How To Evaluate An Infant-Qualified Au Pair Candidate

by cv harquail on December 27, 2015

For many of us Host Moms and Dads, our first Au Pair arrives shortly after our first baby.

Twice in one season you become a new parent– first of your own baby, and then of your Au Pair.

I look back on those times now and think how absolutely naive I was about both new family members!au pair, infant-qualified

I took the infant care classes at the Hospital and read my baby books cover to cover a hundred times.  I had all the ideas for how I was going to do everything — and then the baby arrived and I was gobsmacked by the complexity of it all.

Ten weeks later, just as I’d figured out the diapers, the nursing, the napping, the car seat and the one-handed folding up of the stroller when –wham– I was orienting a brand new au pair.

I was telling her how to do all the infant things, as though I were some kind of an expert, when I’d had only 10 weeks of experience with my one little twinkle.

I was lucky, because our first Au Pair MK had real experience with an infant. MK knew how to scoop up the baby from the crib without disturbing her nap.  MK knew how to snuggle the baby to calm her down, how to swaddle her to make her feel secure, and how to coo all sorts of soothing baby sounds (in Estonian, though). MK was goooooooood at the infant thing.

Finding the right kind of ‘Infant-qualified’ Au Pair

MK didn’t have any academic qualifications in infant care, just the regular babysitting kind of qualification.  I think, truth be told, she was one of those “natural” baby wranglers.

How can you tell, though, if an au pair really has the kind of infant experience that translates into a strong sense of how to hold a baby, how to soothe a baby, how to cope with the crying and the neediness with generosity and patience?

One way would be to ask a candidate to show him/herself interacting with an infant.  For example, a short (I minute) video of an Au Pair candidate interacting with an infant would be really great.  (I’d love to see a candidate hold a squirming baby, to see if the Au Pair was confident and gentle.)

I’d dig in with the “Tell me how you’d handle this situation”-kind of interview question.

I’d ask the candidates about all the situations I found myself facing — such as when the baby refused to take a bottle even when we knew she was hungry, or what to do when you realized that you’d left the breast milk out on the counter for over two hours, but there was nothing else to defrost for the baby. Or what to do when the baby kept screaming after being fed, burped, diapered, swaddled, and tucked into bed and you were all alone and kindof losing your mind.

I’d ask the candidates to tell me the hardest parts of their infant caring experience and how they coped with these parts.

I’d ask about whether the candidates had cared for more than one infant… not as a requirement of the job, but to get a sense of how they adapted their caregiving to the needs of different children. (As many parents know, experience with infant #1 doesn’t mean you know how to help infant #2 with every challenge.)

What else could you look for in an au pair candidate?  What else would you ask him or her?

If you’ve had an infant-qualified Au Pair, what qualities turned out to be critical ones you were glad s/he had?



Image from Martin Gommel on Flickr


Meg December 27, 2015 at 8:36 pm

If I were to look again I think that I would really think hard about the extrordinar program, especially if it were a 6 month old plus. Seems to me there is a huge difference between infants and toddlers. I think that I would want to find someone with real experience with both and ideally some understanding of child development. My guess is that is easier to find in the extrordinar program but I would love to know what others seen.

American Host Mom in Europe December 28, 2015 at 8:23 am

Not in the US, so didn’t have the “infant-qualified” designation, but I was looking on Great Au Pair for candidates with infant experience — especially as I had TWO newborns plus a newly toddling toddler when I was hiring my early au pairs. I mostly looked for examples of how they demonstrated patience, and experience with babies and with lots of kids — daycare staff or volunteers were qualifications most of my early au pairs had! I figured if they could handle a room full of toddlers, two infants would seem easy by comparison. In interviews, I wanted examples of how they handled situations without becoming flustered — because that was a many-times-a-day need in our house!

Also — and this is still important to me, 6 years later — I wanted to like them and feel that *we* would get on well, because I was a stay-at-home parent (still work from home, although didn’t work until the twins were two), and with all the craziness of three kids under two or three, I needed someone around who could roll with things with me, not be opposing me or awkward to communicate with. And we were spending a lot of time together, with three small children!

Former AP Now HM December 28, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Also not in the US and I look for a lot of the things you mentioned.

Most important is the attitude, I think. I look for maturity. I look for something that tells me they’re not going to jack it in after one day. I look for willingness to speak only their native language with the small ones (it’s the only reason we have an au pair. I speak four languages, my husband speaks three and we move countries every couple of months – although it’s a nightmare with children so I’m hoping that’ll change – so the AP language changes with every country that we’re in. Makes life complicated but the small ones are being exposed to at least six languages so a few of them should stick!).

I look for APs with a hobby. I want them to be active and full of ideas. I want curiosity and intelligence. I want someone that I can get along with. Experience with children is good, but it’s not a requirement. I can teach them how to change a nappy but I can’t teach them to want to do a good job.

exaupair December 29, 2015 at 9:27 am

Also not in the US, and I must say that, sadly, finding an AP who would at least remotely be infant qualified, and willing to live where we live is very unlikely.

I guess Europe is more of an ‘APs market’ rather than ‘HFs market’, and it is the au pair here who dictates the rules. Many of them look through websites (no need for an agency if the AP is also European), so there’s no real time pressure and everyone shops around a bit to secure the most convenient ‘deal’ for themselves. Some could present themselves as experienced with small kids, where in reality the only small child they looked after was their little cousin for one evening a month.
My child is not an infant anymore but still too small to tell us if something was not right. Someone can be ‘infant qualified’ on paper and have all the right answers, but how do we really know…

Based on my own experience as an AP I would be looking for the right personality so that we would get on well as we would really only have each other plus the HK most days, but given our busy schedules, remote area with no other APs to hang out with we would have to offer a lot more than we can at the moment to have a happy AP, so we will stick to what we’ve got for now :-(

Former AP Now HM December 29, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I wouldn’t necessarily rule yourself out.

I know that au pairs are often presented as needing big cities and wide friendship circles, but depending where you’re based you might well find someone, although you’d have to put in some work.

I used to be an au pair for a lovely family (we’re still in touch and visit regularly) who lived in the middle of nowhere. Forty minute train journey to the nearest city. No car. Tiny village. No other au pairs. Nobody spoke my native language. And I loved it. They had something like nine au pairs in total (for between 2 and 6 months each, I think) and most of them also loved it, because they looked for people who wanted to improve their language skills, who enjoyed having lots of free time and who enjoyed being in the countryside. They gave me a bike and I went out on long cycle rides almost every day. I had time to write. I learnt how to cook amazing food. It was the most wonderful experience and I would never have had any of that if they had lived in a big city with lots of other au pairs.

Europe is absolutely an au pair’s market, but the lack of restrictions also means you don’t have to have someone for a full year (which, I admit, might bore them to tears). We have our APs for varying lengths of time (usually depends on when we have to move country!) and it’s very easy to find someone just for a few months. You could always give it a go and then go back to another form of childcare later if it doesn’t work.

NoVA Twin Mom December 28, 2015 at 12:50 pm

I agree, it’s hard to tell how an au pair will react to a baby. When we had infants, we screened for experience for long days working over a long period of time with very small children. My other criteria tends to be (even now) that she have worked an “unpleasant” job for a decent period of time. Waitressing and other food service jobs tend to be good for this – something that when she had a really bad day she still got up and came to work the next day. Repeatedly. (I reflect on my own many years of food service and retail experience – unpleasant isn’t really the right word, but a non-“cushy” job that she stuck with even if she had a bad day. Because there WILL be bad days with infants, especially with multiple infants!)

We tend to do well with candidates that worked at day care centers – not the two week internship to get some hours, but actual work. We’ve had three au pairs that worked as substitute “teachers” at a day care center, changing rooms as needed. They went to work every day, but not always in the same classroom. Two of them did this for a year to save money for their year as an au pair, well before they matched, which shows a level of planning that I find valuable.

I also like to find candidates that have experience with kids a little *younger* than my preschoolers – if you can handle a room full of three year olds, for example, two four year olds shouldn’t be a problem. When my girls were infants, though, I wanted experience with infants.

Most important, as American HM in Europe says, is that they seem like someone I’d LIKE to live with for a year!

ProPair December 28, 2015 at 7:22 pm

In my first au pair year, I looked after a brand-new baby plus two older siblings. In my third year, I’ll be looking after a ten month old and two older siblings. Prior to matching with my first family, I had zero baby experience. They took a HUGE chance on me. Fortunately for all of us, it worked out amazing.

I wouldn’t recommend going with your gut like my first family did. However, I do think experience and a good reference are enough to gauge babycare abilities. I LOVED looking after an infant. It is, however, a lot of work. I can’t imagine someone who didn’t enjoy it would want to spend a year doing it full time. That, plus the confidence of a previous employer, should be a good start.

Meg December 28, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Well most parents start with little to no experience with little babies. I agree that with a ton of motivation for the actual child care it could be fine or even great.

