When You Give and Give, and Your Au Pair is Oblivious

by cv harquail on May 13, 2017

Dear Au Pair Host Parents–

I need advice/support …. Our awesome au pair went in to an emergency medical situation a couple of weeks ago, where she came down with a stomach pain, which turned into appendicitis, and later a ruptured appendix. All told it was 5 nights in the hospital, and 10 days off the job.

2359035634_3bfb9fdacf_mThe challenges started the very first day, because she requested a mid-week day off to go into the city to interview for her passport (she had had that stolen while traveling recently). Of course, this is when we really need childcare, so it was hard to accommodate her, but we did.   Then, her stomach pain began, leading to a 6 hour visit to urgent care, then to the ER where I stayed with her until 1am.

This one bad day  turned into a nightmare, because she was hospitalized for 5 nights, came down with an infection, and then finally came home.

She was weak, zero energy, barely able to walk, and needed to be taken care by me because she was a ‘recovering patient’ here at our home.

We spent another 5 days taking care of her at home.  All along, our agency (who were AWESOME SUPPORT by the way) encouraged us to send our AP home, so she could be evacuated in emergency state. We pushed back, feeling that we were her “American family” and fully supportive of her recuperating and staying with us for the duration of her commitment (another 4 months).

My husband and I, both in demanding financial services jobs, took off unplanned days/staged our days and put our jobs on the line to take care of her and our kids while she was hospitalized or recovering. We paid out of pocket for other babysitters to come watch the kids this week, when I had to take conference calls (no easy feat to find sitters at such notice). My husband and I used many favors with our employers, to work from home on unexpected days; missed meetings; lost confidence from managers/team members / stakeholders.   

Of course, I cannot imagine how scary it is to be in a foreign country and has this happen to you. No family, foreign language, a medical system you don’t understand, your first major surgery…

But the costs of our efforts to help our au pair have been huge:  

  • My kids missed their after school classes which are $100 a week on day 1.
  • They missed other after school classes over the next week, totaling $150.
  • We paid our AP throughout the ordeal, over a 2 week time frame while we were doubling up and employing other sitters (paying the AP is an agency requirement – the agency is looking into what they can do to alleviate the situation) = $195.75×2 = $391.50.
  • We hired sitters, took off days, were emotionally really stressed, moved heaven & earth for her.
  • IN ADDITION: It was our wedding anniversary and we cancelled all of our plans for dinners, etc to care for her. My husband changed his work schedule to cover for her. We missed our son’s first & only 1st grade play.

This was all especially costly because we don’t have any flexibility left now, if something should happen with one of our kids. I’ve used up most of my chips with my employer for the au pair situation– and I don’t have much left for my *real*, two young kids.  I also have a mother to care for– she is a stage IV cancer patient and will likely need me.

Then the annoying things —  Our AP went above our family data sharing plan because she was in the hospital streaming video – which is a nominal amount but always bugs me every month because I have more than plenty, she always uses 80%+ of a shared data plan amongst 4 adults. We hired sitters, took off days, were emotionally really stressed, moved heaven & earth for her.

And now for the feelings:  

I am frustrated because tonight I learned that my AP started texting our neighbors about trying to work extra hours for them.  But– she can barely do 10% with our family, with me doing 90% of her work responsibilities. And she’s asking others if she can work for them!!

She started asking me if she could work with neighbor so-and-so next week, and I thought “geez that is unthoughtful of my friend to contact our AP” only to find out it was our AP who had reached out to them.

I am sad, angry and overwhelmed at what we’ve had to go through to try to save her experience and care for her.

Now, i feel like I must have a conversation with our au pair, not only about the extra work (which we will nix, of course) but also about feeling under-appreciated.

How can we communicate better/differently to our current AP in a way that she won’t resent us? She has no understanding of what it’s taken from us to support her.  I don’t want her to feel guilty, and we want to be generous, and yet..

~BentOverBackwards Host Mom

 

Image: Morning Backbend, by Vic Approve on Flicker

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Should be working May 13, 2017 at 8:20 pm

How long will she be able to do only do 10% of her responsibilities? This wouldn’t be ok with me. If it’s more than a few days, or even a week, I’m not sure this is worth it. But assuming she is improving quickly, then:

Does the AP know all that you have given up to help her? The babysitting costs, the employer-related ‘costs’, the anniversary? It is ok to let her know what you sacrificed to be of help to her.

Now it is time to lay it down: We went WAY out of our way to help you, against the advice of the agency which advised sending you home. It is against the rules for you to work for other families. We made those sacrifices because we felt so loyal to you–and we hope and even expect that you would feel that loyal to us. We need you to give us 100% or as much as you can, as soon as you can.

And be prepared to end it if it doesn’t work. If she was awesome, she isn’t showing that she still is awesome. If she can turn this around and start being the awesome AP again, then good.

Frankly I’m not sure I would have cashed in as many chips with my employers as you did, but it was very generous. If she can’t return the loyalty, and you feel embittered (as I would), you can stick it out to the end or just end it–especially if she is only able to do 10% of her duties!!

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Dawnie May 14, 2017 at 12:14 am

Please stop having the aupair work for anyone other than your family. It’s not benefiting your family and they honestly don’t appreciate it. If she spprevuated6an ounce of what you’ve done, she would be calling you to talk about how quickly she can return to work. There’s a difference between being cordial and being taken advantage of. Let the buck stop here.
I’ve had 5 aupairs so far, and I learned my lesson with the first one and third one. People do to you what they can get away with. Stop and think about your family. It’s not fair.

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HRHM May 16, 2017 at 11:21 am

Did you read the OP? They aren’t “having” their AP work for other families – they CAUGHT her trying to find work with other families WITHOUT their permission, while they are paying a babysitter to do her job.

