Good Bye, Good Luck from exAuPairMom

by cv harquail on October 13, 2009

I always wonder about “the rest of the story” when I get a notice that someone has unsubscribed from the email newsletter .. for the reason that “the content is no longer valid”. I usually take that to mean “we don’t have an au pair anymore”. Over the weekend we got this letter from a host mom who has actively contributed to our conversations and shared her wisdom… and now she’s sharing her goodbye. There are a lot of “take-aways” in her letter, which we can discuss in the comments and also in future posts… but rather than me highlighting, summarizing or editing, I turn the floor over to Ex-Au Pair Mom in California

Flower FairyFolk etsy.jpeg Dear Au Pair Moms (& Dads),

I wanted to write, first as an opportunity to process my own feelings and thoughts, and second to share my experiences as an Au Pair Host Mom. I have to admit that my experience was mixed, but overall a disappointment. And, I’m now “done” being an Au Pair Host Mom.

When we signed up for the program, we were sure that with our interest in cultural exchange and foreign language, warm-heartedness, and need for childcare of our then 18-month and 3.5 year old, we would be ideal candidates for enjoying an au pair situation.

And, in retrospect, I think we are! But the variability of au pairs, three in total we had over the past year-and-a-half, was staggering in all areas.

Our first, a young lady from Panama, had very little formal childcare experience other than taking care of family children, was shy and reserved, but very sweet, motivated, and took an interest in us and the children. She remained shy and reserved in our presence, but we knew from pictures and other sources, that she was quite animated with our children and truly developed a bond with them. We would then spend time discussing them, strategies for improving their behavior, etc. Her reserve didn’t always allow her to communicate as directly as she might have, so there were times when she was moody and even tearful, but I always noticed and explored this with her and we would have helpful talks that always resolved the issue and improved things in general.

After a year, even thought we felt close to her and pleased with her overall, we were both ready to part. She was eager to return home to her family and we were interested in choosing a “different” kind of au pair, someone more sophisticated, knowledgeable about child development, whose language skills were more advanced, and someone who might be less reserved with us.

Enter a Swedish au pair who was very likely on the opposite side of the spectrum. An active “jock”, she had worked part-time in a nursery school, had fabulous language skills, and seemed to have values, about which she was not shy to express, in line with ours. She was so much more outgoing with the children, able and willing to interact with them in our presence, with very strong motivation to work with us to improve certain behaviors, even to the point of keeping a journal about areas on which to work and various approaches. She spent an hour or so many nights “hanging out” with us and we truly developed a relationship with her that was enjoyable and comfortable.

After two months, however, she told me that she “just couldn’t see” herself in our family for a full year. She couldn’t exactly say why, she really valued her relationship with us and had gotten into a routine with the children. She stated something about being accustomed to a bigger room and house, more privacy, and perhaps wanting to be able to be to care for older children with whom she could be more athletic. We were surprised and quite upset, but tried to make the best of it. And, within a week, we had both rematched.

We welcomed a more mature Brazilian au pair into our home who had been placed with a family with an infant when it was clear to the mother that she really had no experience caring for a baby. She was sweet and warm and seemed a perfect balance between our prior au pairs. However, she was unable to prepare food other than in a microwave or toaster oven. Truly, I showed her how to make scrambled eggs on the stovetop at least six times. I started to wonder if she indeed had some sort of learning issue. While her expressive language was quite good, she couldn’t understand even the most basic communications from us and so we relied mostly on written communication. And, there was a quality that we couldn’t explain, but which was noticeable immediately – she seemed to just “miss” things – didn’t notice them, see them, hear them, and therefore was not as responsive to our children as we would have hoped.

Not to mention that she could not understand them. Neither did her language skills improve over the next three months. She spent the majority of her time with a fellow Brazilian speaking Portuguese. And, she didn’t take initiative to do things like prepare for her driver’s license exam or enroll in English language classes prior to the start of our local college courses. She ate all of her meals in her room and never once came to “chat” with us. I sought her out frequently to talk about issues related to the children, and she always greeted me with a big, lovely smile, but she never invited me in her room and these conversations were usually held standing up. Over the four months of her stay with us, we never formed a relationship with her, which was odd to us, as we had intended to make attempts to do so. My husband losing his job three weeks ago forced the issue of our withdrawal from the program, but I have to admit that we were relieved to have an excuse!

Purrette hamsterandhippo.jpgOverall, I am left feeling that the programs do not do an adequate job of screening for candidates and allow the candidates to misrepresent their experience and skill level. We lost several thousand of dollars, as our particular au pair company required an up-front deposit of over $7,000. We’ll get a token refund, and will come out even without paying a stipend in about four months. But, in general I feel that the companies do not consider the families’ needs and issues as much as they do the au pair candidates’ needs and issues. And, I feel that au pairs come to the US for so many reasons – they know what to tell you, but really they come for their own reasons and not necessarily to bond with our children or develop their child development skills or experience a relationship with a host family or even improve their language skills.

