Host Mom Desperately Trying — Too Hard?

by cv harquail on September 3, 2014

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.

2907465561_6bda3f0fea_zI’ve reordered her story, below, so that you get the critical point near the start:

      – 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!    

Some background:

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.



See also:

Advice Wanted: Lost Mojo, Cold Feet. Now what?
3 Ways to Reclaim Your Host Mom Mojo

Image: Kat in de sak, by Rene Passet on Flckr


NBHostMom September 3, 2014 at 9:19 am

I find myself ready to repeat the words of your agency: “Oh you two are very nice HPs – if I was you I would have ended the arrangement long ago”

It sounds like you are more than aware as to what went wrong, I encourage you to keep your standards high when the new au pair arrives. People often step up (or down) to the expectations set for them. Address issues when the arise, provide kind but firm guidance and remember great AP experiences are very possible!

There is one sentence about your new APs arrival makes me nervous: “I’ve done her up a beautiful new room based on her likes”. Remember, she’s not your guest, but your au pair. This is a super kind and thoughtful gesture, but she’ll only be with you for 6 months. We like to add simple items to personalize our AP’s room prior to arrival (i.e. framed photos of her family from her AP profile, some initial toiletries, a welcome card from the kids and making sure everything is fresh and clean) but I do not personalize linens, paint or overall decorating schemes. For me, I need to stay in the correct head space, the AP is here to help me, not for me to pamper her. There are some great comments on this site stating: start how you plan to continue with work schedules and chores. Don’t pamper and cater then expect the AP to magically start working hard. I like to keep big gestures such as bonuses and extra time as a rewards for an AP’s hard work, not an entitlement given on arrival :)

NoVA Twin Mom September 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

No real advice – other than not to “dumb down” your requirements – you need the level of help that you need, and you’ve commented enough here that we know you’re not expecting an unreasonable level of effort from your au pair :) – but hopefully a ray of hope.

We had an excellent first au pair, the second one we sent into rematch after two months, our third au pair was great with the kids (which is why we kept her) despite being a lousy roommate, and our fourth lasted three and a half days before we had to send the kids to Grandma’s for the summer because I didn’t dare leave the kids alone with her. BUT – au pair five was AWESOME and au pair six is just as great.

After au pairs two and four were the ones we sent into rematch, I was REALLY worried about number six. I even half-joked with our LCC that only our “odd-numbered” au pairs worked out – so we’d see how long number six would last before we were looking for number seven. So I know what you mean about losing your mojo – I was sorely tempted to write in saying exactly the same thing, looking for exactly the same kind of support. I just re-read that you had an au pair that didn’t want to pick up the kids or get a hug – that’s exactly what Miss Three and a Half Days did with our twin (at the time) two year olds. So we were really in largely the same boat you are. But now we’re SO happy we stuck with the program and found numbers five and six.

Sometimes we just get duds. It sounds like your first two, unfortunately, were duds. Here’s hoping that your next one is just as awesome as some of ours have been!

TexasHM September 3, 2014 at 11:20 am

Agreed. I too was struck by the room preferences comment. We let AP1 pick the bedding because we had to go buy it anyway so since she was our first she got to pick but since then we haven’t changed anything aside from letting each AP move her furniture around with approval and decorate a bit. It is a very thoughtful gesture but just as others have stated, you need her to step up and fill a major role in your household so you have to set that tone first thing and not wait on her when she arrives (I struggle with this every time too).
We tell our APs in interviewing that they have the most important job in our house because if they can’t perform everyone suffers (kids, my and DH’s jobs as we take off work to cover or spend personal time making up for things not done). We make it clear we desperately need a third adult in our household and that their job is challenging. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had a terrible AP but I think I scare the terrible ones away in interviewing just from how thorough our process is. My last AP said I was 100 times harder than her visa interview. :) Good!
Although I must say, an AP that wouldn’t touch my kids, showed any disdain for one of them or told me they were horrible for normal kid stuff would be out ASAP. My momma bear would rear up and kick her a mile out of my house so try to keep you perspective. You get an AP to make your life easier, period. How? By all the reasons you decided on it in the first place – sounds like for you for flexibility, consistent and reliable caregiver, someone to help pitch in with kids chores and keep the house more manageable. You do not need a paid party animal, princess, immature brat, etc. Your kids (and you) deserve 100% and if you aren’t getting it then I have no doubt there is another AP out there that would do anything for the opportunity. Australia is a desirable country for most APs, you shouldn’t have to settle at all, especially if you live near the beach! I would be looking for as close as I could get to Mary Poppins! :)
I get beat down now regularly and we have had good experiences! I get beat down during interviewing and then I often get another wave right before arrival largely because it is a big risk no matter how much you interview. I wonder if the person I interviewed will get off the plane. BUT – when you have a great AP it does give you your mojo back. I have also felt this way when interviewing after an amazing AP. I always think I wont find another AP as good as the last and yet somehow we do!
No one is perfect, its about matching the strengths and weaknesses with what you need as a family. I can tolerate an AP that has a messy room but can’t tolerate one that doesn’t love my kids. Good luck!!

Taking a Computer Lunch September 3, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Agreed. We provide a basic room and purchase bedding, etc. for durability. When I purchase something to replace a worn-out item, I explicitly tell the AP “This is a gift for your room.” (Example, flannel sheets were worn out – but can you purchase flannel sheets in a store in August? No! When they were on sale, I purchased a cute set that I knew the AP would enjoy.) We have a swimming pool in our back garden, so one thing I do purchase for each incoming AP is a personalized beach towel. Because our state has a bag purchase law, I also purchase a personalized tote bag. Otherwise, the AP gets the same set of stamps and $1 Target toiletries that I have purchased for every other incoming AP.

Should be working September 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Agree with everything above about creating and maintaining high standards. One important thing is to understand that you don’t just “FIND the right au pair” who knows how to do everything well and the way you want. You find someone with a good attitude and basic skills and patience, and you TRAIN the perfect au pair. Who won’t be perfect, but still. A poorly managed good candidate can become a BAD au pair. Management is key.

old au pair mom September 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

Agree with the above, but I always give my au pairs a Starbucks gift card after week one, as in Congratulations we made it through week 1! It is all new to them too and a little perk is nice. When our kids were little we had champagne every friday to celebrate getting through the week and all those elementary school spelling tests etc. It is nice to celebrate even the most minor of milestones. Many posts suggest not giving bonuses or gifts. I disagree. My APs have always been so happy to get a giftcard or a little extra money. I try and remember to do it every month on their arrival date. Also, before they take a trip, I give them extra money, to help with gas or dinner out. I don’t work but I always appreciate my husband’s bonus check! It is just a nice thing to do and it can just make everyone a little happier.

OzHostMum September 3, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my tome (and to CV for making some ordered sense of my ramblings). I absolutely take on board your comments about setting the right tone
from day one, about starting off as I want AP to continue. This is something I’m going to have to work very hard on myself with, as the temptation is there to be too generous/nice/treat her too much like a guest and then see it all crumble when she realises she’s here to do a job. I can see that this is a large part of where HD and I went wrong with our original AP (and then on her return we were even worse…super nice and accommodating as we helped her grapple with the grief of losing her mother).

I should clarify that incoming AP has the benefit of being the first in our new house, so she’s the lucky one in terms of brand new room, and I keep the furniture and big things quite neutral and accessorize with “favourite colour” accents…things like cushions, bedside lamp, rug, etc. Honestly I think it’s just as much a “wipe the slate clean” exercise between APs for me, as creating a beautiful space for them.
I like the suggestions of small rewards and appreciations for getting through particular periods of time, rather than being too overly generous upfront. (I’m going to make HD read all this as he’s a very hospitable, laid back typical Aussie guy!)
I’m so glad to hear it’s not only me who gets all bent out of shape when the person you’ve spent a lot of time interviewing, who has reassured you how much they LOVE kids, won’t allow your kids to touch her and in fact doesn’t even like them at all! Um…you’re in the wrong job as an AP if you really can’t stand kids! This was probably the biggest issue for me when interviewing this time…putting it back on the candidates to demonstrate their enjoyment of my children, and incoming AP spent a LOT of time on Skype “playing” with the kids, as they rushed backwards and forwards from toy box to computer screen, shrieking with pretend fear at the dinosaurs being waved at her, etc (funny to watch and I felt a bit ridiculous but hopefully it pays off when I’m watching her connecting and playing with my kids in person).
Deep breath. I’m just going to keep reminding myself: employer, not best friend, housemate, not concierge in a hotel.

NBHostMom September 3, 2014 at 2:19 pm

It sounds like you’ve got a great candidate! I think you know what needs to be done and hopefully this au pair will be a superstar, sounds like you’re due for one :)

Emerald City HM September 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

It does sound like you do have a good match. :).

I also personalize accents with favorite colors for our incoming au pairs. Sheets if they are worn out and of course our first au pair, but always bath towels. That’s probably my personality, but I like having my own towel. So I didn’t read too much into your initial post.

OpinionatedHM September 3, 2014 at 2:29 pm

The way you feel right now is to be expected. You have had two bad experiences and are taking the risk of a third. You are pregnant and know how much help you will need when the new baby arrives and how difficult it will be if the new AuPair does not work out. The only thing you can do is what you are doing, set yourself up for success by updating your handbook, review what didn’t work before and what you will do differently this time, and getting to know the new AP as much as possible before arrival.
A few suggestions:
1. It seems your greatest focus is on making sure the AP is happy and will like you and your family. I have found that it takes time to develop a personal relationship with an AP whether as friend or family member. However, a professional relationship can happen as soon as the parameters are set. I now focus immediately on setting the boss/employee parameters with my AP’s and wait until I know them better to determine what type of personal relationship we might have. I think this helps us both as it is easy to define the employee/caregiver responsibilities and expectations of an AP in my house. The employee/caregiver responsibilities are the one thing that remains consistent from one AP to the next. The personal aspect of the relationship whether family member or friend, peer or mentee, will be individual to the AP. I don’t focus on it at the beginning as I feel it puts pressure on us both and sets expectations that might lead to disappointment. Instead of focusing on making your new AP feel happy and comfortable, focus on making sure she understands your expectations of her as an employee and caregiver in your household. This does two things: it makes it clear to her that your priority is her professionalism and care for your children, and it keep the boundaries clear between how she is performing her duties and how you feel about her as a person. Once she is comfortable with her responsibilities, you will both find it easier to turn your attention to getting to know each other personally and your personal relationship will be less likely to be entangled with your opinion of her job performance.

2. Start as you mean to go on. I read this all the time on this site and it seems so simple and obvious but for some reason I need to remind myself of this rule over and over again. One of the most helpful posts i read on this site talked about setting expectations right away. We have used two agencies that expressly do not allow the AP to be scheduled to work the weekend they arrive at our home. I had always interpreted this to mean the AP should be allowed to relax and acclimate, so with our first two AP’s we focused on making the AP feel welcome and comfortable. With both AP’s, we had to work hard the first few months to get them up to speed with doing childcare related chores and neither ever helped around the house unless asked. Before arrival of AP 3, I turned to this website to figure out how to improve the situation. I was surprised by how many HP’s get their AP’s started right away! The biggest surprise was the number of AP’s who wrote in and said that they preferred to start work right away. It kept them from focusing on the strangeness of the new situation and gave them something to accomplish and keep them busy during the adjustment period. AP’s 3 and 4 were put to work shadowing me the first weekend. We did kitchen orientation while cooking dinner together and the AP learned how to load and operate the dishwasher while helping me clean up afterward. We did laundry orientation while the AP helped me with the laundry. You get the idea. Instead of relaxing and recovering from the training week, AP’s 3 and 4 were introduced right away to the expectations and responsibilities we have for them as employees and caregivers. Ultimately AP’s 3 and 4 were so much more helpful around the house and were both proactive about kid related chores.
3. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel it’s going well, don’t let anyone talk you into continuing – including yourself! Figure out your short term child care options now, before this AP’s arrival so you have a plan if things don’t go well. Having a short term childcare coverage plan in place will make it easier for you to let go of a dysfunctional AP and save you a lot of stress. It is incredibly disruptive to go into rematch, but it is a kind of slow and miserable death to live with an underperforming AP. Sometimes you don’t even realize how bad it was until you finally let go. Don’t wait to find out. Prepare yourself now by setting standards for your AP and decide now at what point you will cut ties and how you will cover childcare while waiting for a replacement. If you have a plan in place, you might discover that you spend less time worrying about it not working out, because you know what you will do if that happens.

