Don’t Be Afraid To Rematch If Your Au Pair Can’t Drive

by cv harquail on December 11, 2015

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 pair can't drive, au pair problems Except when it comes to three things:

  1. Kindness,
  2. Safety, and
  3. Driving.

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! 

Image: Snowed In, by Peter Fletcher on Flickr


Pennsylvania AP Mom December 11, 2015 at 1:10 pm

My 2nd AP arrived to us from Mexico and also couldn’t drive. It was summertime, but we live in a northeastern state that gets a lot of snow so we began rematch proceedings immediately. We need a driver and she could not do the job, she went on to a family in San Francisco who did not require a drive and we found a new AP who fit our needs.
You’ll do yourself and her a disservice by keeping her. Your life will not be made easier and it will become frustrating to have to ferry her around; in addition, for her it will become difficult to get out and do things and have to rely on public transportation (unless you live in an area with REALLY good public transportation like NYC or San Francisco).

NoVA Twin Mom December 11, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Not that this necessarily matters, but it will probably be easier for her to find a new family in rematch with a longer time left in her year. I know the times we’ve been in rematch I would have preferred to match with someone that could stay in my home at least six months.

NoVA Twin Mom December 11, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I’m impressed you could change your requirements enough to accommodate her not being able to drive! That would be a dealbreaker for us. I’m guessing she was embarrassed and probably disappointed – realizing how much driving lessons would cost before she’ll be allowed to drive. It probably feels like you “clipped her wings” – but she probably doesn’t realize that probably 80% of the other families in the au pair program would have put her into rematch.

Stay strong. Don’t let her drive your kids if you aren’t comfortable with it. If for some reason you need someone else to “back you up” mention that US insurance companies often want au pairs to have US drivers licenses (you can even tell her that YOUR insurance company requires it) – and it’s highly unlikely she could get one based on your descriptions of her driving.

Keep focusing on her strengths (which you are). Maybe emphasize that she can find friends that can drive and get rides with them (within reason) and repeat that you’ll make sure she can move around without the car. Maybe riding with friends will make her feel a little more independent.

Whatever you do, if she threatens to go into rematch “because you won’t let her drive” LET HER go into rematch. Don’t be guilted into doing something you’re not comfortable with.

And wait until it starts snowing – she’ll probably be inwardly happy she’s not driving (though she probably won’t admit it to you).

Should be working December 11, 2015 at 1:32 pm

My advice is to dissociate yourself from the AP’s emotions. She’s mad, she’s sad, she’s embarrrassed–whatever. Not. Your. Problem. With our first few APs I worried way too much about their feelings. That alone, apart from whatever the actual issues were, made my life harder. Think of her more as an employee when it comes to this.

Let me note that we and I are very “familial” with APs, but when it comes to the “job” side of things it is crucial to your sanity to NOT take on responsibility for the AP’s feelings. Pass the kleenex when she gets dumped, buy a cake when she does well in her courses, but if it’s about the work stay super-cool and matter-of-fact.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm

I’ve been in your shoes. AP #5 was from China and managed to scratch the car next to her while backing out of a pull-in parking space when DH took her grocery shopping her first weekend in our house. Huge red flag! Well, my LCC (whom I adore) made an offhand comment during the intake the following week – that with poor language skills and zero driving skills she wasn’t a candidate for rematch and that she’d have to live with the LCC if we didn’t keep her. We kept her. She was great with the kids.

1) We split the cost of a 6-hour driving assessment with our local police, who at the end said there was no way she could pass a driving test with her current level of skill (slightly above high schoolers when it came to moving the vehicle forward, but not when it came to parallel parking, etc.)

2) Because of the results of the 6-hour driving assessment, we gave her a choice – we could go into rematch, or she could pay for 10 lessons (eventually the agency split the cost with her). She would also have to agree to spend one hour of her own time every day practicing during the day while the kids were in school. She agreed.

3) After 3 months she got to the point where we felt she could drive The Camel safely. Until that time we did not drive her anywhere. When she found a Buddhist congregation 40 minutes away by car, we told her to figure out how to get there by public transportation (it took her 1 1/2 + hours, but she did it).

4) And then it snowed at month 4. She refused to drive or practice driving. It irked me enough to want to go into rematch, but DH said no. So we used our vacation time to pick up the kids whenever they had an appointment and take them. It snowed for 3 months. Snowmaggedon, they called it. Three months during which she did not practice driving once!

5) By the time the roads cleared, I made DH take her for a practice drive. She failed. She was back to ground zero, which meant she was able to practice during the day, but she wasn’t allowed to use the car at night, on the weekends, or with the kids. She worked hard, and regained her skills after about six weeks. My LCC advised me to stop talking about her getting a license so I could use it against her at month 8 and wanted to extend. I did and we didn’t extend with her.

6) It took her a long time to find a HF with whom to extend, but she found one that did not need a driver and wouldn’t let her drive their cars. (I admit it – I threw her under the bus. When the driving question came up, I told people her skills matched those of a high schooler who had had her license for a year – which was true. She could drive, but she didn’t have common sense about when one should pull over and not drive.) When financial circumstances changed for them and she needed to find a new family she asked me to vouch for her driving skills. Giving that she hadn’t driven a car for 6 months, I refused.

If you really don’t need a driver and you like the AP, then don’t go into rematch. But don’t offer to pick her up or take her places. Her inability to drive is her fault, not yours! If you do need a driver, then rematch. I can speak from experience – it’s actually easier to find time to train an AP to drive when your kids are infants than when they are school-aged. School-aged kids just have too many activities for HP to find time to teach and AP to drive. Don’t do it!

If you decide not to go into rematch, then establish benchmarks for acquiring skills, and put it on her.

Have your LCC come to any negotiation meetings, so she can reinforce which expectations are reasonable.

Oh, and while she’s learning to drive – if that’s her choice, don’t let her practice on your cars – she should learn to drive on driving school cars!

Mimi December 11, 2015 at 2:20 pm

IMO, safety trumps feelings/relationship every time in these situations. We also learned our lesson the hard way about driving experience and do extensive screening for our APs because AP#2 misrepresented her driving experience to us. Although she had her license and had driven in her home country, she had gotten the license through bribery (as do most people apparently) without real qualifications and had done very little regular driving.

She was able to pass a driving evaluation by HD in our quiet rural area (we were both certified CDL instructors for several years) and drove for a month or two (with our infant twins) without incident until a fender bender in a neighboring town’s shopping district that left the car with two flat tires on the passenger side. AP#1 was visiting for the weekend and was with her when it happened which is how we learned how bad her highway and city driving was outside of optimal driving conditions. We were able to work with her to bring her up to what we needed, but we also had to limit the children being with her for most of her year, which was a huge inconvenience for us.

