What happens when your au pair candidate says she can, but then it turns out she can’t? And, what if you said she didn’t really need to, but then you realized she did?
When we consider the characteristics and skills we want our au pair to have, we usually think about what we or our children need from an au pair. — We have to find an au pair that can swim if we have a pool for our kids, or one who likes dogs if we have dogs. If we don’t have a pool, or a dog, we don’t look for a swimmer or a dog-lover.
Sometimes, especially when we are new to au pairs, the scope of our criteria is too narrow. You au pair arrives, and something you thought s/he didn’t need to have/be, s/he actually does need to have/be.
We need to consider criteria not only from our own perspective, but also from the perspective of our potential au pairs.
Nowhere is this more true than with our criteria around driving.
Usually, we consider whether or not our kids need to be driven places, and if the answer is “yes” we look for a candidate with great driving skills. But a candidate also needs to be able to drive if you live in an area where there is nothing within walking distance and/or no easy public transportation.
If your family doesn’t live in a city or a well-developed town, your au pair needs to be able to drive well enough to use a car for his or her own purposes.
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Dear Au Pair Mom,
We just welcomed our first Au Pair this Friday, and I am starting to regret the whole thing.
I am a stay at home mom with 10 month old twins and 6 months pregnant with the 3rd (due in October). I am in desperate need of help, not only as my pregnancy moves forward but also after the arrival of the baby, when we’ll have three children under 14 months old. I was sick after the birth of the twins so I need to be able to take things more easily with this pregnancy and beyond.
When the twins first arrived, I had a full time nanny that lived with us Mon-Friday for the 1st 3 months the babies were born. For the last 4 months I’ve had a mother’s helper in the mornings. Once I found out I was pregnant again I knew I’d need full time help again.I really needed full-time help and this seemed like the most economical way compared to what people charge in our area. Some people where we live pay up to 3000 a month for full-time help which we cannot afford. So the au pair idea seemed like a good one.
Our Au Pair selection criteria didn’t include “good driving”.
When we were looking at candidates, we did not require good driving skills since my husband and I are the only ones we trust to drive our daughters anywhere. And, neither of our other caregivers ever had to drive the twins anywhere, so we did not make driving skill a priority.
Our AP is 25 and from Latin America. In terms of her personality, we like this young woman. She seems like a nice person and she seems fine with the babies (very loving, etc.)
Our Au Pair told us she could drive, but she can’t.
When we interviewed her, she said she could drive. I told her via skype conversations and e-mail several times that we would give her driving privileges if she could drive well. The first day here she said she never drove an automatic car. Then she told us she actually doesn’t drive very well, either.
Once she arrived here, it became clear that she didn’t understand that we live very far from the train and there is really no bus system in our area.
Now I am feeling guilty as she will be stuck in our house 24-7. That is, unless she learns to drive better or I drive her around.
I can’t be my Au Pair’s chauffeur.
We want her to get out and have a life, but she seems very afraid to mention to us that she needs a ride. We had said we could drive her where she needs to go within reason. The 2nd day here she wanted to go to the church. It is 30 minutes away so I stupidly said yes, brought her there, had to find a place to kill time and do some shopping and pick her up 2 hours later. This one experience made me realize that, even if I “want” to drive her when she needs it, I really can’t do that. I can’t spend 2-3 hours each weekend driving her to church.
If she could drive competently she would be able to used the car herself.
Am I being selfish? I didn’t get an AP so I can chauffeur her around.
We are toying with the idea of getting her driving instructions but who is to say she’ll be able to drive well enough or even pass the test.
I wonder if we should cut our losses ASAP and request someone that can get themselves around better or should we hold out. I hate to put more money out for the lessons and then still ask for another AP.
What should we do? The first three days with her have been exhausting our whole schedule is off. Plus, this issue is causing me more stress, when what I really need is an Au Pair who can reduce my stress.
I have no idea what to do. — Driven Close to the Edge
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Actually, Driven, you’re a bit further than you think. You’ve identified your two viable options. Short of getting your au pair a nice bike, you can either
1) Try to get her driving skills up to par, or
(2) Go go into rematch.
Here’ what I’d recommend:
1. Let your community counselor know that the driving thing is a problem.
2. Assess whether your au pair has the will, the interest, the determination, to learn to drive. THis is actually more important than whether she has the ability to learn to drive in the US.
3. If she has the will, go on to step 4. If she doesn’t have the will, go directly to rematch.
4. If you think she’s determined to learn to drive, assess her current level of skill. Have Host Dad take her out for two or three sessions in a parking lot. If it looks hopeless, go directly to rematch.
5. If it looks like she just needs to get comfy with an automatic, etc. arrange for driving lessons. *Ask your Counselor if the Agency will pay for them. Be especially firm with your counselor in asking for reimbursement if you feel your au pair misrepresented her driving skill.
6. After the first professional lesson (of 1.5 or 2 hours) ask the instructor for her/his evaluation. If the professional instructor thinks your au pair is hopeless as a driver, go to rematch. if not, keep on with the lessons.
7. Consider spending up to $300 on lessons, but no more.
(Wonder ow I came up with this number? In my town, $300 would be about 4.5 to 5 hours of lessons. And, that’s about what it would cost to get a babysitter to help you for 20 hours during the week you’d go into rematch… so it’s commensurate with the rematch cost you hope to avoid.)
8. Give your au pair an ultimatum: either she learns to drive “well enough” or you must rematch. Then, watch your au pair rise to the challenge, study online videos and practice up and down your street, and voila!
If you go directly to rematch:
10. Take some of the blame. Even though she misrepresented her skills, she did this thinking that driving ability really wasn’t important.
11. Continue to be kind and helpful during rematch. Be sure to write a short letter to the Counselor and to potential rematch families clarifying that driving is the issue, and mentioning anything positive you can about the candidate. Give her a copy of this letter so she knows that you’re supporting her in finding a better placement.
12. Scour the advice on this blog for finding a rematch candidate. (Just type the word “rematch” into the search box, and there’s a wealth of wisdom and ‘how to’s”.) There may well be a candidate out there who has realized she likes babies better than tweens…. and who doesn’t want to chauffeur kids but can drive herself to the mall. There are great candidates out there.
13. Move quickly. It may take more than two weeks to find someone… the sooner you start, the better.
14. Consider your criteria… Is there anything else you’ve realized that you need, or don’t need, in an au pair? Adjust now.
15. Remember that this can be a learning experience. Use it to practice being direct, kind and unafraid in your approach to resolving issues with a caregiver.
16. Finally, don’t feel guilty or selfish. You simply can’t be 6+ months pregnant and a chauffeur. It just can’t be done.
[[ Note: I am assuming that you live too far away for her to bike to places she wants to go. ]]
Did I miss anything? What else should Driven try?