Please let us know how it goes!

ILHostMom September 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I totally feel your pain. We had a completely horrible experience with our first Au Pair. It was so bad that it totally affected multiple parts of our lives. She obviously was not a kid-friendly au pair so watching our 1 child was a major burden to her. We were just too naive to accept that the match was a failure. My husband said after AP#1 left that we had Post Traumatic AuPair Disorder. For Au Pair #2 we were so much more careful about interviewing. We picked the one that asked a ton of questions about our children and about us as a family. Asking about the “perks” was an afterthought.

When she showed up, she immediately got down on the floor to play a marble game with our son and didn’t even seem to notice anything else. He was instantly in love and we all breathed a sigh of relief. She has been an angel from heaven and I will cry like a baby when she leaves (she extended with us).

AP#3 showed up Aug 22 and no lie stayed for 1 week. She would not stop skyping with her family and showed no interest in learning the ropes. I thought my mojo had been repaired with AP #2, only to be smashed again with AP#3.

Hopefully you have a winner. Our AP #2 spent lots of time on Skype with us and the kids, so I think that’s a good sign.

OzHostMum September 3, 2014 at 6:49 pm

LOL! Post Traumatic Au Pair Disorder…that is exactly what it’s like, your husband describes it perfectly. It’s shocking how, after failing in your first match (or two), it knocks you for six…really makes you doubt your own judgement, and – for me, definitely – makes me question a LOT about everything in my life. Like, if I couldn’t recognise when someone is faking a love for children, then what other fundamental aspects of their lives have I made bad decisions on? I know that line of thought is counterproductive and it took me some time to snap out of it, hence a few months passing by before feeling ready to dip my toes back into the water again. Still it really shakes your self-belief and it is absolutely a traumatic event. Of course, if I was to mention my feelings about it to friends or family who don’t really have experience or understanding of hosting APs, all I get is an eye roll and mutters about first world problems. I really am so glad I stumbled across this website and liken it to therapy or a support group! My name is Bec and I have PTAPD…

I’m so encouraged to hear you had a good experience after a lot of Skype contact…incoming AP has not even asked about perks or extras…and it doesn’t really come up in our HHHB. Feeling cautiously optimistic now – thank you :)

WarmStateMomma September 4, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I found this site when things got sticky with our first AP and it’s been an incredible source of support (both moral and practical). Thanks to the advice I found here, our second AP experience is infinitely better. Best of luck with your incoming AP!

skny September 3, 2014 at 10:39 pm

I feel it! We had a TERRIBLE experience with our last au pair and I actually told my husband that it was amazing how we spent our summer talking and talking about au pair every single day.
My biggest regret is that I waited too long to rematch. I kept waiting and waiting. Were we being fair? Were we expecting too much? Were our kids too spoiled and annoying? did we give her a fair chance of making? Did we provide enough support? did we…
New au pair goes for visa interview tomorrow (fingers crossed) and I am actually excited. Mainly because I NEED to restore my faith in the program, and my kids deserve a good caregiver.
Will see!
Good luck for you!!!

In the Throes of Rematch September 4, 2014 at 10:46 am

Oh, friend, I feel for you. Hugs from across the ocean. You’ve already gotten great advice.

We’re in rematch right now but my happy update is that we have finalized our rematch. Of course she’s out-of-country (sigh) so there’s going to be a nice long 4-6 week gap in our childcare. Thankfully my boss is amazing and told me to work from home daily until AP3 is in place. I’m lucky in that respect.

Meanwhile rematching AP2 (whose last day should be less than a week from now) is dragging her heels to find another family. She doesn’t want a family with more than 2 kids, won’t take care of toddlers, doesn’t want this or that, blah blah blah. Such requirements. She’s visiting a family locally (but not IN our cluster, thankfully) on Saturday, so maybe that will be it. This new family lives in a very posh neighborhood right outside of DC, so she’s very excited (we do OK for ourselves but not like this zip code).

Anyway, I went through the stages of grief upon AP2’s arrival. Disbelief that I had made such a piss-poor choice for someone that was going to live with us for a year. Denial that I couldn’t fix it. Anger that we were in this mess and that she wasn’t who we thought she was. Annoyance that I had to do all the AP interviewing and searching AGAIN when it’s such an arduous process. I was grumpy about the whole thing and it wasn’t fun for HD who didn’t even understand what rematching was until we were in it.

I don’t feel guilty any more and I don’t feel mad/bad. It took me a few days to find some peace since the rematch was initiated. She was so pissed at us and then all of a sudden she was like Pollyanna Sunshine who was the au pair we THOUGHT we were getting when she arrived, so then it started a whole round of, “Well, wait a second, now she’s great what have we done by rematching??” stuff.

I won’t be sorry to see this girl go. I’m excited for AP3 and I do feel like it’s worth another shot. AP1 was great. I have faith.

old au pair mom September 4, 2014 at 1:08 pm

When we started this process over 14 years ago ( we added a precious little girl to our family after the youngest DS turned 10 so we will be in AP land a while longer), we realized after the first AP debacle that we were just not the best pickers. No self recriminations, just the understanding that there was a learning curve to hiring well. Now, we know to go for the lovely AP who seems genuine and kind. Really study their pictures. What they chose to present is a very accurate description of who they are. Look for pics that show they are comfortable and connected to kids that are similarly aged to yours. Also, we don’t overreach. They are APs. They will not solve all our problems, mate all our socks and always purchase the right milk (though I just showed them the container!) Find out what yours does particularly well and embrace it. Our last AP was a whiz at skateboarding and tennis. Consequently, our DD rides her skateboard through our halls and out the front door with impunity and verve. It makes for a great year or two when you champion what your AP can do well. It makes it easier for you and the AP to work on areas in which their skills might need some work like loading the dishwasher, picking up after art projects etc.
My fingers are crossed for everyone in rematch. It is a tough time but worthwhile. You are have drawn a line in the sand as to what you find unacceptable. As time goes on it does get easier. Best wishes to all.

Seattle Mom September 23, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Keep the faith!

I had one very bad pick so far, we realized within 3 days that it would have to be a rematch. I just completely misread her personality.

But if it weren’t for that rematch I would have never ended up with our amazing au pair who came in her place. We weren’t looking at that nationality at all, but she was in the right place at the right time (extending, available just a week after our rematch au pair left) and she was perfect!

Now I think I know how to avoid the pitfalls of that bad 2nd au pair, although I must admit the 4th au pair who followed the great one is not great. She has none of the problems of the rematch au pair (cold personality, refusal to take direction) but her own set of issues (dumb as a door knob). She’s very sweet and flexible and tries hard, plus the kids love and trust her, so we do not want a rematch. But we just roll our eyes about once a week at some of the things she does…. much waste, many broken objects.

Now I’m looking for #5 and hope to find someone as great as #1 and #3.

Texanadian Hostmom September 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

I feel your pain absolutely – the biggest lesson that I have learned so far, not just with au pairs but in managing people in general, you have to know where your responsibilities start and stop in a working relationship. If the other party doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, seeing that as their failure instead of yours can be very, very hard.

Like you, I spent MONTHS preparing for the arrival of our first au pair who sounded great during the interview process. But when he arrived, he had to be instructed, twice, on how to safely boil a pot of water. This is just one example of many examples over a few week period where I rushed around behind him, correcting, fixing, excusing, and otherwise “cleaning up” after him. One of my biggest mistakes was thinking it would take weeks to ramp him into the role as our au pair. NO!! It is better to know and communicate clearly your expectations from the interview through Day 1, and have full expectations on the first day. Then measure how they’re doing against the expectations. If you truly make a mistake, fix it, but don’t own their mistakes and bad behavior. That really doesn’t help anybody.

Our second au pair has been a totally different story. We still meticulously planned (I have to… in my nature), but our expectations were set and solid right away, and our second au pair more than held up her end of the bargain. It’s been a great year since! I’ve also taken this learning to my working style at work, I do a lot of project-based work that has changes in teams frequently. I similarly set my standards in advance, expected them day 1, and my team has risen to the occasion.

Hope it helps with round 3!

BostonHostMom September 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm

I am definitely a victim of Post Traumatic Au Pair Disorder. The first experience last three days after months of skyping, emailing all of us constantly and enthusiastically – I walked into a depressed au pair who was not safe to be around children. I have kept second au pair out of fear of not finding anyone else – because my kids are safe. but that is all they are (although it is the most important thing) Car has been crashed and repaired twice, flat tire driven on that broke the wheel, and the house is always messier than when I leave – among other things. Late night parties leaving me worried to leave the kids with a tired and not alert au pair (despite 8 hour home before work rule)Lack of support has sworn me off of these programs that seem to only want fees and not support the family at all. I get stressed even thinking about trying someone new.

Should be working September 4, 2014 at 2:01 pm

BHM, your kids are NOT necessarily safe with this AP, all your examples point to it: car accidents, late-night tired AP, depression. Go to rematch!! It’s so much easier once the old AP is out the door.

BostonHostMom September 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Should be working – she leaves in a few days it’s just not worth it. And I really don’t trust the programs anymore I need some time to recover.

TexasHM September 4, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Bostonhostmom you sound like me 7 months ago. This is a big part of why we changed to a non-profit agency. Completely changes the decision making, support and program/AP expectations IMHO. In fact, we made the switch to interexchange because we were in rematch and dire straits and they were amazing and supportive and went above and beyond. I’d hate to see you leave the program for this fixable reason (bad agency experience).

WarmStateMomma September 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

I was messaging with a prospective AP today and her response took me by surprise. She made a bullet-point list of the qualities we wanted, then addressed each item in a separate paragraph where she gave concrete details about her qualifications. It was the most impressive response I’ve ever seen from a candidate and we were pretty excited about her. Bonus points for excellent English and 4 years of driving.

Then the agency told me that she ages out of the program in October (much too early for us). So I’m really bummed about the search aspect of the program which is so much more personal than other child care options.

Angie host mom September 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Slightly off topic, but while reading the thread of comments I am ordering some white uniform shirts for the kids.

I asked for pink shirts (uniforms, supposed to be white, but accidentally made pink in the wash) and it’s okay!

Previous AP was stellar at organization, cleaning, structure, but not the most outwardly happy or huggy AP. Decision about new AP was – do we go with someone else like this, or do we go with someone who will need more training, make a few more mistakes, but have more outgoing fun with the kids? The theory being you don’t usually get both – you can get a big sister type who loves to get dirty and climb trees or a strict governess type who tells the kids to get their elbows off the table. Different times, different APs. All of our APs have been great.

