As a host parent, you’ve worried about car accidents, flu shots and even head lice. But did you ever think you’d need to worry about bedbugs?
HMJ didn’t think so.
But now, bedbug-related fears — all very reasonable — are challenging her relationship to her terrific Au Pair.
Dear AuPairMom –
We are 18 months into our experience with our first aupair (she extended for an extra year). We love her and she is a responsible, beautiful young woman. Really a part of our family and a perfect fit for us. She has a boyfriend and it’s pretty serious but she insists she’s going home in 6 months regardless of her boyfriend.
Our au pair spends every weekend with her boyfriend at his apartment from Friday night until late Sunday night. This has not been a problem for us at all. BUT, now we have an issue.
The boyfriend’s apartment has been confirmed for a bedbug infestation (from a new roommate that moved in in Thanksgiving).
We have had our house inspected and we’ve been told that we don’t have bedbugs in our house. However, I hear that bedbug inspections and also bedbug treatments are not fool-proof.
Obviously, we don’t want bedbugs to invade our home. We can’t bear the idea of them, much less the expense and trauma to deal with them (and the toxins all over the house).
I have told our au pair that she cannot stay over at her boyfriend’s home until the bedbug treatment is done and his apartment is declared bedbug-free. But, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with her going over there at all, even after the exterminator has been there.
Au au pair is devastated, crying all the time, not eating. I love her and don’t want to hurt her but I just don’t want to have to worry for 6 months about discovering bedbugs. The fellow who inspected out house has explained that she might be able to prevent bringing bedbugs home with her by taking off all her clothes before she enters the house (and leaving them and a clean change of clothes in the garage). And, he suggested that she leave her things in the car. But the car she uses is also the one that we use for the kids. And, if you have bedbugs in your garage how long until they get inside somehow, someway?
Apparently, the beg bugs (outside, in bags) can be killed in freezing temperatures AFTER 2 solid weeks. We currently have below freezing weather, but in 2 months that won’t be a solution.
And here’s the real problem: I don’t trust the boyfriend. I am not convinced they will spend the money to do the treatment correctly and keep up inspections. I don’t have any solid reason to feel this way just some bad impressions (he’s a deadbeat dad, hasn’t made accommodations to support her schedule, etc.)
What would you do? HMJ
Dear MHJ –
This is an especially tough situation since the real remedy — complete & trustworthy extermination — is beyond your control.
There’ a whole lot of distance between you and who’s responsible for the problem & on the hook for the solution (the boyfriend’s roommate). You’ve got to find a way to get your au pair, her boyfriend, and his roommate to care about this as much as you do.
You are completely right, of course, about wanting to protect your home, your kids, and your au pair from bedbugs and related extermination trauma.
Your request that your au pair not spend time at her boyfriend’s house is reasonable from that perspective. And, for a host of reasons, we understand that you wouldn’t want to invite him to sleep over or hang out in your home. Keep in mind, too, that your au pair shouldn’t be over at his place even immediately after the place is treated– sometimes it takes many treatments, and it always takes several weeks after any treatment to know whether it’s been effective.
I’ve got two suggestions — a ‘head’ strategy and a ‘heart’ strategy.
First, the information-oriented approach:
Ask your au pair to become an expert on bedbugs and how to eradicate them.
- Ask her to identify what really is effective, and to develop a plan that (she and) her boyfriend could pursue to make his apartment and her safe from bedbugs.
- Have her look online at bed bug slide shows like this one from WebMD or at YouTube videos of bedbugs crawling over someone’s bed or arm. It will completely creep her out and impress on her just how serious a bedbug infestation can be.
- Position this as a way she needs to take care of herself. And, let it take the burden off you for being the person telling her not to hang out in that apartment.
Now for the Heart-based approach:
Use the “he would if he really cared” argument.
- If her boyfriend really loves her and really wants to spend time with her at his home, he & his roommate need to exterminate and then have it
- If her boyfriend really cares about her, and if he is really good enough for her, he can prove it by verifying that his apartment is bug-free.
- If he really loved her, he wouldn’t want her to expose herself or her host family to bed bugs.
If she and he know what they’re really facing with bedbugs, and they care about each other (and your family), he should bite the bullet and deal with it.
Host parents, what else would you try?