for her, and managed to somehow hold down a full time job and my children plus her needs. I spent a half hour each morning writing down everything, leaving a craft folder (never touched btw), and telling her what to do. Her English was so incredibly awful that she probably only understood about 20% of what I said. And her English did not improve at all in her time here (because she only hung out with friends she met online from her country and spoke her native tongue). She always answered the I love you too thing you described. She referenced our children as her own- i.e. saying “my boys” all the time. And I know that is little, but see, we waited so long to rematch that the little things were driving me insane along with the big ones. It cracked after ten months. My husband stepped in and said that we were going to rematch no matter what. I cried. I hated it. I even lied to our LCC about her vacation time in order to give her more. I truly felt like I was killing a puppy. It was awful at the time and like your AP, she did not want to go home.

But fast forward to today, and it was hands down the BEST decision for our family. I have a new AP who is so much better. My children are cared for as they should be, my requests are heard and adhered to and for the first time, the AP is helping me instead of the other way around. I know it’s hard to let her go because you don’t know what will happen to her. And I think in some way the AP program being set up as it is to make someone “part of your family” made it harder for me to just cut my losses and find someone new when I should have. I should have hit rematch two weeks in… not ten months.

Let her go. Explain why. Feel bad during the two weeks and then be done. Take a few weeks to recover and find a new AP. I bet you will look back and see like I did it was the best choice at the time. Really at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is your family and how your children are. Even if they love her, they will be ok and form a new bond with their new AP.

Momma Gadget February 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Great advice! (IMO)
We hire Au pairs to keep our kids safe, happy and to make our busy lives just a bit easier. When we have a bad match that doesn’t meet our minimum requirements it is draining and it is probably just as stressful for the AP.
When we perpetuate a bad match, not only does it add unnecessary stress to the parents but we rob our children of safety, happiness, & security and also quality time with their parents.

TexasHM February 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

Wow – AFHostMom are you me 18 months ago? Let me give you a quick summary and a little tough love.
Our first au pair was very loving, very sweet, loved our kids, care was OK but her help around the house and positive attitude led us to keep her vs rematching when we realized just how terrible her English and driving were.
She was extremely dependent (when she wanted to be – more in a minute), not too bright and too permissive with our kids. We are married in our 30s with 3 kids (one in school, other two younger at home with au pair) and I work full time at an intellectually demanding job. Sound familiar?
Couple of HUGE differences (we ended up dredging along and she extended, I wouldn’t change anything because I learned from it but lets be honest, I have kicked myself a thousand times for not rematching at ANY point in that process):
Our au pair always answered the phone and we NEVER had an incident where the kids were not under control, let alone NEGLECTED. I am climbing into my fireproof vest right now but I feel obligated to tell you what I WISH someone would have been honest enough to tell me at the time (plenty have told me since!).
1. There is a HUGE judgment issue here. In your post alone she has displayed poor judgment MULTIPLE times. Tryst on vacation, attempting to sleep vs actively caring for your children and I about fell over dead when you said “I believe the kids are not in any kind of danger at this point because we have taken every incident where she didn’t have them under control (there were 3, this one the most serious by far) and had her tell us why that was wrong”. AFHostMom are you serious?!?!? Again, I believe in the AP program wholeheartedly but I couldn’t agree more with the first response and at this point feel the need to put it in a less sugarcoated light (as the message is not penetrating far enough) and tell you that you are completely SHELLSHOCKED girl! There have been 3 occasions of which you are AWARE.
Let me ask you this. If your child had been electrocuted by playing with the nightlight/outlet – would any part of you have felt guilty/at all responsible because there had been previous “incidents”? If the answer is yes, I’m sorry but she needs to go immediately and that’s only in regard to this ONE issue.
2. Selfishness/insecurity/immaturity – Our previous au pair was very dependent when she wanted to be. Told us about her rough life back home, rough childhood, sucked me in completely but shockingly, the minute she got a boyfriend I was “in her business and trying to control her life” because we had a curfew (disclosed a year earlier before matching and unchanged in the manual). Boy, the minute they broke up guess who was crying on my shoulder (literally) and clinging to me every possible moment? This happened a couple times the second year, she asked about the student visa and continuing to live with us and when we couldn’t/wouldn’t sponsor her she started dated a man 12 years older and 3 weeks later they were engaged! Here is my long-winded point – right now you are her mark (as I was). You want proof? In your own words “She BEGGED me to talk to my husband and convince him to give her another chance.” and it’s working! She wants you to plead her case and fight for her to stay and SHE is the one that made a CHOICE to NEGLECT your children! Let’s be clear. I have, exhausted, brought my kids in my bed to watch a kids movie while I took a quick one eye open nap. I also, at 19, nannied part time for an infant and because of a grueling school/partying schedule fell asleep when she fell asleep and once her parents came home and she had woken up and started crying and they beat me to her. I felt HORRIBLE and you can bet that NEVER happened again. This girl has had “3 incidents”. Last point on this topic – you notice as soon as you say rematch she asks you about converting to a student visa and living there. As much as I would like to say it’s because she loves you all so much that she can’t bear to live apart from you do you really believe that to be true? Our previous au pair recently got married and now that she’s secured here we have barely seen her. Ironically she showed up yesterday. Why? She had a fight with her husband so she took off in the car to make him sweat and we live close by so she drove straight here for sympathy/attention even though we hadn’t seen her in weeks (despite several attempts on our part).
You told her last time in regards to the phone that if it happened again, you were done. IT HAPPENED AGAIN. You had an incident with the kids, talked to her about it and IT HAPPENED AGAIN TWO TIMES THAT YOU KNOW ABOUT. You have asked her to perform job functions multiple times and she’s not doing it. As much as I don’t like to do this, pretend for a moment that she was an employee – how many times would you have fired her by now? OK now flip that – the other side is family member, is she such an awesome family member that it outweighs the employee performance? I don’t think so! Why? She is wearing you out! You don’t need another person demanding your sympathy/love/time/attention. I know it sounds cruel but there is a difference between offering these things to another adult/friend on occasion and having a 5th person in your house sucking this out of you (I LIVED THIS UNTIL TWO MONTHS AGO)! Now that I have a fantastic new au pair that although 6 years younger than my previous au pair is secure, mature and happy I can’t even begin to describe the shift in the entire family. I have more energy, less stress, my marriage is better, my kids are happier and I think you have it worse than we did!
AFHostMom, don’t beat yourself about her not finding a family in rematch. I kid you not – I saw first hand an au pair that couldn’t drive, had almost no childcare experience and was found to be completely blind in one eye and lied about it match into not one, but two other families! She doesn’t want to rematch because she knows there is no way she will get another family/hostmom that takes care of her like you do (now that I am off the market ;).
Like everyone said, the fact that you are here agonizing on this board proves you are far from heartless but as several have said more tentatively than me, you are being taken advantage of and she is making that choice.
You could also think about all the awesome au pairs that are waiting in their home countries for a great family right now or the rematch au pairs in horrible homes here praying just to be treated humanely! Keeping this au pair is denying someone else the opportunity to treat you like you deserve to be treated.
Sorry to get so riled up and I am sure I will hear all about it but I can be very passionate when I feel like I see such obvious disregard for you, your children’s safety, your marriage, your rules, your requests, and everything you have done for her!
I have a fellow host mom here that is on her 8th au pair and she always says “happy au pair, happy house” and it is so true. The caveat she added for me after our last au pair is “but you can’t be the one to make her happy”. :) She was saying if there is something little bothering your au pair (wants curfew 30 min later, wants to be paid a day early) something you can handle – do it! She was not saying become the adoptive mother she always wanted/needed, counselor, only friend, and sugar momma! Honey you already have 4 others in that house that really do need/deserve your time/love/attention! You are a great host mom and it’s not your fault that this match didn’t work out and it doesn’t say anything about you as a host mom (all things I didn’t believe so drug on in a mediocre experience)! If I was there I would give you a big hug and tell you it’s ok! Let go!
If I can help you personally, please ask CV for my email I am happy to give you support in any way!