At one point, I was left thinking – how can this be a good idea, to bring a teenager who doesn’t speak your language to your country to care for your children, drive them around with very limited driving skills akin to the kind needed in this country, feed them without having any knowledge of the kinds of foods they eat or like, and hope that you are all compatible, but it’s hard to judge having never met them before making this very important choice!!

For now, my husband will be home with our boys and I am grateful for this for now. Hopefully, he will return to work shortly and we will be hiring someone we can actually meet prior to inviting them to care for our children and someone with references in this country that we can actually contact successfully.

I truly hope that other people have a better experience with au pair programs than we did. But, I felt compelled to discuss my own experience and as I had used this blog site often over the past year-and-a-half, thought I might share my thoughts here. Thanks for all your help, wisdom, and advice over the past year-and-a-half.

Ex-Au Pair Mom in California

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{ 35 comments }

PA aupair mom October 13, 2009 at 11:53 am

This post really helped me to realize that all host families, and all APs, have their fair share of issues and conflicts.

Thanks for posting it.

E2 October 13, 2009 at 1:02 pm

I agree that matching with an au pair is often like rolling dice, and it is sad to hear that your experiences were all unsatisfactory. I, also, have used this site for tips and validation with our disaster au pairs and think that the U.S. agencies need to do something to ensure that their partner agencies overseas screen in a consistent and effective manner.

However, I do have to say that the au pair experience can be absolutely wonderful. We recently visited the family of one of our au pairs in Europe, and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had in a long time! It really renewed my energy in the program, my belief in the cultural exchange and in giving a girl from another country the opportunity of a lifetime. She and her family took care of us the whole time we were visiting, planning activities, introducing us to her friends and making sure we experienced her hometown. The family was soooo appreciative for what we did for their daughter while she was here and the stories they told of what she told them about her experience made me realize how some of the little simple things we did had such a big impact. It wasn’t all about the vacations we took her on, or the dinners out…it was about that Christmas stocking that we got her with her name on it…or the family dinner where we played “telephone” and all laughed hysterically.

Does anyone else have experiences visiting their au pair’s family that “brought it all home” as to why you host an au pair?
I do feel like this site is great when you have problems…but probably will stop reading it now that we have another great au pair and don’t need the negative validation…unless there are some positive threads posted!

[ note to E2: Don’t stop reading! Instead, think about a positive topic you’d like us to discover, and/or consider writing something as a guest blogger! I/We do *try* to emphasize the positive (like “Au Pair Appreciation Week”) but we need some help from you all too :-) cv]

PA aupair mom October 13, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Right now I have a wonderful au pair who takes a genuine interest in my boys and even in HD and I. She spends time with us, even when she’s off duty. Just this past week she asked if she could take the boys to see a movie on her off time.

That said, our last AP was not as wonderful. She lasted the whole year, but barely. When we asked her why she became an AP after admitting to us that she “didn’t even really like kids” she said it was to travel. the german agency sold it to her as you can travel, experience culture, improve your English, and oh by the way, do a little bit of childcare. 45 hours per week with 2 young boys is no a “little bit” of care.

I love this site and the good and the bad info that it offers.

A October 13, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I am also not getting another au pair–at least for a while. For us, it’s the expense of it all. Day care for 2 kids is just a little bit cheaper. Also, while we’ve had a mature adult au pair, I still didn’t count on having another person in the house to worry about and that gets tiring. I worry when she’s out late (she is considerate and keeps in touch in those situations), I worried when she was on vacation, I lost sleep over her being really sick just last week, and I’m not looking forward to how much we’ll all miss her. (OK, I’m a worrier and I need to take care of people)

But, looking back at the last 10 months–I would not change a thing and I’m glad we got the host family experience. I think it was good for everyone.

Host dad in NJ October 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Great post and interesting comments so far. I am surpised to hear that day care for two kids is less expensive for one of the posters – Perhaps I need to move from NY/NJ! We are on our first Au pair and could not be happier. We chose to match with a second year Au pair, because it gave us the opportunity to meet with the young woman, who happened to be with a PA family which made it an easy day trip for us. Without a doubt this was higesly helpful for us as both my wife and I have fairly strong instincts when it comes to people, and we could not have been more right. Our only issue now, is that we cannot have this lovely young woman in our home for more than a year! Next year, I believe we will be more comfortable choosing a first year, now that we have a better idea what to look for and since our baby will be 1.5 years old and not an infant.

I would suggest many more parents consider second years, and the possibility of meeting potential Au pairs – it really helped us out.

