Choosing an Au Pair: How to Avoid a Princess

by cv harquail on September 26, 2009

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…

_images_Once-Upon-A-Mattress(PL11)-8-10.jpgWe 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.

200909260853.jpgAu 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.

200909260854.jpgShe 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.

200909260854.jpgSo…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.

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{ 49 comments }

MalvernMom September 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm

My princess story. She was my first aupair, I was so excited, I had everything prepared for her, even special warm clothing as she was coming from a warmer climate. (first big mistake). We took her to Disney World with us the first month she was there (mistake 2), allowing a friend to go as well (mistake 3) so she would feel “more comfortable” and got them their own room. Her only “duties” that week were to go to the parks with us for 3 hours a day, the rest of the time was hers. On day number 2 she told me this was so hard she felt that “God was testing her”.
A month after we got home my husband and I had gone out with our older children to see my newborn nephew and told her we would be back a bit after her usual “off” time. She was very annoyed at this because she was to stay with our 1 year old and put her to bed. When we got home the baby monitor was sitting on the kitchen counter and we thought she had gone to her room when she heard us to avoid helping with the older children so we put them to bed and then I looked for her. She was not at home. She had left my baby and gone to starbucks with a friend at the time she usually got off. She felt it was unreasonable for me to ask her to work late when she had plans. She left my baby ALONE. Obviously this ended in rematch.

What I learned was to not make it my responsibility to make an aupair happy, but to allow them to find their own way and to make the job the most difficult at the beginning then you can always ease up and that is a good thing. Also during the selection process I am very honest and often make the “job” in my home seem more difficult than it is so that there are no unreasonable expectations. Often my husband and I laugh because we usually choose the girl we can not seem to get rid of by telling them all of the truths they may run into. We have had two very successful aupairs since we started this practice and we have also been close to them as people. They have been honestly interested in our children and family as well as the United States.
I think choosing an aupair is like blind dating and you feel you need to put your best foot forward. I think it is so much better to put the honest foot out there and encourage your prospective aupairs to do the same by talking to them several times and emailing as well. Check their facebook pictures and friend lists to see what kinds of people they hang out with, and talk with them on MSN or SKYPE. At the end of the day it is a gut feeling.
s

Anonymous September 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm

You can get some clues about this girl’s life by observing what if any employment she has had in her life. If the younger ones have had a part time job, you can ask questions about work. Were there any times when she had to work late ? How did she choose her vacation time ? Was it assigned ?
If she is at the older end of the age range, is she going to feel that it is beneath her to do certain tasks and to accept direction ?
You can also ask her if she has friends already here ( not a good thing in my experience ). Many of the agency websites have tips on the cultures of various countries. No stereotype is always true but some cultures have different exspectations of life in America.

NewAP Mom September 26, 2009 at 11:19 pm

This is a good one. I have nothing to add and everything to learn from this thread.

Oh MalvernMom. She left your baby alone? My heart dropped into my stomach when I read that.

I can absolutely confirm that this is true:

“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.”

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time.

Angela September 27, 2009 at 12:27 am

I think I’m learning that I have to be less of a family and more of an employer. Sadly I think I have to be super strict about having my guideline book followed. I let one thing go and it all goes to heck in a hand basket and fairly fast. I had a small book with serious just a few rules and almost none of it is being followed. Granted he is a great au pair loves the kids and they adore him. All I want is a text or a phone call I’m not coming home tonight with the car and in general where he is (he’s lucky has own car). Just feeling kinda of disrespected. Granted not to make excuses but so far has happen to all my au pairs now two of them the last three to six months not the same nor seem to want to invest in the family. I just want to know where to start looking if he comes up missing and I truly care and worry about him. Sigh feeling kinda of down that I have to get so strict.

Franzi September 27, 2009 at 4:34 am

@ angela, share that concern with your AP. a text message or short phone call is really not such big of a deal and does not infringe him in his “freedom” – and it certainly is not snooping or being nosy from your side. like you stated here, you care about him first and foremost.

is it your car? that alone would be a reason for me to state where the car will be spending the night if he is allowed to use it 24/7. what if you need it?