Momma Gadget February 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

TexasHM- Why don’t you tell us how you really Feel? LOL
Great post.
After our first AP experience we almost left the program. Our rematch showed us how awesome having an AP can be. Never again have we settled for mediocrity, or worked so hard trying to make a bad match just OK. Our children deserve better, and so do we.
We never had any blatant neglectful, or deceitful APs… As I said before that would have been an immediate deal breaker for us.

TexasHM February 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I could not agree more with this genius!:
“After our first AP experience we almost left the program. Our rematch showed us how awesome having an AP can be. Never again have we settled for mediocrity, or worked so hard trying to make a bad match just OK. Our children deserve better, and so do we.”
While we did not rematch, we did almost quit the au pair program. Instead, we learned from our mistakes and our second au pair (current) is more than we could have ever hoped for/imagined from this program. I highly suspect that AFHostmom has yet to have a fantastic match and that’s why this is being tolerated.

CA Host Mom February 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

First, I am really surprised by how many are posting that “this could have been me X months ago.” Because as I was reading your post, AFHostMom, I was thinking, “This IS ME 5 months ago!!!”

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the other HMs on this site because reading their replies to my questions, and posts from years past have taught more that I could have ever hoped to learn. You have received a lot of great advice from other HMs already.

ECHM is brilliant. The concept of the slow shift in perspective/expectations based on my adapting to the situation has NEVER crossed my mind and I am certain after reading what she wrote that it was a factor in our experience with the last AP we hosted.

All I can add is what I would tell you if we were chatting over a cup of coffee right now … Having been in your situation (sweet but immature and needy AP#2, poor judgement on the verge of being dangerous to my kids, giving chance after chance and everything I had to help this girl grow up and neglecting my own family in the process) I say – REMATCH. Without a doubt. Move on. You will be so happy that you did. Do what is best for you and your family!

When something does happen that qualifies as “dangerous enough” or “reckless enough” it will be too late to have done something about it (speaking from experience). As soon as you are past this, you will feel so much relief. I can’t improve upon what TexasHM said above – it was perfect in my eyes.

Good luck to you, AFHostMom.

Should be working February 5, 2013 at 2:01 am

Don’t mean to take away from TexasHM’s insights, but what do HPs think about the issue of bad judgment around trysts? Do these translate into worries about the AP as an AP?

Honestly I don’t hold this sort of thing against my AP, if we mean here a one- or several-nighter with someone who turns out to be an average-level jerk or user. I was 19 once and made some lame choices along these lines.

Overall I’d rather have a mature enough AP that I don’t actually ever have to know about it. But in one case the AP thought she might be pregnant (uh, had never used birth control…). So we went to Planned Parenthood and got her set up.

But the poor tryst judgment is to me, when taken alone, not an indicator of AP judgment overall. Agree or disagree?

former_ap_sv February 5, 2013 at 2:50 am

Agree. At 19 I made some poor choices regarding dating, doesn’t mean I thought it was OK to sleep while babysitting or anything.

former_ap_sv February 5, 2013 at 2:56 am

Sorry, if that’s not clear: I’d been babysitting since I was 12, and my “taking care of kids” understanding was more advanced than my dating understanding :/

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2013 at 7:53 am

I agree SBW. One of our favorite APs did some pretty shakey things on her own time. After 8 APs, I can tell you that their AP year is pretty much like the freshman year in college – they’re away from the restrictions imposed on them by living with parents, having lots of family close by, and feeling like they’re being judged. They have the freedom to take risks, and that also means sexually and socially. It also means lots of healthy risk-taking that helps them evolve from people who were children in their parents’ home to adults.

For me, the question is – Is the risk taking part of growing up, or is it part of a general lack of common sense. Because if the AP shows no common sense when caring for the kids, her risk-taking may also be part of a larger problem with immaturity. Risk-taking becomes a problem when in crosses over into an AP’s working life or puts the family at risk.