This time, we went for pink shirts – so I told myself to remember when the inevitable broken items in the dishwasher or microwave or washing machine mistakes happened that I asked for pink shirts over pristine white ones.

So while I’m ordering new shirts I smile and remind myself I asked for this!

Seattle Mom September 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Our first au pair had both… the only thing she was lacking was energy. And she could be moody. But she was playful & creative with the kids AND organized & clean.

AP 2 was a little more towards the pink shirts type… though she sometimes was amazing- she knew how to fold laundry like no one else (worked in hotels before), cooked yummy food from her home country all the time, and could be a drill sergeant with the kids when necessary. And in a room full of au pairs and children she preferred to play with the children- amazing!

Current AP is all pink shirts…. she can’t even keep the kids’ bookshelf from looking like a disaster zone without me reminding her every week. Ugh. But at least they love her and she loves them.

OzHostMum September 5, 2014 at 8:36 am

So…after a week of my nerves and anxiety pretty much overwhelming me, we have today picked up incoming AP from the airport (directly from Germany to Australia…no orientation period or anything). I am REELING. In a good way! The kids have just hugged and kissed her goodnight…after playing with her this evening, arguing about who got to sit next to her at dinner time, only wanting her to get them undressed for their bath, not Mum or Dad…and this joyful, bubbly girl (who somehow after some 20 hours flying managed to chat and fill in the 1 hour long car ride with the kids without any awkwardness) willingly helped out (even though we were trying to get the kids to give her a moment’s peace)…I’m just shocked…my kids never EVER click with people this quickly (even extended family whom we see regularly! ). Is this…could it be…an AP who is a good fit for us? I know it’s SO early…and I don’t want to count my chickens just yet…but far out, anyone who loves my kids (and more importantly, who my kids love back) is pretty alright in my book! I’m one of those mums (like many of you) who can forgive a lot of other flaws, providing the relationship with my children is there. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read and respond to me, for all the stories and tips sent in under other posts, and for this great website where we can all share/vent/help each other. The road ahead may not be completely smooth…but wow, what a great start! :)

WarmStateMomma September 5, 2014 at 9:25 am


Should be working September 5, 2014 at 12:06 pm

OzHostMum, this is great news!

Let me offer some advice, because this honeymoon feel is really important and you want to take advantage of it and have it last, even when things get more “normal” and even small tribulations arise: TELL this AP how much it means to you that plays with kids, hugs them, etc. Without being paranoid, watch her and see how things develop. Meet with her every single week for 30-60 min, not with kids around, to talk about how things are going with kids and reemphasize how much the happy relationship pleases you. If something in her performance starts to slide, mention it in a managerial but friendly way and keep the expectations high.

She might not always be so perfectly bubbly and playful, but you want to maintain a standard of care and friendliness with kids. Once in awhile a great au pair arrival unfortunately falls apart after a few months. Help her make friends outside the family so that she is happy all around, not just with you guys. Don’t let your delight turn into an excuse for not holding her to high standards!

NJ Mama September 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Hey there. I also want to weigh in, b/c I also wrote about my horrible string of bad luck with au pairs, followed by one that finally seemed so great … until she got engaged and dumped us!

Well… we were fortunate to have one of our really wonderful former au pairs join us for the month of July until our new one started. I was beyond nervous about the new one. I have been burned so many times and after awhile you think… what is the point? are we just losers? Are we really bad judge of characters? are my kids so horrible? But the second the former au pair stepped off the plane I realized — this is what it’s like when it works. I had forgotten what it was like to have someone who was genuinely interested in my kids, and what a difference that made. The biggest change — we just had a really really happy family. We were all just happy and calm and it was a really really good place for our new au pair to walk into. In fact we had an overlap and I told the new one — just watch how the old one interacts with the kids. The schedule is easy enough and it will fall into place. But watch how the other one bonds with them.

I wish I had found this site a long time ago, because it took me several bad experiences to really learn how to interview and select. Before I would feel so much pressure from the agency to match quickly. I also was told to Skype, Skype, Skype, so I would be so focused on lining up Skype interviews for the weekend (b/c my commute is long and I can’t do them from home) that I don’t think I did a great job interviewing. Well thanks to this site and TexasHM we also changed to Interexchange and the matching process was night and day. We were encouraged to take our time, and I weeded a lot of candidates out through email. I did do that with the last au pair and she was OK until the engagement. But I took it to the next level this time. Still … I was really really really nervous. And really really burned out. and I know that’s a lot of “reallys” lol!

Now we’re more than 6 weeks into our new au pair, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way things are going. I mean the first time my girls fought — and let’s face it, girls fight. This should not be a traumatic event! But for the first time in a long time it wasn’t this huge deal. It was a text that said, “Hey FYI. The kids got into a fight earlier. This one said this, the other did this. I separated them and they calmed down and now they’re both in their bunk beds giggling and happy as can be.” For the last few years a fight would have meant phone calls from the kids to me and numerous texts from the au pair and a lot of crazy stress. This time it was no big deal. I don’t know why that should feel so huge but it just does.

Since then we have had a quite challenging string of weeks to end the summer. My older daughter — the one with anxiety who can be hard on the au pairs and hard to get to know — sprained her elbow on a Tuesday. And then two days later, just as I was about to take her to the ortho, I get a call from camp and the 8-year-old had landed funny when playing on the playground and had a swollen ankle. Our au pair was off and just about to go to the gym but jumped into action, picked the little one up and gave her lunch and had her all iced up when I got home. Unfortunately we ended up back in the emergency room, and over that next few days the au pair worked some long days (not over the 45 hour /week max but at least two days past 10 hours). Despite the challenges of having one in a sling and the other on crutches — and the kids missing out on the last awesome fun days at camp — the kids had a great time at home. And my au pair actually told me that despite the hard week with the injuries, the one good thing that came of it was that she was really able to bond with the girls- especially the older one. We in turn gave her a bunch of time off over Labor Day weekend. And this whole arrangement has been very much give and take on both sides. We really try to accommodate her and she in turn comes through for us. For the first time in a long time I don’t feel like I’m trying so so hard and getting nothing in return. We really appreciate her! We love her to pieces! And she seems to be enjoying us. How great is that?

So … I hope I’m not jinxing this whole thing but I wanted to give everyone out there some hope. With the right au pair life is not just easier, but happier — better. Looking back I realize not only did we take our time with the match and weed out a ton of candidates through email — by the time we skyped with this one we pretty much knew she was the one. But she also kept in touch with me a lot — we emailed each other several times a week. And she also emailed my 10 year old a lot. She was very much in tune with my kids’ interests. She enjoys them, just like our former awesome au pair did. We just started school this week and for having a kid with anxiety this may well be the smoothest first week of school in a long long time.

So again, fingers crossed. I am the lady with the bad luck (although I’m hoping the bad luck this time is manifesting itself in the injuries and not the au pairs!) I really really hope that for OzHostmum and skyny and In the throes of rematch — I hope it works out for all of you. Good luck and keep us posted!!!!

And thanks again to CV for this site!! It’s a huge source of support!

Seattle Mom September 23, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Aww this is so sweet! So glad to hear that your string of bad luck seems to be over.

Aussie HM September 8, 2014 at 9:21 pm

OZHostMum, Im so so pleased that the first meetign went well, and will be crossing my fingers for a smooth 6 months ahead for you!

Also – nice to see another Aussie here on AuPairmom!


OzHostMum September 11, 2014 at 3:21 am

Ha ha! We’re few and far between aren’t we, Australian HPs!!

4th time luck?! September 8, 2014 at 8:26 pm

I also totally understand. We’ve had a string of three bad to mediocre APs and as someone said before not everyone is cut out to host APs. So if things repeatedly turn sour and each hosting situation seems to be unsuccessful one starts to wonder: Is it me/ us?
In hindsight (yay) I can totally see where we went wrong and looking back at some of the emails we exchanged (and having today’s knowledge and experience) I would have run a mile from AP 2 and 3…

This blog, all the advice given, issues discussed and experiences shared have helped us so much to stick with it, adjust or confirm our expectations and improve our host parenting style. I am very grateful!

Our latest AP arrived a few weeks ago and things are already so much better and brighter than any other time. I notice a lot of little things about her that I appreciate: she asks, if she doesn’t know something (change from last AP), she’s interested in us and being here, exploring the country and learning about it, helps in the household unasked, has the right balance of time in her room/ out with friends and time spend with us, isn’t afraid to pitch in with the kids even if off duty – no expectation from our side but great to know she doesn’t just pretend it’s none of her business and asks if she can help when the little one just had a major toilet accident… So we like her a lot and assume she feels the same.

There are few minor issues I need advice and perspective on:

The few times I was home with her and the kids (3 and 5) I noticed she doesn’t get down on the floor with them (e.g. playing with building blocks) but rather sits on the couch, engaged (definitely not reading, texting etc.) but not involved.

She is usually still having breakfast by the time her shift starts finishing about 10 minutes later (some mornings, HP get kids up and have breakfast with them, AP takes over when we leave the house; other mornings she’s on earlier to get them ready for the day and has breakfast with them – no issue with that!).

She hasn’t really got the hang of good time management and often doesn’t tidy up with the kids before we come home / before the end of her shift (at least not to the degree I would like to see – she doesn’t leave any major mess behind and is very good at picking up during the day).

I can see the last point easily addressed by re-iterating expectations and giving more clear instructions (I did but admittedly, I am definitely the award boss type and even 4th time round struggle with being clear and determined so despite handbook and lists have probably downplayed the importance of certain aspects).

Not sure how much / if to worry about the other two issues considering all else seems to be going really well?! I remember the suggestion on a recent post to “fix it or let it go” – I’m trying hard but need someone to tell me which issues should be fixed and which we should just let go…


OzHostMum September 11, 2014 at 3:33 am

I hear you about the awkward boss thing…we’re nearly a week in and those few niggles arising need to be addressed (I work from home and this morning’s work disintegrated into a disaster when she kept sending the kids to me…grrrr!) and while I mentioned it once the kids had gone for their naps, I’m not sure it completely sank in. Thankfully I’ve found some great posts on this blog about mums who work from home and HD and I have come up with a few strategies to discuss at tomorrow’s “Stop, Start, Continue” discussion. But I just struggle with constant people management! And HD is so nice…I can’t really rely on him getting the importance of these niggles across. So I’ve got to be the meanie. Sigh.

DowntownMom September 13, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Congratulations on the vast improvement in AP! Consider preparing a written schedule for the day. Tell her that now that she has gotten used to the days with your kids, you want to go over the schedule to make sure she has no questions and understands your reasoning behind certain activities. Then explain that her start time is key for you in getting out of the door on time, etc. A couple of our APs would leave their room the minute they were supposed to start, have breakfast, use the bathroom… Now I wonder whether they were asked to be out of bed at a certain time by their parents and assumed it was the same here. Our written schedule has a time slot for evening clean-up built in, which has been helpful. Consider telling her that it would be great if she gets on the floor to play with the kids.

It really does get easier to manage the APs! I used to overthink and stress, but now I will not even think twice about making a comment.

These are fixable issues, and you will be happy you said something when more issues pop up since there isn’t any build-up over time. Good luck!

Seattle Mom September 23, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Only you can decide what to fix or let go. None of these issues sound make-or-break to me, but they do sound completely fixable.