Boy Au Pair Spain December 28, 2015 at 8:10 pm

My first job was caring for babies aged 3 to 6 months in a nursery. I think it is fairly easy to learn how to care for this age well (which would suggest to me that an academic course in infant care isnt so necessary) but what seems to be important is the motivation and attitude.

I suspect I would be able to answer interview questions relating to infant care quite well but I know I would dislike doing a job like that again – I was so happy when I was moved to the room with the 15+ month old room! It seems to me that to look after such young babies you really have to love that age group. In my experience, amongst nursery workers those that work with the youngest babies tend to have a strong preference for doing so. If I were a host parent I would be checking to see if an prospective au pair has that vocation.

The best test has to be if they have proveable experience with babies before. Without that I personally would be very weary of employing them in a sole charge role. With older children, no matter how ill suited the au pair is, it is actually quite difficult to unintentionally do them serious harm. With very young babies its another matter. I remember as a law student finding out about a practising lawyer in the UK that was an au pair in the USA and got off on a manslaughter charge (rather than murder) after shaking a newborn baby to death with the defense that she didnt know that shaking the baby so hard would kill him. I think in leaving such a young baby in the care of someone you to be as close to 100 percent sure as you can be that they have the attitude and motivation to deal with the emotional strain that can come of caring for an infant. I personally dont think this can be achieved without them having previous experience.

There is more than that though as there are those with the experience but that still wouldnt enjoy the job and be motivated (me for example!). Not sure how youd deal with those cases – I guess I would hope that if they did it once and werent ideally suited then they wouldnt apply for it again!

Meg December 28, 2015 at 8:44 pm

In my opinion there is one big way you can totally unintentionally do a toddler a whole lot of harm and that is to basically leave them alone. Left unattended they can wander into the street, put stuff in a light socket, drown and sooo many other things. Unfortunately, there are cases where AP and other child care providers (including parents) have been negligent in caring for toddlers. This is why I came to have a huge issue with excessive cell phone use. I’m sad to say that I have seen it abused by people caring for toddlers in potentially disastrous ways.

IntellectualMom December 28, 2015 at 8:53 pm

We are with CC and I have found that it is so hard to find the right au pair with Infant certification. The applicant pool is so limited! In our case, we were seeking someone who would be right for our very musical and bright 9 year old as well as good with our 3 year old and baby. Many of the infant certified candidates are nurturing and have worked in child care centers as noted above but then did not seem like they would engage and stimulate our older child. It’s a very tough balance. In the interview process, I watched closely how they connected over Skype with my 3 year old and then I also looked for family experience with a younger sibling. Ours has a sister who is now just 3, so she played a big role in her little sister’s first years in addition to working as a teacher in a daycare. It’s a good mix, but still I would have preferred someone more into ideas, with a true passion in the arts or another creative profession, as I would have found it more engaging in the household! I suspect other agencies with the extraordinaire programs might have better offerings but that wasn’t an option in our area. As a mom to young kids I also try to be home with them whenever possible and I have to like the au pair personally as we spend time together. It’s a plus if her interests (apart from children) extend beyond shopping. We were not lucky on that front this year, but I must say that I agree how nice it is to have the au pair speak to the youngest in her native language! I also called all references personally and asked how she manages babies and small children, and observed her driving in the first week to make sure she was solid on that front!

AuPair in the Netherlands December 28, 2015 at 9:14 pm

I am going to be working with an infant (6 months) and the only infant experience I have is from babysitting other 6 month olds. My youngest sibling is currently 18 and in order to work in a daycare center in my state (VA) you nearly always have to have a certain amount of college credits towards a childcare degree whether it be Associates or Bachelor. Which since my planned degree is not a childcare degree and the average community college course costing around $500 I just can not do. I do have a advanced child care training certificate from the Red Cross and I have Pediatric CPR certification but other than that I have no “official” infant care qualifications. I guess I am lucky that my host family is ok with me having just my babysitting experience. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch December 28, 2015 at 9:56 pm

It’s been a long time since I worried about hiring an IQ AP, although in many ways my eldest teenager is a big baby! My favorite question to ask, when my kids were young, was “You have to feed a child who needs to eat at a specific time, but the other child is crying an inconsolable. What do you do?” The other, which I still ask, is “Give me an example of a stressful situation and how you dealt with it.” The candidate who talks about exams takes herself out of the running!

I have always looked for real, practical, long-term childcare experience. I’m not interested in a two-week practicum. I’m not interested in a part-time job minding kids whose parents were shopping in that mall. Candidates who tell me that they have gone back to visit the kids even though their practicum ended months ago demonstrate a real investment and attachment to children.

Finally, my first LCC gave me some practical advice which I would not have considered otherwise. She told me to look for candidates that could play an instrument, played a sport as adults, or taught sports or music to younger children. Her argument was that they knew what it meant to persevere and see things through. But here, I would argue that your waitress, your summer camp counselor, or someone else who had held a long-term job would have also acquired a similar skill set. All of them would have learned how to be part of a team – that it wasn’t enough to do their own job well, but to find others’ rhythms, in order to make everything better.

It’s not all about caregiving skills, but about listening, learning, and being flexible enough to adapt and change. (HPs too! We’re not always rights – there are many things I do with The Camel now that I have learned from APs!)

I will vouch for Extraordinnaires. They have been the best for our family (we’ve had some great regular APs, don’t get me wrong, and we’ve had one bad egg EX AP). My first AP, the only one who took care of infants & toddlers in my house (because we tried to sponsor her as an employer), had been a pediatric intensive care nurse – she knew how to juggle! – but she also really bonded with my kids. In the end the fantastic skills she brought to the table did not connect so well with a preschooler. Our second EX AP, who had done extensive teacher training, was fantastic for the preschooler.

While I had barely cared for infants before I had one (as a babysitter I preferred toddlers and older children – even half-drunk 16-year-olds), when I’m hiring an AP I look for woman who have serious and practical experience with children who have special needs. Why? Because it’s hard enough to work and live in a new culture and adjust to listening to another language all the time without having to learn an absolutely new skill set! That’s just my preference.

NCAuPairMom December 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

I think in part we were just lucky but our AP had a much younger sister she helped with extensively. I think living with an infant helped give her a breadth of perspective. I also asked a lot of questions about feeling cooped up and bored because three days a week my AP was alone with an infant and frankly infants can be boring – or frustrating – and I wanted someone who had thought about that. Our AP managed the infant months with ease which made all of our lives easier. Her previous experiencing living with an infant definitely helped keep her expectations realistic.

ExAupairNowHM December 29, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Like Former HP now HM said, it’s all about the attitude in my opinion, and maturity. When I was pregnant with our third, we had to find a new au pair fairly short notice for a December arrival, so the pool to choose from wasn’t that great. We took a chance and matched with an au pair, that though IQ had never taken care of a newborn. We could have picked one of the ones with (claimed) newborn experience, but everything about this au pair’s personality seemed right. She was smart, kind and most of all willing to learn. She arrived when my daughter was 14 days old and “we trained” together until I went back to work when my daughter was 3 months old. She worked out fantastic and we could have not asked for a better au pair for the first year of our daughter’s life.

On a different note, I am struggling with the fact that we have to choose our next au pair from the non-infant qualified pool since she will be over two. We have been there once before with my son (but luckily I got pregnant just in time) and I just don’t feel that someone that has babysat a couple of grade school children, will do a good job with a toddler – all the good ones are in the IQ pool I think – but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

ChiHostMom December 29, 2015 at 9:30 pm

Not to game the system, but if you might be pregnant in the next year at least APIA only lets you look at IQ APs.

NoVA Twin Mom December 30, 2015 at 12:42 pm

I have to admit, I had the same thought…

ExAupairNowHM December 30, 2015 at 2:00 pm

We are with APIA and it has crossed my mind, but I’ll probably jinx myself and really get pregnant with #4 hahaha

NoVA Twin Mom December 30, 2015 at 3:47 pm

We did get an IQ APIA au pair after our girls were two and I just remembered how – she was an extension au pair! She wanted to go to another part of the country and her previous host family didn’t continue with the program because their kids were all in elementary school at that point.

If you look at the extension au pairs on APIA’s website (don’t log in, just click on the tab for “available now” or something like that and look for extension/Year 2 au pairs) you can see ALL of the available extension au pairs, both IQ and not IQ. We got one “by accident” but she was incredible!

WarmStateMomma December 30, 2015 at 11:34 am

Our first two APs had zero experience with kids and they were both IQ. They were both incredible with the baby (3 months old when AP#1 arrived and 15 mo when AP#2 arrived).

Our current AP gained toddler experience (from a daycare center) after we prematched; she managed to get IQ since one of the kids was under 2 and I put some pressure on the agency. This AP arrived when my kids were 2yo and we had a new 3 mo baby. She is solid gold and I couldn’t ask for anyone better.

I don’t really know how to screen for someone who will be good with a baby, especially since babies change so much so quickly. None of our APs have had relevant experience when we matched but they’ve been great with the kids (one was a lousy housemate, though).