TexasHM February 5, 2013 at 9:16 am

I actually agree as well that taken alone does not necessarily have any bearing on her work as an AP. However, in this instance we don’t know all the details and are led to believe there is even more to the story and in the context of her post, there appears to be a clear pattern of poor judgment across the board. If she is so emotionally devastated that she had a breakdown I have to think it was more than a typical momentary lapse in judgment but maybe not. Feel free to strike from the above, it doesn’t change my opinion and great question.
Our first au pair mentioned in the previous post fell in love with a guy that was clear from the beginning he didn’t want a serious relationship. She slept with him, thought then it’d be different and of course, it wasn’t. Total emotional breakdown, took me weeks to put her back together. I guess you can actually take it out of the poor judgment category and toss it in the immaturity/naivity notes because I don’t think these two (hers and my AP) were ready to handle these situations.

Melissa February 5, 2013 at 10:02 am

I agree that an APs personal decisions on her own time are just that — her personal business. However, the line often gets blurred because of the unique aspects of the AP program (you live where you work, you are more than just an ’employee’). If an AP wants to have a ‘tryst’, that’s her business and I don’t think we as HPs should really care. BUT, if it crosses over into my business, then I very well might care. So, I don’t care if she goes out and gets completely wasted every Saturday night, as long as she doesn’t drive my car or show up for work hungover.

We don’t know the details about the OPs vacation issue, but if the APs behavior did something to seriously impact the HFs vacation, then I could see where it would be an issue. For example, if our AP went out on her own while on vacation with us and didn’t come back all night, or stumbled in drunk at 3am, or brought a 35 year old man she just met at the bar into our hotel room while she grabs her things, then yes, I would be very annoyed. Not because she is experimenting or testing her own boundaries or beliefs or what have you, but simply because she is causing us undue worry and stress on our vacation. At home, I probably wouldn’t care at all (except for the one about bringing a man she just met back to our house!), but not on a family vacation. It’s hard to tell in this case since we don’t know the details of what happened.

Tristatemom February 4, 2013 at 10:50 am

Right on Texasmom!!

Dear OP,
take the above kick in the butt as a lifeline and rid yourself of this AP!!

ART2533 February 4, 2013 at 10:51 am

We recently had to dismiss our aupair and your story sounds so much like ours. Our first year was pretty good – kids liked her and she seemed to love them, she was pleasant and seemed to do a great job. Only recurrent problem was occasionally oversleeping which was more of a pain than a deal breaking issue. And we were a great family – she had her own room with a private bathroom, TV, unlimited cell phone, a spare car which was always available to her – we are nice people and always tried to involve her in the family when she wanted to and make her feel comfortable.

We decided to extend based on knowing her, not feeling like we wanted to go through onboarding someone new and feeling like it was most stable for the kids – and she really wanted to extend with us. This was a horrible decision. I recall reading a post from a host mom who “every time I extended, I reminded myself why I should never extend” and I get it now. I think I learned that lesson. Things just went down hill in the second year – she struggled through the summer and wasn’t able to plan enough to keep the kids busy resulting in us spending a good deal on camps. Then in the fall things got worse – for the first time with her we had lots of rule breaking (ie. Keeping the car overnight without asking, taking the car far away without asking, not filling up the gas that she used, general mood seemed down and avoided spending time with us). Next was a great deal of excessive texing while on the clock with the kids. We had several conversations with her that we needed to get things back on track or we would rematch and we often tried to help her first in finding the solution (ie. checking first if she was ok and trying to understand what was wrong before unloading all the problems we were seeing). In the end, we dismissed her because I found out she had driven with the kids while talking to a friend on the phone – in my opinion a safety rule break and not something that I could look past.

I did think she may be depressed and we communicated this with the LCC. I also think that she got a bit lazy and too comfortable in that second year. We also had the same conversation about sponsoring her for going to college and she was very interested but not willing to do the work to get there. It seemed that I was the one doing all the research and spending a great deal of my time and energy helping her (in addition to my demanding job and three little kids). I communicated to the LCC that she might be depressed and she agreed. They considering rematching her but ultimately said that they could not rematch someone because it would be a risk if they were depressed.

Once this was communicated to her she became a bit out of control and desperate because she didn’t want to go home – I actually thought she might try to “disappear” to avoid going home. I had relieved her of her kid duties. She lived with us for a week after this and it was the longest most uncomfortable week ever. In hindsight the agency should have sent her home sooner (rules are withing 48 hours of dismissal).

My advice to you is that this situation doesn’t get better, it likely gets worse. And you need to remember that no matter how much you care about her, you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your family. I feel in the end like my kindness and concern was taken advantage of and that this was a huge emotional drain for me and my family. That this aupair who was so great in the first year became a very different one in the second. That life became all about her in so many ways – my husband and I were spending more time talking about her than talking about our kids or other aspects of our life. I feel like even though she was likely better off staying in the US than going back home, that she didn’t deliver her end of the deal and we were exhaustively living up our end. So move on and find someone that will better serve your family – having an aupair should make your life more managable – not more difficult. And next time . . . maybe rethink if extending is really the best choice. Good Luck!

afhostmom February 4, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Oh believe me….we will not extend again. Odds are we will be out of the AP orgasm altogether after this year. :-)
Will say more as I’m at work now but again, I am appreciative of all the replies.

cv harquail February 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Ahem. The ap ‘orgasm’? Did I miss something here???

Should be working February 5, 2013 at 2:02 am

I was giggling tactfully to myself on this one. Maybe the tryst issue woke up the unconscious?

AFhostmom February 10, 2013 at 12:28 am

OHMYGOODNESS, I just saw this (busy week). Ha, ha, but also, sticking my hands over my ears and screaming “LALALALALALA,” something I don’t want to think about!
Sorry–definitely an auto correct mistake!

HM Pippa February 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Looks like another episode of autocorrect gone wrong–she probably mistyped “program.” (But I, too, had to suppress a little giggle)

Ananomousthistime February 4, 2013 at 11:00 am

Sorry to hijack this post but I need help:
Our current AP has been here since the summer. On one hand, she takes good care of the children, is responsible and follows our instructions. I used to think she was a GREAT AP.
I should also mention that we place a very high value on honesty in our home. We respect the AP, treat her well, and see her as part of the family.

However, over time we have discovered several small and big lies. When confronted about the big lie, she denied the underlying cause to our face, with an honest and wronged facial expression. I felt like a jerk accusing her but it turns out she is a fantastic lier. She later confessed to the lie in a way.