Franzi October 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm

i’m sorry to hear that your experiences made you come to this conclusion. while i believe in the goods of the AP program, i also know that there are many misunderstandings/wrong expectations/beautified childcare experience AND beautified host family profiles.

i have heard of several families whose first sentence in communicating with a potential AP is “if your number one reason to do this is not childcare then please do not consider our family”. it’s sad to know that some have to take these drastic measures but at the same time i understand their concerns.

perhaps in a few years down the road you are ready to give it another try. maybe return APs are something for you then – girls who successfully finished their time, returned home (to get some education) and now decided to do another AP year. they have the experience, they know what they want and what they can offer – i think the matching process is much better than when the girl is starting her first year because the illusions are off.

good luck with your husband finding a new job!

Anonymous October 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm

We, too, chose a 2nd year au pair because I liked the idea of speaking with her current HM as another reference. I also spoke with the LCC in her area. I needed someone who spoke English well and was a good driver. I figured since they had already been here a year, this would be true and it was!

Mom23 October 13, 2009 at 3:18 pm

We have also just recently left the au pair program. Of the seven au pairs we have had only two have been wonderful, a third was good, but never really bonded with our family. One au pair arrived crying (she had met a boy just before she left), two could not drive (although their applications said that they could), etc.

Of the au pairs we met in person (rematches and second years), we tended to have a better relationship with them and things tended to work out better. The au pair we rematched with who we didn’t meet was the worst experience of all.

We found that when an au pair was good, it made our lives so much easier, but when the au pair was not working out, it was so much more difficult and stressful than other forms of childcare. We loved the aspect of cultural exchange, but were not sure how much culture our children were really getting from the au pair.

I think that for those with school aged children, the cost of having an au pair is higher than other childcare options, but, finding coverage for sick children, school holidays, etc, can be stressful and if you factor these costs in it is often about even.

For us it was a very mixed bag. After reading of the experiences on this blog, I realize that we were lucky in many respects. It is sad, because it is a great opportunity for both the au pair and the host family to learn about other cultures and experiences.

Anonymous October 13, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I never assume that anyone is coming here just because they want to take care of my kids or anyone else’s. I think that people come here because they want to travel, explore the world and providing childcare in a program like this is one way to subsidize it. I don’t really see anything wrong with that as long as they do a good job.
Daycare centers have their share of issues , too. I haven’t always been thrilled with my children’s public school teachers but that is life. For many years, I have plugged away at a job I really don’t like but I do it and I do a good job. Now, due to the economy, I will probably be at this job for the foreseeable future. Leaving my children in someone else’s care is emotionally brutal but it is the way I must live. I feel that with this program, I have the best chance of success. My neighbor has a housekeeper who does a good job:
the limit but nothing more or less. My sister has a nanny who is good and who costs a small fortune. All three of us cry every morning in the car on the way to work. My neighbor’s housekeeper and my sister’s nanny have children of their own. Who do they love the most ? Who do I love the most ? My aupair has a sloppy room and an ipod but she has no conflicting loyalties. She is nineteen and she is really present for my kids. So , she wants to go out at the end of the day, she doesn’t always wash the dishes. She never cooks a meal ? So what. She plays with the kids. I can say this here but I do not discuss this with my sister or my neighbor. They are in alot of pain , too.

NewAPMom October 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I’m really sad, and discouraged, that you put so much into the au pair program and it didn’t work out for you, Ex-Au Pair mom.

I would beg those of you who have good au pair experiences to please stick around and impart advice on how you got there. And also impart the joy of what it’s like to have a great au pair. I personally really need to hear that. And isn’t it time for another au pair appreciation week?

This might be a good spot to say that I’ve been reading a bit of the Au Pair aux USA forum that someone (thank you!) pointed me to. I guess I kind of expected to find a bunch of host family bashing and general discontent but was pleasantly surprised by a warm welcome after I introduced myself as a host mom, and then a general feeling that most of the people posting on that board are people that I would love to have as my au pair. (Note that I was the first host mom to post on that board, or at least introduce myself as such, and most of the posts I was reading were written before I got there.) Most of the girls seem responsible, realistic, and committed to doing what it takes to make it work. Sure there are a few people who complain about stuff that doesn’t merit complaint, but for every one of those, there are five others who say, hey, we understand that doing X isn’t the most fun, but this is a job and sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. And there are also legitimate complaints about wacky things that some host families do. Once you throw out the 10% or so of “unfit” host families, and the 10% or so of “unfit” au pairs, any remaining problems pretty much boil down to a simple lack of communication. It was refreshing to realize that they’re also struggling with a lot of the same things we struggle with as host families, like what is the best balance of time to spend together. Anyway, reading that board was so encouraging and made me think that just maybe, our next au pair could be everything that I dreamed an au pair could be.

