Reliable, predictable, kind, and safe — that’s what we need childcare to be.
So what happens when we have an au pair who we like, who’s doing a great job, and then all of a sudden turns out to have a condition that is unpredictable, that makes her unreliable, and that makes you worry that s/he and your kids are no longer safe?
Here’s MetroHostMom’s story, and her request for advice.
Dear AuPairMoms —
Our current au pair, with us since December, is a mature 19, mostly good with our kids – five and seven – and we like her a lot. She likes to go out on the weekends and often stays out very late – 4 AM or 6 AM.
This past Monday she came upstairs for work in the morning and said she had been up all night coughing and wasn’t feeling well. She had been sick for a couple weeks, as we all had. Because I knew for a fact that she had been out very very late both nights of the weekend, I was feeling a little less sympathetic than I might normally. We talked about her day and how she could manage it while not feeling 100% and then she abruptly left the room.
I wasn’t sure where she was but a few minutes later I heard a noise and realized she had gone to the bathroom. I went to check on her and found her passed out on the floor.
We called 911 because, well, we didn’t really know what to do. She wasn’t waking up, so we weren’t sure what was going on. She revived somewhat before the ambulance got there and was able to walk to the ambulance with help. She was taken to the ER where she (and I) stayed for the next four hours. She fainted two more times while in the ER, once when she was having blood taken and once when she walked to bathroom. Basic tests were done and nothing was found to have caused it. . Our au pair insisted to me several times that she was just hungry and the blood draw made her faint. The doctor mentioned something called a “Vasovagal Response“. The doctor recommended she receive follow-up care to look into it further and discharged her.
We made arrangements for childcare that day and the next day have tried to make things a little easier for her this week. In talking to her about it on the way home I tried to gently suggest that she needs to take better care of herself. When I wondered aloud if she might not stay out so late, but she responded that that was not why she’d fainted. She said “It’s just who I am.”
Our au pair seemed embarrassed about the whole thing but also annoyed with us for “making a big deal out of it” and sending her to the hospital.
We had another talk with her last night about it. We emphasized that she really needs to take care of herself and take it easy on the weekends. We asked her to go for a follow-up visit with a doctor. We told her that she can’t be in the situation where she faints again, especially when we are not home to help her. We’re concerned for her well-being and for the safety of our children.
But our au pair replied that she thinks it will happen again: When she’s cut herself or sees blood, she often feels like she has to throw up, and has fainted. I asked how often it happens and she said once or twice a year. This is not information that we were giving prior to last night. She seemed annoyed that we were making a big deal out of it.
In the meantime, I’ve done a little research on ‘vasovagal response’. Based on what I know about her it seems to be the exact condition she has – there is really no treatment for it, the only way to manage it is to avoid triggers like – dehydration, being tired, standing for long periods, seeing blood, heat etc. At this point it seems like a doctor visit would just be a waste of money and time, since if this is what she has there is nothing that a doctor can do to help. (Our au pair claims she has never seen a doctor at home about her fainting, which is amazing to me).
The bigger issue for me is the safety of my kids – should someone who has repeated fainting spells be responsible for the safety of young children? Obviously bad things happen, and they can happen anytime, but they mostly happen without warning. Knowing (now) that the potential is there for her to faint pretty much anytime – especially with summer coming and very hot summers where we live – makes me concerned about her being the sole person in charge of my kids.
I wish it didn’t feel concerned. I wish I felt completely fine with the probabilities of her fainting again, and when she is caring for the kids. But I am anxious and worried and honestly feel like she is just waiting for it to happen again. From my research it doesn’t seem to happen to many people while they are driving so I guess that is not a huge concern but just having my children see it would be very scary for everyone, whether they were in danger or not.
So we can tell her to go easy on the partying, drink a lot of water, sit down when she starts to feel faint, stay cool in the summer, don’t cut herself when she is making the kids lunch, and maybe it won’t happen again. But maybe it will.
I guess my question to the community here is – how cautious is too cautious?
- Would it be ridiculous for us to rematch because of this when there are no other issues at all?
- Would it be ridiculous for us to NOT rematch? Should we continue as if everything is ok and just hope it doesn’t happen again?
I feel like I am a little too caught up emotionally to have any perspective on this and would love to hear from other parents. I know I can’t protect my kids from everything but I also don’t want to take unnecessary risks, right? But argh, rematch.