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Dawnie May 14, 2017 at 12:18 am

Typo….Appreciated an ounce…

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AP May 14, 2017 at 6:18 am

You were very generous with her, but I honestly think you should have sent her home. It would have been less hassle for you, better for her, and you could have both, separately, started looking for another AP/HF. Having said that, it was exceptionally unfair for her to contact your neighbour, but she is also recovering from a pretty major, traumatic ordeal and may not be 100% restored in reasoning just yet. When she’s working full capacity again, give it a month to see how she does.

On another note, I seriously commend the amount of effort you and your husband put into her medical issues, and how you handled her illness. I’ve had a similar situation with a dreadful host family; one of their (very out of control children) pushed me down a flight of stairs, resulting in a broken toe – and the host mum didn’t believe me, and made me continue to run after the boys while I was crying and limping! Wasn’t the first issue I’d had with them, so I gave my notice and left the family the next morning to stay in a hostel and see a doctor/ get x rays. Really wish I’d had a host family like yours in that situation, she should be feeling very grateful, and should be fully aware of your sacrifices for her. Hope it turns out okay!

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Elizabeth May 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm

I think the biggest thing is you do not feel appreciated but you can’t expect a young girl to fully understand the consequences of getting so ill. You did the right thing by her (or and above actually) and feel good about that. Resentment is killer and eats away at all of us. You need to be very HONEST with her and talk to with her, e.g., “Of course getting sick was not your fault but it wasn’t our fault either, I need you to understand how much we gave to you because of this situation and now that you are well hope that you do the right thing by us and (fill in the blank) – NOT take extra jobs, help out with household stuff, work full 45 hours whenever you need (no special days off) until she goes home. Also warn her that you cannot fill in for her again whatsoever. I think you will just feel better if you are acknowledged for all that you gave her. Everyone needs that. And I’d start looking at “available now” APs.

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Taking a Computer Lunch May 14, 2017 at 9:13 pm

Time to sit her down and have a “reset your attitude” talk. At some point, I think, many APs take for granted that the relationship they have with their HP is the same they have with their parents. Except it’s not. You’re ultimately the employer, not “Mom” or “Dad” or even “Auntie” or “Uncle.”

-Have you made her pay for data streaming overages before? If so, do it now. Let her choose how it comes out of her paycheck, but warn her that if it happens again next month, you’ll sit down and have her sign off on the lack of pay. (Oh sure, she was stuck in the hospital, but since you made the extra sacrifice you owe her nothing.)

– No working for neighbors until she’s 100% back to your family. And absolutely – for the rest of her year with you – no time off to work extra for neighbors!!!

Make it clear that you bent over backwards because you strongly feel that she is a member of your family, and as such, you expect her not to go behind your back.

Agree on date when she will give you and DH a date night to make up for your lost anniversary celebration.

You don’t want to be in the situation where she is entirely beholdened to you for the rest of her year, but you do want her to make the care of your children her priority (before the care of your neighbor’s children, for example).

You don’t say how long she has been with your family, but obviously you will not talk about extension unless she returns to that awesome AP for whom you were willing to bend over backwards!

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BOB_HM May 22, 2017 at 7:09 pm

TACL, you make a good point, I think she sees me more as a mother figure or an aunt figure. I held her hair back while she puked her guts out. I emptied/washed/ replenished her vomit bin. We washed and remade her bed so she’d have fresh linens when she came home from the hospital. We had a ‘welcome home’ gift waiting for her when she came home, reminding her of her year end travel destinations. We arranged for a week off so she could heal. We double paid in child care, etc etc. And I found out not only did she start brokering for external sitting jobs that week, but she actually went and worked for another family while I was covering for her :/. And now she isn’t mad mad mad, it’s personal for her that I won’t let her babysit for other families. She is texting with me in our own home when she needs to tell me something, being passive aggressive… this grey line between hostmom & employer is so difficult to navigate….

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Should be working May 22, 2017 at 8:18 pm

Does the agency know she went to work for another family? She’s not allowed to do that. I think you need her out now. Can you just pay a childcare agency for a few weeks? Surely it would be worth it to have reliable, professional care.

I don’t know if this is your first AP. But it sounds like you need to focus on treating yourself as an employer. I have the same problem, I’m basically a pushover but learned to be hardnosed for at least the first few months of a new AP. It is worth it in setting up expectations.

She’s not awesome. She is not a good AP. No reason to throw good money and effort after bad. Tell the agency you are ready to rematch, get her out of your lives, and start with a new one.

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BOB_HM May 22, 2017 at 11:20 pm

SBW – yes you are so spot on. We’ve spoken with the agency, although they don’t know she was actually working for other families, especially while off with us. I do not think of her as ‘awesome’ anymore after all this. She is our 2nd AP, and after the 1st AP I vowed to myself to be tougher on them, but I suppose it’s just so much easier as the year goes on to be a more familial, accommodating host mom. I have to manage people at work (albeit really talented young individuals whom I’m learning from all day long) that I just want to come home and relax! We have 2 months left before our 3rd AP gets here, and as others point out the rematch process is so taxing. I am thinking of limping along for it… :( I know, total pushover…

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Should be working May 22, 2017 at 11:59 pm

Tell the agency, and make it clear that she hid it from you.

One reason we switched to boy APs was that I believed, correctly, that I am better able to be a “manager” with a boy AP than a girl. And since I’m the HP who manages the AP while DH is the pal type, it’s good. Don’t know why, but somehow it creates a certain distance and there is less drama and manipulation (in our cases). There was one disastrous incident with our previous boy AP, but it was a profound mistake on his part, not a management issue on my part.

