If only it were as easy as sticking a green vegetable underneath her mattress and waiting to see if she gets a good night’s sleep…
We all want to avoid “the princess” – the au pair candidate who thinks the job is all about visiting the States, living in an American home, and having an American family revolve its life around her, maybe just like her own parents do at home.
The princess is the au pair who wants you to arrange your work and her on-duty schedule around her social life, to eat whatever she wants even if it’s planned for a meal, to drive your family car into the city or away for the weekend even if you have soccer practices, and to stay out as late as she wants even if it means she falls asleep in the middle of the day while watching your babies.
Princesses make the absolute worst Au Pairs. Even if you hire a princess and hope that she can ‘grow up’ while she’s with your family, it’s going to be a painful process.
So how do we avoid these Au Pair Princesses?
Let me offer 3 important times to pay attention, and then let’s have you all toss in the questions that you think will help sort out the Princesses from the rest.
There are three important stages of the Au Pair-Host family relationship at which you must be alert in order to avoid a princess —
Au Pair Selection
Au Pair Orientation
Au Pair Accommodation
Au Pair Selection
At this stage of the AP-HF relationship, your job is to ask questions about the potential au pair to see if you can get a sense of her attitude. You need to discover whether she knows what the job entails and understands that the demands of the job come before her desire to see the US and/or party. She also needs to understand what it means to be like a family member in your house– that means, chores, habits, values, personal sharing (or not) etc.
Au Pair Orientation
Orientation is when you set the standards for your AP-HF relationship. While many of us are tempted to treat an au pair a bit like a guest when she first arrives, treating her as a guest is a great way to make her think that her role in your family is more like a visitor than a member, more like someone whom you support rather than someone who pitches in.
During orientation, most of us like to start with a general foundation of procedures, expectations and rules, and only relax these or adapt them to the specific au pair as we get further into the relationship.
Au Pair Accommodation
At some point, your au pair is going to ask you to bend a rule. She might want to go out on a Saturday night when you’ve got tickets to a play, or have Tuesday evening off all the time so that she can go to her Praise Dance Troupe rehearsal, and so on. Be very careful when you accommodate your family’s basic needs and schedule so that your au pair can have what she wants. This is a super-slippery slope from privileges to entitlements.
Yes, you do want to be flexible so that she can have a great time. No, you don’t want to concede on something that really matters to your family in order to make her happy.
You can’t make her happy by giving her less work, more car, more candy, or preferred vacation time. You can do this once and a while, but if you find yourself making your second or third accommodation within as many months– Stop. Rethink. Renegotiate.
Or start thinking of yourself as the “lady in waiting” and not the head of the household.
I can say this from experience: We had a lovely au pair who (though in general she was great) nearly had me wrapped around her pinky. She was off on Tues and Thurs nights for Church stuff, was never available on Sundays, resisted any Saturday evening hours, took my kids to the Mall so that she could shop, and generally got things sorted out so that my kids were the sidekicks in her life rather than her being the support in theirs. Because I was working away from home, it took me a while to see what was going on, and it took me even longer to get things back into a better balance. This was also the au pair who left 5 huge boxes of stuff behind that I was supposed to take to goodwill or keep in the hallway until one of her friends picked it up. blech.
What do you do, during Selection, Orientation and Accomodation, to make sure you don’t select or create a Princess? Consider this email from INCE mom….
One Mom’s not so great Princess Story
To rehash my story..I am the one with the AP who has wrecked my car 3 times..very moody and said she was uncomfortable ..
well…the last straw was the past 4 days.
She tells me on Friday that she wanted to take 2 classes…1 on saturdays all day at one particular IVY league college and another 4 nights/week at another local college. Total cost was going to be $1400 ….naturally I asked her how she planned to pay for these classes…she said her dad would send her the $. Sunday…she came home from being gone on the weekend and said she was only going to take the Saturday class…$850…Last night she asks me for the car on Thursday- in case she didnt get in to the Saturday class…could she have the car on Thursday to go take the placement test at the other college..(now…she was scheduled to work on Thursday so naturally I said no-who is gonna watch my kids?)..
This morning…she said she got into the class on Saturday and would register today… but she calls me at work and talks about the other class..I told her it was not feasible for her to take a class 4 nights a week at this point…that would leave me without a car 4 nights a week AND i would have to rearrange MY schedule to accommodate her.
So she calls me an hour later and asks me to pay the $900 class fee online to register and she would pay me back this weekend( I only have $300 left on the educational fee).
Long story short, I come home to a very upset AP, stating she had been crying all day because she didnt really want to take the $900 class on Saturdays but felt pressured because I would not let her take the other class 4 nights/week…so now I am really upset because I dont have $900 to just blow on a whim!…she told me that I was SELFISH by not letting her take the class she really wanted to take ..well..that was the last straw…I just couldnt even believe that came out of her mouth.
So…this brings me to the question for the experienced host parents..can you please tell me how to avoid the princess? what kind of questions should I be asking to determine whether my next AP is spoiled, has had everything handed to her, etc??? I keep hearing that their are girls out their who will be responsible young adults and consider the family’s feelings as well. This one told me she could drive…she cant..this one told me she cooked..she doesn’t know how and hasn’t cooked 1 thing in 5 1/2 months!…This one absolutely takes NO responsibility for her actions…..
I am very discouraged!
Okay Host Parents– Jump in here. What have you done (or not done) to avoid a Princess?
“Once upon a mattress” image for sale by TheStarvingArtist, along with other pretty princess images.