Since you’re mentioning them they are bothering you at least a little. Depending on our relationship with the AP I would either have a conversation with her or write her a note. With my AP I first try to tell her things, and if she doesn’t make the change I will follow up with a note. Some things are more systematic in nature and not really that easy to pinpoint exactly what needs to be done, so that needs to be more of a sit-down conversation with no kids or other distractions. For example, the level of tidiness expected… that is more systemic. You can give examples of what you want, but it’s more of a “your job is to get everything cleaned up at the end of your shift. I want you to plan your day around this expectation- that might involve bringing the kids home from an activity earlier or stopping some other activity in time to do this.” Make sure you also bring up the positive things that you are seeing in any such meeting.

Does the breakfast thing really matter? As long as the AP is able to tend to the kids’ needs and you can do what you need to do to get out the door, I think it’s ok. My AP is often still getting herself ready for the day at the start of her shift, it just means that she is now the responsible adult and I can lock the bathroom door and leave for work :)

AlwaysHopeful HM September 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

AP’s bus arrives aby minute now. I’m trying hard to be excited! Someone here told me to fake it till I make it. I guess that’s what I’m going to do!! My son is excited though, so that’s very good!!

Returning HM September 13, 2014 at 12:53 am

Good luck, Always Hopeful! Our new bro-pair of two weeks started slowly but is catching on and getting better daily. I actually texted my husband today that I am ready to fulfill my promise to get AP a guitar for the year, because I’m now hopeful that he will actually make it for the year (the first week plus was iffy, but the tide turned this week and I really see things coming together). I hope your adjustment to the new one goes well. We both deserve a good AP experience this time around after our challenging and sad endings over the summer!!

AlwaysHopeful HM September 14, 2014 at 8:25 am

Thanks RHM- yes, we did seem to end up in the same disappointing boat this summer. New AP seems very nice, and my son took to him right away. This time I focused a lot on responsibility, and he does seem to be responsible and committed to doing a good job. His personality is way more serious than I realized, though. Not quite the same personality fit we’ve had with other au pairs. So, maybe we won’t have great, fun chats, but I won’t have to worry about smoking or other irresponsible behavior…

OzHostMum September 23, 2014 at 8:33 am

Well, an update from the OP – not even 3 weeks in and AP has given us her notice tonight. It’s after hours here in Australia so I can’t even contact our couldn’t-care-anyway agency for another 12 hours. Just reeling. She likes the kids but isn’t happy here. This follows some constructive criticism given at last night’s weekly review meeting. It just reeks of “I didn’t like being pulled up on anything so I’m outta here”. Same old story of immaturity we’ve faced in the past. Geez I sure can pick ’em can’t I?! Honestly I’d be the first to admit if we’d done something wrong, or not been respectful, supportive, helpful, welcoming etc – but I just can’t see where we’ve gone wrong, yet again. Crying as I type this (those dratted pregnancy hormones) I’m just blindsided. I’ve got flights booked for Friday where I’m not taking my 2 little ones, things I’ve committed to and appointments made, not to mention my busy workload (I run my own business from home) and a baby due in a couple of months. I honestly just about give up on this whole thing. She will grudgingly work out her 2 weeks notice but is busy finding another host family?!? Am I crazy to be of the view that she won’t be 100% focussed on the job if she’s busy trying to sort out some other family to screw over – sorry – have happy holidays with instead of doing the JOB that we families hire her to do??

I realise I sound bitter – oh I am I am. But in the interests of fairness, the things we pulled her up on (over the course of 2 weekly review meetings, the 1st after 1 full week of work, the 2nd meeting after the 2nd full week of work – just last night):
*sending kids to me while I’m at my desk, working, to ask for drinks/snacks etc
*what constitutes an acceptable meal for my kids when she takes them to the bakery for lunch after storytime at the library (i.e. a donut is not sufficient lunch for an almost 4 year old boy)
*learning to actively listen to what the kids are upset about, and to choose the battles she “fights” with them (i.e. let it go if it’s not a major issue like wanting a banana instead of an apple, learn to distract and divert when it comes to miss 2.5 year old rather than sink to their level and have a backwards and forwards argument which would be funny between two toddlers but not so much between a toddler and an 18 year old)
*trying to include all kids in the activities she does (went through a phase of favouring cute little girl 2.5 year old while mr nearly 4 would go off feeling excluded)
*not just sitting on the bench at the park while they are on the play equipment, but being within arms reach of the 2.5 year old who has no fear (or sense) and tries to slide down the fireman pole without actually holding on (just looks and leaps)
*being proactive and planning activities/outings with the kids
*not sitting on the couch just watching them watch tv, but actually getting motivated and enthusiastic and enjoying life with them
*reminding her about the child related duties we expect her to do in and around playing with the kids – clearing away breakfast dishes, their laundry, changing their bed linen etc (she started off great but halfway through these things just stopped getting done unless I would specifically ask – even when we have had from day 1 daily run sheets of at X time please do Y while the kids are doing Z and all her duties clearly outlined in our HHHB which we ask her to bring to every weekly meeting and go through the relevant pages in case anything has slipped through the cracks)
*The doozy – a reminder that all overnight visitors must be okayed by us in advance not sprung on us via text message at 5.29am (which I obviously didn’t get until I woke at 7am) when she and friend got in on Saturday night/Sunday morning after a night out clubbing and it wasn’t a request – it was a “BTW my friend is staying over as it was too late for her to catch her train which stops running at 1.30am” – we let this go with a gentle reminder of our rules and that as a courtesy it should have been mentioned as a possibility or likelihood BEFORE she went out for the evening as the friend in question was another AP and presumably had been background checked by her HPs and agency, and took the opportunity to open up a dialogue about some of the people she might encounter during a night out and how to stay safe

We did not give this all in one go as a laundry list of every single issue we had, and have not been as blunt as I have here, we have phrased things clearly, respectfully, always giving the benefit of doubt that we might not have laid expectations/boundaries/rules out clearly enough and that we believe in giving feedback so that she can learn and grow (and yes get things right) and we can all get along reasonably together, as housemates, employer/employee and extended family type relationship that the AP/HP relationship is a big mish-mash of. We have started out conversations regularly with asking how she is feeling, asking if she has any feedback/issues/questions, if anything is wrong (when we noticed the slump in performance and attitude) and given her any and every way of communicating with us (in our HHHB we explain that this is key to a successful time with us, and if they don’t feel comfortable talking, then they can write a note, text message, email, heck I even give my sister’s phone number, some family friends and of course our agency so if they ever feel like they just CAN’T communicate directly with us that there is a way of getting some insight or advice or a way of having a third party ‘mediate’ should the need arise. We have focussed heavily on the positives, given praise where it is due, tried our best to appreciate that the first 4 weeks are a learning curve for everyone.

Pity, then, that it ends like this.

WarmStateMomma September 23, 2014 at 8:59 am

How awful! Maybe this is a terrible idea, but what about asking her to leave you a letter explaining what went wrong when she leaves? She may give you a more honest answer if she doesn’t have to face you again.

I really don’t think she’s going to give 100% during her last two weeks, but if you feel that she will keep the kids safe and treat them well, I’d keep her for those two weeks while you sort out what to do next.

AlwaysHopeful HM September 23, 2014 at 9:34 am

Oh no…I’m so sorry his is happening to your family! It’s especially disappointin because she seemed so promising, connected well with your kids, etc. Maybe being an au pair in practice was tougher than in her fantasy? I wish I had some grand advice to give, but I have only my great sympathy and hope for a better next situation. You deserve better!

Texanadian Hostmom September 23, 2014 at 12:16 pm

That sounds so frustrating, and with so much else on your plate as well… You can get through this!

My only advice, after having to into rematch after a sadly similar and frustrating experience, is to remember that you can only “own” so much of the situation. It sounds like the au pair was in over her head and didn’t necessarily embrace childcare as a real interest and more of a means to an end (the end being “have a great time in another country for a year”) and was surprised that you were serious about your expectations.

In our case, we did rematch, and our next au pair was AWESOME. But she genuinely cares and is engaged with our kids. I also found that we did a better job of knowing our “big rocks” to anchor our performance expectations against, and communicated those. Also, expect the big rocks from the very start – when you noticing and getting upset by a lot of details it’s probably a bad sign. If all understand and respect the “big rocks”, small issues can be more reasonably addressed. You can probably collapse several of your complaints in this update into a more succinct list, such as:

1) Keep the children safe and healthy, including your presence while they play and what they eat
2) Be engaged and active with both kids while on duty, especially while they are awake – not sure if you work from home, but maybe add “and keep interruptions to urgent issues during working hours” or something like.
3) Be considerate of the family’s comfort, rules, and safety – what the au pair does away from the home may be her business, but what she brings home with her is your business because it’s your home.
4) Keep an open line of communication going, ask questions that need asking, and expect the same from the Host Parents.

I think a lot of details are helpful in the Family Handbook, and should be reviewed upon arrival, but if you always anchor back to the “big rocks” it could be a big sanity saver for everyone involved.

I also noticed that you placed a lot of emphasis on how the au pair is feeling, what her feedback is, what could be better, etc… What we learned is that while those questions are valid, they should come second to the “big rocks” – how are things going against those? Okay, now that we’re comfortable those are being met, let’s solicit additional feedback. We should put a little pressure on ourselves to be good Host Families for our au pairs, but as the heads of household we have to put the “big rocks” first, and individual feelings and comfort levels next.

Not sure if it helps, but it’s my lesson that I’ve carried forward since then to my project teams that I manage, the volunteer groups that I lead, and even within my family unit, and it’s serving me very well, so I thought I’d share. :-)

Good luck!!!

skny September 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm

We kind of have our big rocks as you call it too. We defined 3 main things:
1. Kids must be safe and well cared for (which includes, meals, physical safety, hydration, sun lotion, jacket on a cold day, etc)
2. Positive child-au pair interaction
3. good attitude.
If those are working, I can let slip the little mess on the playroom, or some other small thing…

Seattle Mom September 23, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Oh NOOO I’m so sorry!!

I would not have accepted ANY of those things from an AP either, and I can say that I’ve never had to deal with most of those things.

It sounds like you’ve given up on hosting another au pair, but if you do look for another one I strongly suggest not considering anyone under 21 years old. I know that some HMs here disagree with using age as a proximity for maturity, but I think it does make a difference. That girl sounds really immature! A 22 year old with full time work experience would have a much different perspective, and would (hopefully) have experience with handling constructive criticism.

Seattle Mom September 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Proximity- oops I meant proxy! Typing too fast…

OzHostMum September 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Thank you for the tips everyone. My head is still spinning after barely sleeping last night and wondering what to do now. I’ve just spoken to our agency who is pushing me to take another AP (which they’ll graciously provide without any further placement fees)…I’ve called a few local childcare centres with varying results for availability for my kids (can only provide 1 day per week for both, kinda defeats the purpose if I have one in childcare and not theloo other)…HD has gone to work and is texting, calling and emailing me with HIS thoughts on various options. I honestly have no idea what to do. Yes a replacement AP is a cost neutral exercise if we stay with this agency. But the risks of another bad match are weighing on my mind. I should add that at almost this same stage of another pregnancy a few years ago I went into early labour and delivered a premmie baby boy who did not survive, and I’m feeling particularly fragile, emotional and desperate to avoid any kind of stress in an effort to keep things on an even keel in that regard. Do I need childcare? Yes I do in the short and medium term. Can I manage with long daycare centre care? Not on what I can currently find (one day per week) and this doesn’t cover us for childcare if we go into labour after hours (medium term issue). Can I even look at outgoing AP without my stress levels escalating? No, I’m afraid I’m not handling the situation very well at all. Do I schedule her to work when quite frankly I can’t bear the thought of her touching my kids, knowing full well that she’s not emotionally invested anymore in them and is just working halfheartedly. I just don’t know what to do and I’m finding it hard to shake myself out of my deep despair and formulate a strategy to move forward. :(

OzHostMum September 23, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Some typos sorry and I should further clarify that the biggest medium term issue is that with all the children’s grandparents deceased, and very little local family support (HD has a terminally ill sister about 1.5 hours away and my family all live many hours away) we NEED the flexibility of a carer for the kids when we go into labour with this baby, HD very nearly missed the whole thing last time due to struggling to find a babysitter (our Plan A friends were at a funeral and Plan B my sister could not get a flight in time)…as you can see we do not have a very good support network, hence the primary reason for AP coverage this time around.

hOstCDmom September 23, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I am so sorry to hear this. I can’t even imagine your stress levels, and my condolences for your previous loss.