BOB_HM May 23, 2017 at 7:11 am

SBW – that is somempowerful advice about the male APs (can’t replay to your last msg). And about managing them. We will give this lots of thought. Will also let my agency know.

My DH is the pal type too, so even though our AP is sulking & brooding with me, she is going after him with more ‘days off’ requests at the moment. Who knew I would have so many management learning moments with an AP!

NoVA Twin Mom May 23, 2017 at 8:09 am

OP – you say that you have two months until your next AP arrives. One option would be to rematch your current au pair and then just wait for the new AP to arrive. The advantage to you would be that the au pair would be out of your house after two weeks (yes, potentially sent home because she’s unlikely to find a family interested in taking a rematch available only two months). Even if you feel like you committed to keeping her, the advertising herself as available for outside work and even working outside your house while you were covering for her are game changers.

You’ll still need interim child care, but since you have a plan for two months from now, and there are lots of camps available in summer, finding coverage through care.com or something similar might just work. Are there grandparents that would like a visit from the grandkids for a week or so at a time? We resorted to “Camp Grandma” for about six weeks after our second rematch, waiting for an extension to be available. Our girls were two at the time. It wasn’t fun (well, the girls had fun) but it also gave us a break from au pairs and by the time the extension was available we were ready to dive back into hosting.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 23, 2017 at 8:54 am

If you decide to limp through the next 8 weeks, because it’s just too hard to go into rematch (and the likelihood of finding a rematch AP with only 8 weeks to go is probably small), then you need to have a mediated talk with your LCC present.

After my relationship fell apart with my first AP with weeks to go, my much better 2nd LCC warned me that the last two months in an AP year are emotionally tough. Most of my APs had never lived far from home – or even left home before they came to the US. For the first time in their lives they were really saying “goodbye” and not “see you later” to friends. Great APs also have a hard time saying “goodbye” to “their kids” and feel jealous of their successor. Sure they’re looking forward to the next phase of their lives, but few have been emotionally prepared to say goodbye. (I always warn my APs on their first day that this will be the second hardest day of their lives – that if they work hard and have a great year it will actually be harder to get on the plane.)

Perhaps your AP has spent every last dime, and figures out that working is the only way she can make up the cash to have her dream travel month – but taking a powder to earn extra income and leaving you in the lurch is dirty pool! (Personally, I always looked the other way when my free-spending AP’s babysat – but they had the good sense to do it in their free time! Some of my APs babysat because they were supporting family back home – putting brothers through college or helping a parent with their retirement pension.)

But if your AP is passive aggressive enough to use texting as her preferred method of communication, then you need a “reset your attitude” meeting mediated by your LCC. Perhaps you can’t get past the gift of your time and energy and neither can she. You need someone who can perk up and give to your children enough of herself for them to remember her fondly. (And if you’re going to invoke rematch at the meeting, then have the good sense to warn your LCC.)

NoVA Twin Mom May 23, 2017 at 9:42 am

After suggesting grandparents as an option, I see that there’s a cancer diagnosis in a grandparent to deal with on top of all of this. Sorry that you’re dealing with that as well.

BOB_HM May 23, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Thanks everyone, some great ideas and input. I didn’t even think about how emotional year end is for APs in general. I’m going to speak with our LCC about setting up a mediation session, if the AP doesn’t come around soon.

Marije May 15, 2017 at 2:48 am

As a former Au Pair, I cannot say I know what you as a HF are going through but from what I read you’ve done a lot for your Au Pair and have tried to
Put yourself in her shoes of being very ill in a foreign country, one of the scariest things to happen in such a situation.

From your post it seems to me that perhaps you have not had a conversation with her about what an impact it has had on your family to take care of her. Yes, preferably she would have been able to figure this out on her own and would have not put you in the situation of having to now spell this out for her, but sometimes that’s the way the world works.

From your post you seem to be more than able to be clear in your expectations (loyalty) and explanation (all the things you’ve done for her). From my POV the situation can go two ways, 1) you talk to her and she understands, she keeps her head down, doesn’t work out of the program rules anymore (she’s not allowed to work for other families), recovers from her illness and finishes her last 4 months with you. 2) you talk to her and she doesn’t understand, keeps working for other families as opposed to agency rules and you will have to let her go.

I don’t mean to come off blunt by any means, but since you’ve asked for tips in communicating the situation to her, mine would be: don’t hold over her head all the things you’ve done for her. Maybe it’s just the way it’s written in this post or maybe it’s actually how you feel but the vibe I’m getting is that you feel she ‘owes’ you loyalty because of how you’ve taken care of her. I’m not saying the way you’ve selflesly done that is not mentionable, because it very much is. But I’m saying she doesn’t owe you loyalty for taking care of her. She owes you this loyalty because of her contract and the business relationship you have. Plain and simple she can’t work for other families regardless of the other circumstances. I caution you to be carful with the way you bring this from my own past experience as an au pair (I had a HM who would hold things over my head that either I hadn’t asked or that were implied by the contract in her role as HM). Again, preferably she would be loyal for the right reasons (out of gratitude) but you cannot hold it over her if she isn’t. She signed a contract that ties her to you as employer and that is why I think you should motivate your conversation from this point of view rather than a morale- point of view (which seems to be how this post is written).

Hope this helps. Good luck with your situation.

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BOB_HM May 15, 2017 at 9:05 am

Dear All – OP here, thank you for all your input. From you I got the courage and validation I needed to have an honest reset conversation with her. I gave her a 4-point performance improvement plan. This is good timing because she’s been getting more complacent in the 2nd half of her year and I can address areas where she’s getting sloppy on the margins. Only time will tell how she responds.