Angela September 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Thanks Franzi I do that just feel like I don’t need another thing added to my to do list but it has to be done. He answers right back. It’s hard because he is an older au pair 22 almost 23 use to his independence so I’m sure its hard for him to go backwards in this respect. Just have to keep reminding him he does great for awhile than forgets that I worry I think. Oh the joys of youth ; .>

NjMom September 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I think if you make it clear in a nice way that his access to the car will absolutely depend on his communicating to you where he is/when he’ll be back, he will get it pretty fast. I have never had a problem with this with three AP’s. But I always introduce the car concept as a privilege not a right. good luck! you can do it…

NjMom September 27, 2009 at 7:51 pm

Oops, also meant to add that to avoid a Princess type, I always ask about work experience (do you really want to be someone’s first boss?) and/or responsiblities around the house. I will ask, “So tell me about who does the cleaning, cooking and laundry in your house?” I have occasionally heard, “Oh, well, the maid does it.” Or “My mom won’t let me lift a finger. She wants me to have fun.” Those usually aren’t going to be good fits for our family where we all pitch in.

TX Mom September 28, 2009 at 10:16 am

I have not had good luck with AP’s raised as only children in their own family. Teenagers and young adults are by nature self-centered and ones that don’t routinely accomodate their lifestyle out of necessity for their parents’ and siblings’ lives make the worst AP’s IMHO. I’ve had princesses with strong work ethics so screening by previous jobs isn’t a sure thing either. A princess can be so focused on being the “best” at what she does that she may be a very solid (even blue collar) worker but still be an inflexible/unaware household member.

I enjoy reading about a “prince;” I thought a lot of my princess issues were due to “girly girls.” Now I’ll have a better definition of princess to screen for so I don’t end up with a tomboy princess!

Darthastewart September 28, 2009 at 10:45 am

Devil’s Advocate:
What about flexibility from the Host Family side? Shouldn’t there be some there also? I can’t help but wonder if a number of the princess issues raised above are maybe not so much princess, but a need to be flexible and communicate better? Am I Naive in thinking that most au-pairs want to do a good job, and perhaps we need to bend a bit as Host parents?

Anonymous September 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I am a pretty laid back employer/colleague/employee myself and let to let people due their own thing as long as they do it well : not perfect but well. But there are some people who take advantage.
We are talking about aupairs who insist on certain schedules, foods,
privileges. I think most of the issue is related to age. An older woman who is providing childcare is not looking to you or me to provide fun and a free ride. She wants to do her job and go home.
A foreign exchange student is pretty much free to do his/her own thing as long as they respect basic house rules. An aupair is somewhere in the middle. Most of us cannot radically change our work schedules or vacation time. The other big issue with an aupair is that he/she lives with us. So he or she cannot call in sick or say
” I need to take a vacation day ” as most of us could do. My boss can be very unreasonable and I have learned certain techniques.
If I take mutally agreed upon vacation time and he calls me at home, I do not answer the phone. If I am sick , w hich is rare, I block his calls. If he calls me late at night with some impulsive request , I do not return his calls . He has never made too much of a fuss about this because I do a good job and he knows he is too demanding. But an aupair cannot do that. How can she get up and say ” I need a mental day “. Most host parents would hit the roof.

Mom23 September 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

We have had several au pairs, two of the princess variety that did not last more than a couple of months. What is it that makes something work with the majority, but not with the other two? I think it is more than just being flexible. Even with the two that left, I think that they did want to do a good job, but I think that they were just too self focused to be a good au pairs.

Getting back to the original question (and this is something I have been mulling over a lot), I think that asking about how self sufficent someone has been in his/her home country is a good starting place for figuring out how an au pair might be in the U.S. (has she balanced a checkbook, does she live on her own, etc.) If the au pair says that she can cook maybe ask specifically what recipes she likes to make (if it is only stuff from a mix or cookies, it might not work). If the au pair says that she can drive ask about what types of cars she has driven and in what sort of traffic.

NoVA Host Mom September 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Darthastewart, I’d have to say that I would love to think that everyone wants to “just do a good job.” I wish I could. I have never been so flexible in my life, to include reducing her work hours to almost nothing so she could attend school when she wanted (mornings, 4 days a week, including the mornings after I worked until 0200hrs and did not get home until 0300hrs – 4mo infant with no sleep for the parent? Niiiice).

