I truly appreciate Host Parents who are reluctant to rematch when their Au Pair isn’t “perfect”.
I appreciate Host Parents who are willing to “work it out”, who are willing to reset their expectations, and who are willing to celebrate what an Au Pair *has* rather than worry about what an Au Pair is missing. Except when it comes to three things:
- Safety, and
We got an email from a Host Mom who is struggling with her first Au Pair. Turns out, the Au Pair doesn’t drive as well as she said she could. Lessons aren’t going to get her up to speed anytime soon, and the family lives in the snowy North Central US anyway– where even the most capable drivers feel challenged by icy roads.
The Host Mom’s struggle is — How can she handle the Au Pair’s emotions, now that the Au Pair’s been told she can’t drive the kids in the car?
This is an admirable concern, from an obviously empathetic Host Mom. But, IMHO, it’s out of place. The Host Mom seems to have overlooked a big issue, which is:
Your Au Pair should make your life easier, not harder.
Not only has this Host Mom already given up on having the driving help she needs from an Au Pair, she’s promised the Au Pair she’ll help her get to and from classes and social events by driving her around town.
Yes, you read that right. This mom has taken on the driving help she hired an Au Pair for, and added another person to the list of folks the mom has to ferry out and about town. What?
Host Mom, here’s the deal—
Your au pair may be lovely. You may like her a lot. But if your au pair can’t do what you need — it’s good to rematch right away.
Even if right now you feel fine about the idea of driving the Au Pair to Starbucks, to the library, to the movies, to the Community College, you’re NOT going to feel fine in three months. Especially not when it’s 10 o’clock at night, your spouse is on a business trip, the kids are in bed, and your Au Pair needs a ride home because the buses aren’t running in the snow.
I appreciate that you *don’t* want to rematch, that you think you can work it out. And you *want* to work it out.
You need a driver. Your Au Pair can’t drive.
There are lovely Au Pairs out there rematching because their families live in the city and don’t have cars, because their families need someone who can cook and s/he can’t, because their host parents are getting divorced, or some other reason that’s no smudge on the Au Pair’s qualifications.
Give yourself the chance to find an Au Pair whose skills fit your needs.
Here’s the Host Mom’s entire email, with the details (below).
If you have a different take on what she should do, by all means share in the comments. I didn’t answer the question she posed, and you might want to. And, if you respond to her situation the way I did, offer some advice too.
I wanted to send a question about driving. We specified that we needed someone with driving abilities and experience. Our AP told us she had a family car and drove one hour a day in her city. Being first-timers, we didn’t really know a lot of specific questions to ask, but we trusted her when she said she is an experienced driver.
Well, my husband took her out for a drive and said he couldn’t even let her leave the neighborhood–she was like a beginner. So we hired a driving instructor and after her first lesson last week he said she is at the same level as his beginning high school students and she needs tons of practice. We live in the northern midwest, and there are tons of roundabouts here, which can be confusing to navigate. He said she is nowhere near ready to attempt driving through those, or on the highway.
We had thought we could pay for lessons for her to get proficient, but at the level she is, it’s not going to be cost- or time-effective. We do not have hours to spend teaching her how to drive, and at $70/hr we aren’t going to make that huge of a financial investment, especially because even with lessons, we would not feel comfortable with her driving the kids at all this year. Basically she would be a very new driver, like a high schooler, and we would never let someone that inexperienced drive our kids.
We decided it’s not going to be a deal-breaker for us even though we had required it.
We can manage without her driving the kids around. So we told her tonight that she is welcome to continue lessons at her own expense and when the instructor says she is good enough, she can use our car to driver herself but not the kids. We tried to be super nice, and just explained that the reality is she won’t be able to get enough practice for us to feel comfortable with her driving the kids, and we did not even bring up the fact that she mis-represented her driving ability and that she does not meet our requirement.
We do not want to rematch over it, because we like her and feel like we are finally getting a ‘groove’ and developing a relationship (she’s very sweet but quiet and it’s been hard to get her to open up much), but she got very upset and started crying and we asked her to talk about how she feels and tried to have a conversation about it to help her feel better, but she refused to talk to us. We told her we will help her get around, learn the bus system, drive her places, etc. I’m not even sure what she is upset about–if she’s mad we aren’t going to let her just drive, or mad that we aren’t going to pay for lots of lessons, or embarrassed, or disappointed, or what. I feel awful. And I’m afraid it might damage the relationship.
What have other people done in similar situations? Also, I should add that she’s from South America and has never left her town, where it is always hot, and now it’s winter up north here and there will be snow and ice to deal with, which is hard for those of us who have been driving in it for 20 years! Any input would be appreciated!