I came clean with her that I had intentionally shielded our family’s stress from her during her hospitalization, (I’ve seen first hand how positivity & hope influence the healing process). But admitted that it’s actually hindered our communication. I told her I was hurt that she’d betray her relationship with our family by trying to work for others to make money, and that sometimes money makes people make bad decisions (or someone else above had a good point that maybe her mind isn’t fully clear yet, which I would understand). The performance plan is: recommit to the program, no external babysitting, refresh herself on her daily checklist, pay for her data overage.

I asked her to pay the nominal $15 wireless overage fee to have her realize the issue. We talked about how the phone is primarily to be used for childcare related activities. I reviewed her usage and she is using 4+ GB every month sending & downloading huge amounts all day (25MB, 300MB etc), crazy! She told me at the hospital she was not using the hospital TV bc it was $9 a day. She can pay me instead.

Also I realized she has been taking advantage of my flexibility all year by booking travel airplane & bus tickets, then telling me after the fact so I that the family has no option but to work around her travel dates. For example, getting home on a Monday night instead of Sunday. Last week she told me she booked to start her travel month 5 days before our contract ends! I’m going to push back – this is on me for being such a pushover!

Thank you all!

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HMof2 May 15, 2017 at 10:10 am

OP, your actions were beyond generous. However, the AP did not ask or require this of you based on what you had written. These were voluntary actions that you took, out of the kindness of your heart.

Hence, a gift.

I know that sometimes, people harbor resentments when they give gifts and the receiver does not show the kind of appreciation that the giver had hoped, either out of a lack of appreciation, rudeness, or merely lack of awareness.

For me, when I give a gift, I try not to expect anything in return. Even when I “loan” money to family or friends, I consider the money gone, with the worst case situation that I will never see the money again and they never pay me back. Any expression of appreciation or return of money is icing on the cake. This way of thinking helps me to deal with disappointments. It also helps me to decide about whether to help or not.

As for the situation about working for another family, just be matter-of-fact and tell her that it is in violation of the program rules to work at all for others and she cannot do it. Take the emotions out of it and just state the facts.

As for letting the AP know that you feel unappreciated, she is likely totally unaware of most if not all the things that you had to sacrifice. It may be better to inform her and have an open dialog with her AS THINGS ARE HAPPENING AND DECISIONS ARE BEING MADE so she does know everything that you are doing for her and the cost (money, time, good will with employers, wedding celebration, disruption to kids, opportunity cost of using your vacation allowance, stress etc) to you AND she has a chance to say “no, this is too much, I don’t feel comfortable with you canceling your anniversary plans because of me – instead let’s see what I can do so you can still have your anniversary celebration”.

If you tell her after the fact, it can come back to bite you, if she is immature, as in “I never asked you to do all these things for me” which would further feed your aggravation. If getting this conversation going is tough, maybe have her read what you wrote to aupairmom.

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Aupair Lauren May 16, 2017 at 12:44 am

++++++1

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NJ Mom May 15, 2017 at 11:53 am

I’m guessing you went above and beyond when the health situation arose because she is an awesome AP. Now that the medical emergency is over, perhaps it is time to sit down with her and see what childcare she is capable of now.

1) Is she able to perform her AP duties? 10% is not acceptable. Determine what % you find acceptable to complete out the year keeping in mind that you already used up all your work goodwill and considerable resources and $ for those 10 days.
Explain that you’ve used up your alternate resources and taken off a lot of days off, and need to have someone who can do xyz childcare duties. If she is not able to perform her duties (or return to her duties in a reasonable amount of time), then she may need to cut her AP year short and return home to complete her recovery. Or rematch with a family that has lighter duties.

2) Outside work. My general policy is that if the AP is doing a great job, what she does in her free time is none of my business (as long as it conforms to house rules). No requesting time off for outside work, and no using HF resources for outside work. And her AP work must stay good. Obviously, she can’t even perform her AP duties right now, so reaching out to your neighbor for extra work is pretty dumb on her part. If your neighbor asks, I would say that “you’re surprised AP would ask for extra jobs because she is having trouble keeping up with her current one”.

3) Data plan. Do you have a house rule on this? If you have no rule, and you’ve never said anything about it, then there’s no way for the AP to know that you’re annoyed about it. If she’s using up too much data, then tell her that you’ve had extra charges lately, and that she needs to keep her data usage to X amount or she will need to pay the overage charges.

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novatwinmom May 15, 2017 at 1:47 pm

I think sometimes when our APs see that we are able to “cover” for them, they don’t see the “bend over backward-ness” of your ability to cover for her. For the five days she was hospitalized, she certainly did not see what was happening at home and how hard it was for you to accommodate her illness. For the additional five (?) days, she may have been too out of it to care what was happening around her. It’s quite possible that all she saw was that you were able to cover her hours and work from home, hiring help as needed.

I’m NOT saying that’s right – I’m saying what a self-centered (which can be fine most of the time) young lady from another country may have seen. I suggest TACL’s “reset your attitude” conversation, with the LCC present if you think it will be helpful, but that you include some information about how hard it is to cover when an au pair isn’t available for their shift – whether it be because of passport problems, sudden illness and recovery, or because she is still recovering. Then extend that explanation to how hard it would be to cover if she overextends herself. Remind her that not only is working for another family illegal under the terms of her visa, but that since she is still recovering and only covering 10% of her duties, you NEED her to be aware that when she is not working, she needs to rest up. She should reconsider going out to the movies and instead watch movies at home and go to sleep at a reasonable time. Instead of trekking all over (insert major nearby city here) like she usually does on weekends, she needs to stay close to home until she’s back at 100%.