StephinBoston October 13, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I too was sad to read of your experience. We just started our year with our 3rd au pair, and so far the program has worked out really well for us. Our first Brazilialn au pair who was a fantastic girl, a wonderful caregiver and an all around good person, she did total our car on her first outing alone (after 6 months of lessons and driving tests). Even with that experience, I wouldn’t change it for the world, she took care of my boys (then 5 months and 2 years) like they were her own, she was truly part of my family and I will never forget that. I still miss her.
Our second au pair came on the heels on our first being here for 1 year and 9 months, she was a preschool teacher in Germany. The boys instantly adopted her, the first day I could hear them run around and giggle. It only got better as she got more comfortable with the language and our family. We hope to visit her and her family in Germany someday, she just left and I’m teary eyed writing this.
Our third just came 2 weeks ago from Switzerland, she too is such a loving and caring young woman who has been doing a fantastic job with my 2 boys. I was a little worried as they get older they get more attached to each au pair, but the transition has been good. I look forward to another amazing year of interacting and learning from another person who is willing to spend her days taking care of my boys and making my work/life balance manageable.
I read the horror stories, my experience hasn’t been absolutely rosy, but looking back on these last 3 years, I think my family is better for having shared our life with these wonderful young woman.
To ex au pair mom in California, I am sorry you had to have such a poor experience and I hope your husband finds a job soon.

Ligia October 13, 2009 at 9:16 pm

Seems like the au pair program is highly based on luck, both for the host families and au pairs.

Someone said that it seems like the agencies are more concerned about the au pairs than the families, but for us au pair, it seems like it’s the opposite.

While I’ve had an amazing year as an au pair, some of my friends have had a lot of problems, and most of them didn’t have a good support from the agency.

Seems like it’s the same with the HFs: if they get a good au pair, great, you’re going to have a amazing year; if they get one that is not so good, well, like my agency told a friend when she had a problem with a family, “hang in there”.

I think most the au pairs my family have had were very good (me included, I guess), so they’re having another one next year. But I know some girls who are not good au pairs at all, and I can understand if their families decide to try another kind of childcare.

PA au pair mom October 13, 2009 at 10:03 pm

I agree with Ligia that luck can play a factor in how your experience with your AP goes.

Calif Mom October 13, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Our kids are both in school and we decided to keep a full time au pair. I don’t have enough leave time to take all those days that the schools do — every time you turn around it’s half-day for this or Friday off for the teacher convention, parent conferences, training, etc. And because our hours are now really sweet for our au pair, she can do babysitting on a weekend night once in awhile without guilt on my part.

I too am a worrier, but have learned to not worry about the APs, except when they first get here and are trying to learn to navigate. that seems to always be a problem period!

Truly, when your AP has an active social life, you don’t need to worry about their entertainment or mental health. As long as they get enough sleep and get up on time, I’m fine with it.

I agree with the AP who posted that agencies take the part of the parents when there is trouble. I have seen this when our APs’ friends have needed support, and it’s kind of disturbing. There are families I know well who host APs but I could NEVER be one for them! But it takes all kinds; I know there are many APs who could NEVER be in our home, too. I know because I’ve ended up in rematch with them… ;-)

Hosting is not perfect. When it’s a good match, it’s the best solution we have found in our busy urban area. Our APs absolutely adore our kids, and I appreciated what the very sad mom was saying about her sister and neighbor whose caregivers have kids of their own, and hence split loyalties. Our APs (except for that one who really had mental health issue of her own) have all developed fabulous relationships with our girls, and loyalty to them. And they to her!

We have had several APs now, some painfully unsuccessful, two absolutely wonderful in very different ways, but our kids have learned good things from this.

Ligia October 13, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Anonymous, you’re absolutely right.

I didn’t come to the US because I wanted to take care of children: I came because I wanted to live in the country for a year, experience the life of an american family, have the opportunity to travel and meet new friends. And, to be honest, been a caregiver is not my dream job.

But I LOVE the kids that I take care of and I take my job very seriously, just the way I do if I had any other job. Even more seriously, since during 9 hours a day I’m responsible for 3 little kids who depend on me for everything. I think sometimes the agencies don’t enphasize enough that we’re coming to the US to WORK, and therefore be really serious about it.

au pair October 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

Not all au pairs are bad JusT like not all host families are good. There are good au apirs and good host families. But there are also bad au pairs and bad host families.
I wish my family could give me space to be their friend but they don’t and maybe they are saying the same thing about me. Sometimes expectations don’t go the way we wish they would and we get frustrated. Both sides sometimes are scared to take the first step so it’s easier to blame the other person instead of looking at ourselves ans see what we could do to make things turn out the way we want it to be.

TX Mom October 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I agree with CalifMom as we have had our ups and downs, but I’m learning to accept that is just parenthood. No matter what my childcare situation is there is always going to be some drama in my life for another 25 years.