Winter weather is a reality for us, also. Our handbook clearly spells out that we reserve the right to withhold car privileges if we feel the weather conditions merit it. We’ve only had one AP push back against this. When the bad weather starts, we take the AP to a private lot and have them “play” to learn how to control a car that is out of control. Despite all this, every single AP has had a fender bender of sorts to varying degree, including deer strike, black ice, etc. Many HF in our cluster don’t screen very well and there have been some disastrous results. Luckily, no one has been seriously hurt.

There is a reason driving is mentioned as its own section in most agency applications. Separate the practical issue from the emotional with her. A weak AP driver is going to be a risk to herself and others, especially in winter weather. She is an insurance risk and her safety in your vehicle is your responsibility, both morally and financially. You’ve made very reasonable concessions that most HF would not by being generous in working around her not being able to drive, because most HF would be in rematch by now.

She is an adult and this is going to be an adult learning experience for her. Set boundaries about the situation now, and stick to them even if it means rematch if she mopes or grouses.

HMwithproblem December 11, 2015 at 3:40 pm

I had an AP who suddenly couldn’t drive. My knee jerk reaction was to think it wasn’t such a big deal that she couldn’t. But, ask yourself these questions. What if there is an emergency of some kind? AP now can’t take the child for treatment and have you meet her there, so either 911 needs to be called or you need to get home. Also, what does it mean for your kids for this winter? With at least one of mine, when I really thought it out, no AP driving pretty much meant kid would barely leave the house. I still never decided if that was totally fair to kiddo or not… for us there were more pressing considerations. Finally, how will everyone really feel after the first few weeks about the AP’s entire social live either being hanging with you, dependent on a friend picking her up or depending on a way for you to be able to take her to whatever? I mean, you probably have your own family things to do and maybe naps to work around and you just plain may not feel like driving someone around all the time, possibly with kids in tow. If you live in a place with stellar public transportation walking distance away maybe this is a non-issue?

If you do decide to rematch, but you really want to help AP, maybe talk to the LC about how to best do that. Maybe they can work out a longer time for her to search for a new HF? Maybe you can add a glowing, but of course honest, recommendation about other factors besides driving?

NJ Mom December 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm

We were in a similar situation 8 months ago. When AP arrived, we showed her how to operate the car, went over some basic rules of the road, and then did a driving skill assessment. It was HORRIBLE. AP nearly crashed the car twice (once into a parked car, and once into the garage), hit the gas instead of the brake when slowing down for a curve, and couldn’t get the car up the somewhat inclined driveway (automatic transmission). We barely made it off our street, and definitely stayed in the neighborhood. Subsequent driving lessons by HP showed some improvement, but not enough to even drive outside our neighborhood. We enlisted the services of a driving school who did an assessment. Their evaluation was that she did have some driving skills, would need a lot of practice, and was definitely not ready to drive solo much less with kids. We were expecting a good and experienced driver who would need some adjustment time but would be driving the kids around within a month. While we might be able to swing a non-driving AP, our area really requires people to drive for just about everything.

8 months later, AP has no issues driving the car, has obtained her state drivers license, and frequently takes the kids to school, activities, outings, or even just to the store. She can drive suburban roads, highways, and during rush hour. The farthest she’s driven is an hour away. It took about 3 months before she drove the kids to nearby locations (5-10 mins), and another 1-2 months before she drove the kids to farther locations or on the highway. When the snow/ice hit our region next month, we’ll need to see what she can handle to determine some weather rules.

What we did to get AP driving up to speed
* 5 2-hour professional lessons. 4 lessons 1-2 times a week, and 1 lesson a month later for highway.
* 1-2 HP lessons between professional lessons. After the first 4 professional lessons, ~1 HP lesson per week
* Post lesson sit downs to diagram, illustrate, etc driving skills that were not improving.
* Once she could consistently drive safely around the neighborhood and to a local park, AP spent many many hours practicing solo. I would estimate she did a minimum of 10 hours a week practicing solo on top of HM/HD lessons. There was 1 week where she did not practice, I spoke to her about it, and the day after that she practiced like crazy.
* English English English. Lots of English practice and going over common driving phrases so she could understand an instruction more accurately and with less delay. I tried learning basic commands in Spanish, but my Spanish was far worse than her English.
* After AP learned to drive the family car, more lessons on driving the AP car which is a manual transmission (she drove a manual in her home country)
* We repeated in different ways that it’s not only her ability to operate the car on the road, it is also her ability to avoid accidents. Avoiding accidents requires paying attention, being able to be so practiced in your driving skills that you can react quickly to avoid a sudden situation (bad driver, animal in the road, weather, traffic detours, etc), and making good decisions of where/when/with who/how you will even be driving.
* We expected a minor accident. Minor accidents and parking scrapes is a part of a young driver’s experience. Learning how to handle accidents and learning from the experience to never repeat the mistake is also part of driving. Early on, AP had 2 minor incidents the worst of which required AP replacing a side mirror. We talked scenarios through with her based on her experience, close encounters, our experiences, and other hypothetical situations.
* A lot of car rules that we’ve gradually relaxed as AP displays good driving skills and good decision making. Also explaining the purpose of the rules helps to reduce hard feelings and to teach decision making.

What we did in the meantime for transportation
* Rearranged our schedules and children’s activities because AP could not drive
* Give AP the use of a bike/helmet/bike lock as her primary form of transportation
* For AP meetings, combination of giving rides and asking the AP to find another AP in the area who can give her a ride
* For classes, our local CC is not reasonably accessible by bike/bus, so signed her up for an ESL that she could get to by biking to the train station and taking the train into NYC to attend the class. By the time the class started 2 months later, she was able to drive to the train station solo (we practiced the route with her several times).
* Any other activities, AP would use the bike, or get a ride from a friend. We did not drive her unless we were already going to the same place. This was partly for motivation, and partly because we were simply not willing to go out of our way when we were already putting so much into driving lessons.

What we learned
* The combination of so-so driving skills coupled with so-so English made her driving skills look far worse than what they probably were. Also, we had the “chicken and the egg” issue where improving her driving required better English, but improving her English required transportation.
* Getting the driving skills up to par required a lot of dedication, time, and $ from us, and even more dedication, time, and perseverance from AP.
* AP’s positive attitude made a big difference. There were lessons that went well and lessons that went horribly. Progress made, and setbacks. There were times where she probably wanted to give up, and definitely times when we were on the verge of giving up and re-matching. Even when the goal seemed out of reach, AP continued to get back on the horse and practice.
* In some ways, I feel like AP’s driving decisions are better made because she had to earn the privilege piece by piece. She learns from her friends’ mistakes, and doesn’t take driving for granted.