Do you have a neighbor or colleague or really any responsible adult who is willing to cover you when you go into labor? Your child’s preschool teacher? The secretary at your OB’s office? Anyone who works with children who has been vetted and checked even though you don’t know them?

When I had my 5th child we were new to the country we were living in and I basically introduced myself to my otherwise just-met-you-chat-across-the-fence neighbors and said — can you help me if something happens after hours/emergency?! (I had a similar situation to you re lack of family/childcare) They were (seemingly) nice, responsible adults with strong ties to the community (local professional and local teacher –so some bonafides in that regard ) with whom I was NOT close, and DIDN’T know well, but I figured that if I went in to labour in the middle of the night my kids would be sleeping anyway and they could keep my other 4 kids (all under age 6) alive during the key delivery moments until my husband could return to them. Also, I reached a mental zen place with the notion that my kids could be present for the labour and delivery if need be — better with me (+DH) and safe and “at the head of the bed” if I didn’t have an alternative. I actually brought 3 of them to the hospital with me when I went into labour until DH could collect 4th at school, and then arrive and take them all to neighbor. Neighbor was kind and gracious and slept in our house while I delivered #5. (I am fortunate that my labor and deliveries are speedy quick — #4 was a mere 17 minutes, #5 about 45 min all told!)

I am not sharing this to stress you out, but to say that your short term issue might be solveable in a “everyone is safe but not my ideal” kind of way, in order to ease your mind. If I were in OZ I would offer to come to help you out!!! But I am many continents away, unfortunately…!

skny September 23, 2014 at 9:20 pm

my experience as a former au pair who did request rematch at some point (and seeing other au pairs who requested rematch), is that au pairs tend to feel bad about asking a rematch and will indeed do their jobs (sometimes even a lot better than prior to rematch). If she is safe, she will probably be ok with the kids during those 2 weeks.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 23, 2014 at 9:40 pm

As someone who has to call on people all the time (I can’t tell you how many times The Camel has gone to the ER and ended up staying – sometimes for 10 days at a time – and then there was the time DH tried to work through appendicitis…) – people want to be asked to help. They really do. Ask friends, ask other parents of your children’s classmates, and if you’re religious, ask your congregation. Ask. The worst thing that could happen is that people will say no.

I’m sorry your AP couldn’t find it in herself to rise to the occasion.

Anonymous in CA September 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm

+++ to all three. Just ask for help. I know it’s much easier said than done, though. We are like you – far from family / no family around to help. It’s stressful never to have a fall back, to be ‘on call’ at all times. And to have a work thing scheduled and no childcare….very very stressful. I get it. But do give it a try. Just ask for help locally. TACL’s right- people WANT to be asked.

American Host Mom in Europe September 24, 2014 at 4:25 am

So sorry to hear this! I understand the stress / lack of local support. When I had two 6-week old babies and a 17-month old, my first au pair announced she’d found a permanent job and wouldn’t be coming back. My husband (who worked out of town Mon-Fri) convinced her to come back for a week while we came up with a solution. I ended up finding a short term, local AP on who came for 3 months to help out while I sorted out a longer term solution. Maybe you can find someone there? I also agree with previous posters that perhaps you need to look for someone more mature — maybe 22-25, rather than 18. I’ve had two or three younger au pairs, and wouldn’t do it again (although my 3-monther was 19, but going on 65). Don’t give up on finding a new one, whether through rematch, or through a no-fee approach like GAP or another website. Best of luck!!

OzHostMum September 24, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Some of these replies made me cry…you are all so kind and I appreciate every bit of advice. While I was out at a Dr appointment today AP sent me a text message saying she was packing all her things and would be gone within 40 minutes (luckily the kids were with me as she wasn’t scheduled to work until the afternoon). I got home and she had gone – but you know, she’s done me a favour by taking that decision out of my hands (I HAD decided to have her work for the 2 week period as part of a life lesson in following up on commitments but do more of the kid related jobs while on duty like sorting out the toy room, craft tubs, etc while I had the fun moments with the kids, alleviating my concerns that she wouldn’t be focused 100% on them). Honestly I’m angry at her lack of integrity and the agency has no further recourse with her, but as my grandma used to say – time to build a bridge and get over it. HD will take the kids to work Friday morning until my return flight home (it’s just a quick trip interstate and my flight there is so early that by the time I actually get back it’s only a couple of hours into his working day, and I’ll just pick them up from the city on my way back from the airport). Short term issue solved. October’s business trip I can cut short by one day and the one day that a child care centre can take both kids covers me for the one business day I will be away and HD will be at work (as I’m traveling on the weekend and then back late Monday night – thank goodness for clients who are happy to meet on weekends). Another short term issue solved. And the medium term issue…I did it. I stuck my hand up and asked for help from a friend and got her guarantee that she could take the children for me when we go into labour. It was a sticky one as we’re literally due around Christmas, and baulked at the idea of asking friends to interrupt or change plans, just in case we actually go into labour at that time (and who knows with these babies…mine always arrive at the strangest times). The solution? My friend is an Orthodox Jew and doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and I’ve checked that we’re ok to drop the kids off even if it’s Shabbat and they can’t drive…she assured me that no matter the time or day, she can commit to helping us out, and even if I were to need her to break Shabbat, she is obligated (and happy!) to help due to the sanctity of life and the great mitzvah (good deed) she is doing in helping us bring a child into the world. Her name is Bracha which means blessing and she truly is a blessing to me today. Huge weight off our minds. So with these sticky issues all covered, HD and I can now take our time, regroup, look at the in country AND out of country matches the agency has, and interview the HARDEST we have ever interviewed before. Like one of the other HMs I’ve seen posting – DARE to match with us because these are the big issues that we WILL call you on, and if you can’t handle that? Move right along. I don’t care if it takes us 3 months to find someone. And for the record…we are ONLY looking at profiles of APs 21+, preferably with similar type jobs in the past. Thank you thank you thank you, to every single person who commented and made me feel like I was not alone on one of the darkest days in our AP-ing journey. Big hugs from sunny Down Under.

WarmStateMomma September 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I can’t believe she snuck out while you were at the doctor! Best of luck to you at this crazy time. (I’m expecting a Christmas baby too, and have zero family within 1000 miles.)

Texanadian Hostmom September 24, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I agree, sneaking out is low, but on the other hand I suppose it means you won’t have to deal with the awkwardness of her presence anymore.

Way to go on sorting out solutions and asking for help. I know it’s tough to do, but agree, most people WANT to be helpful like that, and don’t mind being asked at all.

My family lives about 3,000 miles from me, so one of the benefits of the au pair program is a flexible option to round out my childcare needs, but I’ve had to create a mini “village” besides that. And sometimes, I just have to change my plans around because nothing else will work. I can’t just rely on my au pair, even though she’s very reliable and helpful!

I think having standards when you interview is great, but also make sure you listen to your instincts too. There’s only so much you can personally control, and I found when we had our bad experience with a poor match I was hyper-controlled on the interview and I neglected to listen to my instincts because I had such a detailed “process” I was relying on. If the smile in the photos looks fake, it’s because it’s fake. If the questions they ask during the interview are about how much benefit they get out of using your car or challenging the house rules you’ve posted, they’re not too worried about bonding with your family…. it’s those instinctive things that I managed to ignore because I was hyper-focused on my process.

Good luck to you, and hope that more things go your way in the coming months!

4th time lucky?! October 7, 2014 at 5:26 am

I meant to write earlier and let you know how much I feel with you, that I never had it that bad but that I can imagine that you are probably feeling angry and disappointed with her and yourself and that it will pass, that she wasn’t worth it, that it can only get better (and other usual words of support) – now sending good feelings to others has somewhat been superseded by our own disspointing, angry, sad situation as 4th time lucky?! turns into 4th time unlucky… latest, lovely AP, no rockstar by all accounts but decent worker and good attitude and fits in well,or so we thought, has given us the boot after 8 weeks with some flaky reasons (Child #1 being difficult and disobedient; Child #2 being distant and not like others his age – he LOVES him and often asks me in the mornings: when are you leaving?; work not being fun; the family relationship not being ‘normal’ without more detail – we think it’s a perfect balance of family member -roommate situation and time spent together and apart; there being too many little things he doesn’t do right – there is always more to learn about the little intricacies of the household – suddenly you notice something you hadn’t thought of mentioning before – and sometimes even we HP need reminding…).

I am quite upset because I feel he didn’t try very hard and made up his mind without talking to us sooner and because I have the impression he is not giving us the whole story.

OzHostMum October 7, 2014 at 8:24 am

Oh 4th Time (Un) Lucky I feel for you. 8 weeks does not seem like he’s given it a fair go. What is it with some young people? They’ve got no idea what commitment and perseverance mean, they think if the going gets tough then it’s time to pack a bag and leave, without communication, or giving it a really good try to improve things. No one is ever perfect and life is about taking the negative with the positive and finding some middle ground on which to meet. It must be all the more gut wrenching for you that you got through that settling in phase, only to be blind sided like this. And what gets me the maddest (and I’m sure it irks you too) is the cavalier attitude some people have about swanning in and out of your children’s lives. That really really sucks for you all. Seems to be the year for it, huh.

My situation is still tricky…I gave our agency a rocket today as it’s been 13 days since I last heard from them. I copied the owner in on my emails and recapped where exactly I have been given sub par service. I’m trying to work, look after the kids, go to all my antenatal appointments AND find a replacement AP single handedly?!?! I’ve pushed it back on them to get cracking and actively search for a replacement for us. Here in Australia the placement fee is paid upfront, this agency is adamant they won’t refund it, so there’s really no incentive for them to find a replacement AP in any hurry. In fact they appear to be trying to wait it out with us in the hope that we give up, walk away, and they’ve taken a great big fee for a crap AP who didn’t even see out 3 weeks. Sigh.

In the meantime I have found a short term AP who has finished a successful 6 months with another family, had made some other plans which then fell through and will be with us for a month until she leaves to travel around Asia with a friend. Her previous HM speaks highly of her, she’s 21 and been a good AP, so we’re hopeful that she will fill the gap with our childcare arrangements until we can find someone longer term. It’s not perfect to have the kids get used to someone else for a short time before she leaves, but when you’re up the creek without a paddle (like we are) then you learn to make the best of what’s available.

Here’s hoping you find a quick rematch, that your AP doesn’t do a disappearing act on you until you’ve found a replacement, and that you finish out this year with a great AP (surely they exist somewhere).

NJ Mama October 7, 2014 at 9:06 am

I feel for both of you. As you all know I have been there. I know how hard it is to try to patch together coverage and juggle demanding jobs with childcare. And how stressful it is to look for another au pair during all this, and then how stressful the whole transition can be after a bad experience.