Agree that (if possible within your weekly hours) you should work with her to set up a “makeup” anniversary date – not necessarily because it was her fault that you missed the previous one, but so that you and your spouse can “celebrate that life is getting back to normal” after ALL of your lives were disrupted by the burst appendix.

As far as the data plan goes, unless it’s really a problem for you, pay it this time and look into a plan that gives you texts when you hit certain thresholds. I know that AT&T sends a text to the account owner (and I think everyone else) when you hit 80, 90, and 95% of your monthly data. At that point I shut off data for everyone, including myself, to prevent this kind of problem. That being said, in 7 years of hosting, we’ve only had to do that once – and the culprit was actually my sister, not the au pair. After you pay this once, you say to her “I understand that being in the hospital was an unusual situation, but we went over our data plan. In the future, when we hit 95% data use, it gets shut off for everyone.” (I happen to know that our local hospital has wifi, though you have to ask during the week for the password. A five day hospitalization would be enough time to ask for the password during weekday work hours).

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txmom May 15, 2017 at 2:00 pm

I tend to agree with HMof2 here.

I think that when someone is ill, or has something terrible happen that is out of their control, it is normal to sacrifice to help them. I have had to call in sick to work because our au pair was ill before. I paid for a hotel in NYC when she couldn’t fly home due to weather, and she didn’t have enough money for a hotel in a decent area. I’ve changed my work schedule so she could travel with friends. She has dropped everything to pick up my vomiting child from school. She has given away long awaited concert tickets in order to help us out when DH didn’t make it home from a trip. This is a normal part of the give and take in an au pair relationship.

Would you seriously have left her in the ER by herself at 1am? Of course not. Is she grateful? I’m sure she is, but I’m also sure it never occurred to her that someone would be so cruel to abandon their au pair in the ER at 1am when they are in so much pain. Bad things happen, and when they do, we have to step up and take care of the people we love (and the people we are responsible for). Sometimes that’s a burden, but I don’t think it’s ever helpful to make someone feel like a burden.

Was there really an alternative to how things worked out? If she had gone back to her country, who would have taken care of the kids then? Chances are it would have been more expensive for you, with more days off. It could take weeks to rematch with another au pair. I guess I’m not sure what you want from her as compensation for getting seriously ill by no fault of her own.

I’m sorry if this sounds harsh. I imagine there will come a time when an au pair does you a great favor when you are ill or in desperate need of help. It will be nice to not feel beholden to her.

As for working for the neighbors, I think it’s reasonable to expect her to conserve her limited energy to fulfill the work obligation she has with your family. Working outside of the au pair agreement isn’t allowed by the DOS anyway.

As for the data, we had this problem with our au pair. On our plan, when we hit our limit, it doesn’t cost more, but the speed gets slower until the billing cycle restarts. My husband told her we would not be getting more data, but that at the end of the billing cycle, and that whomever has the least data usage gets to demand a favor of the other two adults on the plan. I’m happy to say that I am the reigning data usage champion and my husband and the au pair are currently at my mercy. We haven’t gone over the limit since, as our au pair is very competitive and is hell-bent on using less data than DH.

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A's Mama May 16, 2017 at 3:43 pm

I agree, the OP would have spent the same on babysitting, time away from work, etc. if they had sent her home. It is no one’s fault–and could have happened with other forms of child care (nanny, etc.). So while I might mention that more time off is just not possible now, I’d focus the conversation on what you need going forward–focused efforts on this HF rather than outside work and keeping within the data plan.

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2 kids and a cat May 16, 2017 at 6:24 am

We take the “family” aspect of being hosts seriously, so I can see myself falling in to your situation. We have, however, been burned twice by going extra miles and miles for our APs, and I now know that we’d just send the AP home as soon as she was able to travel. We have finite resources to deal with this kind of situation, and I really can’t call in every last favor at work to take care of our child care provider AND pay for secondary child care. There’s also the uncounted stress of managing this situation out of your home. I suspect that APs underappreciate these situations because they come from cultures that have more vacation and sick time, and working mothers aren’t so on the line for having mishaps in childcare.
When I encounter aggravating behaviors in the AP system, I ask myself what kind of young adult I hope my children will be and how I would want them to be treated by a host family. In this case, I want my 20-something to be able to buy you a restaurant gift card and acknowledge that she was paid for weeks of work she couldn’t do, and that you coordinated all of her care. Honestly, I would probably send you something from abroad for caring for my child. Even though it’s normal to help out in these situations, general courtesy would leave her thanking you, and trying to do some extras for you as soon as she is able.
Moving forward, I would have a family meeting and lay out all the things that you’ve had to do, and simply say that from this work week forward, we need 100% since we have to catch back up at work, and we want to enjoy some social things we had to defer. Tell her that working for other families is a visa violation that you don’t support.

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NoVA Twin Mom May 16, 2017 at 7:29 am

A suggestion for “what the agency can do for you” to mitigate the costs of the weeks you’ve paid for non-work, that I have seen happen at my agency? Give you a credit against your program fee equal to the amount you paid your laid-up au pair. That way the au pair still gets paid the stipend, but you’re “made whole”. Suggest it to them and see what happens.

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HMof2 May 16, 2017 at 9:53 am

Not exactly the same situation but we were also able to get the agency to give us credit towards program fee equal to the prorated stipend to make us “whole”.

We had an AP who wanted to quit the program early. We considered this AP’s act as breaking a contract unilaterally. The AP wanted to get all of the vacation days that she has not taken. We did not feel this AP earned 100% of the vacation benefit when she did not fulfill 100% of the contract. We refused to give her the remaining the vacation days (as in paying her the stipend covering those days). We were at a stalemate. The agency ended up giving us credit for her “unearned” vacation days so that the AP gets her full 2 weeks (without working a full 51 weeks) and we at least got something to offset the outside childcare we had to pay.