Would we do it again? It depends. We would definitely interview a little differently, but that still may not prevent this situation. If we found ourselves in this situation again, we would go case-by-case to see if it made sense. If we felt deception or misrepresentation was involved, we would definitely re-match (who knows what else was lied about!). A large factor would be how the other areas are going (childcare, bonding with children/family, right fit for family lifestyle, etc). Driving issues would be a deal breaker for a so-so AP. A mopey AP who’s lamenting not being able to drive due to lack of skill would probably be a deal breaker. Also, is the required driving outside of the AP’s near future ability. If the AP’s potential doesn’t match the HF needs, then what’s the point in lessons and practice? We had difficulty trying to assess this and this is where the professional instructor was valuable. The realities of weather and timing is also a factor. AP was learning to drive in the spring and has had many months of practice and experience before the cold weather sets in. If AP were starting now, it’s unlikely that the driving would improve in time to even consider driving in snow and ice. So can you wait until spring for AP to learn to drive? If we had chosen to re-match, a quick search showed a limited number of re-match candidates who would meet our needs (there were quite a few AP in re-match over driving!), so the options were to wait for an out of country AP, wait for an extension AP, or wait for a re-match AP to surface. So we also weighed in screening and interviewing to find a new AP, waiting for AP to arrive, and then transitioning and backup for any gaps in childcare.

Mimi December 11, 2015 at 6:09 pm

“Lots of English practice and going over common driving phrases so she could understand an instruction more accurately and with less delay.”

I can’t stress how important this is. We had an AP in our cluster who failed her driving test twice because of this. (She went into rematch.)

TexasHM December 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm

I’m really stuck on the APs reaction. Assuming she knows she is a terrible driver, she should be ELATED that you are keeping her and not putting her into rematch. Her reaction is super concerning to me and actually could be a second vote for rematch. If she is angry then she has unreasonable expectations. If she is sad then breaking up with a boy is going to send her asunder like this, or any other setback she has during the year (and there will be several). If she is embarrassed then I would think an apology would have been uttered and some appreciation that you are keeping her shown. Communication is the #1 most critical factor in having a successful year and you just told me she can’t/won’t/refuses to communicate with you. The driving issue might end up being a blessing!

The net-net is dead on. You need a driver. I don’t care what you say now. The fact that you said “We decided it’s not going to be a deal-breaker for us even though we had required it” says it all. You need a driver. She cannot drive. Not even close. You have to rematch for 1000 reasons, several listed above (it is a burden on you, it will get old for her, she might be entitled or immature and that will only become a nightmare – questioning the reaction there, she very likely misrepresented her skills and I would ask her about it point blank, asking AP friends will get old and isolate her as they over time will likely avoid her, you will have to take her to classes, you will have to take her to cluster meetings, if you ever can’t she will feel shorted/cheated/resentful and it will flare up over and over again).

We literally take them driving day one. They wake up, eat something and we get in the car. There is no point in getting super invested and training someone that can’t do the most basic requirements of the job. I had a HM friend struggling in a bad match and I asked her if the AP could drive. AP had been there if I recall about 10 days and they hadn’t tried! I said “WHY?!?!” They went an hour later and the AP couldn’t back out of the driveway (straight, flat driveway), almost took out the mailbox and blamed it all on it being an automatic (she drove manual in her country). They were sitting with the LC in rematch a couple hours later and my friend now takes AP driving day one.

I feel for you. It is easy (especially if you are new to hosting) to feel like it is somehow your fault for not being clear (it’s not) and terrified of rematch because rematch APs are somehow broken or undesirable (untrue, same as the pool you were interviewing in the first place – great, good and bad fits, difference being you might actually know upfront this time if they can drive in the US or not!).

Do what is best for the AP – rematch. Give her a chance to go to a family that doesn’t need a driver because they have public transportation or are close to everything. She will be SO much happier. I promise. You are not doing her a favor in this situation by keeping her, you really aren’t. Setting her up for success somewhere else is the right thing to do vs recreating the wheel to give her a mediocre year. (Happy AP, happy house)

Seattle Mom December 11, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Amen, sister!

Especially this part: “Communication is the #1 most critical factor in having a successful year and you just told me she can’t/won’t/refuses to communicate with you. The driving issue might end up being a blessing!”

Old China Hand December 11, 2015 at 7:57 pm

We live in a college town of 8000, including the 3000 students, and most students don’t have cars. Tons going on. We don’t require aps to drive. It is a very mild inconvenience for me to pick the older one up from preschool (a total of about 3/4 mile driving). But that gets me to not have to pump for the baby’s afternoon nap or pack lunch. Ap makes lunch for the kids and feeds me too as a thank you for helping out. A friend who works at the place with the preschool drives him to school. If necessary, ap can walk or bike with the trailer and kid two for pick up. This happens when I’m out of town.

We didn’t allow ap1 to drive. We weren’t allowing ap 2 to until we discovered the preschool 3 blocks away was closing and we’d have to go with one a mile farther away. Our aps take classes at the college in town. Theoretically they could make friends there but have made few. We provide a bike, lock, helmet. We also drive to ap gatherings. Our lcc sucks and arranges barely 4 a year, so this isn’t a problem.

For ap 2’s birthday we have her rides to esl for about a month. Free classes for immigrants. Over the summer the kids and ap stayed with my parents for a month while I was in China. She was told we expected her license for preschool driving (having not worked out our alternative plans). She practiced a ton and my uncle gave her some lessons. Then she came home and had only a month to get her permit (insurance rules for us). She failed the permit test and then the driving test the first time. It was a long, annoying process. And it cost us an arm and a leg in insurance money. I decided I’d rather eat lunch at home than have next ap drive.

Next ap is terrified of the snow and arriving in January. We told her that if she wants to drive , it will only be for herself and she has to use her education money for classes since she can take her other classes for free. Anyway, she hasn’t decided and we have things under control anyway. I’m tempted to go back to the ap can never drive rule.

DowntownMom December 11, 2015 at 10:22 pm

Whatever you end up doing, please don’t be her chauffeur! I did that for several months with our first au pair. Requests for rides came at the most inconvenient times: when sitting down for dinner, during dinner, when starting to watch a movie, just when we had gone to bed and so on.

Host Mom in the City December 15, 2015 at 12:16 pm

This. We also had an au pair who we thought we had interviewed extensively about driving and who clearly had no experience when she arrived. She wanted to start classes right away and so I agreed to drive her and pick her up twice a week. It was only about a 15 minute drive each way, but it meant that twice a week, I spent 30 minutes right when I got home from work driving her there, then did the whole dinner/homework/bed scramble and right when I finally wanted to sit down and have a minute to myself, had to head back out the door to drive for 30 minutes. Maybe had she been an excellent au pair otherwise and had been appreciative, I wouldn’t have minded, but she was awful and didn’t seem to understand the inconvenience to me at all (never even said thank you), so it made it that much worse. Never will I be an au pair chauffeur again.