As for 4thTL and the 8 weeks – with my old agency, they had a rule that an au pair couldn’t rematch until the AP (and family) tried for at least 8 weeks. It wasn’t a hard and fast rule. But when our string of “bad luck” started, it started with a weak au pair who waited not quite but near enough to 8 weeks to ask for a rematch. She was the one who trashed us to other families. And it would be weird b/c the new au pair would arrive, things seemed to be going smoothly, and then it was like I could tell when they got in touch with the former au pair — their attitudes would completely change. And then — it was really obvious with one especially – at the exact 8-week mark she asked for a rematch. It really stinks when it comes out of nowhere like that. Really immature of an au pair not to tell you that they have concerns or problems but to spring it on you like that. And at least with our former agency, once the au pair made it clear she was not happy they pretty much facilitate a rematch right away (I was told — there isn’t much you can do if the au pair just doesn’t want to be there anymore).

To give you both a little bit of hope — after our awful string of bad luck, one of our former great au pairs spent a month with us this summer, and then our new au pair started. I cannot find the words to describe how well this is going. She is amazing. I told her when she came in that I wanted her to really focus on bonding with the kids (my kids are older so the schedule/duties are easier). I felt after so many bad experiences, that bonding was the priority. I wanted her to watch the former au pair in action. She did. And she is just… amazing. My oldest child, who is 10, has anxiety and ADHD and can be extremely difficult to deal with — and slow to let her guard down. We had her email with the new au pair in the months leading up to her arrival. So that was a start. But after she arrived, this au pair just found ways to connect with my daughter. She made it clear that it was important for her (as much as it was important for us) to really bond with her. And she found ways to express interest in my daughter’s activities, to talk and really to just hang out. She just went away for a few days and both kids — but my older daughter in particular — kept asking when she was returning. She has exceeded all of our expectations. She has been here just over two months, and my kids truly love her.

I tell you this b/c I had really just resigned myself to just hunkering down and trying to get through the next 2-3 years — until the kids got old enough where we could get by with a college kid helping out/driving kids around in the afternoons, and we wouldn’t need an AP anymore. [We don’t have any family nearby and both my husband and I leave really wary in the mornings and come home later in the evenings, which is why we have an au pair.] My expectations were soooo soooo low. Even our last au pair — the bridezilla. She was good in the beginning (as I’ve said before). But now I see all the things I missed — how she connected with the younger one but not really with the older one. When times were good they got along. But if my older daughter had a difficult day she didn’t have as much patience as I thought. And of course when she decided she wanted out — and checked out — I realize how bad the dynamic was in the house.

so I am sending good thoughts your way and hope that you both find someone soon who fill that void. And I hope to give you hope that the great au pairs do exist. Good luck!

Multitasking Host Mom October 10, 2014 at 9:04 am

So glad to hear about how well it is going with your au pair, NJ Mama. I liked what you said about making the relationship between the kids and the au pair such a priority. Our current au pair is also great, and I think it really is because she is bonding so well with the kids. I have one child who seems to be similar to your daughter (anxiety issues, etc.), and the fact that he is actually happy to spend time with our current au pair has made everything else fall into place and all our lives work so much better.

4th time lucky?! October 8, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Thanks! All the best to you too for the short-term AP; may she restore your faith in hosting, APs, young people, etc but not be too good so you don’t suffer too much when she leaves :-)

It’s now all official after chats with counselor and each other so we’re in countdown mode and probably on the lookout for someone else; AP isn’t prepared to change his mind and give it a proper go… I’m annoyed and disappointed. He never took the time or made the effort to talk to us about potential problems and expectations so we just assumed it’s all fine!

I feel part of it is being overwhelmed by adulthood and the responsibility that goes with it, not being looked after and mothered anymore all the time and having to be the one taking initiative. Maybe it’s also comparing situations with other APs… who knows – all in all the common culprit immaturity.

I know this has come up before: How do you feel about presents (farewell, upcoming birthday) for prematurely leaving APs? and if so, what?

Dorsi October 9, 2014 at 12:16 am

We have had one rematch, and she left without even a card – on either side. I do not feel that is an obligation you need to fulfill.

Anonymous in CA October 9, 2014 at 12:19 am

Being an AP is hard and it IS a shock to people who arrive and think it’s all going to be giggles, smiles, and playing at the playground. But those who think it’s going to be like that are always going to disappointed. We had an AP like this…he was teacher in home country, interviewed very well, had babysat children the age of my son, by all accounts was mature, responsible, etc. He arrived and WHAMMY – what do you know…it’s HARD work to care for a child all day. And he was totally unequipped to do so and it may have been the first time in his life that he wasn’t immediately successful at something. But couldn’t ever admit that, so he conjured a reason to leave…he didn’t even try to go to rematch; he simply said (after 6 weeks) he was done, bought a plane ticket, and that was that!

I have had two APs leave early and it never occurred to me to offer a farewell gift – I was left totally in the lurch with no child care, no 2 week count down. If the child / children bonded somewhat, then I could see working with them to prepare a little card for the AP … so that the kids get some level of closure. My two cents.

OzHostMum October 9, 2014 at 12:40 am

Ha! For APs that sneak out or leave you in the lurch without notice the only gift they’re likely to get from me is a metaphorical kick in the backside as they depart! Assuming I’m even in the house as they leave (and not out at the Dr blissfully unaware that they’re even leaving, see a few posts back). Honestly, I would find it too fake to give someone a gift (which is usually a sign of my appreciation for their hard work) unless they genuinely made some kind of effort or departed on good terms. But if the kids were old enough then I’d definitely be up for a nice handmade card or photo frame. For APs departing on good terms I always think cash is appreciated…if they’ve been great (I live in hope of getting one one day) then whatever you feel a nice sum would be and mediocre but well meaning $100 is still a nice thank you without going overboard, and always appreciated as they head off on their travel month…it’s the price of an “experience” like snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef or a half day kayaking tour.

OzHostMum October 9, 2014 at 12:59 am

Just realised you mentioned birthdays as well…that’s a bit trickier but I’ve always tried to make it a nice day with a cake, dinner out and some modest gifts…usually an “experience” gift (I’m big on those as there’s so much to see and do in Australia) like a tour, whale watching boat tour, feeding penguins at dusk etc. Plus some little things chosen by the kids. Our short term AP (very very short term…1 month) leaves on her birthday to travel Asia with friends so it’s going to be cash and a cake the night before (which is also my son’s birthday so we’ll probably be all “caked” out by then) as I don’t really want to clutter up her suitcase with more things to pack! Regardless of my personal feelings towards an AP I’d do my best to make sure they had a happy birthday…I’m kinda big on birthdays so it’s important to me :)

LondonMum October 9, 2014 at 2:25 am

Agreed, an AP that leaves you in the lurch would get nothing from me (thankfully that has never happened – yet!) But, most of our APs like running or walking and there is a lovely place, Alexandra Palace, where we live. A local photographer sells beautiful photos of the area at one of our markets and I have bought them as a gift. Easy to pack and weighs nothing and a great memory of their year.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 9, 2014 at 7:00 am

I would take the high road. Have your child make him a card (if he’s old enough) and give him a small gift certificate to his favorite place – Starbucks, your local coffee shop, etc. (Even restaurants& stores that don’t cell plastic gift certificates in supermarkets will do a gift certificate – usually in any denomination that you want – so $15 seems like a nice token amount for a restaurant and $5 for Starbucks). I don’t think you need to make him a special dinner or a cake. I don’t think you need to throw him a farewell party. It’s ending badly on his part, so no huge amounts of cash, special gifts, or other items that you would give to a beloved au pair who had finished out a successful year.

I still drove the 2 APs I didn’t particularly love (and their luggage) to the destination of their choice – one to the train station to head to her extension year family, the other to a friend’s house when I put my foot down and said that she and her boyfriend couldn’t sleep together in my son’s playroom during her “travel” month. (Other APs have received a goodbye hug a the airport – sometimes twice – when they headed off on their travel month and when they flew home.) Even APs who needed constant job coaching during their year received a box from me (they fill it – I ship it) – albeit smaller and sent cheaply. The best APs get a bigger box sent airmail – it usually arrives home before the finish their travel month! (I would never dream of giving an AP that didn’t finish out his or her year a box.)

4th time lucky?! October 9, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Thanks all for some good suggestions and perspective! The highroad, yes! It is what I keep telling myself and ignore the ‘unsavory’ and petty thoughts creeping in (the more harmless one: I don’t wish anyone bad luck but I certainly don’t wish you good luck either! – just hurt and disappointed, I guess)

I agree, it’s probably an overreaction to the massive shock he’s experiencing (new environment, new responsibilities, new job, new friends, new language, new household, etc.). We tried to talk about culture shock (and feel all the general symptoms described fit spot on) but he’s not open to accepting this as the possible cause and refusing help/ discussions. Probably another immature thing, where he wants to be ‘special’ (‘no I definitely don’t have something ordinary/ well known/ easily explainable that we can work on. My situation is unique and different and it’s most definitely not my fault’).

…just needing some venting! Thanks for listening :-)

NJmama October 9, 2014 at 9:03 pm

It is sooo sooo hard to take the high road when you’re angry and in the moment. But over the long haul it’s the best way to be :). Good luck”

WarmStateMomma October 10, 2014 at 8:24 am

Ugh. I was counting the days until AP#1 left and your situation is much worse. In the end, take the high road for yourself not for the AP. You will feel better about yourself if you get a birthday card and token gift, as TACL recommended, even if he doesn’t deserve any kindness from you. I wouldn’t do more than that myself, though.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 9, 2014 at 10:11 pm

For the first time in 13 1/2 years DH and I are in rematch (sure, we limped through 2 out of the 7 previous APs, but we made it through the year). DH and I do not take this lightly – we are now in the process of hiring nurses for The Camel, our child with special needs, and our high schooler will have to use that special bus pass to get home from after school club activities. We know that chances are we will have to wait at least 6 weeks for an out-of-country AP with special needs experience and good driving skills to arrive.

There were several kickers – we had taken to calling her Debbie Downer because she was so overwhelmed by culture shock and homesickness that she rarely left the house or had a nice word about anything – and was occasionally rudely grumpy in the morning; she kept doing things her way despite our requests that we really wanted it done our way; and the topper – despite only working 30-35 hours a week with 6 1/2 hours off in the middle of every school day, she wanted weekends off – even though I take the program seriously and never scheduled more than 5 hours on a Saturday unless I gave a half-day off another day during the week. (Giving up weekends was a big nope for me – the whole point of shelling out the big bucks for an au pair for school age children is the flexibility of having date nights or special activities with child #2. We dreamed of such wonders when our kids were infants, toddlers and preschoolers and we needed every hour to meet the demands of a 5-day workweek!)

Now to fly without a net!

Anonymous in CA October 9, 2014 at 11:00 pm

OH NO! I’m so sorry! I think you have mentioned that you’ve never veered from your agency, but I wonder if it would make sense to try to cast a larger net of extension and rematch au pairs by contacting one or two other agencies? I’m thinking particularly of Interexchange where it seems from discussions on this blog the quality of screening might be a little higher than some others? It’s tricky, I know, because you want your agency to really work for you especially right now so you don’t want to do anything to make them think they need to work any less hard! It’s just a thought to consider.

NJ Mama October 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

FWIW – In my last search, I re-upped with the old agency and also opened an account with Interexchange. At first it seemed like Interexchange had a lot fewer candidates. But just as others have posted, I found that their applications were very thorough. Even better for me was that there was absolutely zero pressure to match quickly – in fact, the agency encouraged us to take all the time we needed. And we took about six weeks.