I have wondered if we will host a foreign exchange student when our kids are teens. I still have these ideals about the positive aspects of “cultural exchange” even after hosting AP’s. What do other AP HF’s think of the idea of hosting a foreign exchange student after hosting AP’s?

TX Mom October 14, 2009 at 12:27 pm

New AP mom, can you share that website?

NewAPMom October 14, 2009 at 12:47 pm

It’s here, but note that it’s in French…

http://aupairauxusa.easyforum.fr/

First time host mom October 14, 2009 at 12:54 pm

I can totally relate to ex-au pair mom. I had an au pair from Japan for a year. She was not the best and we kept trying to improve throughout a year. At the end, the good part was that my daughter learned a lot of Japanese but the bad part is that I feel very resentful and relieved I am not “raising” someone else’s teenager daughter and having to pay her on top of it… Our local rep was very helpful and I have no complaints about her. But, I have to say that au pair agencies are not always concerned about the accuracy of the information regarding the au pair’s personality, experience or skills. As an example, our au pair had said she loved to cook and was outdoorsy. Unfortunately, we think she meant “baking” instead of cooking and on the days she had to cook for my daughter, I noticed all she was giving was instant noodles!!! Also, we thought she would be out in the yard running, playing with a ball, playing tag with our daughter but I found out later (when my mom was visitting) that she used to sit on a chair in the backyard and just kick or throw the ball to my daughter for a few minutes… I could go on and on with descriptions of things that were not accurate with her application. The interesting thing is that the same inaccurate information appeared on her application when she was looking for a new family after her year was coming to an end with us. That made me realize that the agency does not care of how our family experience was before referring her to another family that is searching for an in-country au pair. We were never contacted for an evaluation or review of the program or the au pair we had. I imagine there are misunderstandings and complaints from both sides in a relationship such as these but it was unusual to see that the au pair agency did not even care to find out the family’s opinion after a whole year has passed. I have told my husband I am done with having to manage and raise someone’s spoiled kid and we have been able to get enough care between preschool, day care and extra curricular activities in her schedule after I leave work or using our lunch time to take her from school to daycare. Good luck to all host families and I hope your experience is the best one possible.

Calif Mom October 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm

Tx Mom — A lot of my confidence in taking the dive into hosting an AP actually stemmed from having lived through the host family experience as a teen when my folks hosted a series of HS exchange students (my mom’s way of dealing with empty nest after 5 kids. When I hit high school she apparently panicked.)

I can offer feedback on what it’s like as a teenager to have exchange students join you at your high school. My bottom line would be to be sure you are doing it for the right reasons, and that your own teenagers are very okay with the idea, even the downstream consequences they may not think of on their own.

We did get a lot of true cultural exchange out of it, and that was valuable because my brother and I were teenagers and it was good for us to think beyond our own little peer group existence. And our family did visit our first exchange student at their home, a few years later. That was cool.

It is complex.

TX Mom — on drama
25 years of drama sounds about right. I now truly understand at a bone-deep level why my mom would say “it’s always *some*thing”. It really is. And there was just as much drama was when I was paying 35 k a year for a nanny I didn’t love (the way I do our APs) and certainly didn’t find handled everything perfectly, either.

CoCa October 15, 2009 at 10:10 am

Well, let me take the opportunity to tell you that we, too, have decided to part ways with the au pair program.

Our au pair arrived 6 weeks ago, and from day 1 it was clear that she wasn’t really into it. She missed her boyfriend and family back home, and the whole situation just didn’t seem to suit her. She just didn’t seem to have much interest in us, the kids, the surroundings or just about anything else.

After the first 2 weeks, we called in the LCC who assisted us in making a mutual ‘action plan’ to try to make the AP happier and more enthusiastic. Already at that time, I was beginning to doubt whether this was really for me.

To be brutally honest, I thought that here we were, providing a nice room and bathroom, cell phone, car, cable TV, computer, any type of food she wants and a nice, happy family environment in a nice, safe area with access to just about anything you might want, and what we get in return is not a cheerful, enthusiastic carer who is glad to be here but an ‘action plan’ to make HER happier?

Anyway, there was some improvement immediately in the aftermath of that meeting, but very soon things took a turn for the worse again. I was just getting to the point where I was thinking that we may need to consider a rematch, when the au pair herself told us that she had decided to pull out and go home.

After much consideration, we decided not to proceed to rematch and instead withdraw from the program ourselves. We will lose some money this way and I will be back to care.com trying to find a regular babysitter, but at least this way we are pulling out at a ‘natural point’ and don’t have to risk anything with an entirely new person.

I am glad to hear all the success stories from people who are happy with their au pair, and sad to hear from those who aren’t. I think there are some things the agencies and the government could do to improve the program, but I also think some problems are inherent in the situation and can never change.

