What is it they say about choosing a third au pair after two huge disappointments:
It’s the “Triumph of Hope over Experience”?
OzHostMom writes with a quandary: She’s really trying, she’s really optimistic, except she’s lost her host mom mojo.
– Is OzHostMom insane to think this time could be different?
– Is she trying too hard?
– Is there something else she should do to set things into balance?
What do you think?
Hi there! I’m a long time reader, first time poster.
I’ve gotten so many helpful tips and advice from this site and all you HPs who have successfully done and enjoyed this AP thing. You see, even though we are expecting out 3rd AP this week, we have never really enjoyed or gotten any benefit out of the programme. Not for want of trying! We’ve had two less than perfect situations back to back, and to be honest, this is a case of last chance saloon for us.
Anyway, I’ll get to the point. We had a few months off, as we were moving across the country and wanted time to get settled as a family. My work suffered (luckily a lot of what I do can be done anytime) – so I spend all week looking after my children and nights and weekends working at my desk.
I should add that I’m halfway through a pregnancy that has been utterly awful – experiencing morning, day and night sickness up to my 21st week so far, severe exhaustion, etc.
We have resisted call after call from the AP agency offering exorbitant discounts for going through them again to get another AP. Eventually, after living in a hotel for a month while househunting, we found our house, settled in, and agreed to absolutely one FINAL try of the AP programme. We looked at lots of candidates, and have matched with one who is the polar opposite of our last mismatch. We’ve had regular Skype calls about nothing much at all – just letting her bond with the kids before arrival. Lots of emails.
I’ve done my best to prepare us and our au pair for her arrival. I’ve done her up a beautiful new room based on her likes (gleaned through our Skype calls). Read just about every single thing I can find on this site – tips, happy stories, good outcomes etc. Updated our HHHB (with a lot of things that we learned the hard way last time around). Everything we can think of to make this a success.
Poor HD is so used to coming home from work and listening to me talk about how this time it’s going to be different, he can see how badly I need this to work out.
But something’s missing – I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel like I’ve lost my HM Mojo, so to speak.
I’m losing sleep about trying to get it right. I’ve prepared and prepared and prepared but I don’t have the feelings I need to stick a happy warm and welcoming attitude on, instead of being wracked with nerves about what it’s going to be like this time around. Has anyone else experienced this?
Have we just been unlucky or is it always a compromise as to what principles I have to give up, and how much bad do I have to take with the good? (If there’s even any good??).
Please someone tell me it’s all going to be better this time!
This AP is only going to be responsible for my toddlers (nearly 4 and 2.5) and to cover us for a couple of months after the new baby arrives so that I can give the baby some undivided attention – in Australia APs are not allowed to care for infants under 12 months unless specially qualified, and given that I work for myself I’m setting things up to cut my work right back once baby arrives, and will do the bare minimum while baby is sleeping or at weekends when HD is home.
Our previous experiences with APs were very disappointing. In November last year we were expecting our first AP after a lot of interviewing, emailing and preparation – we thought we’d made a good match (but what did WE know? We were first timers after all! ), but a week after arriving she had to return to France for a family emergency. Reeling, we contacted the agency (having no idea how to handle this) – and I must say, compared to you guys in the USA, our agencies in Australia really don’t offer much support, about anything. It’s a case (with our agency) of “Set and Forget” – place the AP and collect the fee and that’s pretty much all you hear from them until it comes time to start hunting for a new AP (in Australia they only stay for 6 months).
(Let me tell you – I am so jealous of your LCCs, your cluster groups, your face to face support when it’s needed – I’ve never even met anyone from our agency. Not good for either HPs or APs. But I digress.)
The agency said not to worry, they’ve got someone who’s looking at finishing up her last 2 months in Australia before returning home, who you can interview in person as she’s already in the country, she’s ready to go right now. Naively we agreed, and duly met her, where she put a pretty sad story to us – her former HD lost his job, they kicked her out, she had nowhere to go, was couch surfing, and basically were we offering her the job or not. Then and there.
It was a bit hard being put on the spot like that – she had been looking after similar aged children, seemed nice enough, we said we’d call her by the next day after we spoke with the agency again. Ringing the agency, I asked whether there were any issues with the previous family – they said nope, nothing, and even offered to have the former HM call me (which never happened). Never mind – HD and I thought we’d give the girl a chance, as if it was our daughter in that situation in another country one day we’d hope that there’d be people who would take her in and help her.
She was OK – not really having much to compare it to, we thought, ok, this is what it is. She tried to help out with the kids chores, but really made no effort to connect with them. In fact she took an active dislike to Mr 3yo, who was just doing what any 3yo does, being a bit wary of strangers, a bit challenging, etc. It got to the point where I’d get home and have to spend 2 hours with her outside calming her down because “the kids had been so awful”. I felt terrible.
I work from home so I’d only be out for at the most 2 or 3 hours at the occasional client visit, and there were even a couple of times where I took him with me, because it wasn’t worth the extra drama by the time I got home. She would tell me all the issues with my kids and how I wasn’t bringing them up right (because she had SO much experience AP-ing for 1 other family!) and I was left feeling like my (normal, BTW) kids were the worst kids on earth. She really was only interested in escaping the second she was done (and I only had her work a 5 hour shift, weekdays, either morning or afternoon) and going out with friends, partying, to the beach etc. It was like she was just trying to squeeze as much as she could into her final few weeks, soaking up her last Aussie summer. Fair enough I guess.
Anyway, throughout all this, we had word from our first AP (the one who lasted a week) that the family member who was sick had passed away and she really wanted to return to Australia and rejoin our family. Being nice people (even though my gut instinct was screaming no – do I really want someone who has been recently bereaved – it was her mother who passed away – trying to go through the culture shock and look after my kids and process her grief when she really should be with her family) – Oh – and as an aside, we later found out her mother had been terminally ill, knew she was dying, and our AP still chose to spend 6 months on the other side of the world??? Needless to say we now ask about the health of family members when interviewing prospective APs (they must think we’re very odd).
Anyway, being nice, we agreed that she could return after her now 2 months away, and she arrived the day after our fill in AP left. You’re going to predict what I’m about to say next – you guessed it, she was not the same girl we interviewed and matched with some months before, and it was a big mistake letting her return. Not blaming her mother’s passing for that – perhaps she was already not the best candidate – but of course after something so devastating like that, it’s bound to have a flow on effect into the rest of your life.
We tried with this girl, so hard. We gave her chance after chance, had a couple of reset conversations and the only advice that I got from the agency when I called them in tears asking for help was an airy “Oh you two are very nice HPs – if I was you I would have ended the arrangement long ago”. Um, thanks.
I turned to compulsively reading APMom, trawling for similar scenarios, and eventually mustered up the courage to explain to her that after several chances to change her behaviour, lift her game, etc, that it really wasn’t working out for us and that she would need to make arrangements to either return home, or go on her travel month (in Oz the APs who only stay with one family for 6 months usually take the 7th month as travel month) early and change her ticket home, which is what she decided to do (after stomping round the house, refusing to speak with anyone, staying holed up in her room, typical teenage behaviour if I’m honest).
She wasn’t a terrible person, she just really didn’t like kids, and hadn’t the foggiest idea how to be proactive and do what needed to be done without asking. Plus the scratches to the car, driving it on a flat tyre, seemingly oblivious, not cleaning up after herself, poor personal hygiene, constantly saying to the kids “Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” when they came up for hugs, letting them play at an outdoor playground while she was out of sight inside at the café (a 2 yo and a 3yo!!!), playing on her phone at bathtime rather than WATCHING them in the bath. Looking back, I do not know why we put up with so much for so long.