Our 1st AP was a princess in the worst degree. She was an only child and apparently one who was overly spoiled by her parents (I really should have asked more questions about other family involvements, etc). She would (usually) work her assigned hours, but any infringement on what she considered to be “her time” was met with resistance and hostility. She demanded to know why she did not get paid sick leave as well as her paid vacation leave “just like in a real job.” She seemed to be under the misguided impression that any family meetings we needed to have (such as the one I needed to have with her regarding being 2 hours LATE for her scheduled work hours b/c she was out with friends, then managed to completely skip a workday the very next week) were a “last minute change” to her schedule and constitued “working hours”. Um, No. Requests/demands she reduce her cell phone use to less than 1,500 minutes a month (she easily surpassed 3,000 by month #2) were our “harsh demands to isolate her.”

We were very naive when we went into the matching process the first time and have well learned our lesson. Obviously, we rematched the Princess after 4 long, painful months (I was just sure that with enough communication and me bending over backwards, things could work out). She was unable to find a new family (not that she looked, since she saw being an AP as a means to an end – getting to the US). We now have an AP that we are considering extending who works as part of our family, and not a contract hire whose time is too valuable to waste on us (as our Princess AP seemed to view us).

My name is NoVA Host Mom, and I am a Recovering Princess Host Parent.

Mom23 September 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm

Anonymous, this reminds me of an au pair who I had who asked to take a sick day. At that point I was working 4 days/week. So, I said, fine, I would just rearrange my schedule and she and I would work on the day that was my scheduled day off. It was amazing how quickly she was better.

CoCa September 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I think that everyone, old or young, would answer “yes” to the question of “do you want to do a good job”. But the problem is that people differ in their definition of what constitutes a good job, and of how to prioritize when life gets in the way of work.

Anonymous makes an interesting point in placing an au pair somewhere on the spectrum between a “real” employee and an exchange student. My impression is that many au pairs (not just the princesses) regard themselves essentially as exchange students with the added twist of trading “babysitting” for an allowance.

I think the girls themselves are only partially to blame for this misinterpretation. The agencies and the government share some of the blame, too, AND, I have to say (please don’t shoot me) families who are afraid to put their foot down and raise their expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not excluding myself from the above. I have to remind myself every day what the au pair is here for and what is reasonable and what is not. Not that our au pair is a princess, but she is very young and not terribly used to taking care of herself. I often find myself falling into a mothering role that I didn’t sign up for.

Dorsi September 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Back to the question of how you screen for this:

My agency has the girls make a photo collage of them with family, kids etc. — which seems very silly. I found, however, that I reacted very strongly to what the potential APs put on there. One I vividly remember was someone who fit all my screening criteria (age, region, etc.) but had a few pictures of her dead best friend with comments like “I am with you all the time in my heart.” A great sentiment, but totally irrelevant to presenting herself for the job. While I want to get to know the AP, that kind of self-presentation at that stage of the game seemed crazy. I also saw a lot of sexy pics in bikinis with heavy makeup. That to me shows an inability to present oneself professionally in a very basic sense. (Sure, they shouldn’t be expected to be polished, but a sense of “here is how great I am at the job you want me to do” instead of “it’s all about me” is not too much to ask).

My AP (who is great, but human and the anti-princess if there ever was one) had pictures of her playing with her little sister, working at a daycare, and pictures of the children she takes care of.

AFHostMom February 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Resurrecting this old post cause I need this info during our rematch process. ;)
Dorsi’s post strikes a chord with me, and here’s something to think about, potential AP’s: when you select which pictures to upload, I really don’t need 2 of the 5 of them to be you hanging with your girls. Or even one of the 5. *Personally* I have been taking those girls off our list with quickness (because their letter usually says something else like “I am fascinated with America, and oh yeah I love kids too.” Work on that).
Since we are in rematch I am particularly concerned about avoiding a princess.

Taking a Computer Lunch February 16, 2011 at 10:11 pm

My first LCC recommended matching with APs who had played a sport or an instrument, because it showed that they could persevere and have success in their lives.

While I really haven’t looked for sporty or musical types, I have looked for APs who have gone the extra mile – received good grades, completed an education program that required them to work in an area related to their field, or who have demonstrated interest in the world around them put putting themselves into situations outside their class or country (e.g. working in a summer camp in another country, volunteering in a prison, and of course – important to me, working with people with special needs).