Last week I discovered another lie about something she does not need to lie about: Everybody in the house has been having colds and we purchased 6 packets of medicine. My husband used 4 and casually mentioned that the box was empty so AP must have taken them. This morning, we were chatting and she said she was not feeling well and I said something like “oh the medicine didn’t help yet.” She said “I have not taken anything yet, I want to cure this with tea and rest.”

WHY would she feel to lie about this??? We have offered the medicine in the past, it is totally available to her and we actually welcome her taking it!!!

I just can’t wrap my head around this. If this was the only thing, I would not write about it as it is so small but we have now had so many instances where she lies about things she doesn’t neet to lie about!

Have you ever experienced this? What would you do?

Should be working February 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Anon.thisTime: From this post it is hard to say what is going on. Perhaps two packets of medicine did get put somewhere else (like someone left them in a car or at the office), and perhaps the “in a way” confession about the big lie has some subtlety to it that would shed light on the whole thing. How have the big and little lies been confirmed?

TexasHM February 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm

She said I haven’t taken anything yet. Not, I don’t have the missing medicine. It could be sitting on her desk and what she said could be true – she wants to try to cure it with tea and rest first. There isn’t enough context here to judge. The previous incidents – did you have proof then? In referring to a different lying incident you said “she later confessed to the lie in a way” – was it in the same way that she confessed to taking the medicine? I’m not trying to be harsh here, just adding some perspective. In a broader sense lying would be a dealbreaker for us because we would lose trust. I can’t live with someone and entrust my most cherished to a person that I can’t trust. If you search dealbreakers or lying on this site I believe there are several good threads on these topics already.

Ananomousthistime February 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I knew you guys would dissect whether she is actually lying or not :)

I have been on this site for 4 years, the same time I’ve had APs. Please, guys, believe me when I say she is lying. I am sincerely asking if any of you have ever experienced a pathological liar AP? Is that something that can be managed if the person is otherwise hardworking?

Should be working February 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm

If you really truly know she is lying (I still am curious!), then no, how could you possibly keep her on? How would you know when the lies are important ones–how would you know what’s a lie? Have you asked her why she is covering up these things?

Host Mom in the City February 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I also think the cold medicine thing isn’t that big a deal taken alone – maybe she didn’t understand the question, or truly didn’t take them, or took some to keep in her room but didn’t actually use them yet, or whatever. Not such a big deal.

But combined with multiple other lies, particularly if they were big or related to the children, then of course she needs to leave. But we’d really need more context about what she lied about.

HRHM February 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm

AP1 was a pathological liar. RUN THE OTHER WAY.

I knew she was lying to her famliy and friends back home about how we treated her (she left an email open on the desktop of my computer) but I brushed it off. I knew she was “borrowing” my stuff (hairband here, perfume there). I knew that she was hiding an eating disorder (eating nothing but apples, laxatives on the dresser). What I didn’t know was that she was stealing me blind, force-feeding my kids and using my out-of town house on the weekends without permission. Right to the bitter end, she lied. Even told the LCC lies to try to not get sent back home.

Host Mom in the City February 4, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Yikes – these stories are so scary!!

CA Host Mom February 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

EEK! Oh my goodness …

Anna February 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm

Yes, I have had a pathological liar au pair. I have rematched as soon as I found out she was lying. This is a deal breaker for us. She lied so well that I would have never suspected this – even after I knew she was lying, she was so sincere sounding and she was so proficient at it – I wanted to believe her. This was not something I could change about her obviously, this was so ingrained it was her.

She also have put my kids in danger and lied about it, and I found out about it only after she has left.

You never really know if she is hardworking – she is taking care of your kids alone while you are at work, right? You never know if she follows your instructions. She may lie about small things to save face, but she may lie about big things to save face… she may lie about driving and texting, driving and drinking, she may lie about giving your kids certain foods, going with your kids to certain places, leaving your kids alone… or alone in the car (flashback to my pathological liar story)….

CA Host Mom February 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Ananomousthistime, We experienced something similar with the one AP with whom we went into transition. It can be incredibly frustrating – I feel for you. In our case, I think it was a symptom of her overall lack of maturity. Kind of like a panic response, if that makes any sense. I still struggle to understand the logic behind some of her lies and she went to a new family 5 months ago (and has since been sent back to Sweden as her 2nd match didn’t work out either). Dishonesty is a big thing for us too …

The only bit of advice that I can think of in terms of figuring out why this is happening would be to see if you can figure out if there is something that is putting an unusual amount of stress on her … or if she is dealing with anything that is compromising her ability to make sound decisions or that causes her to ‘panic’. And have a frank conversation with her wherein you explain that you are worried about her and wonder if things are OK due to the lie that you are sure of (and she admitted to). Sometimes doing that calmed down our previous AP and she was able to get a (temporary) grip and realize how silly the lies were – and she was always sorry (not that the behavior ever changed, but she acknowledged it anyway). At the very least, asking some questions in that spirit might give you some inkling as to what might be causing her to come up with the ridiculous lies.

It is hard when you aren’t sure that she is lying but just have a feeling or see signs. My advice there, when you don’t know for sure that she has lied, would be to just be patient and observant (and of course always make your kid’s safety the highest priority). It seems to me that falsely accusing her carries with it a high price in terms of being able to work through things in the future.

Good luck.

Melissa February 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm

We have also recently dealt with a big lying situation, although ours was different in that it was one big issue rather than something ongoing. But it has really shaken my view of our AP and the AP program and has made me start to question lots of things.

Our case in a nutshell is that we have an otherwise absolutely fabulous AP who is two-thirds through her year. She has complete access to a very nice AP car, but we found out that she has breaking our only BIG car rule (no driving into the city) for months. And when I confronted her, she pretty much continued to tell lies/half-truths, until I told her exactly how much I knew (we pulled a very detailed GPS report on the car). And this was not a one-time case where her ride bailed out and she felt stuck and made a quick decision to drive herself, which would still have not been ok but at least I could understand that better. No, this was repeated instances, driving all over the city (sometimes into not very safe areas) to bars/clubs, parking on the street, picking up/dropping off others, at all hours of the night!