New to This December 12, 2015 at 1:48 am

I’m not convinced that driving specifically deserves slot #3 on that list. Every family’s going to have different “deal-breaker” needs — for us, driving is a would-be-nice but not a big deal at all. (AP doesn’t need to drive the kid anywhere, and you can do pretty much everything you need by public transit around here EXCEPT cluster meetings that are held in out-of-the-way locations until hours when we need to be asleep…but that’s another rant entirely!) But there are other abilities that are essential for us and not easy to learn, like staying focused and energetic for hours on end while caring for a pre-verbal child…some people have the disposition to pull it off, some don’t. (I’ll admit I mostly don’t, much as I love the kid in question — that I felt like he was getting a lower quality of engagement from me by the end of a long day than I wanted was part of why I decided I needed help.) For other families it might be cooking (especially tough-but-necessary for a kid with tricky allergy issues), swimming, helping a middle-schooler with homework, maintaining order in a big family… So I might replace #3 on your list with “Performing whatever task motivated you to bring the AP on board in the first place.”

All that said, driving really is the central child-care need for a lot of families, and this sounds like one of them…so yeah, I think the advice here is dead on.

Old China Hand December 12, 2015 at 9:06 am

I’m with you. I have realized, again, that driving is not important to us. But being able to set boundaries is.

Old China Hand December 12, 2015 at 3:35 pm

I hit send too quickly. I meant that being able to set appropriate boundaries for little kids and not being a pushover is really important for us.

Meg December 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I think another thing that I, and I imagine others would put way up on the list is trust. I think that at a basic level I have to believe that AP is generally telling me the truth and generally trying to care for the kids in the way she represents she is.

Cynthia @ You Signed Up For WHAT?! December 12, 2015 at 9:33 am

Driving is an absolute necessity to us and we’ve been fortunate to have four fantastic drivers so far. We felt comfortable from Week 1 with the APs driving the kids. If an AP showed up who couldn’t actually drive well enough to drive herself, let alone the kids, unfortunately it would be a dealbreaker, as driving is a necessity for our “job”. I know that driving with a HP or instructor in a foreign country in an unfamiliar car can bring on the nerves and some people don’t do well with pressure/nerves, so I would always give another chance to be more relaxed.

Given your situation, I’d suggest two things –
– If you have decided it’s not a dealbreaker after all, you don’t have to be the chauffeur for every AP activity or social event, but remember that you’d really need to drive her to classes and other necessary outings. What if she needs to go out to get something from the store? She will be dependent on you for everything and it may make her feel isolated and perhaps even a little depressed to lose independence. So work out a system for this perhaps and work out clear guidelines for rides so she doesn’t feel guilty asking you, nor take advantage.
– Let her calm down a little and see if she’ll talk to you again. Maybe she didn’t realize she was so bad, or maybe she was really aware of it and now is embarrassed. Try to clear the air there so that you’re able to move forward without this big wall between you.

Good luck!

NCHostMom December 12, 2015 at 10:55 pm

Our AP is from South America and driving was something we talked about and wanted and then she got here and I was panicked by her driving skills. Our AP told us she absolutely did drive daily in Colombia but it was a small, manual transmission car and the rules of the road were very different, traffic was different etc and everything here was different. In our case driving wasn’t a must for the kids but English class is 40 minutes from our house and for about 2 months we brought her and picked her up and that sucked. Our AP is also very social and we did a lot of bussing her around which I really hated (my husband was less irritated by it). We paid for expensive driving lessons, luckily he felt she truly just needed some confidence vs being a total beginner. Around month 2 she passed her test and we let her drive herself to and from class and take the car out on the weekends with a curfew. As time has gone on she has proven to be a careful and responsible driver. We now let her drive the kids around locally and it is a HUGE help. She also takes the car all weekend (we have an AP car) and we OK’d her taking the car for a weekend next weekend about 3 hours away. But it was a long road. Now that she can and does drive the kids and I know how much I really really dislike being a taxi service I think our next AP will need to be a proficient driver from day 1. We live way out in the ‘burbs, there are no busses and friends are likely to be 30 minutes away. We have 3 cars now (we luckily didn’t when she first arrived) and we’d want all three to be worthwhile. We love love love our AP and have extended 9 more months but our next go through matching driving will be a bigger part of our equation.

SeattleHD December 12, 2015 at 11:55 pm

We love 8 miles from the nearest bus stop, and our walkability score is zero, so driving is an absolute must.. Three APs so far and no problems. If one was capable of driving even themselves safelyit would be a deal-breaker. Entitlement grows quickly so I would seriously re-evaluate your “we can muddle through” position.

TexasHM December 13, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Those of you that have had three and four straight great drivers can you share how you screen for this? (For op and me ;).

There are some countries that tend to be less risky because the rules are similar and it’s hard/expensive to get a license but we refuse to go under 21 (those APs are 18-19 gap year APs usually) so most of those countries aren’t an option for us.

I look for someone that drives daily and has had a license for at least a year, preferably 2+ years and ask detailed questions about types of roads, distances, rules etc. I’ve heard South Americans are risky, Europeans are generally strong but I’ve seen a French AP have 3 accidents so obviously it varies (ours was fantastic) and I’ve heard other side of the road countries are strong (South Africa, Australia, U.K.).

Right now I’m looking at a Mexican, Australian and Ukranian and I realize you never really know until they get here but any extra insight those of you that are hitting it can give would be great!

OzAuPair December 13, 2015 at 7:39 pm

I’m an American who au paired in Australia, and I can verify that Australian driving rules are crazy strict. Whereas in the US, restrictions are taken away within a few years of getting your permit, they keep in place for years and years and years over there. I was eighteen/nineteen and was stopped all the time about why I was driving certain places by myself, with kids, etc, and was given a lot of hell for it even with my American paperwork.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm

Our AP car is a manual – that pretty much eliminates Mexicans and Canadians from consideration. Ask a lot of car questions – I know there’s rarely snow in Texas, but ask about driving in snow and ice. “What’s the longest distance you’ve driven alone?” “What’s your best driving habit?” “How many times have you driven in the past seven days?”

We all get problem APs. My first AP, when asked “How long have you had license?” Replied “I’ve owned a car for two years.” That turned out to be true. We learned that she bribed the examiner because she knew there was no way she was going to pass the driving test. On the other hand, she had real chutzpah, and learned to drive well quickly. Our other Brazilian AP was a brilliant driver.

Our Chinese AP, as I wrote before, never learned to drive well. I also had a German AP who was a distracted driver and lost “no curfew” driving privileges.

Most of my APs learned quickly that have nearly 100% access to a vehicle was a privilege and treated the AP car like the gold it was.

However, I have a teenager who will be eligible for a learner’s permit in a few months. While hosting APs has trained me that learning to drive requires practice, practice, practice, I’m not ready.

Personally, if you’re looking for a driver, hosting an AP who drove to high school every day, or drove to a practicum every day is going to be a better experience for you than someone who received occasional access to a car. Hosting someone whose parents didn’t own a car, or only owned one car could be frustrating. Oh, and everyone thinks they’re a better driver than they are. Including me.