I wish you all the best of luck and will probably still be reading and commenting here as a former host mom AND a former au pair! :-)

HMdc January 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Glad to find this topic. So I don’t feel alone :(. We, too, are ready to be apart from the AP program. For the last 5 years, our experience with an AP has been up and down. We had wonderful time when we got a right match for our family. But then, we had a stressfull and terrible time when we had a bad AP.

Two months ago, we remacthed due to her behaviour, poor judgement and immature. Then we match with our current AP. She has been having some culture shocks and some issues with the kids but nothing major. As all of you know, there is an adjustment period when you have a new AP. So, we though everything is going to the right direction until 2 days ago. She sat down with us and told us that she is not happy. She thinks AP is not the right job for her although she is not sure whether to go back to Germany or find a new family (?? contradict herself). She is a preschool teacher not an AP who watch the kids at home all day. Then she talked about our parenting style. She critics our parenting style! I coudn’t believe that. She has no right to tell us how to raise our kids. She doesn’t know anything about parenting especially what our kids need. She thinks it’s bad to let our kids pretending to fight bad guys or become a superhero or tell story about monster. They didn’t hurt anybody when they play pretending games.

We were shocked but it was an easy decision. We told her that we can’t change our parenting style. We are happy and our kids are just typical boys who love to play boys games. She doesn’t have to like their games but she can’t judge us (or the kids) for that.

After considering our situation, we decided to get out from the program. We don’t want to put our family especially our kids go through the same thing again. We feel we have enough bad experience in the last 3 months. There are too much drama and emotion involves with the AP. I always want to make the AP happy but sometimes they don’t appreciate it. I’m done putting my feeling aside anymore.

Good luck to all host parents and aupairs!

StephinBoston October 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Coca: So sorry you had this bad experience. Really is a shame, especially since you have been an au pair yourself :-( Best of luck with finding alternative childcare, its not easy for us working parents!

NewAP Mom October 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Coca, I was wondering what happened to you. Really sorry to hear it didn’t work out.

CoCa October 15, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Thank you, guys, for your kind words! I have greatly enjoyed knowing all of you, which is why I’m likely to keep sticking my nose in here from time to time :-)

I am actually lucky in that I work from home and my kids are both school age, so having the extra childcare is not an absolute necessity but more a way to smooth the rough edges of scheduling and occasionally carve out some time for myself, too.

So I guess we will start off by going back to our prior solution of combining day camp for school days out with babysitters for those afternoons and evenings when we really need it, and see how that goes.

I have a feeling that if I depended on full-time childcare in order to be able to go to work, it’s possible I would have at least tried a rematch as I know only too well the challenges of daycare since that is what we used when our kids were little…

Jane January 22, 2010 at 10:44 am

Best of luck to you, CoCa–sorry to see you go.

This thread has made me wonder about the challenges of daycare versus the challenges of making an AP relationship work. We are about to end our final year in the program as our kids approach school-age. We’re handling our childcare needs with before/after care at the school. I know I need to save a lot more sick leave and vacation time for things that will come up using this childcare solution versus an au pair, but I have to say I’m really excited about getting my house back to ourselves soon, even though we’ve had no nightmare AP situations.

Is there any one out there who can write about both experiences? What to expect transitioning from before/after school care to AP or vice versa? I work shorter hours and have a flexible schedule, so I don’t think days off for teach in-services and such will be too much of an issue. But how is it for the kids? I think they will benefit from being around their peers more now that they are 3 years old.

Anonymous January 22, 2010 at 1:06 pm

For me, the best thing about having a good aupair was that on the days it snowed, the daycare center closed early ( just like school ) so that their employees could get home safely. Many of my colleagues were frantically calling around for backup and support and some had to go home early.
I had enormous peace of mind knowing that my childcare provider was right at home with my kids. I live in the NY metro area and an aupair for more than one kid is definitely cheaper than daycare for more than one.
I found that in home providers are not unlike aupairs in that some of them are very opinionated and have different philosophies of life than I do.
I am not talking about serious things like discipline , I am just talking about life in general.

Ann from NE January 22, 2010 at 11:52 pm

We just transitioned from AP to pre/after-school care in September (my daughter is now 5). She was at home, full-time with APs for the previous 3 years (mostly for bilingualism reasons), who did some basic home-schooling activities with her and brought her to some classes and story hours, but she did not attend American preschool. Previously, our daughter had gone to a commercial daycare center, where she was the quietest one in her age group. Our daughter’s language and exuberant personality blossomed with the 1:1 attention of the loving au pairs and she went many interesting places with them on local train trips. I am forever grateful to them.

