Here’s a request for advice– and it is a long one… read through and offer your wisdom!
Hi All, We are a first time host family of a lovely Au Pair from China. She has been here almost two weeks. She is neat, helpful, and eager; she is willing to learn how to work appliances, etc. HOWEVER…
We seem to be having a few problems; I wonder how common they are, and would appreciate any advice people might have regarding how to fix them:
Our Au Pair Has Poor English
This one I feel is largely my fault; when we interviewed her on Skype, it was easy to blame the conversation lags on the distance/ internet connection. However, it is now apparent that she often seems to understand statements or instructions, but in fact does not. I have tried the simple (but somewhat infantilizing) technique of asking her to repeat instructions back to me – she seems to find this a little rude, which I understand, but if I don’t do it, I have no idea if she understands me or not. She seems to want to appear to understand so much (saying “Yes, yes, OK” even before I’ve finished a question) that she does not ask for clarification.
Her limited English skills also have made it very hard to get to know her. When my husband or I try to have friendly conversations, she seems to get embarrassed or frustrated – when my husband asked what she likes to do on weekends, she told us that she would rather talk to us about it in a month, once her English is better! I feel bad for her, and I don’t know how to help….?
Our Au Pair Has Poor Driving Skills
Actually, poor is an understatement. We only looked at applications from people who stated they knew how to drive. We have had the AP drive with us twice since she arrived. The first time, with me, she was driving through stop signs, into intersections, weaving from lane to lane without signaling or looking (the whole “lane” concept seemed foreign to her), turning left into opposing traffic, etc. I told my husband (who I think didn’t really believe me) how bad it was. So he took her out. She drove right off the road! He also felt that they narrowly avoided two major accidents, one when she glided into an intersection without regard to the light, another when she failed to brake until the last possible minute. There is no way we would let her drive out kids!
The problem is, we picked her specifically because we needed someone to drive our kids to/from school in the morning and evening! That was made clear upfront, and now I feel a little duped… Furthermore, she seems to think that her driving is fine – as my husband said, when she drove off the road, she giggled. I’m sure it was a nervous thing, but I don’t know how to proceed. We signed her up for her driving test, but there is no way she will pass it. Do we pay for private driving lessons? Should the agency cover the cost? And what should we do if we still don’t feel comfortable with her driving even after lessons? Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if she were a novice, “rusty” or timid – it’s the fact that she does not seem to even know to be careful that has me spooked.
Our Au Pair is Struggling to Bond With The Kids
My daughter, who is 5, seems to really not like the AP. She was so excited about the au pair coming, and now says she wants her to leave! She was fine with the AP for the first day or so, but now seems to resent any instruction or even help from the AP.
I know my daughter is VERY strongminded, and is not easy to direct – she is hard even for my formidable mother-in-law to handle. But I cannot change her personality – she doesn’t often respond the first time when told it’s time to leave, put away toys, get your PJs on, etc. If our au pair tries to get her to do anything, my daughter says “No” or simply doesn’t pay attention.
With her limited English, the AP doesn’t seem to have the tools to overcome this problem. If I or my husband is around, we intervene (she knows better than to disobey us) – but we can’t always be around! I’ve explained to my daughter that she cannot be rude or disrespectful, even given her time outs for not listening to the AP, but it doesn’t seem to change things. Even my toddler (2 year old boy) seems to not like the AP – that might get better with time, although I think he picks up on what his big sister thinks, and it starting to behave in kind. I’m worried about the direction their relationship is going, but I feel powerless to redirect things. HELP!!!
What we’ve done so far
I’ve talked with the cluster rep, who seems to think this is all pretty typical, and will work itself out (except the driving, which will need attention). The problem is my husband goes back to full time in one month, and at that point, we NEED someone who can drive our kids to school / daycare. Hiring another person to do that is an option, or course, but that seems to defeat a main reason why we got an au pair.
Am I being unrealistic?
Is it too soon to expect things to be settling in?
Am I doing something wrong that is preventing things from working?
I feel really bad even writing this – I can tell the au pair is a good person, and it must be so difficult to be out of one’s country for the first time, in a foreign land with unfamiliar customs, barely understanding the language and expected to help with a stranger’s rowdy children – but I am starting to question whether it is fixable or not…. Overwhelmed First-Timers
Dear Overwhelmed First-Timers
I just read your email aloud to my DH (we’re in the car) and he had one word for you — rematch.
Of course, I’ll put this up on AuPairMom on Monday and we can get everyone’s suggestions, BUT
Driving is key. You can teach someone how to operate a car but you can’t teach them to have a serious, safe, skillful appreciation of the responsibility for driving someone else’s child.
Bad driving is a deal breaker. You don’t have time to teach her to drive— it would take many hours and much money, with no guarantees that it would be fixed in time.
As for the other two issues:
The language/instruction issue most of us would recommend you to keep working on.
The challenges of bonding with your children and learning how to interact with them would also be something that most of us would suggest is ‘fixable’ and worth working on.
But all three of these issues? That’s just too much for one host family to handle.
Go back to your LCC and put pressure on her to start rematch. The agency might balk, recommend driving lessons , etc. Have the LCC drive in car w/ AP to show her how bad it is. Demand a competent safe driver.
That’s my .02. Will put this up and see what others say. But get ready to rematch.
Also remember that there are great candidates out there — and you can and will find one.There is a better candidate for you out there.
You need to have a stronger foundation at the start that what you have so far.
cv, aka AuPairMom
Readers? Do you agree? What other advice do you have?