But perhaps the best part was that the agency was constantly asking me for feedback about the candidates — and sharing feedback from other families. Such as “I know this one has an amazing application, but she just interviewed with another family and didn’t ask any questions about the kids — only about travel and the social scene.” I really appreciated that b/c who wants to waste their time? And if an au pair didn’t respond right away they would contact the outside agency to find out why. It was just a radically different experience than what I was used to.

The one drawback is that we have an incredibly tiny cluster here in my part of the world — maybe four girls in two counties!!! But there are tons of au pairs from other agencies. So that sort of makes up for it.

I wish you the best in your search. I know the next few weeks are going to be really hard. Good luck!

WarmStateMomma October 10, 2014 at 8:28 am

Whoa. She must have known about the weekends before matching with you. I’m so sorry for all the crazy hassle you must be dealing with right now.

Multitasking Host Mom October 10, 2014 at 8:55 am

It must have been really bad for you to go into rematch, since I know you put up with a lot from other au pairs in the past. But you are right…sometimes you have to put your foot down and not give in on what you need. (And anyway, if she never left the house, what did she need weekends off for? Was this just a power play on her part?) From what you write on this blog, you seem to be a conscientious, reasonable, and caring host mom. I hope your next au pair is stellar, and this will all soon just be a bad memory.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 10, 2014 at 9:26 am

She wasn’t a mean person, but very immature despite her age and work experience. There were a couple of immature incidents with child #2 that were churlish but didn’t endanger him. The pushback on weekends was totally annoying and constant. The 30-35 hours a week that we ask au pairs to work, includes up to 5 hours on the weekend. (She took her nearly full access to a car for granted and never thanked us for filling the tank on the few occasions we used it.)

Our personalities didn’t mesh. She was a depressive complainer – and that affected the emotional quality of her work. I took one day off at the end of September, after a month in which I put three-weekend days toward work to recharge the batteries. I sleep with a baby monitor near my ear so I can hear The Camel in the night. I heard the blinds go up in her room, and the special crib opening, but I never heard a single word – not a “Good morning!” or a “Time to get up!” I heard The Camel go into the bathroom, her bath running – all without a word. She was efficient, punctual, and thorough, but I could get that from a nurse. Even the previous au pairs with whom I have been frustrated have hugged, cuddled, and sung to The Camel.

The other kicker was her insistance on doing things her way. We have a specific order in which we wash dishes – things that The Camel touches go in first (The Camel has enough medical conditions that she needs the cleanest and hottest water for her stuff) with the soap carefully rinsed off. Despite explicitly demonstrating this, I came home one day and saw a thick coating of bubbles all over everything in the drainer as she failed to rinse. I understood instantly that she saw the way she had always done it as right and best and she was going to ignore my way.

We were willing to tolerate the lack of affection, but when the pushback on the chores and work week happened, we were done.

Should be working October 10, 2014 at 12:01 pm

So sorry to hear this, TaCL. Let me ask my usual question: In matching were there signals of these issues? You are so experienced at interviewing, I’m always wondering how much our interviewing really affects our “luck” with APs or are we all just reading tea leaves here and could as easily throw the dice.

I hope you find someone skilled and qualified ASAP.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I’d have to go back over my notes to see if there was anything. She had a similar background to three of our previous au pairs, although her training program was at a lower level. What really threw me, however, was the fact that she had started a program on nutrition – we’ve never hosted an AP with worse eating habits. One night she had french fries and sauce for dinner in front of child #2 – no protein, no veggie (well, they may have counted as veggies to her), no dairy. I really cringed buying sugary kiddie breakfast cereal for her – the only time my kids get to taste it is when hotels have those little boxes. One day I made a comment about all the sugary foods in the house after I made some brownies to take to a potluck. Child #2 said, “Sugary crap?! Look at X’s shelf! There’s nothing but sugary crap on it!”

With some APs I could see their weaknesses and guess at their personalities – even the ones I loved the best. Having hosted one extremely introverted AP, when the 2nd arrived I knew that she would make a strong bond with us if we went out of our way to include her in family activities but never verbally indicate it (and I was right). I could tell you, before they arrived, who the party girls were (the ones that sent their prom pictures after we matched).

But sometimes, all the right words are said, and the application looks like gold. I made it 13 1/2 years without a rematch, so I guess it was just my time.

OzHostMum October 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm

That breaks my heart about not speaking to your daughter…kids pick up on lack of love and affection and it must have been confusing for her when previous caregivers have shown her this, and she gets none from this one. I just want to ask…was she like this around you? Or only when she thought no one could see/hear? Reason I ask is that with our AP who didn’t like kids – and showed it to them (and me) acted like an absolute angel with them when HD was around. Made me feel for months like I was imagining it and I think that’s what made me put up with it for so long (benefit of doubt, things being lost in translation, etc).

skny October 11, 2014 at 7:09 am

I hear you on the being home all the time and just looking depressed. Our last (who we rematched) au pair was like this, The only time I ever saw her smile was when she went to the outlets. She NEVER liked anything. She was the one who said our bathroom and house smelled to other people. I redid her whole bathroom for her and she did not like it. She also NEVER liked anything we ate, house, kids… NEVER said thank you for anything (even when we would get her surprise gifts… She was always depressed. The 4 WEEKS we stayed in rematch (she ended up not finding a family and going home) were the worst. She was more than miserable and the whole house had this cloud of depression. We were so done with it that we matched with a 20yo with no experience vs a 26yo with a teaching degree and experience just because the 20yo had a bubbly personality and we felt we needed it.
20yo has been here for 3 weeks now and while we have had a share of imaturity, she actually does ok with the kids, is really trying hard, and is just happy.
Good luck!!!

Tristatemom October 10, 2014 at 2:53 pm


Wasn’t this the girl that smelled the fabric softener in the grocery store, said your house smelled etc? Sorry, but I knew then that the AP would not work for me. I am so sorry to hear that she did not speak with the Camel, that is depressing as a caretaker needs to have a heart. All the best to you!

AlwaysHopeful HM October 11, 2014 at 10:11 am

I forgot about that! She also put he air freshener in your car, right? Yes, she had issues. She had to go!!

DowntownMom October 9, 2014 at 10:19 pm

I am so sorry you have to go through this! She must be quite awful to deal with, if even you can’t stand it anymore (you seem much more tolerant and forgiving than the rest of us). I hope the next one will be a gem!

AlwaysHopeful HM October 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Wow, this really seems like the rematch season. I’m sorry that folks are going through such a difficult time. I have to confess though, that I am a little jealous! Even after the emotional, financial and logistical upheaval of our family’s rematch this summer, I find myself daydreaming about our current au pair telling us that he’s just not happy and he wants to leave! He’s not a bad person, and he’s an adequate au pair. He tries extremely hard, and that’s not for nothing. But (I’m ashamed to admit this) I just don’t like him. More to the point, I have trouble relating to his personality. Maybe it’s my own culture shock, or personality shock. My son finds him pleasant enough, but apart from abandonment concerns, I don’t think he’d be sad if suddenly AP had to leave. Actually, what he said was “I don’t really like AP.” So there was no ambiguity. For his part, AP struggles with how to relate to/interact with my son. It’s gotten a little better since we’ve talked some, but it’s really distressing to him if my son doesn’t react as AP believes is appropriate. His upbringing was very strict and formal, unlike my own and unlike how I’m raising my son. For example, he was really surprised to hear me talking on the phone to my mom in a teasing, jokey way. But he also lacks confidence, which irritates me to no end, and does not win him any respect from my son.

Anyway…we’re not going to rematch, because nothing is really WRONG, but I just needed to get that off my chest.

Anonymous in CA October 11, 2014 at 2:30 am

I agree with others here – if you’re just tolerating, and your child is saying he doesn’t particularly like the AP, it’s better to move on. My son doesn’t like AP – she is structured and has zero tolerance for a child’s feelings. The minute he protests anything, I found out she sends him to his room. I was appalled and horrified to realize this was happening – she has a degree in early child education!

Prior to that, I hadn’t really been able to put my finger on anything specific that was wrong – little things, like washing dishes in cold water, not rinsing dishes; not a rematch thing. Slowly, though, I learned about the less little things like over feeding him, requiring that he finish all food (he actually has put on weight since she’s been here and he’s 7!!!), sitting around while he plays outside instead of interacting with him, forbidding him from helping with household tasks (because, you know, it takes longer and it’s not perfect when a 7 year old helps…her structured strictness couldn’t tolerate that); and then the not so little things like jay-walking with him, driving before he buckles his car seat. We called it quits on the basis that she was smoking and she actively lied about it; but as everything has trickled out since then, I’m realizing just what a terrible effect she’s had on my son and I feel HORRENDOUS for not pulling the plug sooner.

Once I started to realize some of the things, I discussed them with her, but she would change the one micro task, but not the overall manner of child-care.

So, it took time for everything to come out and I now find myself in her last few weeks with us trying to limit the amount of time she’s with him and am counting the days until she’s finished. If your child is saying he doesn’t like the AP, my experience is to take that seriously because there might be (probably is) a bunch of other stuff happening that you’re not aware of at the moment.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 10, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Oh, and to answer SBW’s unasked (yet) question…yes, I had a couple of these personality concerns during matching, but I was really under the gun time-wise, and he seemed the best of those I interviewed. It was a super fast, 2 day match. I also recognize that I fell into the contrast effect trap. Rematch AP was a partier… which wasn’t the real issue. I actually had no problem with that (I was a partier too at that age, and so his personality was more familiar, if that makes sense) . It was more the dishonesty and lack of maturity that accompanied the partying. And the smoking. But during my search it all jumbled in my mind. Current AP doesn’t even drink coffee. Sigh. Anyway…

Should be working October 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Sorry to hear it. Contrast effect really is one of the biggest dangers in rematching and even in rematching.

If you would truly be relieved if your AP announced he were leaving, maybe you should think about setting up a friendly rematch. Can you put your finger on a few things you would want him to do differently?

My first AP I thought was just a personality mismatch, I didn’t like her but she was ok. Eventually I had enough things to put my finger on (like lying about not driving to nearby city with car) that I felt justified in entering rematch. And immediately it was like a cloud lifting, I just felt so much better.

Do remember that most of us on here in the non-egregious rematch cases do a LOT of self-doubting before realizing that what seems like a “little personality thing” is actually NOT ok, and goes along with NOT ok childcare. I think CV once had a post asking if ANYONE had ever regretted going into rematch, and maybe only one HM had regrets.

skny October 11, 2014 at 7:23 am

We did contrast effect too. I had a overly depressed closed minded au pair, who did not like kids, was too scared of doing anything…
And chose an young au pair with a bubbly, extroverted personality, who genuinely loved kids. Sayng no to a very experienced teacher who was ok, but serious during interview.
We are 3 weeks in with new au pair and she is definetely adventurous, overall happy, and she does loves kids. She honestly likes mine. And she tries hard. So she is staying. But is she immature… I have a 18yo daughter and sometimes just feel like au pair is my daufgter (which I do not really love). She is overly dramatic, has got 2 sick days already (my husband had to call sick with her minor things), got a tattoo (and drama about tattoo being infected), got a ticket driving, and got into an accident (which was not her fault but the cop attending the accident was the same who ticket her 3 days before). So cop yelled at her and she was desrespectful to cop… and he got mad and yelled more. She gets home and says in her birth language (It was not right or fair. the accident was not my fault. I just want to go home) and goes to her room crying. Well, my 4yo understood and started crying over her going home, and now is having nightmares about vad old au pair coming back, and au pair leaving… geeezzzz….
Her year goes until june and I need to make sure next time I go with bubbly and happy and love kids (which we like!) AND mature.