We look for driving ability, intelligence and initiative/motivation now – and then train for child care and safety. Our two kids have been really different and needed such different approaches that I don’t really know how much we could have screened for the right IQ experience anyway.

Mimi December 30, 2015 at 12:57 pm

I’m not sure our screening process would be any different for IQ. We like APs with a particular DISC profile (high C), from a larger family, with other work experience. We had actually matched with an AP when I found out I was expecting HK #4 and we just started over with the same process/criteria. Beyond our agency qualifying an AP as IQ, we look for attitude and critical thinking skills. I can teach an AP how to diaper, feed, etc., but not something like common sense.

Babies do change a lot over the course of an AP’s time and having an AP who can grow with them and be flexible is more important to me than diapering technique. Patience is an important quality for an IQ AP, as is knowing your limitations. Asking questions or admitting you don’t know how to do something is better than faking it with a baby, IMO.

IntellectualMom January 1, 2016 at 1:02 pm

I am hoping for some perspective here regarding the IQ aupair I am currently hosting. Can this relationship be saved? Our IQ aupair is a young woman from Germany/Czech Republic – she has been with us for 4 1/2 months to help me take care of the baby girl and our 2 boys (9, 3) as my husband works overseas. The kids are all in daycare/preschool/school part of the day, but my older child has an active schedule with music, sports, art, etc. As I work, an au pair is extremely helpful with logistics and afternoon care. She is a lovely, kind, smiley and pleasant person – not intellectual or particularly into ideas, but warm and well trained as a childcare professional. When in the mood, she can be very creative with the kids and is patient and light-hearted. My baby (the 17 month old) bonds nicely with her and she speaks to her in her native language which is sweet. Nonetheless, on most days this fall I found myself wishing she had more initiative, completed the tasks I’d asked her to do, and and was more detail-orientated. I find the day to day management draining and complicated and want more intimacy with my kids – at breakfast, for instance, and other times when I’d like to focus on them without someone else in the mix. Her social life is very active and makes things feel a bit hectic at home with her goings and comings, not to mention the cell-phone pings as messages come in all day. She also pushes back when I give her instructions so I hate having to do so (and she often ends up ignoring them anyway, particularly regarding laundry, clean up, etc). I have had 2 conversations with her regarding the spring and mentioned we might withdraw from the program early and not host an au pair since my work schedule will be a little lighter and I’d like more direct contact with the kids. I think our middle child in particular would do better with more “mom time” as he’s jealous of the attention the baby gets and has been angry and very aggressive lately. Aupair was tearful and said she loves the kids and wants to stay with us if possible; however, when she asked if it was because we were not satisfied with her, I couldn’t bear hurting her feelings and said that no, she was lovely. But in fact, there are many issues that have led me to this position. A week later, after further thinking and frustration about chores not done, etc, we spoke again and I confirmed we would withdraw from the program after the holidays and I would help her find a great rematch. Our agency said it would be best to wait and rematch once the holidays were over as potential families would have more time then to interview candidates and she would have a better chance at doing so successfully. Our au pair celebrated Christmas with us and we all had a great time over the holidays; she made us an exceptionally personal gift. I could really see the bonds that she has formed with the kids. Our LCC is urging me to consider a mediated conversation with the au pair to address as many of the issues as possible and to consider keeping her – she suggested we have the conversation and then give it a few weeks before coming to a firm decision. But at this point, after I’ve mentioned rematch twice, the poor au pair also just wants to know if she’ll finish her year with us or not. It would be difficult to make her feel she’s on trial. I’m really, really hoping for some advice on this. Here’s the run down:

The bad:
– I’ve asked for help with folding and putting away laundry when my daughter naps and she still needs to be asked many times to do it and does it carelessly if at all – I’ve taken to just doing it myself since it got to be annoying but I resent it and need my evenings for other things. Plus, the baby naps for a good hour and three quarters- she has the time. (At this point, I have been doing HER laundry…grrr)
– When she cleans up after a meal or activity she does so to 70% rather than 100% leaving me the rest to do. She often leaves to go out with friends with the toys in total disarray or the entrance covered in kids’ coats and boots. I need more organization from her and have asked for it, unsuccessfully.
– she often stays out and sleeps at another au pair’s place without texting me, despite my having requested notification when she won’t be home; conversely she’ll show up at the last minute for dinner when she’s off duty without giving me warning
– I often need an extra pair of hands on weekend mornings when she – like most au pairs, I suppose – likes to sleep in. Typically she’ll sleep until about 11 am which I find irritating in a house with young children. It’s also stressful as I have to ask the kids constantly to keep their volume down. She has asked to have her days off over the weekend to be with friends and I get that – but maybe a local college student who’d like to work on the weekend mornings would be better since having three kids with various activities to get to on my own is difficult and definitely stressful. I just can’t justify hiring additional help. She also wants to go out most evenings after dinner which doesn’t give me the flexibility to go out if I’d like to do so, except when I’ve given her a lot of notice.
– She never notifies me when we need a grocery item despite having been asked to do so; runs hot water excessively despite having been asked not to; puts fragile items to dry in the rack where they get nicked, etc. BUT on the plus side, she prepares healthy school lunches for the kids and nice fun snacks.

On the plus side, I know the kids are safe with her. She is kind, social and loyal and her care is more consistent for the kids than the alternative which would be a local college student.
Experienced Host Moms, please, please advise if you think I can work this out and reset aspects of her performance in the shadow of these conversations about rematch. Thanks in advance and a very happy new year to all!

AuPair Paris January 1, 2016 at 4:54 pm

I can’t tell you if your relationship can be saved and I’m not an experienced host mum, but I wonder when you talk about her sleeping late on weekends – is this during her work hours? Because sleeping late is absolutely fine on days off and absolutely not fine when scheduled to work… I wonder if it’s just a phrasing thing, or are her hours a bit up in the air? Does she know exactly when she’s going to be working and when she’s off, or is she expected to lend a hand on her days off (i.e. instead of sleeping)?

Likewise, have you communicated clearly about what you consider 100% cleaning up after dinner? Again, if you have and she’s not doing it – she’s got a problem. But if you haven’t… Well, everyone has their own standards of cleaning and everyone thinks their standards should be the baseline. So you really can’t stew in silence about it – you have to tell her.

With the clothes folding – don’t fold hers! Ever! She might just be absent minded (or tired? Again, depends on her hours – if she’s doing normal hours, she shouldn’t be too tired.). If you decide to stick with her, there are things to be done here – schedules, or reminders/timetables…

It sounds like you don’t want to stick with her, and that’s ok. You don’t have to! But the problems in and of themselves don’t sound like they’d be dealbreakers for me – or for many host mums… Do you think the program isn’t for you, or do you really think it’s this AP?

AlwaysHopeful HM January 1, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Intellectual HM, obviously I can’t answer AuPair Paris’s question for you, but from where I sit, it is the program, not the au pair, that is not working for you. And the biggest issue sounds like a lack of clear communication. From your description, you ask the au pair to do something, she does it, but not to your satisfaction, and you become resentful, and take on the extra tasks yourself. But, when she asked you point blank if you were dissatisfied with her work, you told her no, she was lovely. You’ve explained the rematch to her in terms that have nothing to do with her and your frustrations, and offered to help her find another great family. What will you say if potential families ask about her performance? What a shock it would be to her if the first time she heard you were unhappy was when you conveyed it to future HPs.

I tend to agree in this case with the LC. I think the AP deserves a chance to learn and understand where she is falling short, and attempt to remedy those shortfalls. You may be surprised by how much better the relationship is after you have a clear discussion. But, I would recommend the discussion include clear direction relating to your expectations. If the program is still not right for you, you will at least be able to honestly tell other families that she was good, but the program was wrong for your family. If she can’t get it together, she will know, and will not be surprised if you’re unable to endorse her to other families.

Also, work with her to schedule the days you reasonably need her to work.if you need her on a weekend morning, schedule that day. If you need an evening out, schedule it. It’s not fair to expect her to be always at the ready to help out, scheduled or not. However, it’s also not fair for her to never be available to be scheduled during the times you need her most.

Bottom line : TALK about these things. There are many things that make a relationship with an au pair tricky — cultural and age differences, expectations, language barriers, desire to keep the peace and not offend, different backgrounds and familes, etc. But so much can be resolved through communication. It’s hard work, and though it can be worth it, it is not for everyone. Only you can decide if it is for you, but either way, please choose a path that is fair to your au pair.