ChicagoHostMom December 14, 2015 at 2:24 am

We ask gobs of questions and stil had it happen twice. The fact is that you can buy a license with bribery in a lot of countries. We no longer host au pairs from countries that drive on the left, south america, or large cities where driving is not an essential and the actual driving is creeping along through the streets (cf. suburban driving on a range of different types of roads. When screening we ask: 1) Describe any driving instruction you have had; 2) how far is the farthest you have driven alone; 3) tell us about a time you were driving and got lost – what did you do?; 4) have you driven with children/describe circumstances; 5) tell us about your typical week of driving – describe roads, distance, traffic volume, parking, etc.; 6) do you drive your parents’ car? 7) do you drive your parents anywhere/do they ride with you? One bad driving au pair truthfully drove every day, but she drove about 3 miles on the same route one way to work.

New to This December 14, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Having seen these kinds of questions described here before as a good strategy for identifying experienced drivers, we asked a lot of similar ones — only we asked them about biking/walking/transit experience. Same principle, though, of asking for specifics about places regularly traveled, distance, frequency, and so on… And, they seem to have succeeded in helping us find an AP who is so far, if anything, embracing a car-free lifestyle even more enthusiastically than we do! (We have one car for the household, and we aspire to use it only rarely, but especially with the baby, end up driving a lot more than we’d like.) We’re still planning to get the AP a driver’s license for purposes of weekend road trips — we intend to split or cover rental car costs — but in the meantime we’ve been offering her rides to new places pretty regularly, and she always turns us down.

I will say, I was frustrated during matching that the agency staff helping us really didn’t seem to grasp that we were looking not only for someone who could tolerate limited car access (no designated AP car, and we were trying to keep expectations low as far as how often the family car would be available to borrow), but for someone who would actually appreciate the opportunity our location gives us for a mostly non-driving lifestyle. I saw it like being a vegetarian household that only wants to match with vegetarian APs — you’re limiting your pool of candidates to people with compatible lifestyle preferences, but for those candidates, your household’s characteristics are going to be a plus rather than a minus. And yet the agency folks kept talking about “overcoming the car issue” with other aspects of our profile…like they genuinely didn’t get that it could BE a question of lifestyle choice rather than just an unfortunate circumstance. So I was glad we’d done enough reading here to figure out how to handle that part of our screening process without a lot of agency support!

NoVA Twin Mom December 14, 2015 at 9:22 am

I say this having absolutely adored my Ukrainian high school exchange student (she is truly my “oldest kid”) – really question your Ukrainian candidate’s driving experience. According to my exchange student, it’s quite possible to live an entire lifetime in Ukraine without a drivers license – even outside the capital city. There’s “vanpools” – obviously not what they’re called but our closest equivalent – between cities and so many buses and trams and (in Kiev) trains that it just isn’t necessary.

Her DAD – at 40 something years old – had recently become the first and only family member to get a drivers license. And it showed – not *so* much because of lack of skill but lack of directional orientation, if that makes sense. They just never really read road maps because the driver of whatever conveyance they were on would get them there. It made getting to the airport to go home interesting – we knew we were near it because we could see planes taking off and landing, but couldn’t find the road to get in.

She told me recently that she’s nervous because her (excellent) job is requiring her to get a license – but luckily they’re providing a car for her to learn with and I think reimbursing her for the time to get the license. Which shows how “used to” this giant, international corporation is to the idea that their Ukrainian employees don’t have drivers licenses!

That being said, I would absolutely recommend the *idea* of a Ukrainian au pair, we’ve just never run across one with the right qualifications at the right time.

As for where to look for qualified drivers over 21 – we’ve had good luck with Scandinavia, where many of our candidates have taken a year to work before coming here as an au pair. The bonus is that the work is often in a preschool/daycare with real, 40 hour work weeks. If you’re looking now, though, you might be “off cycle” for them.

TexasHM December 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Out of curiosity when is “on cycle” for scandinavians? I’ve considered a few but heard negative generalizations about Swedes in particular.

NoVA Twin Mom December 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Ours have (nearly) all been summer arrivals – I *thought* you looked closer to your arrival date for candidates so would be looking for more of a February arrival. I could easily be confused, though. I hate to let out our secret, but our Swedish au pairs have been uniformly excellent. We do screen hard for past, full time work with kids over a long-ish period of time, though. Maybe if you do that, it doesn’t matter where they’re from :)

I do “insist” on our au pairs being from somewhere where it snows because our area goes so insane with the thought of any snow. I used quotes because I suppose a categorically excellent candidate from a warm climate but maybe in their second year in the US would be considered. Our last matching cycle we were thisclose to matching with a Polish candidate that met all of our requirements – someone that could move faster than we could got her.

AlwaysHopeful HM December 14, 2015 at 9:37 am

Texas HM, i worry a lot about driving during matching. I ask a ton of questions like those asked here, but also some wwyd questions: small animal darts into road, driving on highway, son starts throwing up, 20 minutes from home and you’re so sleepy you can barely keep your eyes open, object falls off truck in front of you on highway…wwyd? I also emphasize that is is critical that we have a strong, confident driver, that driving will be required every day, will involve daily highway driving, will often involve heavy traffic and crazy aggressive drivers, and that there is poor to no public transportation. With rhat, I’ve had 2 confident but careful drivers (both European), and 2 who were skilled, but not as confident ( one European and one South American).

TexasHM December 14, 2015 at 11:30 am

Thanks everyone. We ask most of these questions but as another said – you just never really know. We had a 8 yr licensed brazilian that was TERRIBLE, a 6 mo licensed brazilian that was great, a french ap that was fantastic and drove like me day one and a south african that is solid but we have had to limit (little scrape due to distraction, another little corner scrape due to misjudging angle).
Really appreciate the Ukrainian insight. I like that candidate a lot but driving is #1 for us so I need to dig dig dig. The mexican AP has driven in the US for a summer work program (camp chose her from the office staff because she was strongest driver and she drove a minivan hours each week back and forth to major city in NY) so she might be a slam dunk as our AP drives a minivan daily but we will see where it all goes!

NoVA Twin Mom December 14, 2015 at 11:34 am

I hate saying “all Ukrainians can’t drive” :( I LOVED her in so many ways – but even when we went on the gokart things at Disney World that look like old cars, it was “jerky” because she’d never driven before! So quiz her – because if she CAN drive she could be awesome!

Mimi December 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm

My Ukranian (from Lviv) AP bought her license with no real driving experience and it’s very common. We have a community of immigrants that she married into who are also almost all suspect drivers by their own admission.

Southern HM December 16, 2015 at 5:13 pm

Our Ukrainian AP had bought her license, no driving experience at all, zero. During the interview process she had told us that she was driving several times per week. The first time she got into our car, it was immediately apparent that she did not know how to drive a car. We were devastated, we needed a driver! We worked though it with our AD, eventually taught her how to drive, and she did become a safe driver, but we felt betrayed, and that tainted our relationship. We rematched much, much later, over something smaller, but I think that somehow blew out of proportion because of the betrayal at the beginning.