Volunteering is important in my family, so I look for APs who reach out to their wider communities – not necessarily as volunteers. It’s amazing but even young women fresh out of high school can demonstrate a commitment to the wider world that will serve them very well during their AP year. Because, while we bring them into our homes to care for our children, they also must take classes,attend AP meetings and develop new friendships with complete strangers.

Personally, I don’t need photos with a lot of kids – I want to see love, whether its among their family, in their friendships, and displayed in the photo(s) with children. The child who is leaning away from a young woman in a photo says a lot more than the one hugging!

Darthastewart September 28, 2009 at 3:56 pm

NoVa Host mom- I’m not saying that there arent’ some serious nightmares out there that need to go. I’ve had a couple myself. I just think that the au-pair thing is a give-and-take thing… It just has to be balanced. You can’t have one side doing all the giving.

We talk about keeping consistency- but also we should keep in mind host families that don’t give their au-pair a set schedule, and instead expect them to work 24/7, and that break the match any time the ap asks for a set schedule.

Or what about host families that are constantly moving the schedule – how can you have a life outside of the HF if you don’t know if you can go out?

I just think that there are abuses on both side of the fence. I think it’s important to remember that they are neither nannies nor foreign exchange students, and that if you wanted nanny, you should have hired a nanny.

aria November 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

I agree with this 100%, and I have to disagree with what Coca said. I was a foreign exchange student last year, and this year I am an au pair. An au pair. Not a nanny, not a foreign exchange student, and not a babysitter. I didn’t come to do my thing and babysit, I came here to do a job.

I read one comment on another post on this site once that the host mother wanted a girl who would “appreciate the opportunity coming to the United States would give her.”

Appreciate the opportunity? Host mothers should not discount the work we do and consider us babysitters. I think host mothers should appreciate the au pair, and always keep in mind that she is doing a service for YOUR family- the au pair might not need you as much as you need him/her.

PA aupair mom November 13, 2009 at 10:20 am

Aria:

I can’t help but notice that you seem a little bitter. Is something going on with your host family? Are you not happy?

It is an opportunity….for the host family and for the au pair.

Call it au pair, nanny, babysitter, whatever you want. It’s a hard job and I appreciate the person doing it. My au pair is wonderful. I consider her a family member, employee and friend.

Anon_mom November 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Aria:
Actually, yes, you are a babysitter. And as far as doing a “service” for my family…I pay you for this “service.” Do I “need” my au pair? No, I could hire someone else that doesn’t live in my house, etc. I do think that as you mature you will realize that you are never “needed” in a job…people are interchangeable in work situations, no matter what kind of close relationships you develop (ask anyone who has been laid off recently).
As far as “hard work”…taking care of my kids is easy and fun. There may be days that get frustrating, but if you consider it hard work, you are in the wrong job.
(Sorry, guess I just had a reaction to this post as it comes across as host families should be forever grateful for all the glorious work the AP does.)

aria November 13, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I didn’t mean to come off bitter in my post, and I didn’t mean to say that host families are indebted to au pair or anything. I reread it, and I see that I did come off a little strong- I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend anyone.

I guess the reason I came off the way I did is because sometimes I feel a little bitter reading this blog- like when I read that a host mother wanted a girl who could ‘appreciate’ what they had to offer her, it sounds like the HF is saving the au pair or something! Of course an au pair is not irreplaceable- but having one is a much cheaper alternative to other childcare. That’s what I meant by appreciating the au pair- it goes both ways. Thanks for letting me stay in your house, but you’re getting available childcare round the clock for the half the price too.

AnonymousHostMom November 13, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I think when many host moms say they would like appreciation from their au pair, it’s more like a simple “thank you” when we do something nice or accomodate a request, or when they compliment us on a meal we’ve fixed, or tell us how nice we look after getting our hair cut or are dressed up to go out somewhere. Or even, as you say, “thanks for letting me stay in your house…” Often, I feel taken for granted after the initial “honeymoon stage” has worn off. And, check out elsewhere on this site cv’s excellent breakdown of the true cost of having an au pair and you will see that it is really NOT half the price of any other type of childcare, nor is it available around the clock – there are strict limitations on number of hours per day, per week, definitely 24-7!

Anon_mom November 13, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Not half price. I did a whole spreadsheet on au pair cost vs. other alternative childcare costs when we started the program. The au pair costs me $3000 more than what I was paying for daycare + occasional evening babysitting.