NJ Mama October 11, 2014 at 7:16 pm

Looking back at all the difficult experiences we’ve had, I think the one that was the most difficult was having an AP who was depressed.

She came after our string of bad luck (and before the one that dumped us). She had great experience. She seemed very kind and patient. My oldest even had a meltdown during our first Skype session — and not only was she not phased, she kept repeating that she would have no problem dealing with kids that can be difficult and relayed several challenging babysitting experiences in her past.

Her first weekend with us was her birthday. The girls and I made cake and cards. And she spent the whole weekend in her room crying and skyping with her family. I thought — ok, homesickness. It’s normal (although I had never seen it that bad!) But week after week she withdrew more and more. Toward the end she barely spoke. She would walk around with her head down and rarely even looked at us.

My kids tried to cheer her up — my eldest even cooked her dinner one weeknight. And one weekend that I really needed her to work, I instead found a German family through a friend of a friend at church, and the family took her skiing. And she would go visiting that family all the time. But whatever happiness she found there didn’t carry over into our house.

I think had I not had so many bad experiences I would have gone into rematch sooner. But I really felt on the hook with the agency. And I also felt that the depression would lift eventually. We tried so hard.

In the end, she asked for a rematch and blamed difficulties with my older daughter — even though there really weren’t any. She had been in contact with the previous au pair that trashed us and repeated the same story about how my daughter hurt her feelings. That upset me, that my kids were trying so hard and she would make it out to be their fault. And my husband and I were putting in so much time and effort – and like SKNY said… no thanks. No thanks for giving me the weekend off to go skiing. No thanks for finding me a German family so I could feel more like home. No thanks to the kids for trying to cheer me up. The area director really tried to talk to the au pair (I had been in constant contact with her) but the au pair pretty much shut down. She ended up going home, which I honestly felt was best for her.

I think the part that hurt most came much later. One of the first au pairs our new au pair (the Brazilian one) had met was one of the former au pair’s friends. And she said horrible things about us too. The Brazilian au pair didn’t tell me until months later. And then when she ignored the talk and the friend of the former au pair acted very cold toward her. They didn’t really move in the same circles so it wasn’t a big deal. I guess I felt really hurt that after trying so so hard that she would do that.

But also, in retrospect I was pretty much the most upset with myself for allowing it to continue for as long as it did. I shouldn’t have had an AP so depressed home alone with the kids. But when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t realize how difficult it is to live with someone who is depressed and that you can’t help, how much it can up the tension in the house and bring everyone down. After she left it the cloud lifted. My goodness it was such a relief!!

I wish I had found this blog back then! Sometimes you really do think you’re the one who’s going crazy. Rematch is awful. But it’s good to vent!!!

Skny October 11, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Amen on how relieved we all felt when depressive Au pair left. I think a little more we would all had got in depression too.

MH Mom October 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm

You need to talk to him and if this is just the way he is, perhaps you need to have a come to Jesus conversation about the fact that you just don’t fit well and whether you can get through the next couple of weeks and see if we can find you a new situation more in line with your personality and find an au pair who fits better with our family? It is incredibly stressful to spend an entire year with someone you don’t like (which I feel is very different than someone you find to be meh). We all know that we will suck it up with a mediocre Au Pair if some of the more critical things are working, but one that you don’t like and you son doesn’t like either . . . do you really have the time and energy for a whole year of that? Also, consider what kind of feedback is he giving to your son regularly and is it something that could leave your son feeling like he is lacking? If so, isn’t that unfair to your son? I sometimes I find I can muster the energy to deal with the awkward situations if it is for my kids and not just for me.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 11, 2014 at 10:43 am

Thanks for all the feedback! I really love this blog! If I needed to, I could easily come up with a list of things that our AP needs to improve, but they aren’t really the issue. And I don’t want to crush his spirit because he really does try very hard. Too hard, really. I’ve told him that he seems to be putting too much pressure on himself. If I liked him more, these things wouldnt bother me so much. As for my son, it’s not that they dont get along. In fact, my son tries really hard to reach out to AP, and i see AP trying, too. There’s just a disconnect. I don’t know how much is him not liking the new AP and how much is him just missing the old. (Maybe that’s my issue, too.) Completely different personalities. So msybe we can just give that time. My son really felt like old AP was his own special person and he misses him a lot. New AP is much more stiff and formal, even when he’s trying to relax and be casual. At the beginning he was overly stern, but that eased some after we talked. Yesterday felt particularly acute because my son was sick and I worked from home so that AP wouldn’t go over his hours. I could hear them in the house, and just felt irritated all day. Again, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, so I know it’s unfair to vent like this. I think it would be even less fair to rematch, so we’ll kept going… By the way, in case you’re wondering…I try to make sure I’m always friendly and pleasant with AP. It’s not his fault, after all!

WarmStateMomma October 11, 2014 at 1:24 pm

It’s completely fair to vent! We all get annoyed with the people we live with. I don’t hear you taking out unreasonable frustrations on the AP – I hear you getting the little stuff off your chest in a way that won’t hurt your AP or your family’s relationship with him. You wouldn’t be upset if he were doing the same thing on a site for APs, right?

AlwaysHopeful HM October 12, 2014 at 12:56 am

Absolutely. I’d have no problem with that. Of course, I’d prefer that he not rip up to shreds unfairly, or say things that are untrue, but venting? No problem.

4th time lucky?! October 13, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Thanks for all comments and advice – even if not directed at myself and our situation it’s always good and helpful to learn about other HF’s situation and problems and how you handle similar issues. I also always like when I can recognise myself/ our problems / our APs (past or present) in what others are describing! The depressed AP with no energy and initiative – yes, what a relieve when they go and how much the household mood lifts! The socially inept and unappreciative AP who doesn’t know how to say thank you. The AP who hides in her room and all she does is talk to parents and friends back home… seen all traits in various combinations.

We made it through the AP’s birthday last Friday; gave a card and a voucher as suggested and won’t do much else for farewell next week. As it was a weekday, everyone was off to work / AP on duty and fortunately, there wasn’t much time for celebration or special sentiments. AP’s last day will be next week and we asked him to take any holidays we owe before then (we are not in US), so that he has his last work day at the end of the week, means not having to pay out holidays and hopefully getting rid of him slightly sooner without kicking him out outright – or so I thought:
Now he had the audacity to ask if he could stay with us until he found another family??!! What the…? I suspect this is in order to save $$$. I don’t want to be unsympathetic but he just tell us, he doesn’t like living with us and finds our kids weird? And maybe he should have thought of this before quitting his job at the first sign of trouble and without putting any effort into it? We also feel it’s not fair on the kids – it would just prolong the painful goodbye.

HRHM October 13, 2014 at 6:31 pm

He needs to go on the schedule already set. You aren’t a youth hostel. Too disruptive and what has he done to deserve special consideration? Nothing.

Skny October 14, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Nope. I did it and regret it badly. We rematched and Au pair asked to stay here for an extra week. Our new Au pair was coming from out of country, and I felt bad (not sure for what), so I said sure.
It was a nightmare. She was the same unappreciative person, who did not like us or our kids, and who told me once that I shouldn’t give her advice on how to talk to families because it was MY fault she was in rematch to begin with. Her depression heightened and it was unbearable to see her daily. After 2 weeks I told her she HAD to leave by the end of the week. She finally bought a ticket home and went. Never again.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Wow. Your head must be spinning! Yes, you’ve done enough for him. Simply tell him, in as polite a tone as you can muster, that you accept and respect his need to look out for himself and do what he feels is best for him. And, you are certain that he can accept and respect that you need to do what you feel is best for your family. In this case, it means honoring the plan that has already been communicated to your children so that they can see that adults really do do what they say. It also means not prolonging the discomfort of this “mismatch” any longer than he agreed upon time. In other words, it means simply “no.”

TexasHM October 13, 2014 at 10:15 pm

So sorry to hear about your situation 4th time but I agree – absolutely not he cannot shack up for free after giving notice and finishing. You are trying to move on, it was his decision and this is not an au pair that gave you an amazing year and is asking to stay a week of their travel month. Anyone asking to live in your house for free for any amount of time (and what happens if he doesnt find another family or it takes months?!?!) is a burden. I don’t care if its friends, family, it is stressful. This AP quit on you unexpectedly, said it was your fault and is now asking to live in your house for free?! It’s AMAZING to me that he even has the audacity to ask. Best of luck to you and him but the date set is set and its time to move on.

4th time lucky?! November 1, 2014 at 4:48 am

Thanks for all those words of support and wisdom! AP gone and the house is a much happier place! He almost did a semi-runner, set to leave without saying good bye to anyone, incl. kids: told us about his intentions to leave the house at midday, a time no-one was going to be home… in the end didn’t have the decency to say goodbye to me before I left for work (or the night before) but at least the kids got to say goodbye.

Now, another question: we are currently interviewing for a new AP: First sentence in response to receiving our handbook was “it was a bit much for me and very detailed”. [She is in rematch and apparently previous HF didn’t have a handbook.]

I’m a bit put out by this remark and my first reaction is to let her go despite all other communications having gone well (though she didn’t have particularly many or good questions for us either) – am I wrong and should I give her another chance? (challenge her over lack of questions?)

She is German – anything that might have gotten lost in translation?

OzHostMum November 1, 2014 at 3:55 pm

If it were me, I’d move right along. Anything negative about such an important resource for both AP and HF is a warning sign. Maybe it’s just that I’m fussy but having gone through rematch and APs leaving do you really want to go through this again in another month or two?

We’ve got our short term AP fill in leaving tomorrow and we’re still interviewing for a replacement. There’s really not a lot available right now (even though we are coming into an Australian summer) and we are being selective – as the process really has taken a lot out of us. We’re fast approaching the deadline we set ourselves to have matched in enough time before our new baby arrives so that AP is settled and a fully functional member of my household, and are patching together our child care in the meantime. So whilst we feel under pressure to match, we’re also of the view that we CAN cope, and this might be something that we shelve for a couple of months and revisit when everyone has adapted to our newest family member’s arrival. But of course your circumstances may be completely different and you might have other factors pushing you to make that match quickly.

It is hard, all too hard some days, when you see other good AP/HF stories and think “Why can’t that be us?” Just – don’t settle if you know in your heart that you really could do better, and find an enthusiastic AP who treats your HHHB like the GREAT resource it is (that you’ve no doubt put hours of work into) for guiding them through your daily family life.

Wishing you the very best of luck :)

Taking a Computer Lunch November 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm

While I agree with OzHostMum, do take a second look at your handbook. If you’re like me, then you might catch a couple of sentences written in some of the more complicated English tenses that may be difficult for a non-native speaker to navigate. You don’t have to make it “Dick and Jane” simple (I may be dating myself here), but do simplify the language to make your intentions clear. For me, taking out some of the repetition has been most difficult – although I intentionally leave it in where it matters the most (for example, The Camel, who has no self-help skills at all, must never be left alone in a vehicle, not even “for a second”).

When candidates ask for our handbook, I send the part that refers to them and left out all the complicated information about The Camel. The only time I have ever sent the entire thing was to a rematch AP – before we matched with her we wanted her to understand what she was getting into and not just using us to rescue her AP year. She chose to match with another family.

I must admit, I don’t send out my handbook unless a candidate or match AP requests it. I rely out their discussions with previous APs to understand what a year with us is like. AP #11 arrives in 3 weeks!

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