WarmStateMomma December 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm

I have a hard time trusting a driver from any country that ranks high on the corruption indices. Even the people who can drive in the former Soviet Union tend to drive in ways that we would consider dangerous – like on the sidewalk or honking at old people so they know to hurry across the street (because you don’t slow down for pedestrians), etc. Drunk driving isn’t considered as unacceptable in the FSU as it is in the West.

hOstCDmom December 16, 2015 at 7:16 pm

+1000 ( lived there, drove there, completely agree)

SeattleHD December 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

We’ve had three strong drivers so far, two of whom were 18 (South African and Australian, the other being Swedish).

The driving on the other side of the road thing tends to keep them wary and alert the first few weeks, and as a transplanted Brit who goes back regularly I understand the issues better than most.

I always do my own check ride and then have a local driving school give them an assessment lesson – they all passed with flying colors, so then it’s on to get a state drivers license. That process forces a bit of rigor, and us requiring that up front should hopefully suppress any poor drivers from wanting to match with us.

Seattle Mom December 14, 2015 at 7:22 pm

I agree with others that you won’t really know until they show up and get in your car. But there are things you can do to improve the chances that you get a good driver.

Here are my rules:

-If they are an extension or rematch AP I must talk to the current/previous HF and ask about driving skills.
-If OOC I am extremely wary of APs from countries that are known to produce bad drivers. So for OOC I mainly look at Europeans, but I’ll consider others with some due diligence.
-I only consider APs who have experienced driving every day as their main method of transportation. They really ought to have had their own car at some point in their life- if they are driving someone else’s car I ask a lot of questions, and I may rule them out based on driving.

So far I’ve had 5 au pairs. One was a rematch- she was a 19 year old French girl whose driving was not great but OK, I did not really like her driving but that wasn’t the reason for the rematch- I think her driving probably would have improved enough over time. The other 4 au pairs were good drivers and stayed for the full year with us. Two other French girls, one arrived a better driver than me (she was 23), the other was safe but had a lousy sense of direction (21). Our Thai au pair was a very good driver but a little aggressive- she was an extension so I knew about her driving from her previous HF. Our Japanese AP has been a good safe driver from day 1.

With the exception of our first two au pairs, I gave all of our APs a couple of weeks to practice driving before they had to drive the children. For 2 of our APs I could have lived with a non-driver indefinitely, since our children go to school within walking distance and we live near lots of busses that go everywhere. So I was willing to be flexible for the right AP- but I knew life would be easier with a driver. Currently I would not take an AP with no hope of driving the children within a month or so of arrival, because my kids now have after school activities that require driving- I could pick up the slack for a few weeks, but not much longer. Also a lot of the summer camps I sign them up for require driving, and there are some fun beaches/parks that would be off limits without a driver.

If we continue in the AP program part of the justification for doing so will be to have someone drive the kids around, so I wouldn’t consider keeping a non-driver in the future. When the kids were small there were other reasons (ie needing all day childcare), so as long as it was possible I could justify a non-driver. Driving is now about 20% of the AP’s job, and next year it will be a greater percentage.

Host Mom in the City December 15, 2015 at 12:17 pm

All of our Germans were excellent drivers. Both of our non-Germans were horrendous.

NJ Mama December 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Most of our APs have been very good drivers. I have had fantastic experience with Germans — and also two of our worst drivers were German, including my current au pair. We nearly got rid of her over it. It took A LOT of effort and I still get nervous at times.

One thing I want to share. When I was interviewing this last time around, I saw that my current AP put down that she was an experienced driver who had had her license for several years and who drove several times a week. When interviewing I asked how often she drove – and she told me several times a week. I asked if she had her own car and she said no. I then asked how she drove several times a week when she didn’t own a car, and she told me that she drove every time she visited her mom – which was every weekend.

Her answer bothered me, but regrettably, I let it go. It was one of those things that would sort of nag at me in the months before she arrived … and of course it turned out to be a real problem. The truth is, my au pair was in school full time for the last few years before she came to the US. She DID NOT see her mother every weekend – they didn’t even live in the same town. I think for the last several years she probably drove just a few times a year — probably not even once a month. That’s my guess. I realized then what made our other younger au pairs good drivers — they drove almost every day. I’ve learned that a 19 or 20 year old au pair who has been driving nearly every day since she got her license is a better driver than a 23 year old who hasn’t.

We spent a lot of time practicing with her. We paid for an online driving course and for private lessons. She improved and passed her driver’s license test. And then about two months after she arrived – after we thought we had turned the corner – went to pick up the kids from school and started driving away when my younger daughter – who was not buckled in – was leaning out to close the car door. It was very scary for my kids.

We nearly rematched over this. My family went round and round over it. My kids are older and we are hoping for this to be our last au pair, and in the end they decided that it just wasn’t worth starting over. We had several very long conversations with our au pair, who tries very hard but who is a bit of a flake. In the end my husband and kids wanted to give her one last chance, so we did (ie, I caved). so far it’s been OK. I do not let her drive very far and ask that she take turns with friends in driving on weekends, and I have a very strict car curfew (with other au pairs by this point I would have very much loosened up on all of our restrictions. But this is why house rules are important — set the rules and scale back if you can, but they are there to enforce when you need).

This is my long way of saying that I have sort of regretted not rematching right away. We absolutely require a solid driver. And if we decide to move ahead with another au pair, I would not hesitate to rematch in the first two weeks if her driving was below par. That said — I do feel for the OP. It would have CRUSHED our au pair if we went into rematch. It’s a difficult thing. She responded and practiced and improved so we kept her, but I don’t think I would go through the cost and time investment of doing all of those driving lessons again.

Seattle Mom December 15, 2015 at 7:16 pm

This is why I have learned to clarify exactly when & where they drive and whose car. It’s easy to say “a few times a week” when it’s really a few times per month, or once a month, ish… I remember I got my drivers’ license for the first time when I was 25 years old, and I was living in an apartment in Manhattan. My parents were in Brooklyn and I would go home and use their car every so often. I was a barely competent driver- I would not hire my 25 year old self to be an au pair driving kids around! That summer after I got my license I was 26 years old and worked at a summer program for high school students.. the program had me drive teenagers a couple of times. It was a very local drive (from one end of a big college campus to another) and nothing bad happened, and I was 25 years old and a legal driver, but still I felt like I wasn’t competent to be driving kids around. Some of those kids were probably better drivers than me!

After that summer I moved to DC and didn’t have a car for 3 years.. I occasionally rented cars and got zip cars so I could do shopping and go places outside the metro’s reach, but I was still not really a great driver. Once I finally got my own car, at 29 years old, I became a good driver within a few months.