Trina November 25, 2009 at 4:05 pm

aria – fwiw, i think it took a lot of maturity and humility to come back, re-read your post and re-think how it came across. i’m sure you make a fine AP!

APUSA July 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Aria’s post did come across pretty bitter but Anon_mom’s post came across as 50 times worse. and so do quite a lot of the HF’s posts (of course not all, not even most, but quite a few). I understand that a lot of you have had really horrible au pairs but you must remember that there are horrible HFs too.
What I think Aria was trying to say was that some times it seems that some HFs don’t really appreciate us. She’s right, we are doing a job FOR YOU. Yes we get paid but that doesn’t change the fact that it is FOR YOU.
Yes taking care of children is fun but while some times it’s easy, some times it can be really hard. I can’t believe that as a parent you can say that raising children isn’t hard work.

A Host Mom July 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

APUSA: I think something is getting lost here. The au pair-host family relationship is a mutually beneficial arrangement. The au pair is not more important than the HF and vice versa. Yes, the au pair helps the family, but the family helps the au pair as well and pays for those services. The au pair provides a great service to host families by caring for their children. The host family provides a great service to au pairs by providing them with room and board for a full year, an educational allowance, a car and then pays them money for watching their kids (and sometimes along with other perks, like vacations, car, cellphone, etc.). In short, the au pairs works and the host family pays. Au pairs and host families need to stop getting caught up in the “who is more important to whom” and who is getting more out of the relationship. I understand that everyone wants to feel important, but this type of thinking is not constructive at all and just builds resentment.

A September 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I ended up with a non-princess au pair, and what Dorsi said about the pictures really struck me because that’s what ultimately made me choose our au pair. She sent us some pictures of her family and friends, but also pictures of her working with children and of her with the boy that she had babysat for years.
Our au pair’s goals were to improve her English, to travel, and to get more childcare experience because she ultimately wants a career working with children in the health care industry.
In the future, I will definitely be looking for another person who wants the job of taking care of my children!

Hula Gal September 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I’ve had two au pairs (the first one I don’t count since she only stayed with us for three days). The first au pair was the younger of two children, lived with her mother, father and her grandmother. She never had to cook or clean and never had a job. She was also was not very good in school – which could imply not having a good work ethic. She had princess tendencies. The second one is wonderful. She is always contributing and does her job. She went to boarding school at the age of 13, lived on her own, took care of herself, and was the youngest of four kids – all boys. When she was at home she was expected to help her mother take care of her older brothers. I don’t know how things will go when we get into the matching system yet (thank goodness that will not be for awhile!) but I can say that some of this comparison will be used to really think about what is in the applications and what things to focus on in asking questions. I do agree with the others who have said that birth order, size of family and culture likely play a role although they are each only pieces of the puzzle. I think being from a large family would be a positive or maybe having a younger sibling that was quite a bit younger so the au pair might have assisted a parent in changing diapers etc and could observe daily caretaking of children. I am from a large family and know that parents with a lot of children can do only so much and the kids probably have to learn how to do things for themselves. I’ll be wary of any au pair who is an only child or has just one other sibling.

Another CA Mom September 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm

After our first au pair (who we loved, and with whom we extended another 9 months) – we learned a lot of lessons about our expectations. I know that has helped me be a stronger, more confident HM this time around.

While matching for our second au pair, one of my filtering criteria (after other, more critical ones) for candidates was family information – specifically, siblings. I only considered candidates with siblings – and who were either the oldest or the oldest girl. I found they were expected to do & help with more than others.

I agree on the photos, too. I had two finalists I was considering, and my husband took one look at their social networking pages and instantly identified who wanted to be an au pair to work with kids (our current au pair – who previously worked at a children’s center in her home country and posted pictures with her school) and who wanted to come to the US to party (she had glamorous pictures of herself posted – and photos of her partying).

So far, so good for us with two matches – time will tell if it keeps working out!

Darthastewart September 28, 2009 at 11:43 pm

I think that looking at social networking pages, and googling candidates is a _great_ idea.