I am still amazed that this AP broke a contract and still thought she was due 100% of the benefits. It is a bit more rational to think she is entitled to all 2 weeks if the host family broke the contract but not when she broke it.

Anyway, the point is the agency has the flexibility to offer credit towards your next AP, if they want to. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

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Bitka May 16, 2017 at 9:28 am

It wasn’t her fault to get sick. Did you pay for her medical treatment/procedure or was she insured? I’m sorry but you lost your money because she was just sick. Au pairs lives in host houses so recovery part of your au pair was visible. It’s not like in a real job -employer asks for a sick leave. She doesn’t owe you anything. As a mother you are responsible for kids and it is your thing to find replaceable care or in the house. You wrote that she was great. Now she’s not great after surgery because you are loosing your money? Did she use 2 weeks of vacations? Maybe you can count time that she wasn’t able to work as her vacation time. Accidents can happen. Au pair and hosts should be aware of that. Ask her how does she physically feel and is she capable of performing job. Tell her and show her that in the agreement there is an information that she can’t work elsewhere.

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2 kids and a cat May 16, 2017 at 7:43 pm

No, it’s not her fault, but some of us have APs because we don’t even have sick time for our own children. And some of us can’t afford to double pay for childcare beyond the 2 weeks of vacation.
On another note, i do work in a field that sponsors J-1 visas, and the agencies could do more in these situations. For the hefty hefty fees they charge there should be a sort of insurance/resource pool to send you a temporary AP or to financially cover stipends for limited hospital stays.

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Bitka May 18, 2017 at 5:53 am

Do you have sick leave for yourself? Can you work part time? Do you rely all of your child care only on au pair programme demanding and trusting some foreigner? From my experience the agency playing part in well being of the HF and Au pair was barely visible after first week of my stay in USA. In my opinion you can interprete law in some many different ways. The thing is if you don’t have good relation with Au pair, she will be performing well if she: likes your kids, wants to help you, would like to travel, doesn’t have money to come back, wants to finish whole year to proove that she didn’t fail in foreign country, or has pure heart . During her stay that woman will realize sooner or later that the HF and the agency doesn’t check where is she going and what is she doing after performing her ‘work’ for the HF. Im not surprised that Au pair would see it as an opportunity. Knowing that she can earn at least twice for doing the same kind of job or maybe easier. Good for you that some of your friends informed you about it. I think that for some of them might also get profit from her performance as a nanny. Maybe that Au pair was scheduling work for them in a month after recovery. We don’t know that.
According to the letter. HM complaints that she losed money because her kids couldn’t attend after school activities. I understand that it was hard for her because she needed to cope. Think in this way. You choosed having au pair so you could afford for those classes. She gives amount of money that she lost . I’m wondering how much did she save during her au pair stay?

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Dorsi May 18, 2017 at 6:50 pm

I’m not sure if I am actually helping by commenting, but…

I don’t have sick leave for myself or my kids. 0 days/year. I cannot work part time. I cannot work from home. I don’t have an Au Pair to save money – I have an Au Pair to maximize the chance that my childcare provider is always available when she is supposed to be.

Additionally, it is illegal for the Au Pair to work for the neighbor – even when she is recovered. There is absolutely no way to interpret the laws any differently. You cannot work on a J-1 visa in any capacity for money outside your host family.

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NZ HM May 18, 2017 at 7:43 pm

So hard to imagine when you come from a different system! Out of interest: this means you would need to take leave if you get too ill to work? Is unpaid leave usually an option (from the employers side/ if you can afford it)?

ChiHostMom May 25, 2017 at 4:50 pm

I also have no sick leave. I have a generally flexible schedule so we can often arrange for backup. My husband does, and we have used him to stay home when the AP gets sick and I can’t avoid going into work.

+1 on the can’t work on the J-1 visa

NoVA Twin Mom May 16, 2017 at 9:46 am

My comment from yesterday is awaiting moderation, I tried to comment from a different computer. So here goes, and sorry if it ends up being duplicated:

I think sometimes when our APs see that we are able to “cover” for them, they don’t see the “bend over backward-ness” of your ability to cover for her. For the five days she was hospitalized, she certainly did not see what was happening at home and how hard it was for you to accommodate her illness. For the additional five (?) days, she may have been too out of it to care what was happening around her. It’s quite possible that all she saw was that you were able to cover her hours and work from home, hiring help as needed.

I’m NOT saying that’s right – I’m saying what a self-centered (which can be fine most of the time) young lady from another country may have seen. I suggest TACL’s “reset your attitude” conversation, with the LCC present if you think it will be helpful, but that you include some information about how hard it is to cover when an au pair isn’t available for their shift – whether it be because of passport problems, sudden illness and recovery, or because she is still recovering. Then extend that explanation to how hard it would be to cover if she overextends herself. Remind her that not only is working for another family illegal under the terms of her visa, but that since she is still recovering and only covering 10% of her duties, you NEED her to be aware that when she is not working, she needs to rest up. She should reconsider going out to the movies and instead watch movies at home and go to sleep at a reasonable time. Instead of trekking all over (insert major nearby city here) like she usually does on weekends, she needs to stay close to home until she’s back at 100%.

Agree that (if possible within your weekly hours) you should work with her to set up a “makeup” anniversary date – not necessarily because it was her fault that you missed the previous one, but so that you and your spouse can “celebrate that life is getting back to normal” after ALL of your lives were disrupted by the burst appendix.