TexasHM January 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Tough love train here! ;) And I can TOTALLY relate as it has taken me 4 APs to finally get this aspect (management) of the AP relationship down. Work in progress but this is my gut response.
1. When you love the AP and she is doing a generally good job it becomes easy to overlook the little random annoyances. However, when you are already irritated or feel like she isn’t completing her duties lots of little things that aren’t that big of a deal become very annoying! Even some things that are totally reasonable become annoying! Sometimes even that face she makes when she is thinking – just kidding but you get my point right? :)

2. You need to level set and remind yourself why you joined the program in the first place and reset yourself, your schedule and your AP into that grid. What do I mean? First you should be giving her a schedule in advance, at least weekly if possible (you can still tweak on occasion but give her at least a week). This should prevent the angst over scheduling weeknights and weekend help and give everyone a clear baseline and time to plan. Now that you are facing a potential reset conversation (which I highly recommend based on your note) you have the perfect opportunity to say you need someone to work some Sat mornings and weeknights and if she doesn’t want to do that it is ok and you can end early as planned!

3. You need a clear chat about consequences. You need to know if she is staying over. This is not negotiable and cannot happen again. If it happens again – X happens (no personal car use for a weekend, directly sent into rematch, whatever you are comfortable with). This is where the tough love comes in. With APs you have to be explicit with instruction and you’ve given her mixed signals. You have to be direct and flat out tell her that the toys need to be picked up or the laundry needs to be done during nap time period and if they aren’t then she must do that before she leaves to go out. Period. Or X happens – again, lose privileges or 3 strikes into rematch, whatever. But it is on YOU to make this explicit – no “you know what would be a great idea? Fold clothes during nap time.” or “maybe you could fold clothes during nap time” or “if you fold during nap time I don’t have to do them later” – I have watched time and time again that fail with ESL speakers. You have to say “It is your job to fold the laundry and it needs to be done during work hours or you must do it before you leave to go out” period. Make it a part of your reset conversation. When she asked you if it was because she needed to improve something the answer should have been YES – I really need you to do the following things or we just can’t do the program anymore because it’s not worth it. You told her she was doing a great job and she is not. It’s not fair to say that and then rematch due to job performance (in my opinion). She seems willing to improve and take feedback to stay – take her up on it and then if she fails (doesn’t do the action items) then you can rematch with a clear conscience and she and you will know you gave her every opportunity. Do not do her laundry EVER and if the clothes are not folded and she is headed out the door stop her and make her do them then, or check out with you – see further down.

4. What she does in her free time, as long as it does directly impact you, is not something you can be annoyed about. If you need her to work weekends, schedule her on weekends. If she is not scheduled and sleeps in her own room until 11am that is perfectly her right. I think like I said before, you fix the schedule, you fix this annoyance. If you need help and shes sleeping it is annoying but that is on you because you should be scheduling her to work. And DO NOT ask the kids to keep their volume down. If she doesn’t want to be woken up at 9am (reasonable hour) on the weekends then she can sleepover (seems she is great at that anyway) or can get up at a reasonable hour. It is not fair however, to wish she would be helping you when she is off duty. Just schedule her.

5. Again – natural consequences. If she shows for dinner without notice then you may not have dinner for her and she needs to make herself something. (This is another thing I think you might not be annoyed about if she were doing her job 100%) If she doesn’t get messes 100% cleaned up then she cannot leave until they are. But for a few days you need to give her direct feedback. Have her “check out” with you at the end of the shift and you walk through the house and check that laundry is done, messes cleaned up, everything organized and put away. Show her (like she is brand new) what 70% cleaned up looks like and what 100% cleaned up looks like.

Grocery items, hot water and fragile things are lower on the importance scale I think and still manageable. She forgets to tell you that you are out of cheese – have her go buy cheese (you pay of course). Hot water the issue wasn’t clear and fragile things can you not use them or make a picture sign for the rack that says “THESE ITEMS NEVER TO GO HERE” as a reminder?

To answer your overall question I did not hear anything that makes this relationship sound unsalvageable. In fact honestly I feel a little sorry for your AP because it sounds like she loves your kids and you and wants to make you happy and stay and your kids are healthily fed and safe and cared for and there are A LOT of situations that can’t say that. So far, this appears at the surface to entirely be a management issue and not an AP issue. Make a schedule in advance, schedule her for when you need help not when you think she wants to work, make a checklist of what is needed before she can leave at the end of each shift and present it all in a reset conversation with a day of retraining and the odds are very good that she rises to the occasion. APs often don’t see the mess (I have the same problem with HD!) and need explicit instructions.

Pat yourself on the back. You picked what sounds like a great AP that loves your family and wants to please you! She sounds like she has the skillset in general for childcare and is bonded with your kids. Now give her a chance and clear action items and see if she hits the nail. Good luck!

Taking a Computer Lunch January 2, 2016 at 9:13 pm

What I would like to add here is – treat your AP as you would like your supervisor/boss/dean to treat you. If you had been told that everything was going fine, but then told that your contract would not be renewed – or worse yet – you would be fired in the middle of a semester – you would be livid. Feedback! Feedback! Feedback!

My second piece of advice is – based on skills. I bet you can fold a basket full of laundry in 10-15 minutes. You’ve been doing it for years, you have three children, you know how to get things done. Well, don’t be surprised, but your AP is not there. If she’s like 70% of my former APs, then she never really did a lot of laundry before she arrived. Sure, she might have hand-washed the one item she really wanted to wear when it was dirty, or she might have had laundry responsibilities for a summer camp, but she just will not have the experience that comes with full-time parenting. Prioritize. Fold and put away the children’s laundry – drag her own clothes downstairs/upstairs to her room to fold & put away later. But, as your toddler (no longer the baby, really, at 17 months anymore) ages s/he will nap less, and there will be less chore time. If you can’t get chores done without plunking the toddler and preschooler in front of the TV, then neither will your AP. (Personally, I chose doing the chores myself after the kids went to bed, because my AP really loved and engaged my children – to the point that child #2 had a richer vocabulary in two languages than most children have in one language at 18 months – but that was my choice. Child #1 still cannot talk, but is also severely retarded.)

If she left you a dirty kitchen, then ask her to clean up before she goes out. My guess is that you’ll only have to do this once and she’ll “get it” and have the work done before you return home.

I’ll reinforce what TexasHM said. Do not use the conditional tense. Sure, for native speakers it’s the polite tense, but for non-native speakers it just sounds like a choice. And it’s not. Be direct. If you’re worry about sounding rude, then start the sentenced with Please, au pair’s name, I need you to do… before I get home. This is how I want it done…

Create a checklist. If she’s never really juggled three children of disparate ages, then prioritize what you want done that day. It may take her a while to get to the point where she gets halfway through your list. (And if your list is too long and unreasonable, then she’ll be ignoring your kids, so prioritize.)

Don’t begrudge her for being a young adult. She is going to sleep in at the weekend. You can choose to do a quiet activity with the kids until 9:30/10:00/10:30, and then let them have their house. Too bad if they wake her up. She can sleep with earplugs in her ears at the weekend. It’s their house. In my house, the Camel plays with her toys in the living room until 10:30/11:00 – and then she gets to play in her room with her toys. If the AP came in at 4 am, that’s her problem (actually, the Camel has weekend activities that keep her out of her room until noon most weekends).

Demand communication, but don’t be mad if your AP heads out after her shift and returns home in time for dinner. You’re the adult, so be pro-active. When she hits the road when you come home, ask – I need to know how much food to make for dinner. Will you be coming back home? The same goes for sleeping at friends. “I absolutely need you to tell me if you will be coming home tonight or not.” My guess is that 80% of the time she won’t know. Pick a common courtesy method of letting you know – texting? Phone call? Email?

Finally, in my opinion – you should let your LCC mediate your meeting. You’ve let some key moments to communicate with your AP slide, and since you’re ready to leave the program, you should let someone who’s experienced sit at the table with you. My advice is always to follow up a “reset your attitude” conversation with an email (because most APs read English better than they hear it) and copy your LCC. Encourage your LCC to follow up and affirm with your AP that the key points are reasonable.

And while this might sound like beating up on you, it’s really not meant in that spirit. We’ve all had to learn to be the boss. Some of us luck out and get rock star APs that fit in with our family, but really – there’s always something we would have changed, even with our best APs. Job coaching sucks, but you need to figure out if this young woman needs guidance or constant job coaching, and the only way to find out is to try.