And sometimes having the current au-pair interview them- especially if they are a good au-pair, and they are from the same country. You wouldn’t believe some of the gems dropped during these conversations.

anonymaupair September 29, 2009 at 7:43 am

In my opinion, if your potential au pair candidates don’t have their social networking pages blocked from people they aren’t “friends” with on facebook or myspace, they aren’t the best potential candidates.
Even if you don’t have controversial pictures and comments on your page, you still shouldn’t be okay with the whole world looking at your personal photos/conversations, etc. By now you would think people would have enough common sense to keep their pages private, when we know facebook has cost plenty of people their jobs. Besides that, it’s dangerous.

NoVA Host Mom September 29, 2009 at 8:03 am

I agree. There is give & take in every relationship, even our own professional ones. And when only one side is willing to give anything, you probably have a Princess on the taking side. Unfortunately, the changing schedule (or at least the possibility of it) is a reality for some of us. But I clearly lay it out in every interview and every family essay, household rules, etc. We will do whatever we can to give as much notice as possible (even if that is only a week). We have babysitters & close friends we bring in to cover if AP already has school obligations, etc., and at least my agency (not so much my husband’s) does try to pay attention to that as much as they can.

That said, in the 4 months the Princess was with us, I had an emergency call-out for a hostage situation (baby’s uncle came and sat until AP returned from school) and my husband was transferred with 1 week notice to a totally opposite schedule. We keep a calendar that I try to ensure is set at least 3-4 weeks in advance. But this degree of flexibility is a big reason why we have an AP and not a day care/babysitter combo.

I have also learned my lesson about using Google and FB, MS, etc. I have a MS page specifically so I can search for other’s pages. Funny how I knew to check on-line for lots of things, but it never occurred to me to search for the AP. I definately read well into their essay and photo spread. I look for any little flags. After our 1st AP, I like to think I am improving in that.

Darthastewart September 29, 2009 at 11:35 am

It sounds like you had a serious pita on your hands. – and that she was around too long. Hopefully it’s gotten better since.

MommyMia September 29, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Amen, Anonymaupair! Potential APs already score points with me if they don’t have their online pages/photos out there for the whole world to see. It says something about their “street smarts” and emotional maturity, as well as their egos. It’s a big shock to see one’s AP drinking, smoking, partying alter-ego (although her job performance was definitely affected & it was noticeable), but when she’s dumb enough to post a photo of her & a friend in our car with an open alcoholic beverage in plain sight, that’s it. Enough lying – we’re not your parents, and yes you’re old enough to drink legally, but we’re certainly not going to trust you with our children any more if you can’t follow the law and our rules! Needless to say, she’s gone, and we’re all breathing a big sigh of relief.

Anonymous September 30, 2009 at 10:31 pm

You know , I want to comment on DarthaStewarts remark about flexibility. A recurrent theme I hear is that of the aupair whose
mother did everything for her. I sometimes take note of my own wonderful kids and some of their friends. Is someone someday going to say that of them. Honestly, in some respects it is the rock bottom truth: their mother ( me ) does an awful lot of things for them that my mother never would have dreamed of doing for me.
How many of our kids will know how to do a load of laundry or God forbid, iron when they are eighteen. Just food for thought.
If someone did say that of one of my children , I don’t think it would be a reflection of their character . I also recently read that nowadays men do not respect women who clean or cook for them. My mother would have said that men do not respect women who are sexually available but apparantly, some sociologists say that now men won’t marry the girl who comes over and straightens up their apartment ! Interesting.

Emma October 1, 2009 at 4:35 am

Anonymous, I think that can be rather easily corrected simply by giving children age-appropriate chores. My mother did a lot for my brother and I when we were younger, but as we aged we started having to do our own laundry, put our dishes in the dishwasher, clean our own bathrooms, etc. I mean, it’s good to let kids be kids, but does anyone really want their kid to not know how to do a load of laundry or iron when they’re 18?

Also I think your comment on sociology is interesting (and possibly true.) I know my bf would be upset if I tried to straighten up his things…

Darthastewart October 2, 2009 at 7:08 am

Ah. Yeah.. doing too much for our kids. :) I’m the evil parent who makes my kid do chores. And the au-pair also makes them do chores. (unload-reload dishwasher, move loads from washer-> dryer, help vacuum, you name it, my kids do it as soon as they’re able)

I’ve seen too many au-pairs without some basic life skills, and too many girls in my GS troops who are just shocked when we go camping, and they have to _do_ stuff. Off topic – but I went camping with my older girls a couple of years ago, and my GS troop at the time. My oldest was 2nd grade, second was a kindergartener… It was November, and it was raining. The other leaders and adults all sent their kids to the car to “stay warm and dry” while they took down the camp. My two stayed with me and the other adults and ferried stuff back and forth to the cars the whole time. (Then they got warm and dry.) I was (and still) so proud of them for sticking with it and doing it.