As far as the data plan goes, unless it’s really a problem for you, pay it this time and look into a plan that gives you texts when you hit certain thresholds. I know that AT&T sends a text to the account owner (and I think everyone else) when you hit 80, 90, and 95% of your monthly data. At that point I shut off data for everyone, including myself, to prevent this kind of problem. That being said, in 7 years of hosting, we’ve only had to do that once – and the culprit was actually my sister, not the au pair. After you pay this once, you say to her “I understand that being in the hospital was an unusual situation, but we went over our data plan. In the future, when we hit 95% data use, it gets shut off for everyone.” (I happen to know that our local hospital has wifi, though you have to ask during the week for the password. A five day hospitalization would be enough time to ask for the password during weekday work hours).

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HRHM May 16, 2017 at 11:30 am

As a surgeon, I’d like to address the “10%” issue. When I operate on someone for a perforated appendicitis, in general, if all goes well, upon discharge from the hospital, I give them 2 weeks of FMLA/convalescent leave. During this time, I expect that they may need narcotic pain meds, shouldn’t drive, shouldn’t lift more than 25lb, shouldn’t use a pool or bath (may shower) and will likely not be up to much more than getting up, getting dressed and minimal activity. Of course everyone is different, but it sounds like things didn’t go great in the hospital (5 days stay and an infection were mentioned)

Hopefully the surgeon or nurses clued you in to this expected course, but for any family with a sick AP needing surgery, when you decide to keep her in country, these are the things that need to be considered making that decision and asked in advance prior to deciding.

And maybe you asked but now that she’s not appropriately grateful, you’re regretting your decision. Only you can decide at this point if you are willing to possibly go two or three more weeks with her not being at full capacity.

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BOB_HM May 16, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Hi everyone, for some reason I can’t post on here. It says my post is in moderation. Let me try again.

Thank you everyone for your comments & input- they are truly helpful. We did the things we did out of how we would want to be treated. We don’t expect anything from the AP except to work with our family to get back to normal, as she can. We talked with her about her comfort in what she could take on, gradually, and made accommodations to exclude activities she should not do. She is a nurse, she understand medical processes. The straw that broke the camel’s back – and the reason why I submitted this to cv is – during a full week of rest that we arranged, she STARTED TEXTING MY NEIGHBORS to babysit for them, when she had not been back at work with us for even one day yet.

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Mike May 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm

< Note: This commenter's contribution suggests that he didn't really understand the gist of the original poster's concern, or the norms of this community. I really don't understand why he felt the need to contribute -- it's a weird kind of trolling, and don't folks have better ways to spend their time? That said, you can read this as a reflection of how some people misunderstand the whole point of Au Pairing. You're right, I probably shouldn't have let the comment stand. Sorry I missed this one. cvh >

Hi,

You two are despicable selfish people who are nearly devoid of empathy. When you bring on au pair, you understand that she remains a human being, subject to the things that afflict all of us, like having a passport stolen and, you know, appendicitis. You are not heroes for accommodating her trip to the consulate – you have done the minimal thing that is expected of a human being in relation to another.

Your reaction to her illness, however, is abysmal altogether. I’m genuinely disgusted by you. This is a woman who takes care of your kids. She lives in your home. When she suffers a serious illness, the human thing to do is help her get healthy again and make arrangements so that your children are otherwise cared for while she recovers. The petty, inhuman, disgusting thing to do is to moan about her data charges and to debate whether she should be shipped back to where she came from.

You should consider that the reason she is texting your neighbors and seeking work elsewhere is because she is aware of how unreasonable and oppressive you two are. If you two are as toxic in personal interaction as you are here, she has my utmost sympathy. And even if you don’t think you are, if she has half a brain, she has absolutely picked up on what people she is working for.

And before you claim that I don’t understand, spare me. I have 3 kids, including baby twins. I’m a lawyer in NYC, and my wife has a similarly stressful job. We also rely on others to help care for our kids. We, and literally all of our similarly positioned friends, manage somehow to bear in mind that the people who help us raising our kids are people, who deserve to be treated with kindness and dignity. You make me sick.

Cheers,
Mike

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Fortysomething HM May 23, 2017 at 11:40 am

Hey, Mike — . Fellow attorney here. I work in the same demanding geographic region you do. I see you are likely a tax attorney (in house, at that – so no billable hours requirement keeping you up at night when your AP asks to have off so she can go work for your neighbor?) so perhaps you didn’t need to focus on communications skills during law school and practice as much as some of your litigation-focused colleagues, but here’s free tip: you should really work on how you communicate with others. Being nasty often clouds your message. I hope you don’t communicate with your colleagues this way. Frankly, it’s ironic that you came here to lecture and judge about kindness in such an aggressively, holier-than-thou, mean way. I have to wonder how lucky your AP is if this is how you react when you disagree with someone….

This mom is frustrated b/c she did indeed do what a decent person (like yourself? cough cough) would do — frankly way more than I would have done, and not because I’m “unreasonable and oppressive” but because my reality is that i have little wiggle room in my schedule to cover for that long. And in return, her ungrateful au pair went and WORKED FOR OTHERS while the HM was using her limited time off and employer’s good will to cover for her.

Perhaps you like being a doormat, but most of us get why this HM doesn’t.

Thanks for your fantastic contribution. Personally, I’m hoping this is the last we see of you.

PS. Should this post really have made it through to be posted? It’s hella-nasty.

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Dorsi May 23, 2017 at 11:59 am

*Like*

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BOB_HM May 23, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Fortysomething, CV and Mimi: thank you

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Mimi May 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm

We are all aware, that there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but it’s clear you don’t understand the circumstances laid out here given your disregard for the contextual details the OP has shared. Relying on others to care for your children and hosting an AP are two entirely different set of circumstances.