We had a big conversation, greatly limited her car usage and are seemingly back to normal now, but I can’t help but wonder if there are other things that I don’t know about, should I trust her at all now, etc? We only have a few months left and it’s such a shame that this one thing (a very BIG one however) would spoil an otherwise great relationship. There are a few other things too that have raised my eyebrows a bit about her personal life (nothing at all to do with us or caring for our kids though), which I would probably just otherwise ignore as none of my business, but now thrown all together I am wondering if I really know her as well as I thought. Ugh, this is what I hate about the ‘trust issue’ – it makes you start to question EVERYTHING…..

Should be working February 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I agree that there is a weird all-or-nothing feel when it comes to lies. I suspect that our AP ‘fibbed’ about how serious her back-home boyfriend was when she came here. I can understand why, but sometimes I then wonder if I’m being ‘taken for a ride’ in general.

Host Mom in the City February 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

This is a tough one. Obviously, lying would be a huge issue for me and I would really question everything else she’d said if I knew for a fact she’d lied and even more so that she covered it up and didn’t admit it.

But I also remember what it was like to be a teenager or young adult. I was a good kid, and would never have lied about something big, but I remember lying about things that I didn’t think were a big deal or breaking rules that I thought were dumb or random. Particularly when it had to do with being out and about with friends. I could completely see how at 19 or 20, I would have felt that it was so important that I get out to see my friends that I felt like my life practically depended on it. I could also see not really getting a rule on not being allowed to drive into the city and justifying to myself that it was a dumb rule, and I knew I was safe, and it wouldn’t really matter if I broke it if no one knew better. I don’t think that necessarily means she’s lying about more “important” things, but definitely means she’s immature and selfish (in that she’s focusing mostly on what she needs/wants).

I know we’ve had this debate on car restrictions and curfews all over this site, but this is one of the reasons we don’t place any restrictions on free time. I’ll let you know when I have to eat my words on this, but it’s worked for us so far :)

I make it clear that I am hiring an adult, and I expect that she acts like an adult. In return, I treat her like one. If I’m going to let her drive my car, I don’t have restrictions on it other than when it needs to be back because I need it (we share). I expect her to know where she’s going, know whether or not it’s safe, and be personally and financially responsible if something happens. I lay it all out in the beginning – here’s the areas of the city where it’s dangerous, here are better ways to get around, here is how much gas costs, here is how much a parking ticket is, here is how much it’s going to cost you if you get into an accident or get a ticket, here is how fast you will be sent home if you get a DUI. Obviously I make sure she’s a good driver, and when I feel satisfied that she can drive safely, after that it’s up to her. I expect her to act like an adult. I feel like if you’re placing restrictions that are similar to how you’d treat your teenager, then you can’t be surprised when you get teenager behavior.

Now obviously if you have someone that’s very immature anyway, she’ll be immature no matter how you treat her. But maturity is something we screen for heavily when we match – lived on her own or at least not been coddled, held down a job, etc.

And all that said, my current AP did “lie” about a boyfriend back home in her application. It said “no” and she never mentioned anything, but shortly after she arrived she admitted she’d been seeing someone for about 6 months and he’d like to visit during the year. It hasn’t bothered me for some reason. The “boyfriend back home” isn’t something I care about either way, so it wouldn’t have affected my match decision. And it’s debatable what “boyfriend” means to young adults anyway, so I don’t think she really flat-out lied about it.

One Thing at a Time February 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Host Mom in the City,

How would you handle a situation when your au pair was out with the car and it broke down, wouldn’t start, etc. while not on duty? I’ve been wondering about how I would handle it if my au pair took our car out of the area or it was in the middle of the night. Of course I don’t want to leave her stuck or unsafe, but I also don’t want to have to rescue an adult when it could be a major inconvenience for me or during work or something. Would you expect your au pair to call for and pay for a tow truck if something happened like this? The problem I would have enforcing this is if whatever happened to the car could have happened to me while I was driving. She just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Have you run into anything like this?

Host Mom in the City February 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm

If the car truly just isn’t working (and not like she got into an accident or something), she knows I’ll pay for a cab. We also have road-side assistance and she knows how to call them. We’re lucky in that we live near a major city, so she can always call a cab and it’ll be under $50 (and probably more like $25) no matter where she’s gone. Neither of our au pairs have taken the car outside of maybe an hour away, so I haven’t had to deal with that. They’re welcome to, but we have great bus routes to any major city for like $25, and I make sure they know that driving with the tolls and gas can be $50 either way, so they’ve always opted for the bus. I guess if she was in another city and it broke down, I’d pay for a cab to get her somewhere safe and then we’d have to work it out from there.

Now if she got into an accident or had some other issue that was her “fault,” I’d expect her to figure it out. Again, she knows the cab number, the roadside assistance number, and there are tons of buses and the subway anywhere you want to go. She also knows that if she truly cannot handle a situation, that she can call me anytime and I will always help her find a way home.

I can’t forsee a situation where I would be out picking her up in the middle of the night or during work.

CAmom22 February 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm

HM in the City – does your agency not have limits on how much an AP must pay in the event of damage to the car? Curious how you enforce her “financial responsibility” in this regard. My last AP put $4500 of damage onto the car (2 occasions) but our agency limits the AP responsibility to $250. This is one of the reasons I do put some restrictions on personal use. I don’t mean to start another discussion here about car restrictions and the like but I am curious when you say above that you discuss what an accident will cost them what that means.

EastCoastHM February 4, 2013 at 7:49 pm

We put our AP on our AAA membership – costs about $20 for the year to have her added as a third driver on our membership. THen, when she breaks down in the middle of the night, or the middle of the day (we share a car, so I can’t drive to pick her up if she breaks down with my car!) I can say, “call AAA”. It doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it is a cheap way for me to know that at least in the immediate moment the car and the AP can get towed to a safe place when I can’t come get her!

Host Mom in the City February 4, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Oh, I just typed out a long response and it seems to have disappeared! Testing….

Taking a Computer Lunch February 4, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I have hosted 8 APs. Some of the APs had minor fender-benders (you know, you’re inching through traffic and don’t time stopping perfectly – no one is hurt and nothing is really dented – at least not any more than it already is), a couple have had accidents.