Now, if I had become an au pair and drove around on a daily basis I probably would have gotten up to speed pretty quickly. But I know that there would have been a leap of faith involved. Especially if I were learning to drive in a foreign country.. yikes!

For this reason, I look for AP’s who already own their own car and really do have experience with a daily car commute. Unless I am able to give them time to practice without kids in the car for a few weeks, which was my situation for a while- not really any longer, because of the kids’ activities.

WestMom December 15, 2015 at 1:56 pm

We have had great drivers, except for one (although I think she would be considered a great driver anyway compared to many other APs. But she was a bit distracted and too quick on the pedal in my opinion…). But otherwise, we go for French girls (although I am sure I have share that info with you in other forums THM…). They typically get their assisted license around 16, and must drive assisted for a long time before being able to pass their license. It can take a good two years. Most of my girls got their license around 19yrs old, so by the time they came to us at 22, 24, 25, 26, they were experienced drivers. I prefer girls from the country, who have their own cars. We have had three APs who drove minibuses for their jobs, and in the snow no less. Accidents can happen to anyone, but I feel confident about our French APs driving skills.

WarmStateMomma December 16, 2015 at 1:30 pm

I’ve driven on vacation in wrong-side-of-the-road countries and it’s just weird the first couple of times, but I haven’t had to manage it in a big city like yours. I don’t think the driving is much different in Mexico, either, just a bit more casual on the rules.

Mimi December 16, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Driving in Mexico can be very different depending where you are. Mexico is full of very aggressive drivers with very bad driving habits and casual on the rules is often an understatement. When I lived there, the toll roads weren’t very common, but I understand that they’ve gotten really expensive in some areas, so many people will take the side roads to avoid the cost which could mean that an AP may not have much experience on a major highway even with regular driving. No one uses turn signals and the two lane smaller roads often have people passing you on both the left and the right in the shoulders if they feel like it. On the plus side, if they live in a mountainous area, they will be good at negotiating hairpin roads at high speeds. Venezuela and Colombia are pretty much the same, IMO.

TexasHM December 13, 2015 at 5:34 pm

Largest agency employee told me once that highest rematch for driving issues were Colombia and Thailand. She said Mexico was 50/50 great or terrible.

Seattle Mom December 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Did she say anything about Brazil? I’m curious because there are a lot of au pairs from Brazil..

Dorsi December 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Our one Brazilian was a very good driver, from what we could tell. She didn’t drive for us (we didn’t allow APs to drive at that time), but she rented a car several times without difficulty. Our LCC said that most brazilians arrive doing just fine.

skny December 17, 2015 at 7:10 pm

being from brazil, I will say that public transportation is very efficient, and most people buy their license (not so much because you are terrible, but corruption makes you). so having drivers license means nothing. the higher class the girl, higher chances she actually drives (but higher the chances she is a princess)

Anna December 18, 2015 at 2:18 pm

My Brazilian au pairs from Sao Paulo were great drivers. If you can (even occasionally) drive in Sao Paulo, you can drive anywhere. They still had to adjust to my large car (van) because they drove smaller cars in Brazil.

TexasHM December 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm

What SKNY said. I have heard from several LCs and our experience is that a Brazilian candidate that says she has a drivers license means nothing really. As said, they can buy them and there are very few rules/structure so its a free for all. AP1 had been driving for 8 years there and was TERRIBLE here. AP2 had been driving once a week for 6 months and was OK at best but improved very quickly. As said, you almost never know until they arrive no matter what they say in interviewing. And as said, all had to adjust to driving larger cars and struggled with our minivan except our french AP.

TexasHM December 18, 2015 at 6:59 pm

PS – ours were both from Sao Paolo so I completely disagree with “if you can (even occasionally) drive in Sao Paolo you can drive anywhere”. Was absolutely not the case for us BUT we do prefer that region because people from Sao Paolo are known as hard workers and down to earth and that was our experience.

Boy Au Pair Spain December 13, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Many times when I apply for au pair jobs I don’t meet the criteria and have often, successfully, persuaded parents that my other skills make up for what I lack (this is often my lack of ovaries but has also happened with those families looking for drivers!). For that reason it doesn’t surprise me that the original poster is willing to change her expectations for a good candidate.

Her problem with not being able to drive seems like a big issue. I think in her situation I would feel disappointed – I imagine she believes herself to be a good enough driver to use the car but clearly she isn’t. I guess she feels angry and resentful about that. She ought to realise how fortunate she is to not go into rematch over this. If I were you I’d have a frank conversation with her and ask whether she would prefer to rematch if it is making her so upset. If nothing else, this should get her talking. Maybe you could also discuss it with her parents over Skype (or any other 3rd party)… it they can back you up she may find it easier to accept. I hope though that since you wrote this message that she has since got over whatever negative feelings she had about not being able to drive the car.

European in America December 14, 2015 at 1:13 am

In this situation I do feel like rematch would be the best option, you need driver, you should not have to get by without.
However to some other host moms out there I would say that maybe you shouldn’t write off an au pair right away because they don’t have to much driving experience. They could have so many other qualities that cannot be taught such as amazing patience working with your children.
In reality driving is a skill that can be taught and developed through practice, if you are a family that is in a situation where you are able to give your au pair some time to get to know driving in Ameriva then I think you should give them a chance. I know that this is not the case in all host family situations. Just think you could be missing out on a great au pair because you wrote them off immediately after learning they didn’t have enough driving experience.

SeattleHD December 15, 2015 at 11:00 am

The issue is not just about driving, it’s about misrepresenting driving skills. There is a feet area where the host family doesn’t screen hard enough for driving or understand that driving in country X is different than driving here. At some point you have to say that for any dealbreaker skills misrepresentation is an automatic rematch.

Another point – it takes a while to judge how an au pair is with your kids, so it’s not like you get an instant read on that as compensation for lacking hard skills that can be assessed right away.

WestMom December 15, 2015 at 4:30 pm

We did have an amazing nanny for 4 years, and when we first hired her, my expectations was for her to get her driver’s license (she had failed the test twice before). She did pass, but I never felt comfortable with her driving skills (we did a lot of test drives together). So I did like OP. I made a compromise because my kids were young and mostly needed to spend time at home, and I chose local activities that were within walking distance. When it came time for my little ones to enter school, I gave our nanny 6 months to perfect her driving, and unfortunately after 6 months, I still did not feel comfortable enough with her driving. By that point, my kids were enrolled in a preschool program and I had to take time off two mornings per week in order to drive them to/fro. It didn’t make any more sense financially. That’s actually when we started with the AP program.

In our case, I could live with an amazing caretaker who was a non-driver bc the kids were young (and I didn’t have to drive the nanny to school and her social acitivities!).

But as soon as they start to have any activities out side the house, it is imperative to drive. And by that, I mean being a good driver. Not just someone with a license. I did it once, but would never consider a novice driver at this point in our lives.