A Mom ymous October 7, 2009 at 12:08 am

Amen, Dartha! Kids can indeed pick up dog poop (after age 5 or so). And they can certainly organize and clean up their art table before that. and pick the little bitty scraps of paper off the floor at age 3 (good for building fine motor skills, as the pre K teachers would say)… and empty the dishwasher — the APs job is not to DO these things but to see that they are done. Just like mine. We are a team. And by gum, we are going to end up with kids who are pleasant to be around!

MommyMia October 7, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Right on, Dartha and A Mom ymous! Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone in wanting my kids to do more and be more than some of their coddled, unskilled friends (including most of the girls in MY girl scout troop!) The world doesn’t need more princesses, it needs more strong, accomplished women to lead it!

cv October 7, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Tell it! I totally agree, esp about the strong accomplished women part.

Mom23 October 8, 2009 at 10:33 am

There is a great book out there called “The Trophy Generation Grows Up.” Many of our au pairs are in this me-me-me generation. It was good for me to read — more from a management perspective, but also on the home front. Also, one of my three children is in this generation and it has helped me rethink some of my approaches to helping my children solve problems. I think there is a danger of doing too much for our children.

Calif Mom November 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Sounds like it might help manage home AND work!

My 4th grader heard I was planning to visit her classroom to help the kids edit a piece they have been working on independently for some weeks. At first she said she didn’t want me to help her, she would prefer I helped someone else. But then she changed her mind because, “You’ll be harder on me, Mom. The other moms just say it’s great without telling me how to make it better.” I have to believe that the kids–and the au pairs–who learn how to apply themselves will be happier in the long run. Even if they have to deal with chores now! :-)

MommyMia October 8, 2009 at 11:17 am

Thanks, Mom23, I’ll check it out!

Anonymous April 30, 2010 at 4:33 pm

The cost!! An average young American with little working experience is not getting pay nearly as much as an AuPair. After getting their salary and deduct all the living expenses, do they have $800-$1000 cash left in their pockets?? All AP need a reality check. HF provides everything, more than any average employer. AP are clueless about
HF’s total out of pocket cost (and the hidden costs). Keep in mind, AP were “sold” with the idea from the agency, they are coming to America for an experience life in the United States, see how Americans live day-to-day, make new friends from around the world and travel throughout the U.S., improve English and attend classes at a nearby college. Plus, discover the rewards of caring for children.” Notice, the last thing on the list is caring for children.
My 1st AP was from Japan and she was wonderful. According to her, almost all AP are not here to “care for kids”. Living in America is expensive and getting a VISA as an AP is the easiest way to enter this country. They are all here for a reason. If you are lucky, you will end up with an AP that truly cares for your kids.
Last thing, HF paid a heavy fee to the agencies. The agencies supposed to screen for a qualified child care provider.

potential AP in match process June 10, 2010 at 3:18 am

Hi DHM&DHD! My name is Karelin & im a potencial au pair in the match process with 7120hours of childcare experience, I trully love kids so Im looking for a lovely family which would love to spend an incredible experience with me, Im with Au Pair In America & I did a page about me & my environment & my skills specially for you, dont hesitate in call me or ask me anything. Good day! http://karelinyourbestaupair.blogspot.com/

4sure Im not a princess

DC mom August 10, 2010 at 11:27 am

Sadly, I disagree that there is any way to detect or prevent an AP princess. I’m on #2 and #2 who comes from a poor family is also a princess. I’ve discovered from talking to both, and their friends, that the program is marketted that way. “Come to America…these wealthy families will welcome you and take care of you and all you have to do is watch their kids. It’s so easy AND they pay you. AND they pay for your school. AND they provide a car. AND. AND. AND.” Yes, several AP’s from all different countries all described it exactly the same way. Until the programs all change how the market and solicit AP’s, this will continue.

APUSA July 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

A Host Mom: I agree that’s what I was trying to say. You just said it much better lol ^_^

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