All of my APs have solved their problems and have let us know after-the-fact (by the way, I got stuck in a ditch and was towed out, the car drives fine but if you want to have the shop look it over, then let me know), except one. She was young, immature, and within her first three months in the United States. The car had to be towed, so I bought her a AAA membership on the spot, and DH went out to meet her because she was panicked, and despite being with two friends, unable to think straight (it was close to midnight – on a working night for everyone). Our agency says that the AP can only pay the deductible or up to $500 if the deductible is higher – and that’s exactly the deductible we had on the aging but not ancient AP car.

Fast forward three months – the underwriter reviewed our insurance and said that unless the AP has an American license then she cannot drive our cars. Doesn’t matter what the state rules of the road are. She nearly totaled that car, so they want proof that she’s road worthy.

We also took steps that we had never taken before – we put a curfew on the car. This AP is welcome to stay out all night, but the car has to be home by 10. We’re now waiting to see if she will pull off acquiring an American license. We’ve given her a rematch deadline. While we’re willing to pay all fees, because we require a driver, but it is up to her to follow through. We used the failure to require a license as the main reason not to extend with another AP (our state permits driving up to a year on an international license for J-1 visa holders, but not a second year).

Back to the original question – typically I would expect an AP to handle the situation regardless of where she is. My handbook says to wake me up if she is alone and feels threatened. And while it does happen that reasonably maintained vehicles do break down unexpectedly (btdt). If she is so panicked that you can’t coach her through the steps needed to get through the situation, of course you need to rescue her. Afterwards, when the kids are in bed, is the time to talk about choices and being adult and how she might have handled the situation differently.

I feel that everyone is entitle to one free rescue. After that, I’d be thinking that the AP is incapable of learning from experience or mistakes.

Ananomousthistime February 4, 2013 at 4:25 pm

The biggest issue with your case is that she didn’t come clean right away when confronted. I can only advise that you don’t take things at face value and check on your AP more. I am a very trusting person but it is a mistake to believe in the good in people when our kids are involved.

TexasHM February 4, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Amen Art! You did a much better job than me of illustrating the toll this type of relationship takes on your marriage. Every night in our very limited time before bed after kids were put down we addressed whatever our au pair’s current drama was. Like you said, we were no longer talking about our goals in developing our kids or even discussing our own feelings/goals/work, we were tackling whatever she wasn’t handling or was unloading on me emotionally! It strained our marriage and we didn’t even realize it /or how much it had until it was over. That’s where my shellshocked comment came from.

You are under fire girlfriend! Until you are off the battlefield you will not be able to truly assess the damage this type of relationship has on your kids, your marriage and YOU!

I honestly believe that our previous au pair did not do it maliciously, but it is what it is. I don’t hate her, we still treat her well but I no longer tolerate a one way assault of emotional demands without the same respect and regard for my time/feelings. Ironically enough, she has now moved on to others who will feel more sorry for her and take care of her.

Our current au pair is very nice to her but admitted to me that she doesn’t like hanging out with her a lot because the poor pitiful me bit is exhausting – lol!

BTW – a part of that poor me bit is playing dumb. I noticed over time that things she didn’t “get” were strongly related to things that she just didn’t want to bother with. IE – can’t learn directions for 8 months, its so confusing then gets a boyfriend and suddenly/miraculously can read a map and has multiple routes memorized. Hmm…

In the words of a fellow host mom I know (to me) “honestly though do you want someone of questionable intelligence with poor judgment being responsible for your children full time? You can’t sacrifice your children to “save” this girl no matter how sweet she is.”
I will be praying for you!

ART2533 February 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Thanks! – It felt good to share. What an emotional several months this has been. I am not sure we will ever have an aupair again, though once all the kids are school age I hope that we will have gotten past it because I do believe there are good ones out there.

cv harquail February 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm

HOLD ON to your comments about lies etc. I’ll set up another post as soon as I can (tomorrow?) Rever back to the main theme in the meantime, pretty please.

cv harquail February 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm

OKAY– now up, a post about lies.
I pasted your comments in under my name– I’ll adjust so that it’s pretty and threaded tomorrow-ish.

Alex February 4, 2013 at 11:04 pm

I know some HPs don’t think language skills are “too important”, English can be learned quite easily and fast if you hang out with locals/people who don’t speak your language, but how could you trust your child’s well-being to someone who only understands half of what you’re saying?

When my HPs chose AP#2 (She was from Colombia) Her English was Awful! I remember they asked me to translate their Handbook to Spanish to make sure she could understand, and even in daily conversations or basic instructions I’d notice she couldn’t understand half of what they were saying, so I had to translate for her. I spent two weeks trying to get her to speak more, but she would only speak in Spanish to me.

Her caring was OK, she was a sweet girl and all but I could tell she had no experience with babies (even though she said she did have it during their matching process) and would let the kids wonder around without constant supervision (I saw the 10MO baby crawling up the stairs while she was getting the 2 yo a snack) and told her it was unacceptable, she’d always say “oh, okay” So I know what you mean, OP, but these things don’t always end up well, my HPs sent this girl home 3/4 months after I left because it turned out she was bipolar and had gone off meds while APring (this led to some VERY dangerous situations with the kids)
I remember saying to my HM before coming back home “What if the kids get sick and she needs to give them some medications? She can’t even keep a 5 minutes conversation in English without you trying to translate into Spanish”

I think Language is as important has driving skills/experience. An AP’s english skills should be 70% and up, but that’s just my opinion.

Like some HMs commented before, let her go, feel bad for a couple of weeks and move on. The kids safety and your mental health are #1 priority.

au pair February 5, 2013 at 12:04 am

I disagree with you Alex- My english was very bad too. I couldn’t say a word. Seriously, i couldn’t understand anything!! nothing! except yes no, ok:) but i made an effort. I wanted to learn! and i loved kids! that was the reason why i came. Even tho lots of people don’t believe me that i came for this reason, I DID. My english was bad, but believe me, if there was a problem with the kids where they needed a doctor, i made them understand me! once my little girl had a fever of 104! i called my hm and said, she is sick, she is hot like a stove!! ( i didn’t know the word for fever) i said she is on fire! and the number is 104! she did undestand me! i understood her too, open kitchen cabinet, take medicine, give her two of the white spoons. when you need to say something, you will. Even as a very bad english speaker, in a situation like this, you find words you never thought you had. I have been with this family for a very long time now.