From a health point of view, I was glad she had three years of “sleeping in” and minimizing the bugs you can catch at daycare. (We had plenty of that earlier, she had several ear infections when she was at the daycare center and for a while had suboptimal hearing.) Having her stay longer at home also helped us deal with her slowly growing out of food allergies and taking longer to toilet train. Her body has just been on its own schedule. The APs have been very patient with all this.

However, this fall when she turned 5 she was eligible to start the local elementary school (a full-day pre-kindergarten program), so we didn’t look for another AP. While we of course miss the APs, I think the transition has been harder for us host parents than our daughter. As an only child, she has thrived at school and would gladly spend every waking hour with her little friends there. She is very happy on the days when she is there almost 11 hours (from 7:15am early drop-off to 6pm extended day pick-up.) She was more used to dealing with adults, than children, and more 1:1 than in a group, so she is getting good socialization in both aspects this year. Furthermore, I think the APs (and I) were running up against our natural abilities and enthusiasm to keep her academically stimulated at home, it was time her education was turned over to professional teachers.

My daughter’s life is very structured now, every day there is school and then there are various afternoon classes to which I now drive her around. I do regret that we seem to have lost some of the freedom and flexibility that she had with the APs, they could just decide to go to a puppet show or the children’s museum or stay home, depending on how the weather was or how they were feeling.

We also have to be more regimented. Our daughter used to stay up “partying” as late as we did, because she could “sleep in” the next morning, because the AP would be here to take care of her after we left for work. Often 9:30pm-10:00pm So we as working parents got more time to relax and play with her at night. Now we have less time with her as working parents in the evening and we have to all get up earlier. Frankly I started training her about a week before school started and I’m still rather amazed that her metabolism, which was used to sometimes sleeping until 8am, is now getting up at 6;30am so we can drop her off at school at 7am. After dinner we also have various “homeworks” to do (speech therapy, piano lesson) so there’s much less time to just relax.

For us around the household of course it’s harder to do the basics without an AP. I used to come home to a reasonably clean house, dishes washed, daughter’s laundry done, daughter bathed…with a lengthy written or oral report of the day’s fun events and how she behaved. Now..I come home to the same piles of dishes I left in the morning, laundry piles up until the weekend, and I basically get no individualized feedback on my daughter’s day at school except for a progress report twice a year…And my daughter doesn’t remember much about her day either…

We value the privacy we have regained, the time we now have to refocus on our little family. But I do miss the exciting, sometimes dramatic, lives the APs led while here, the discussious with them from child development to boyfriends to culture shock, and living vicariously by helping them plan their studies and travels. They forced me to be organized, now my life seems more chaotic and I don’t have a “weekly house meeting” with my spouse re child development like I feel we should…There is a bit of an “empty nest syndrome” here.

We are doing our best to stay in touch, but it’s hard. The time zone differences make calling hard, and my daughter is too young to type, though she will “dictate” me an email to send to the APs occasionally. I was able to thank the first AP by writing her a letter of recommendation that helped her get a new nanny job; and we will be visiting the second AP and her family as part of an overseas trip in the spring.

My husband’s and my work schedules and vactionwith the start of elementary school (pre-kinde

She

AP Swe November 16, 2010 at 12:37 am

I decided to sign up for the program beacuse in order to study psycology at uni i had to have experince with working with kids under 8 years old for more then 10months (in a row). Most of the other aps i know signed up for an adventure. My swedish agency sold the program like an adventure and some cute kid pictures thrown in.
When i first applied for the AP program I was kind of frighten for how easy it was. The agency didn’t check up on any of my previous jobs and didn’t call any of the ‘character vitnesses’ i had supplied. And then there was the interwiev which was in english, that wasn’t such a big deal couse i’m comfterble with speaking but the questions we’re all.
queastions like ‘tell them what they want to hear’.
When i arrived at the orientation i was suprised/scared with the other aps there! There we’re girls that barley spoke a word of english and pranced around in high heels and mini-skirts. I thought didn’t these girls get interviewed and evaluated!? I think the whole process leaves a lot to luck and is not something you can trust.
I am soon dome with my year at a lovely HF, but 3 of the 5 swedish girls i meet at orientation are either back home or in rematch.
I’m glad that i’ve had this experince but when i think about what the HP are doing; putting their kids life in the hands of a stranger I feel both humbled and terrified.

Jennifer November 16, 2010 at 5:12 pm

We are now leaving the AP program as well. I was a SAHM for 8 years and went back into the workforce after my husband lost his job and had to take a huge paycut. My kids are older – almost 14 and 10 – and I don’t really need the childcare but do need help with all of the activities and homework, etc. I was really looking for someone to come in and be a “big sister” to them and keep a watchful eye on them when I’m not there. Both are really great kids and I want to make sure they stay that way. What I realized is that the are really great kids! and they are very independent. When we broke the news to them they were very excited to not have to share their space/lives with someone else.

