It’s s Web 2.0 nightmare no Au Pair Host Parent is ready for — your au pair is blogging about your kids, your family, your discipline strategies, and who knows what all else. And the picture is not altogether flattering. What do you do?
Here’s how md describes her challenge and her request for advice:
Our au pair seems to be a great fit with our family – really personable, great driver, good with the kids.
We just discovered her blog which gave us some concern. She writes in it daily, about the details of her day, including what is happening with the children. She has expressed how hard it is dealing with them and at times that they are brats. I was upset to hear the comments about the kids and her views on how we discipline our children.
We haven’t told her that we’ve been reading it but it is public knowledge. I don’t know whether to monitor it for awhile to see if we should rematch or just take it as a channel for her to vent her feelings (which we all sometimes feel about our jobs). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
Wow– despite the fact that we want our out pairs to be able to vent to their friends and maybe get some advice, nobody wants criticism of them or their kids displayed on a blog page for anyone to see. It’s an invasion of the privacy of your family, and it is also really unfair to your children.
I’m assuming that your au pair’s name is somewhere in the blog, so anyone who knows her can find it. And, since clusters and communities are smaller than you think, even if she was not using your children’s or family’s names, there are probably enough context clues that anyone motivated to figure out who she’s writing about can and will identify you.
I have worried about for my own family and for myself about our privacy, and this is something that I address explicitly in our family guidelines:
Please respect our privacy and don’t talk about our family business with other people.
We will also respect your privacy in this regard, and not discuss your personal life with others.
But obviously, this guideline is not specific enough … but what to do now?
Here are some of the things that really bother me about the situation…. First the list, and then a little more about each issue:
- The blog is criticizing your children
- The blog is criticizing you
- A public blog violates your privacy
- A public blog exposes your family’s business and makes you vulnerable to people you know and people you don’t know
- Talking about you to other people, before talking about any issues with you directly, is bad for your relationship.
- How do you tell her you’ve read her blog?
- Explaining how you found her blog
- Setting some boundaries for the future — what she can write, what you can read
(1 & 2.) With regard to criticizing or venting about you and your family, I’m thinking that this is within her rights — as long as this venting is PRIVATE conversation between her and her friends, and as long as those friends are in some other community far far away.
You wouldn’t ask her to censor her letters or emails home. HOWEVER — because her blog is currently public, she should not (I think) be writing in much detail about your kids and family. This issue here is not that she has criticisms, but that she is not controlling who can hear them, and what level of detail anyone gets.
She should be able to criticize you, in private, to a SMALL circle of close confidants.
(3 & 4) The violation here is that the criticisms are public. It might be socially unsafe for your kids to be exposed this way (if they are old enough that other kids might be online) because it exposes them personally. It certainly will hurt their feelings if they ever read it. Plus, it might be unsafe for your family physically if someone were to learn something about you that they could take advantage of.
You can and should set limits about what family and ‘job’ information can be made public. You can expect to have these limits honored by your au pair.
Just in the same way as she can tell her mom or sisters whatever she wants about her life, but not tell all the details to other au pairs in your cluster. (Remember, these au pairs live with with host parents you probably know. Heck, they probably ride the train with you).
Your au pair should not be blogging about you and your kids in any way that lets others know details about your family life.
5. There is a bad relationship dynamic going on here– that she is criticizing you more or less behind your back, without bringing the issue to you first. This is a violation of a critical tenet of good relationships, and doing this destroys trust. (Check out Steve Covey on this one, with his idea about "honoring the absent".)
If your au pair has trouble with your kids behavior, or with your parenting practices, she should talk with you about it directly. You should make it easy for her to have this conversation with you, you should listen carefully, and take it from there.
(6 & 7) Despite the fact that blogs are public, I’m betting that your au pair was not expecting you to read her blog. Yes, blogs are not the same as diaries– blogs are out there, available to all, and easy to discover. It’s not like you’re searching her drawers and then prying the lock off her diary. And yet —
The simple fact that you found her blog, even if she did not intend you to find it, demonstrates that her blog is TOO public.
8. Your au pair needs at the very least to change her URL and set her blog up with a password so that only a select few people with advance permission can read it. Made private this way, it becomes more like letters to a private email list than like a free newspaper available an any Starbuck’s.
While it’s not your fault that you’ve seen her blog, it’s gonna be hard to tell her that you have. How did you find it? Is that something to be embarrassed about, does it say something about you that might be hard to discuss, or did she just leave her blog up or bookmarked on the family computer…?
I’m not going to criticize you for reading her blog, as long as you don’t keep reading it without telling her. Sure, give yourself a few days to figure out how to respond, but don’t just keep reading so that you have a backchannel into her perspective. Just because it’s on a blog, and because she’s writing it, doesn’t mean it’s an accurate representation of how she feels in the main. Some might be posturing, some might be venting, some might be honest, whatever.
Now, check out what Calif mom suggests ! She’s got some good questions and ideas:
Wow. I’m curious — how did you find her blog?
You must feel like you are reading her diary, and yet, it’s a blog and inherently public. Clearly, this is going to eat away at you, so you have to make a decision about how you are going to deal with it, even if that decision is that you are going to ignore it.
You can 1) stop reading it and pretend it doesn’t exist or 2) mention that you read it and ask her to please safeguard the kids’ identity, because you don’t want them to be hurt by this when they are older. Or 3) mention that you have read it, and then see what she says and let her reaction guide your conversation.
This could either be a way to grow closer to your AP or it could divide you. I am pretty sure that things cannot be the same now, because you are not in the same emotional place you were before. Your feelings have been hurt, and you feel your family’s privacy has been violated. Maybe that’s the place to start your conversation with her.
You should look at how you feel about her overall, and decide whether you want to continue the relationship or not before you talk to her about it. I think it could be a good opportunity, but so much depends on her reaction to it, and you can’t control that at all. And you may not be able to predict her reaction, either, so you might want to think about possible outcomes before having this conversation.
Okay host parents (and au pairs) — let’s hear from you. What else does md need to think about? What else might she try?