IntellectualMom January 3, 2016 at 9:14 pm

Taking a Computer Lunch, Texas Host Mom and Always HopefulHM, thank you! Of course it’s difficult to capture the details of our situation in a post like this, so I necessarily oversimplified some things and gave perhaps the wrong impression about how AP and I have communicated and didn’t fully disclose the scope/reasons for my dissatisfaction. About the LLC, ours is brand new and has never hosted an AP herself so unfortunately I can’t look to her for a great deal of experience (there are not so many APs in our region and we have had 3 different LCCs since I started the program 2 years ago). But I hear she has business management expertise so perhaps mediated is the way to go.
Taking a Computer Lunch, I do recognize that laundry IS something I can do fairly quickly so apart from resolving from now on not to do hers, maybe that IS a triviality that I can get over. (Our previous AP was a laundry queen and really liked and embraced that part of the job so I had hoped this one would be the same in that respect. Previous AP was also very discreet, considerate, an avid reader, and always sought out ways to be helpful and I miss those qualities. I’d looked for someone stronger, more independent, older, with real childcare credentials, and maybe didn’t make quite the right match because I was prioritizing those qualities and had a small pool to pick from; our current AP was rather unresponsive and hard to reach in the matching process and HD says he had premonitions from the get go that the match wouldn’t be ideal. She never ever reads herself; I had to insist multiple times that she read to our youngest kids. In the beginning she’d look at me blankly and ask me why I wanted her to read to them as she’d prefer to do other things and I could read 1 book to each before bedtime! I had to explain that they enjoy reading, and that I want books to be more a part of life than just a pre-sleep quick activity.
Perhaps (as that indicates) the bottom line is that I have doubts about this aupair’s personal qualities as a match for my family after living with her for 4 1/2 months. It’s not performance (although yes, she does underperform in details as I’ve mentioned but the general picture is ok) she’s just not a role model I would like my kids to look up to and become; rather, she’s simply a well-trained babysitter. She’s hard to communicate with in detail because of the language and lack of common values/level of education. She says she will never go to University since she didn’t complete an Arbitur, claims she doesn’t like to learn, and wants to continue in the profession of a daycare teacher. I think that’s fine, but again, I would find her easier to connect with and would feel happier about my kids spending long swathes of time with her if it were otherwise. I also am unhappy with the general level of harmony in our home; aupairs are not responsible for sibling rivalry (if only!) so I can’t blame her for the frequent lack of cohesiveness and harmony, but she hasn’t really helped too much in that respect. I actually do not know what I want to do about this, and reading your comments and thinking further as we drove back from a weekend out of town has deepened my indecision. I promised to speak with her tomorrow about everything and I wish I had a better sense of the right way forward. Back to my response that she was lovely when we talked about rematch; she is lovely, and many families would no doubt really enjoy her. I have preferred having aupairs in the past that shared more of our love for music (classical, jazz, indie, world, etc.), with interesting ambitions, and whose interests were less mainstream and deeper.
On the consequences question, I agree that there should be consequences for an AP as for any employee and would definitely clarify in future what they are and implement them. I’m sure consequences can be given in a way that makes sense and that respects the AP as an adult; all this takes planning and energy, of course, but it should be possible. I also agree that I can and should check her work at the end of a shift for accountability. For me, it is really hard to have 3 kids and an AP to manage and a full-time job with husband away. I would love this program with the right AP; I’ve found it hard to find that one in the IQ pool and I wish my area had more HMs so that we could support one another in person as I get a lot out of this blog! Thanks again and cheers.

Meg January 5, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Just a quick thought. I may be reading too much into it, but it sounds like it is really hard on you that this AP isn’t highly academically and culturally engaged and it sounds like you are. I understand that this is a core part of your life and how you identify with people. However, I would encourage you to question if it really will alter the academic or professional aspirations of your kids. When I first had kids I looked into some of the research on long term affects of childcare. I wonder if it might help you feel better to look into that. As I recall, there was some consensus that kids do just fine as long as they are getting quality care, though I don’t encourage you to take my word for it. You sound like someone who would get more out of reading into it yourself. If possible, I’d put those fears and guilt aside. Now, the fact that you clearly crave that intellectual and culture connection is another thing. I don’t see you getting that connection from her, but maybe you could work something out that would allow you to nurture yourself by going to some kind of discussion group or jazz night or something.

TexasHM January 1, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Quick PS – on the intimacy thing. You can’t schedule an AP to work and then resent her being around at meal times. Or invite her to live with you and then resent her being around at meals so you need to take a hard look at if you want a live in situation or how you can juggle that. If she is working perhaps you could ask her to fold the laundry while you have breakfast with the kids or make lunches while you are doing it. Make sure she can eat before shift or something but explain that you would like to try to have special mommy time during breakfast with the kids and ask her what she thinks you all should do to enable that. Or maybe you alternate kids and she takes one in the other room and then the next day you have the other one so each gets 100% mommy attention “mommy-kid breakfast dates”. Get creative. But if you truly see her as infringing on your family time then AuPair Paris is right, maybe the program isn’t the best fit for you (and that is ok too!).

Of course she is upset. She loves your kids, you told her she was doing a great job and now she might end up in rematch! Do not keep picking up the slack (I did it too) because they won’t see it and you’ll just get more and more frustrated and tired and martyr yourself! Be honest with her and watch her grow.

IntellectualMom January 1, 2016 at 11:36 pm

TexasHM, thank you for your reply and for the many helpful tips. I know I struggle with the management side of the program and I look forward to trying these strategies. I completely agree that to ESOL speakers, phrasing is key and I too often frame things in terms like “it would be great if you could…” I will meet with AP on Monday and lay things out more clearly. Our LCC has offered to come for a mediated conversation; maybe I should try to just do this one on one with the AP first. I had never considered laying out consequences like the ones you mentioned with the AP as she is 21, but it does strike me as a good idea. It’s not perfectly true that I told her “everything was ok” when we had the conversation about rematch – I mentioned the need for more help with chores and the fact that I want to have unmediated time with my kids while they are under 5 since it’s such a critical time period. While she is great in general, we have in fact had our share of mishaps with her: she left a hair iron plugged in and in the baby’s reach; while she was in the shower, the baby grabbed it and burned her cheek and got a little scar. Another time, she backed into another vehicle and was lucky that the owners chose not to follow up on it. She was over confident and sloppy with booster seats in the beginning of her year and did not show common sense or judgment in proposing on day 3 to take our 3 year old whom she’d just met on the highway for 45 minutes to a town she’d never been to in order to have a playdate with another aupair.. Now she wants to have her mom who doesn’t speak English stay for a week prior to vacationing with her mom for a week in the middle of the busiest time of my teaching semester, etc. The bottom line, as others have pointed out, is that I need to be more clear in my communication with her about what is ok and what isn’t and as you’ve said, let her rise to the occasion and grow.

I agree that if everything were going well, the little things wouldn’t bother me – I can get over the breakfast thing, and I wouldn’t dream of not inviting her to a meal. I’ve lived abroad as a student. It’s a delicate balance between making someone feel at home and having them work in your home. I’m still trying to get the hang of it and she’s my third…
Again, I can’t thank you enough – will let you know how it goes…

To AupairParis and AlwaysHopeful HM, thank you! I certainly can work on planning so AP is scheduled for when I really need her; I have tried to give her the 1 1/2 consecutive days off on the weekend because it is her preference but it’s been rough because of the many activities my kids have which are hard to orchestrate solo. (Plus, after doing all the chores and working a full week, I’m exhausted on weekends and would welcome the help then). Often when AP has time off from Saturday through Sunday morning, I end up giving her Sunday afternoon as well because the kids nap or we go on a small road trip or something… How do you all schedule your AP’s time off? Do you give days off in the week? What other strategies seem to work? Happy new year!