Alex February 5, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I know, I know that if something like this happens -one way or another- the AP will manage to tell the parents what is going on, but I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable. I’d wonder if she’s getting basic instructions, even more so when it comes down to medication.
It’s really cool that you became an AP to improve your English skills, but some APs don’t even bother, they tend to befriend only people from their home country and speak their mother tongue, which is fine, too I guess, but I think one of the points in living abroad is learning new things :)

Kids can get very frustrated too when the AP doesn’t understand what they’re saying.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 5, 2013 at 10:59 pm

We were warned by our LCC that when a barely-speaking AP follows a fluently speaking AP it can be a disaster. For us, it was. Child #2 ignored the AP and decided she was there only for child #1 who has special needs. In the end, they did bond, but it took months. She never really established a rapport with him, but he did enjoy her cooking.

former_ap_sv February 5, 2013 at 2:18 am

“She referenced our children as her own- i.e. saying “my boys” all the time.”

Someone said this above, and I just wanted to comment on it as a former au pair. I remember referring to my charge as “my boy” and my BFF’s charges were “your girls”. As a 30-something adult I can see how it sounds inappropriate and weird to parents, but at the time it was an typical, almost au-pair-culture term of endearment. We didn’t really think the kids were “ours” nor did we want them to be, we adored them but off the clock we were shopping and partying and doing our own thing! Just a note to HMs…don’t necessarily be alarmed if you hear that.

Momma Gadget February 5, 2013 at 9:10 am

I think that it is great! our APs have always referred to our kids as “My boys”. It’s not like they’re calling them “my sons”.
I think it shows a connection, and a sense of responsibility torwards them, and is less impersonal than “my house children”. Of course if they misbehave they always become “your sons” :)

CA Host Mom February 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Agreed – when I see a Facebook or Instagram picture go up on our APs page titled, “my boys” it always makes me smile. But I am certain that it is coming from a good place and that she really loves and feels a special connection to them. I can see how it would be weird if there were other underlying issues, but for us – it’s a good thing.

Returning HM February 5, 2013 at 7:23 am

Former_ap_sv, I suspect that, as with many things, how parents hear “my boys” is determined in many ways by how they feel about the AP. In a good relationship where the issues are very minor, it may be endearing. In a relationship otherwise strained, it may be yet another irritant. I know I love it when our AP from last year asks on Skype “How are my children?” – in this case, not even “our” but “my.” To me, this shows the deep connection she still feels for them. But if an AP was otherwise overstepping boundaries, was not hearing input on child-related issues, or was otherwise causing me anxiety about role in our household, I might well chafe at the implied propriety.

Seattle Au pair! February 5, 2013 at 9:25 am

It has been 4 years since I finished my au pair program and I still called the kids “my girls” even though they are not mine. But I took care of them for 45 hours a day, 5 days of the week for a year. I saw them grow, I taught them new things, I gave them love as they were my kids. I´m pretty sure most au pairs feel like this.

TexasHM February 5, 2013 at 10:07 am

Agreed with above that singularly, it’s fine and both my au pairs have done this “my kids” and it didnt bother me. I think the OP was illustrating in this instance the AP is a little emotionally desperate so when a person clings even in their free time, answers I love you too when not in the conversation and refers to “my boys” I can see how that would be unsettling. One of my fellow host moms had this progress to possessiveness and eventually the AP became combative, trying to make parenting decisions and saying she was more their mom than my friend because she had them more hours per week!

former_ap_sv February 5, 2013 at 11:11 am

I agree Returning HM and TexasHM-context matters! The fact this au pair says “I love you too” and is dependent/clingy does cast “my boys” in a different light, for sure. (TexasHM, your friend’s experience sounds awful!)

I just wanted to reassure host moms in general that if you hear your au pair saying “my kids”/”my girl” it’s probably not that they’re trying to take your place or even want to, they just like your kids :)

AFhostmom February 10, 2013 at 12:26 am

I agree that the comment about “my boys” was another example of how, when things are going poorly, EVERY LITTLE THING can annoy you.

As an overdue update, we are giving her another chance. I’m not going to explain or justify or anything else, as anything I say in her/my defense at this point will look like I’m making an excuse, and all that matters is we’ve talked to the LCC (at length), and given it a week and are happy with how things went this week. My husband and I are in agreement and on the same page.

We had a complete reset–and she even came forward with a detailed schedule of what they will do every day (I had given her a list–library once a week, park whenever possible, indoor playgrounds, etc, and she detailed it into a daily schedule, unprompted). The LCC gave me some more ideas and told me I can start making the cluster meetings mandatory (which I knew at some point, but forgot….), so I will. And we will have mandatory HP-AP meetings every Sunday. AP is now out with some friends she met at the cluster meeting today, and I’m happy she’s trying to “get a life.”

As for the English, I don’t agree that poor English is necessarily a hindrance to childcare. Everyone’s situation is different, and our AP has not had to give our children medicine, for instance (and if she did, she can read a lot better than she can speak English). If there was a medical emergency, we are fortunate enough to live next to a retired grandmother who knows the AP well and who would absolutely assist in whatever way she could. We also have several SAHMs on our street who she can contact. My husband and I decided a long time ago that part of the AP experience, for us, was being open to girls with poor language skills–because that is an area where the AP experience can measurably benefit them. My oldest is 8 and very (very) apt to step in (and call me at work) if there was a problem of some kind.

Oh, and the vacation thing–she slept with someone, off duty, and away from my kids. Her first one night stand. I don’t hold it against her at all. She had a hard time dealing with the aftermath, though–she was TERRIFIED, and I mean terrified she was pregnant-and not having any friends her own age with whom to obsess about it, she did with me. Ick. Even after a negative pregnancy test. and that, using me as an emotional crutch, did piss me off. I finally told her to get over it, seek counseling, or she wasn’t fit to au pair, and she seems to’ve moved on.

