It will come as no surprise to most au pairs that most of us host parents have high expectations for ourselves that we often can’t meet.
We want to be good drivers, calm parents, regular exercisers, and people who pick up after ourselves. And we are– just not all the time (not most of us, anyway).
There are too many things that I’ve told our au pairs to do, or not to do, based on how I expect I’ll behave.
“Oh sure,” I’ll say, “Go ahead and leave my damp clothes on top of the dryer, if you need to leapfrog me in the laundry. Just let me know.” And then I’m irked when she tells me my damp clothes are on top of the dryer.
“I’ll leave pizza money on the counter,” I’ll shout as I rush to catch the train. Then, I feel guilty when she tells me she spent her own money on pizza, could I please add $15 to her pocket money?
“No, no, you don’t have to clear up my breakfast dishes, I’ll get to them.” And then I’m grumpy when I come home to a full sink.
What is our poor, well-intentioned au pair to do? Count on me to reach my own high standards, or cut me some slack? What else is s/he supposed to do — should she actually do the stuff I’ve said I’d do, but that I didn’t get to?
Sarita has the same question, from the other direction:
I have been an aupair with a French family for one month now, and really enjoy living in France and get along with the children etc. The parents are also quite caring towards me (they constantly worry if I am eating enough!) but the problem that I have at the moment is that they are very messy and don’t clean up after themselves in the kitchen. It is my responsibility to cook for the children each night (the parents eat after the children have gone to bed) and so I of course clean the kitchen and wash the dishes or load them into the dishwasher after cooking, and always leave the kitchen spotless.
However I am not ‘on duty’ in the morning, but when I get up after they have all left for work, or return after language classes when I leave before them, their dirty dishes are all still either on the table or heaped on the kitchen benches, with the dishwasher full of clean dishes. I then of course have to clean up after them, often unloading the dishwasher twice during the day so that their will be room for the dinner dishes. I don’t know if I am being petty or lazy but I honestly wouldn’t mind this if they had just said to me ‘We are rushed in the morning, so if you could clean up that would be great’ but nothing has ever been said… like an unspoken expectation and I am never thanked for doing so.
I guess the reason it bothers me is that during the interview my host mum specifically told me not to worry about being used as a house cleaner and that I would only be taking care of the childrens needs (their clothes, cleaning their rooms etc). Often in addition to breakfast dishes are the dishes from the parent’s meal the night before (saucepans and plates) still sitting on the bench.
Am I being petty and lazy? I feel like I have no choice but to clean up after them since they specifically asked me to leave the kitchen clean after I cook for the children…
any advice you can give me would be fantastic! Thanks so much, Sarita
In this specific situation, how would you advise Sarita?
- What happens in your house when you don’t meet your own expectations?
- How do you guide your au pair’s response to the grey area between what you say you’ll do and what you get done?
Your Au Pair is Not A Maid