TexasHM January 2, 2016 at 12:25 pm

IntellectualMom that sounds like a great plan! SO glad you took that the right way. If you are down for another dose here goes. ;)
The baby/curling iron incident made me cringe! I am confused though, I would think if AP was in the shower the bathroom door would be locked and/or that the curling iron would be up on the counter but sounds like whatever happened you both have since made sure it won’t happen again. On the day 3 bad idea I wouldn’t let that stick in your mind they truly have no earthly idea when they get here what does and doesn’t make sense and if another AP invited her she probably assumed that was an acceptable ask. It takes my APs at least a few weeks to suss things out AND – maybe an aside for future onboarding if you decide to stay with the program – in our handbook I clearly lie out the path to driving and I give them a rough schedule/planner for the first three days so they don’t even think about making conflicting plans and can see what the priorities are. Day one – test drive with us/assessment, Day two is more practice, if good enough then day 3 we go to DMV with papers to schedule road test. They pass road test they get to drive in our city no highway which is all we need for kids stuff and was enough for 2/4 of our APs for the duration of their term – they decided they didn’t need/want to go on the highways or would catch rides with friends. Then we practice/assess highway driving and when solid we give them a geo area they can drive with highway (not the cities yet) and if they do that a couple months with no issues then we let them drive into the cities during the day on the weekends when its not crazy, etc. Setting the expectations helps prevent the crazy asks for us anyway.
As far as the time off goes, you could still do 1.5 consecutive on the weekend if you had her work Saturdays morning/early afternoon as long as it didn’t go over 5 hours. So you could do Saturday 8am-1pm and then off the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday and still be well within the rules. I don’t know what the rest of your week schedule is so it’s hard to tell you where to tweak it unless you share but we have also several times done a Saturday night event so AP worked and then we gave her all of Sunday and then Monday am off (ours works 1-1.5 hours weekday mornings getting kids ready, on bus, etc). Our current schedule has her off all Saturday and Sunday day and then she works Sunday from 4-9pm so we can date night/house projects without kids on us and she can run laundry, prep for week, check homework and reading, etc. We have our weekly check in at the end of that to review schedule for coming week, any reminders of upcoming major events, holidays, trips, doctors appts etc. It gets all of us (AP and HPs) on the same page and sometimes we catch things each other have missed or realize HD or someone isn’t in the loop so it prevents a lot of last minute issues/schedule changes just taking a few minutes to walk through it. I will also pepper in reminders like “please make sure the kids shower right after dance on Tuesday and gym on Thursday” and write it as a note in the book on that day too so you could do the same. We found that telling the APs what day to do laundry helped vs telling them to do as needed. Obviously if there isn’t enough to do they can skip but having set days really helps them get into routine and not forget. During fall its Wednesdays and Sundays for us, the rest of the year Sundays is enough. (Son has football and runs out of practice clothes Tues night so Wed means he has all clean for Thursday practice and game Saturday which gets us to Sunday!) You might see if you can figure out a similar pattern for your household and just write it into her schedule/duties and again, have her checkout with you and it’s set.
On the consequences – I REALLY struggle with this too. And because like you said they are adults. But a good HM friend finally got me doing it by saying “look – this is a job and they have responsibilities and that comes before all else – social lives, etc. If you don’t do your job in the real world you get reprimanded, pay docked or fired. You are just asking her to do what she was supposed to do in the first place and you have given her the time to do it. If she did not do it in her time then it is not your responsibility to now do her job in your time. If you have to do that regularly then you are paying to do part of her job. That doesn’t make sense. And in the real world there are consequences for every action. You don’t tell HM you are sleeping over, you now cannot be trusted to take the car out at night so a natural consequence would be you cannot take the car for personal reasons for the next two weeks. I take the car for other job related issues too. Whatever they care about gets lost for a brief time period and they can always earn it back early with a great turnaround. But if there is no bite in the mistakes then they won’t remember or think it’s very important.”
Current AP (4th successful one) is the first I have ever really done this with (taken privileges) and we did it because we couldn’t seem to get the “tell us roughly where you are going and when you will be back” on the car. I would get first destination and no return time or return time but no destination or what did it was she said she was running to the store and would be back in less than an hour and then I found out she went to our neighboring city for coffee with another AP. When I asked she said “yeah she texted me and I was already out so I just met her there” – like it was no issue. I reminded her of our ask and pointed out that not only was she not back in less than an hour (I wasn’t home anyway but she was out 2-3 hours total) but she also took the highway to another city and I didn’t even know and had to find out from a HM friend in casual conversation rather than from her. She apologized profusely and we explained that she would lose the car for the up coming weekend, reviewed the rule again (in handbook) and told her that next time it would be lost car for an entire week but that we hoped of course that it wouldn’t happen again. That was about 3-4 months ago and she has been ON POINT ever since. No animosity, no pouting, she said she understood and hoped it would help her remember to be more considerate and it did. Win/win! I was shocked so now I am onboard. Don’t think of it as punishing, its a consequence. It is a privilege not a right.
On the uninterrupted time with kids thing can you come up with some kind of indicator of when you want alone time? Like you have breakfast on the patio = mom time please don’t interrupt or picnic lunch in the kids room or something? That way she’s not in the way coming to get her own breakfast and it also cues her that you are having special time? Maybe even a cheesy door hanger that says mommy time or a sign or something? It’s very hard for APs to read when you want them around and when you don’t and most are more than happy to accommodate making themselves scarce when needed.

Meg January 2, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Such a great topic and wonderful advice. I find it really hard to do this whole thing of setting rules and consiquence with adults difficult and painful. Do you think it is an option to just lay it out there from the start that you treat adults like adults with respect to off time and that as an adult they will get NO slack if they act like a teen? I just find it hard. Seems most APs say they are adults who have lived on their own and we are so silly for even thinking of putting out cerfews and the like. I actually agree. A 21 plus adult should not need all that but it also isn’t too much to ask for a person that age to make half way decent choices. Yet , I feel we are expected to treat them like adults when they want freedom and kids when they mess up.

Former AP Now HM January 2, 2016 at 7:28 pm

I struggle with this too. I don’t deal with it the way the above poster does, because to me that feels like punishing. I don’t confiscate things from my children so I’m certainly not going to do it to my AP. I think that laying it all out from the start is a good idea, although thinking off to my au pairing days it would have really put me off if a family said anything like that. Horses for courses, I suppose.

I treat my AP like an adult. I wouldn’t confiscate the car from my husband if he stayed out all night, and I wouldn’t do it to my au pair (although she doesn’t use the car so that situation doesn’t work for us). If she hasn’t done the ironing or the laundry by the time her shift finishes then I expect her to stay until they’re done. If it’s housmate issues (and car use falls into that, for us) then we talk about it like adults.

We had an AP whose mother always did everything for her. She wouldn’t change the bin bag when it was full, she wouldn’t wipe down the hob, she wouldn’t do the washing up and she was rude when I brought it up. We sat down and I told her that her childcare was great but I couldn’t live with her. She had the chance to stay and shape up but she decided not to, which I respect. Housemate stuff is very personal. Current AP isn’t always brilliant with the children but she’s wonderful to live with (and she’s not BAD with the children – she’d never leave hot straighteners or curlers out and she’s very loving) and things are miles better.

I think it comes down to attitude. Current AP has it, and I can teach the rest. Former AP’s attitude was horrible because she’d never been treated like an adult in her life.

That’s a long way of saying that I don’t set rules and consequences with my AP, any more than I do with my work colleagues or my husband. I trust that she’s mature enough to want to do a good job and to get on with us. I admit that we’ve never had an AP who went out of her way to break the rules, like earlier posters seem to have encountered. I don’t know quite what we’d do in that situation.

AuPair Paris January 2, 2016 at 8:14 pm

As an AP, I would have been really irritated by curfews, having privileges taken away etc. I am an adult and expect to be treated like one. *However* as an adult, I wouldn’t take someone else’s car without telling them when it would be back, and then keep it out all night against that person’s express wishes – that is not adult behaviour… And I guess that could be a way to frame it if you *do* end up placing restrictions on the AP’s behaviour – that you don’t want to treat her like a child, and it’s not like withdrawing privileges from a child – but that *any* adult who borrowed your car and wasn’t reliable with it, would find the car unavailable(/less available) to them in the future.

I guess it’s similar in other situations. You cannot control the AP’s behaviour during her off-hours, but you can control what she does with your belongings, your children and the time for which you are paying her.

TexasHM January 4, 2016 at 4:48 pm

I struggled with this for years too – meaning thinking of it as punishing. It took me until this year to realize my friend is right – just because they are an AP doesn’t mean there are never any consequences. And as I said, I have only take car privileges once and it was very effective and AP thought it was reasonable and it was after repeated miscommunications.

Meg hit it on the head here “I feel we are expected to treat them like adults when they want freedom and kids when they mess up.” And just as AP Paris said I don’t start conversations with APs with “make this mistake and I take the car” but if there are repeated issues with anything (car, phone, etc) I think it is more than fair to create restrictions/consequences. And to Former AP now HM when you said “I don’t confiscate things from my children so I’m certainly not going to do it to my AP” I thought I ABSOLUTELY confiscate things from my children! :) If they fight over a particular toy or are misusing something or not using something prudently I will absolutely take it away.

This was the point that my friend made that got me to see it her way in fact. She said – if your teenager took the car a couple times and didn’t tell you where they were going like you asked and had told them upfront several times would you take the keys? Heck yes I would! So then she asked “then why wouldn’t you do the same with the AP?”. Crickets.

And as AP Paris also noted, if the AP is a responsible adult then you don’t need any of this. Where this comes into play is in scenarios where either one of your house rules has been clearly violated that was stated and agreed upon upfront (don’t even get me started on HFs that don’t give handbooks or share rules until their APs arrive in person!) or the AP has made a mistake repeatedly. In my HM friend’s case she had a strict rule – no one else in the car but AP. No geo limitations, but nobody else in the car. HF was out of town and AP decided to pick up AP friend to go shopping in the city and HM figured it out. She asked AP if other AP was in the car and it was clear from the stuttering of current AP that she was and knew she was busted. HM said “no personal car usage for two weeks” whereas in her handbook it said grounds for rematch so this was actually more gracious than stated. AP never did it again and they had a great rest of their year.

Meanwhile I am 10 minutes away having the same issue over and over with AP. I ask for a heads up via text or ask or whatever that says “going to town square be back around 9pm” and was getting “going to town square” and then wondering hours later at 1030pm where she was and if she was coming back or “be back by 10pm” but no idea where she was going. Net/net is I need to know approximately when I should call the police to look for your body and what city/area I should tell them to start looking in. I ask my parents to do the same when they visit and drive our cars and its never been an issue. 3 previous APs and its not been an issue. Every time current AP was apologetic but it was still happening. I found out she was in another city when I thought she was home and my patience was worn through. Rather than calling LC for mediation we said no personal car usage for the weekend. She understood and it hasn’t happened since. Period. Squashed it. Wish I had done it 3 months earlier it would have saved me tons of frustration and confusion.