AFhostmom February 10, 2013 at 12:50 am

Oh, and since I didn’t state specifically what the 3 “incidents” were, they were:
this one:

Not taking away a pair of (childrens)scissors from my son while she put laundry away (same room, but yeah, he shouldn’t have had the scissors in a bedroom and not at the kitchen table–but all in all, not life or death)

and, this one is embarrassing, and is more a control issue than a safety issue, since we live at the end of a court:

she let my son get out of the house naked once, and he was streaking down the street, AP and my daughter after him, as my husband pulled up at the end of his work day.

Should be working February 10, 2013 at 3:24 am

Ok, the streaking is just funny! (Except of course the possibility of getting hit by a car.)

AFhostmom February 10, 2013 at 11:46 am

I agree. :) It was difficult to discuss with seriousness.

Alina au pair February 10, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I want to rematch with my host family, but is afraid that I will not find a new host family. I have been here for 6 months and I am worried that maybe nobody wants me since I don’t have so much left. I am infant qualified and have a lot of experience of children.

I’m also afraid of how it will go for my host family. They have a child under 2 years old – and two other children – and must have an infant qualified au pair. I don’t want to waste time to stay longer, but I don’t want to be mean either. I don’t know if they also will be angry.

They are not mean, but I am absolutely not happy here. I am not comfortable here, I am tense and have got gases because of this. They say nice things, give me things, let me have a car, etc, but we communicate so different and it has happened a few incidents where my host mother yells at me. I want to feel more free, but I do not have enough SPACE here, she forced me to get some things, she has many opinions about if I will walk/drive to the train station (I want to walk in almost all weather, it’s safe and take less than 20 minutes), etc. This fall I was really sick and she FORCED me to drive when I didn’t feel that I could do it without a big risk. I feel so much pressure. Pressure to be perfect, not get sick again, etc. They have so many opinions and when I do something on my free time I always think “what would they say about this?”, etc. I have noticed that I have less self confidence, is weaker and much less happy here. I have no energy to arrange traveling and I almost stopped planning my week ends. This is not what I wanted of my au pair year. If I don’t rematch I think that I will stay for a few months more and then get enough and go home.

What do you think? Are these good reasons to rematch? Do you have experience about rematch for the au pair and for the family?

Thank you for your answers //

Anna February 10, 2013 at 2:06 pm


I have a feeling that your issue is communication. Your host family has a different communication style than you do, and you feel they are being forceful when they are probably just trying to be helpful and curious.

I think you should talk to your local coordinator and get some advice from her of how to re-establish yourself with your family, so that you can stand your ground when you need to.

I think you need to have this experience to try fixing your relationship and standing up for yourself, before you give up. There is no guarantee that with your next host family you will be able to communicate any better.

Alina au pair February 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Thank you for your answer.

I have tried. We have had several meetings and it still doesn’t feel good. After I have mentioned rematch they have start trying make me to stay. They thank me for almost everything, but it’s not enough. I want to want to stay, but the past things still bothers me and I feel a great pressure that make me feel less free. I’m not working out since I often get sick if I just started to work out after not have done it for a while, and it feels like it would be a disaster to get sick again, I’m afraid to go somewhere when it rains since my host mum thinks that I got sick last time mostly because I got wet feet when it rained once, etc. I don’t want to ajust that much and I want to do my own choices. It feels like my host mother treats me like a child and I am over 21.

When she forced me she screamed and was not happy. I have discovered that she gets more like this when she’s stressed, but it’s not a reason. My host father planned so he could drive the child this day, but my host mother thought that he shouldn’t and screamed at me (when host dad wasn’t there, I don’t know if he knows about it).

I know that it doesn’t have to get better in the next family, but I know that it could get better, and I want to go somewhere where I can do my own choises. I feel a little bit bad for my host family since I know that it could be hard for them to find a new au pair and that they can’t take au pairs over seas since they will not have an au pair for that long time. But I think that I will not stand out for 6 more months anyway, so there will be problems for them even if I don’t rematch now. And I don’t have so much time, so if I will rematch I have to do it NOW. It has been bad here for 2,5 months and I don’t think that it will change.

I do agree that’s it’s a good experience to fix relationships. But I don’t know how to fix this. My hostmum can’t undo the things that made me feel pressure and it doesn’t seem like she regrets it either.

Thank you again
// Alina.

AFhostmom February 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Alina, I don’t think host families would rule you out for the limited amount of time you have left…my family, for instance, would be fine with someone for just 6 more months.
But I do have to say that I don’t know that you’re going to find a better situation with another host family, based on the problems you’ve described. It’s truly a roll of the dice and you could end up in a worse situation. Speaking bluntly, your post sounds like this is more a personal issue, and less something stemming from your HF (there is a lot of “I feel pressured,” “I feel less self confident,” etc and not a clear reason why that’s connected to them and not you). So before you initiate rematch, talk to some other APs and your LCC to get some honest opinions of what else is out there.

Alina au pair February 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I didn’t think so before either, but my au pair friends think that it would be hard to find a family that want me for such a short time, and since more than one have said it and I can understand it I’m getting worried.

Yes, it is because if me too. But my host family is not a good fit for me and it’s what’s building these problems.

Honestly I have thought about this. Everyone are different and I think that I need more privacy than a lot of other people. For me it’s important to feel that I am able to make my own decisions, can be independent, fix things by myself, etc. Maybe it would be good to be a little bit less private, but I don’t know how. If I don’t get the space that I need, I do not feel well. My host mother want us to share more, be a real team, etc. I honestly would prefer a family that doesn’t try make me to be a member of the family and give me space than having it like this. My host mother is kind, she is not mean, but we are so different. She has handled situations in ways that I don’t think is okey.

I have talked to friends and emailed my councelor. Most of my friends thinks that the host family is doing wrong, but that I should stand out since it has been so long and they don’t think that I would get new families. One of them said that I could email someone at home every time it was a problem so I would get it out. It could happen that I come to a family and discover that it’s the same and that it is this way american families are and that it is a lot about me. I don’t think so, but if it will happen I will learn this about myself.

But do you think it’s ok to scream at an au pair? To not respect that she knows that she can’t drive? To force her to have new winter boots?

Thank you for your post.

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