As an attorney, I’m sure you don’t condone this AP violating the law by working outside her visa requirements, but it’s hard to tell from your ranting diatribe. Perhaps your line of work requires finding loop holes to exploit as many APs do so it’s easier for you to see their side and justify the misconduct? Either way, respectful discourse is a much better way to get thoughtful advice across here, as pointed out above.

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Meghan Hannes May 17, 2017 at 5:40 pm

Simple. Send her home. She’s not being loyal to you, why are you being loyal to her? Give to an au pair that gives to you.

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Fortysomething HM May 23, 2017 at 11:57 am

I agree with this (although I get that it’s harder to do in reality than it sounds, but hopefully you can use care.com or something like that to cover if you can’t get a rematch AP).

After hearing that she actually worked for others while you were covering for her – this is so wrong, on so many levels.

I totally agree with the sentiment that things happen and you have to be humane about it, and that you can’t necessarily expect your AP to know (unless you told her) how much you sacrificed to get her though something that was not her fault. But at some point, it becomes fair to feel hurt and taken advantage of, and I think her actions in working for others (and now her passive-aggressive texting to you, after you told her how much you did do) have tipped the scales.

A person on the receiving end of kindness doesn’t HAVE to feel grateful. But the person on the giving end of the deal surely can feel fed up in the absence of any gratefulness.

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Something Clever May 19, 2017 at 9:39 pm

I’ve been in a similar situation as LW. We had an AP have emergency surgery two days after I had knee surgery. Her illness happened on a Saturday when she was out with her two friends, so they stayed with her throughout her whole ordeal at the hospital. My husband, kids and I visited her when she was in recovery for awhile. I was on crutches and taking prescription pain meds so I couldn’t drive or work for over a week, and she ended up on the same meds for the same week. My husband took a week of Family Friendly sick leave to care for the kids and check up on the AP and me.

It was a tough situation, but I think there really was nothing else that could have been done, and I don’t begrudge her the paid sick leave she ended up getting from us. Life happens.

All the other annoying things that the LW described, though, were not at play. That’s really a separate issue and a legitimate beef. I’m glad that this LW has addressed it.

Oh, and Au Pair Care’s medical insurance company was not cooperative at all. This situation happened in early May last year, and they still hadn’t reimbursed our AP anything by the time she left in mid-July. I ended up forwarding the medical bills to their corporate office.

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Exaupair May 28, 2017 at 6:21 am

I don’t think you were too soft, you did absolutely the right thing in looking after her when she was ill. However, SHE didn’t do the right thing in wanting to work for your neighbours. An au pair IS to be treated like a member of the family, and should be seen as a big sis/auntie to your children. Doing things like changing her sheets for coming back from the hospital is totally normal. However, they should also act in this way and she hasn’t, so I think you would be justified to let her go.
I posted on another thread on here that I got glandular fever when I was an au pair (around 20 years ago). My HP let me stay in bed, gave me hot soup and lots of magazines and treated me like family. Later on, my HM’s own mum was terminally ill and I then stepped up as a family member and did way above my allocation of hours without complaint or asking for more pay (my host family weren’t rich). They treated me like family so I acted as family when they needed me. You have, quite rightly, treated your AP like family, but she hasn’t responded.
Please don’t use this bad experience to harden up and treat your next AP differently. Coming to a new country is scary, and AP’s need to be welcomed as a family member. Its not like hiring a nanny, who gets paid more but is an employee. However, if an AP shows no interest in being a big sis/young auntie, then let her go as a good host family deserves more.

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Frustrated Host Mom May 31, 2017 at 11:37 pm

I assume she took her vacation where you couldn’t apply those 2 weeks? How long does the agency expect host families keep paying for someone not working? I guess until you send her home or rematch (then you are penalized with a major reduction of your monthly credit for the months remaining on their contract – APC is $150 a month per month remaining).

In terms of data. Something not a lot of people are aware of is that with Verizon you can assign a certain amount of data to each line. It’s costs $5 a month for the option (I forget what’s it called, family base or something). I assigned the AP iphone 1gb of data per month. She gets an 80% utilization msg so she knows she only has 20% left for the month. When she’s out she’s out – until the new monthly cycle (so no more overages)… the phone will work for calls and txting as those two features are separate from the data plan (they cannot download email, watch videos, listen to music, scroll on social media or facebook etc unless they connect to wifi).

Did your AP bother to see if the hospital provided wireless before simply using your data plan to stream movies?

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BOB_HM June 3, 2017 at 11:02 pm

Hi FHM, thanks for your msg. In terms of days off its all moot because she has already gotten 6+ weeks off (some at her asking, most based on our family’s needs)

Datab- it’s these little silly things like data that we forgo but are a bit of an annoyance. We are with at@t. Our data parameters are in the house rules that I walk the ap through at the beginning of the year, and I remind them regularly of their usage vis-a vis our famliky’s usage, and every month she receives texts from them about being 75%, 80%, etc of data plan. Last I looked – with at@t there wasn’t anything like the handy feature you have, however will check again! I do love that Verizon offers those controls!

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TexasHM June 7, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Bitka trolling again…shocker. Don’t waste your time responding.

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Dorsi June 9, 2017 at 11:17 am

So hard not to!

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cv harquail June 9, 2017 at 1:47 pm

sorry. I’ll address this

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American HM in the Netherlands June 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm

On data plans, I know they work differently in the US – but we establish clear rules with our au pairs on this. We expect them to operate within the plan, meaning no downloading unless they are on a wireless connection and if they go over the plan, they pay the difference. If it happens one time, we will mention it and let it go, but if it happens more often, we just expect them to pay the bill. It’s really good to go over these things when they start, so that there are no misunderstandings

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