It also helps APs prioritize/see how serious an issue is. X mistake happens and you say “its ok, we understand things happen but this really can’t happen again. If it does, we will have to restrict car privileges” then they know its a big deal and what the consequence is ahead of time. This is not surprising them after the fact. With this AP we had to do the same with car phone usage (I had to tell her if she touches/talks on her phone in the car again with or without kids while driving we go straight to rematch, no more warnings) and it worked then too. And oversleeping (next time its mediation with LC). No animosity and frankly, our AP is great but has had to grow a ton this year and has risen to the occasion.

In your case hearing more now its tough because it sounds more now like you had a great AP/personality fit and now have a good AP/bad personality fit. I actually laughed out loud when you said “I have preferred having aupairs in the past that shared more of our love for music (classical, jazz, indie, world, etc.), with interesting ambitions, and whose interests were less mainstream and deeper” – wouldn’t we all?! :) And world peace! Sounds like you got a gem the first round (here locally we are convinced some families have crazy beginners luck and find rockstars with almost no interviewing – its maddening!) and this AP had big shoes to fill and isn’t quite filling them. I think it’s unfair to extend your expectations into her personal interests but is fair to have expectations around her engagement with your children and I certainly would not want to have to explain to my AP why I want her to read my kids a book! That would send me over the edge so I get what you are laying down here. And its harder for you because your husband is deployed and you and AP probably have more contact than most of us do with our APs on a daily basis so having a bad personality fit would be that much worse as you are in close quarters working hand in hand a lot! I still say you lay it all out for her (and having LC there would at least document it all and could count later as your mediation meeting if the agency required that before rematch) to give her a chance to step it up or walk away (tell her you will give her a good reference so she doesn’t think she will have no option) and then let her decide. If she says stay then have clear action plan and if she doesn’t deliver then she goes and you gave her every opportunity, no mediation necessary. If she does step it up then you have the help you need/want and can finish out your year and then reevaluate going forward. Good luck!

MGHostMom January 1, 2016 at 10:39 pm

When we looked for an au pair for our 3 month old full time (and 4 year old a couple hours per day — he was in preschool), my biggest thing was to look for women who *love* babies. The ones who think a job cuddling a baby all day is the best possible thing — and have enough experience to know what they’re getting into — have been baby whisperers. We had a series of part time nannies with our first kid as a baby and learned a lot from a couple of them! I looked for potential au pairs who had done 6 (preferably more) hours per day with young infants on a regular basis. I asked about hard days — when the baby seems to cry a lot. I ask ‘what if’ scenarios. And I try to discern if they’re going to be good at making friends. Taking care of little babies can be very boring and very isolating, and I want to make sure our au pair is having a social time and not just watching movies every evening. I want to hear the potential au pair coo about how cute the baby is when I interview her. I want her to ask specific questions about the baby — I don’t care too much about what the questions are, but I want to see initiative about getting to know him.

NJ Mom January 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm

In general, we ruled out anyone that looked they inflated their infant experience or had a cookie cutter profile. There were A LOT of these, and many poorly disguised. Then we looked for the experience that matched the ages/duration that we needed to ensure basic child care skills for our family’s needs. Babysitting the neighbor for a few hours is much different from caring for a children for a full day. Then we looked for a good fit for our lifestyle, parenting style, and values. We disclosed as much as possible about ourselves.

I think the skype interviews really help to determine the candidate’s enthusiasm for the ages. Unless the AP is a fantastic actor, the facial expressions can tell you if the arrangement is something they desire, or something they would consider “settling”. We described some of the challenges with each child and gauged by reactions of whether it would be a problem. Also whether or not they can engage the kids in age appropriate interactions (if the baby is already born).

The first time around, we ended up matching with the first AP we interviewed. We were looking for IQ who had experience with mixed ages. We needed someone who could care for an infant and toddler full time, and AP worked at a daycare with range of ages in a single class. We figured that if she can handle that many children for a full day of work 5 days a week for many months, she could handle 2 kids for a year. Also having worked with lots of kids, AP should have exposure to different personalities and temperaments. The matching specialist also looked for a candidate with some creative component. For AP, it was crafts and cooking/baking. There were many wonderful AP prompted afternoons spent with the toddler doing art activities and baking cookies while the baby napped. We also asked “what if” scenarios on how she would handle situations to make sure she has enough experience and common sense to make reasonable decisions with the kids.

For AP2, our children were a year older, and we wanted to prepare for the possibility of foster kids. So we looked for a candidate who is IQ, but also had lots of extended family experience (with lots of kids) in a less structured setting. We wanted someone who can go with the flow and doesn’t mind a little chaos. Also with the kids getting older and not being so house bound by 3 naps a day, we wanted someone who would enjoy taking the kids on a variety of outings.

So even though we were looking for IQ in both cases, the qualities we prioritized were slightly different.

Elise smith January 11, 2016 at 8:51 pm

As an aupair who came to look after infant triplets, i would say look for someone who really does love babies and look at the apia extraordinaire programme as we have a orofessional background and know what we are getting ourselves into.

LuckyHM#3 January 14, 2016 at 7:18 pm

Sorry to resurrect an old thread. When this was initially posted a few weeks ago, it was of no consequence to me and also outside of my experience so I didn’t really think too much about it ( we didn’t have an AP when our kids are infants). I’ve since found out that I’m pregnant and baby due in the fall. We have mutually made the decision after the holidays to extend with our ROCKSTAR AP whose year ends in July. She will not extend if it’s not with our family even though she will find anther HF in a heart beat. She loves us and we love her. She’s not infant qualified but she’s had been awesome with our kids 4-6. Our dilemma is that if we update our application with the fact that we are expecting, I believe that the agency wouldn’t let us extend with her. I would be home for 3 months with the baby and most likely my mom would possibly come stay for 3-6 months. Even if my mom isn’t able to come, I would still trust current non-IQ AP to look after my infant than some unknown AP albeit with the requisite hours caring for an infant. She has been around a lot of infants as she has significantly younger siblings as well as babysitting but no formal IQ training of hours. My other issue is that I would be almost 8 months pregnant when current AP year ends at the end of July, I’m just not sure I would have the strength and bandwidth to ramp up a new OOC AP as it’s unlikely that we would be able to get an extension AP as we are not in a desirable extension AP location (CA and NY or even DC, BOS or Chicago) even though we are in a great city with over a million people and possibly up to 100 APs across any the agencies. Major college town with big employers. So my question, fellow AP moms, what would you do? Go ahead and extend with current amazing AP who we totally trust our tell agency and find another OOC AP week is IQ.

IntellectualMom January 14, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Hi, NJ mom, first of all congratulations on your pregnancy! If I were in your situation, I would probably extend with my current AP as a new baby is a big transition for a family and a major stress on siblings and I feel it would help ease the process for your kids. It also sounds like your AP is very excited about the baby as she has grown to know and love all of you. In addition, if you primarily will give her the care of the older children and always supervise her care of the newborn (who in any case would have to reach 3 months of age before the AP can take care of anyway) I think you would be good. We had a new AP arrive two weeks after the birth of our youngest when older siblings were 2 and 8. It was really very hard to train a new person and adapt, and my eldest kept comparing her to our former AP and did not want to bond with her. She eventually did a beautiful job, but it was a hard transition for the first four or five months. The one thing I would caution you about (since you mentioned the AP would ONLY extend with your family) is to have an open conversation with your AP to make sure she wants to stay for a year for the right reasons. Is it the right thing for her to do at this point in her education and career? What about friends and family? I would really talk it out to make sure you don’t get any surprises on that end. I wish you the very best of luck with this!

LuckyHM#3 January 14, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Thanks Intellectual mom! AP doesn’t know about the upcoming baby. Just found out so just hubby and I know. AP and her other AP friends are on vacation till next weekend and we had planned to confirm extension details when she got back from vacation. The plan now is to also tell her about the baby when she gets back. I’m pretty sure she would want to extend with us still. We really have been a match made in AP heaven :-) so much so that her mother recently sent me a WhatsApp message in English ( she doesn’t speak English to thank us for being wonderful to get 20 year old daughter). Without the baby, we were on board with APs reason for extending. She’s had 1 more year to finish college in her country it wants to with for a multinational which highly value English. And she’s been pretty gungho about her English classes 4 nights a week to date. She’s already registered again to start next week. Here English has improved tremendously but still aways to go and she wants to with on that for another 6 or 9 months then go back and finish college. With regards to only extending with us, she feels like she doesnt want to roll the dice on HF for extension and if we would not be extending then she would go back home and back to college and enroll in English classes in her country having gotten a great foundation here in the US

Mimi January 15, 2016 at 12:27 am

Depending on your agency, they may remove the AP when they find out, even if you have already extended. I think there was a poster here who was able to keep her AP, but I think there were major hoops to jump through.