ChicagoHostMom December 14, 2015 at 1:54 am

We have had this scenario twice – both times when we needed a driver to get our kids to some activities and school (nearby) – so driving is a must but not intensive. In both cases the Au pairs over-represented their driving abilities despite lots of questions in the matching process. Both girls have many fine qualities, and we are generally a very flexible and laid back family. We live in the upper Midwest, but our AP can function well without a car — she can walk to access public transit, shopping, restaurants, movies, etc., but our au pair must drive to get to classes.
For bad driver au pair #1, we stuck it out, practiced endlessly for five months and paid a driver on the side to take my son to preschool for five months. It was a very long year but the driving was good enough after five months that we felt ok having her drive 2 miles 3x week for school and to drive herself to classes. She paid the deductible on car damage and that was a wake up call to drive more carefully. It worked out but it was painful and I wish we had rematched.
With bad driver au pair #2 (this year), we stuck it out for four months, kept working at it, and she did drive our kids short distances and also drove to class. After her second fender bender, we rematched. Having dodged a bullet twice with nobody being hurt, we just didn’t see enough improvement – despite a good attitude, she just lacked awareness and plain old technical ability.
We now have a FABULOUS au pair who is a great driver and better match for our family all around, and BDAP#2 found a family who doesn’t even own a car. My advice – Unless you absolutely DO NOT need a driver and would not benefit by having a driver, rematch. Even if driving is not an absolute necessity for your family, having a driver could allow your au pair to take your kids places for enrichment activities, play dates and and new experiences. Don’t limit yourself or your kids. It’s not personal – you just need what’s best for your family.

LuckyHM#3 December 14, 2015 at 10:32 pm

We have had 3 aupairs, 2 from South America (20 and 24) and 1 from Germany (24) and they’ve all been excellent drivers. Our gig is more than 50% driving so a non driver would be an immediate rematch for us. We put this in our HB as one of the few reasons that we would rematch in the 1st week. And extensively interview for that. We have very limited transit options where we live. While my kids go to school (elementary and preschool) daily, they get off between 2-3pm and have a ton of extra curricular activities. Prior to AP, we just kept them in after-care but we felt bad and wanted them to not spend 7am – 7pm every day at school and they seem to love having an AP ( though paying $3500 for insurance yesterday have started us thinking whether this would be our last year as our youngest starts kinder next year – prior to APs, DH and I paid $1400/yr for 2 cars, we had to get a 3rd and then add insurance for a young driver and you get to this crazy amount)

So in essence, a driver among other qualities like actually looking kids and generosity of spirit are of utmost respect to us. To that end, DH or I take the AP first thing the morning after arrival at our house to drive around the neighborhood. So far all 3 have been great drivers including the 20 year old from South America week had been driving since she was 16 and drove a delivery van each day after school for her family’s business. We specify that we want our APs to have our state’s driver license immediately and will be taking them to DMV the 2nd week once their SS card arrives ( we take then to the SS office on the Monday after arrival). We also provide the manual for the written test for study before that actually arrive. For this current AP, our state allows you to study and take the test online so I paid for this and she has the written test completed before she arrived and was ready to take the road test the 2nd Monday in our house ((SS card arrived on Friday a week after she arrived).
If we do all this work and prior communication and the AP turns out to have “over estimated” their driving ability, we will be in rematch the next week and I share as much with prospective APs. It’s okay to be nervous and we will work with that but not a lack of ability. Having an AP costing us about $30k each year and I can’t invest anymore to teach them to drive

Didi December 15, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Rematch, please. My former Host family just vent through so many problems because their current au pair totaled the car. Luckily she is ok now, and kids were not with her, but it could have ended really bad. You owe it to her, to yourself and both of your families to let her find a host family that doesn’t need a driver.

You can still stay in touch and have a relationship with her, but this should not be one of those things you let slide.

WarmStateMomma December 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm

This issue really strikes home. I would rematch. Our first AP (from China) lied through her teeth about having driving experience (drives a couple times a week, highway experience, etc.). The year ended so badly that I ended up finding this site and desperately seeking advice.

After 10 months here with lessons from HD, me and a professional instructor, AP#1 couldn’t park in a parking space in an empty parking lot. I would have sooner let the 9 yo next door drive my kid since he at least knew where to put the car and why. The AP didn’t have the skill to control the car nor was she did she have the capacity to ever learn where you’d want the car to go or why. We reluctantly let her take the driving exam when she insisted she was ready – she thought we were just being unreasonable about doubting her abilities. The examiner told her she was such a bad driver and a danger to herself that she could not take the exam again.

We live in a huge city with no real public transportation. It was such an ordeal being her chauffer and I really came to resent it. She got depressed being dependent on us for rides everywhere and not having much independence. I hated seeing my daughter stuck at home all day. The AP was a wonderful caregiver but our relationship was severely damaged by her inability to drive (or even learn to drive) and my feeling that we been taken advantage of by her assurance that she had experience.

I would never go through that again. We will only accept an AP who has had her own car, but even that’s no guaranty.

AP#2 could drive but was over-confident and had a hard time learning that the driving rules here are actually enforced/required/necessary. She passed the exam on her 8th attempt and got into a $3k accident a few weeks later.

AP#3 drove pretty well when she arrived – like your average suburban teenager. She couldn’t drive the kids for a month but drove herself all over during non-peak times. Now, she easily handles all the intersecting freeways and drives my kids all over the metro area to different parks and activities.

APs 2 and 3 were both amazed at how much easier it is to drive in Orlando and Miami compared to where we live – since Florida has no mega highways or complicated traffic patterns. We just really need someone who can drive well on busy highways since there is nothing accessible without a major highway from our home. Finding a Chinese AP who can actually drive is the biggest challenge for us. Luckily, our current (incredible) AP has agreed to extend for a second year. I will probably pay for some of her travel during her travel month with the money we save on not having to pay for driving lessons or the domestic travel agency surcharge during the second year.

TexasHM suggested having the AP complete the written test online through a class you can pay for (in some states). We did this with our latest AP and it was great. She got to learn some of the US-specific rules with plenty of time to look up words she didn’t know, unlike an in-person class setting that relies on rapid oral lectures using lots of slang. She was very well prepared and really just needed to practice what she’d learned. It also saved us a 2-3 hour trip to the DMV with the baby and toddler, so it was $40 very well spent.

Anon December 18, 2015 at 3:33 pm

I lived in China for a while and most people don’t drive. The streets are too congested with trucks, taxi, hired drivers. I don’t even remember seeing a 19-20 year old girl driving anything but a scooter. Cars are very expensive there too. Those who drive think rules of traffic are merely suggestions, really. Quite frequently I saw people backing up on a busy highway because they missed their exit. We had a driver and I was involved in two traffic accidents with trucks (not our drivers fault). My point is, the only way I would believe a young woman in China can drive is if I see a video of her driving for 15 mins at least (someone else would have to take the video of course).

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