We are on our 3rd AP this year. The first (rematch) could just not get along with everyone and would pout and isolate herself. Found out she had the same issue in her prior house. She decided to leave the program.

The second (new to the country) decided to secretly invite 2 men on our family vacation after being here 6 weeks and was very irresponsible. Lied about the whole thing. She got rematched.

The third was another rematch (we are actually her 3rd home). Noone told be about the nose ring, belly ring and ear piercings. She asked to drive downtown to go clubbing her first weekend here with some people she met online. After 2 weeks here she said she wanted an additonal 10 days off to travel to Europe (it was her dream). She only had 2 days of vacation available, what was remaining for her year). She sleeps all day and gets drunk all weekend. Her performance declined becuse she was upset about not being able to drive the car in to the city to the nightclubs. The clencher was when my boys were out of school one day they all decided to play with fire. My son did an experiment from school and the built a “bonfire” out of pinestraw on my patio to toast marshmallows. They all decided to keep it a secret from HD and I. Not a good move! So there are no watchful eyes on my kids. They agency wants her to rematch but she is going home.

I’m not sure how we will manage here in a couple of weeks but the stress will be different and I think less than what my AP’s have caused me. This board has been EXTREMELY helpful because the lacking LCC always tells me to be supportive and has not really offered any assistance. By chance, this does not work out and we do go with another AP I will go with another agency. From all the posts, I’m not sure how much of a difference that will make but I’ll always come back here for advice.

Thank you to all that manage this board!

Should be working November 17, 2010 at 4:38 am

These stories are horrifying. Can I ask what agency you used (CV, if that’s ok with you, I’m not sure if you have policies on not mentioning agencies by name unless that’s the topic of the post)?

We are debating whether we will get another AP in February, when ours leaves, or a babysitter. We are in Europe until late summer, so it will be under different conditions than a U.S. AP, but we are using an agency just to avoid going solo on this. And then we also have to debate whether we try an AP again in the US next year. It is so much emotional commitment, uncertain success rates (I would pay a lot of $$ to get that secret, famous rematch statistic), and I just don’t know if we are up for it. But like the girl with the curl: when it’s good, it is very very good; and when it is bad it is horrid.

Jennifer November 17, 2010 at 9:35 am

Should be Working – We used the all American agency ;).

A big concern with us is that they continue to rematch these girls. 2 were rematchs to us and had glowing recommendations from their counselors and we were told that they just had a bad rap. Then they got to our house and it was like “oh, this is why it didn’t work out”.

I just can’t do it again and I can’t ask my boys to continue to compromise with another AP. We talk alot about it being the HP emotional investment but it’s the kids too.

Anna November 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

I have had a mostly successful hosting story (we are in our fourth year), but I think mostly because I have thought that picking out the best au pair from what the agency offers is solely my responsibility, I don’t trust the agency to supply candidates all of whom are necessarily even able to do the job. It is not their fault, they might be doing the best they can, but I feel that anybody who desires enough to become an au pair (live in USA for a year), can pass all the screenings and get her application in front of my eyes through the agency.

It is up to me to tease out the truth and figure out if the girl can do the job, and also no less important, that the girl will fit in with me, my family and my personality. I don’t settle, I only invite somebody I am geniuinely excited about and 100% sure of. All those have been successes (and those where I didn’t follow this philosophy, have ended up as rematches).

I also prefer not to take girls from rematch. We just went through a rematch (peaceful, with one of our wonderful au pairs, it was a health issue that was nobody’s fault), and I ended up selecting and out-of-country candidate. I spoke with one in-country, she had a good reference from her LCC, but I didn’t love my conversation with her. I passed on her, and glad I did. Her last email to me after the fact showed that the “personality conflict” with the host mom that was a reason for her rematch would play out the same way in my household.

Yes, you have to read a lot between the lines (the between the lines of the email I mentioned was very subtle, it was tone), trust your intuition, ask a lot of questions, and never settle for something that “might be good”. You must be confident that it will be great!

Mom23 November 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

I think that this is a big problem with agencies. We had had several years of au pairs, some great, some mediocre, some that ended in rematch because of not knowing how to drive, one who left because she was homesick. But, all those that had ended in rematch had been amicable. Then we got the au pair who was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” She was a rematch au pair. I had spoken with her former LCC who had characterized the issues with her previous host family as “personality conflicts.” The reality, I later found, was much different and there had been a serious issue (that I won’t share since it belongs to the other family). With that issue, and our family’s issues, the agency matched her with another family.

We decided to take a break from hosting au pairs. We may go back at some point since it seems my children are going in three different directions half of the time and when it works, I love the cultural exchange.

I know that sending more au pairs home will cost the agencies more money, which will then get passed onto the host parents, but I think that they should spend a bit more effort vetting candidates.

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