TexasHM January 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

It actually shouldn’t depend on the agency – this is a US state dept regulation. You will not be able to extend with your current AP unless you are prepared to bring legal in. I’ve seen it twice here. First family gave up and AP removed. Second family got lawyer and fought hard and ended up signing all kinds of waivers and documentation and paid legal fees to have AP be able to stay but even then they had to hire a second nanny (for the infant) and provide written statements that AP would NEVER be responsible for infant. This is hangover from the Louise Woodward case if you want to research. A non IQ AP cannot live in a household with an infant and cannot change IQ status (even if she has the hours) after she’s arrived in the US. Sorry to be Debbie downer I just wanted to give you an idea what you’re up against. If agency doesn’t remove her they risk their state dept accreditation.

HRHM January 17, 2016 at 1:45 am

I wonder if AP started volunteering at a local daycare in the infant room now, could she amass (and document) the 200 hours required and then present them on extending so as to be infant qualified for the new baby? It seems to me that if HM just found out she is pregnant, AP would have to only do a few hours a week (or HM could free her up to do full time and get it done quickly…)

Just a thought.

Mimi January 17, 2016 at 3:04 am

I was wondering the same thing, but I’m not sure if this would be frowned on for visa purposes?

LuckyHM#3 January 17, 2016 at 9:08 am

Will talk to my LCC tomorrow about all this. The interesting thing is that in her application, she’s got over 600 hours caring for 0-2 years old which apparently based on that I should not have been able to see her application since she should have been in another pool and I recall seeing write a few APs with way tmore hours over 200. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I was in rematch and our matching coordinator was crap and I made a formal complaint and said I would leave with the area director taking over, all of a sudden I was flooded with a whole slew of new APs that I had never seen but were apparently in the system already. The AD was sending me like 20 new APs a day. Will sort through all this hopefully tomorrow and report back. Once again, thanks ladies for taking the time to share your thoughts

LuckyHM#3 January 18, 2016 at 11:01 am

Just wanted to come back and close the loop. Spoke to my LCC this morning and turns out my AP is IQ. I asked how I was able to match with her and was told that the AD made a special dispensation for us with being in rematch, having a crappy matching manager and a formal complaint with the threat that we were leaving CCAP, we needed someone ASAP from OOC so she allowed me to see the whole pool. Coincidentally ended up matching with an IQ AP. So we are good to go as per extension. Really happy this has been sorted out. Thanks again for all your comments

TexasHM January 15, 2016 at 11:48 am

Ps – this is one thing they are required to ask/check at home visits too (if you’re pregnant or have infant) and is likely in the terms of your agency agreement (you will notify agency of any family change – adoption, birth of child, move, divorce, etc). Honestly it’s not worth it. If it were me, I’d get an IQ AP in July if you can cover the infant until 3 months old (another state dept reg) or if not, take a break and get a nanny until you are resettled. We actually waited to join the AP program because I never had more than 5-6 weeks maternity leave so we did other childcare until youngest was 9 mos old because of all the infant hoops.

Dorsi January 15, 2016 at 12:16 pm

I’ve had new APs come at 8 months preg, and 3 weeks post partum. I actually thought it worked well. Maternity leave was a great time to turn them loose with the olders, and I nursed and watched tv in my bed. Kids had a good chance to bond, and had little disruption to their lives, I could very slowly orient and train the new Au pair.

I’m a little down on extending – we’ve done it once. Our great AP at 6 months was not great at 15. I would choose new and enthusiastic over extension AP.

IntellectualMom January 15, 2016 at 1:27 pm

I had no idea the policies on this were so strict. I’m with Dorsi on new and enthusiastic AP who will be legal and legit. Good luck!

LuckyHM#3 January 16, 2016 at 8:37 am

Thanks ladies. I will be calling my LCC and CCAP on Monday to figure out the process. For those of you with CCAP, I’ve looked through their website and have never seen a IQ flag on any of the AP candidates like I’ve seen on APC. Ive read that an AP needs at least 200 hours working with 0-2 to be considered IQ. Did it mean that I have to go through application by application? I went through current AP’s application and she has way way more than 200 hours but no where on her application due it say IQ and I’ve seen other applications like that with 600-1000 hours with infants but no IQ flag. So how do I look at this on CCAP website

IntellectualMom January 16, 2016 at 9:43 am

Hi, In my experience, once you update your matching profile with CCAP as having an infant under 2 years, the system will only display IQ candidates. If for some reason you should select to interview anyone who is not IQ (the site is a little quirky and sometimes the whole pool appears briefly of IQ APs and non IQ APs), the system automatically tells you that the AP is not qualified to work with infants and you cannot select them. Basically, you have to update your matching profile first. There are no flags – just a separate pool of people. I hope that helps

Mimi January 16, 2016 at 6:15 pm

We are with CCAP and this has been our experience as well.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 18, 2016 at 9:17 pm

APIA functions the same way. Only parents of infants can see IQ APs (unless you’re like me and have a lovely LCC who will put an IQ AP in your queue if she’s special needs willing, too. And don’t get irked, parents of infants, none of them have ever wanted a teenager in diapers!)

LuckyHM#3 January 18, 2016 at 10:50 pm

TaCL – funny, the primary reason I raised a stink during our rematch and not being listened to in terms of what type of AP we looking for ( we wanted experienced drivers for e.g and they would place APs who couldn’t drive at all in our profile) was because of you. I had read some of your posts where you spoke about how you complained of the agency want serving you well and for presented with more options so I did that and lo and behold, seems I was given more open access and ended up matching with a IQ AP with no infant so now with an infant coming, we can extend with same AP. So thanks to you and the other HMs for all your amazing insights. Even my interview questions are mostly from here :-)

LuckyHM#3 March 7, 2016 at 1:18 pm

Sorry to bring back an old thread. We are having a baby later in the year and initially was thinking of extending with our ROCKSTAR AP whose year ends in the summer. After weeks of thinking about it and talking with our AP, we’ve come to the conclusion that she’s not really a baby person. I think she would still love the baby as much as our older kids but a lot of her plans for her extension year is predicated on the fact that our current youngest starts school in the fall so she would pretty much only work late afternoon to evening hours.
She still wants to extend with us but we dont think she would thrive in the upcoming situation with an infant and have decided to find a new AP.

So this whole thread has been super helpful. My question is how many months in advance do people typically match? We’ve always done the last minute thing and I dont want to do it anymore but on the other hand, I dont need an AP till much later the year as my parents will come stay for a few months.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 7, 2016 at 3:05 pm

There are far less IQ APs out there than lovely young woman who want to care for school-age children while they have a blast during their gap year (not saying the latter don’t love children). I recommend starting 4 months out – for most HF that’s when your current AP gets her (or his) extension/heading home paperwork. You get to have a conversation and learn whether she wants to extend with another family (of course you’ll be really supportive) or head home.

However, since you’re dealing with family assistance, be sure that your folks will stay as long as you want them – because you want an AP to arrive either right before they depart or right afterwards! Now is the time to decide whether you’re sticking with your agency (if you’ve been with your current agency for several years, then use it as a bargaining chip for a discount) or looking through multiple agencies.

Before you hit the “send” button on your HF application, do check over your priorities. If you absolutely need a driver, then look for someone with a few years under their belt, not an applicant who has held a license for less than one year. You’re going to be limited to Infant Qualified applicants, but even though the pool is much smaller, don’t give in on what is important to you – that’s why you’re starting early. Look for someone who will be able to balance your needs – who has experience with infants as well as older children (and by experience, I mean more than a couple of weeks!).

LuckyHM#3 March 7, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Thanks TaCL and Mimi. 4 months ahead makes sense. I’m trying to identify any potential downsides to matching say 6 or 7 months ahead. I wonder if anyone here has done that?

I’m asking because we got the extension or not email from the agency 2 weeks ago because AP’s year ends early July. So we dusted off or HF application, updated with the IQ requirement and submitted and started looking for a new AP.

Since we mutually agreed not to extend, she’s going back home to finish college.

My mother always comes for a few weeks but since my dad can come with her, we all decided that they would stay longer (my parents have stayed with us a lot so we have no drama there). With my parents coming for 3/4 months, we now wont need another AP till Sept/Oct.

In my short 2 weeks of looking for IQ AP (that actually wants infants) from L.A who can drive well and check all the other boxes that we want in an AP , I have come to find that is a whole lot easier to find APs for school aged kids with the same qualities.

I’m already emailing with a few prospects, no Skype yet. One of them based on multiple back and forth emails send especially promising. I will Skype with her at the weekend after 2 weeks of emails, then my part and current APs will interview her and any other prospects that made the cut, then more Skype with me and DH and the kids so potentially could be ready to match by end if the month if things with out.

What am wondering is it’s 6/7 months in advance just too much? ( started the process when it was just 4 months out and didn’t know my parents could come for so long). Should I do the process and wait another 3 months when it’s 4 months out to start over? At that time, there would also be presumably more candidates for September/October than there is now? If this candidate really did well through our 1 month process, should I say no to get just because it’s too early? I don’t know

So I wond

Mimi March 7, 2016 at 3:48 pm

We start looking 4 months out for all our IQ APs.

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