Four weeks in, and your Au Pair still isn’t doing what you’d expected. Worse, s/he’s not doing what you need.
You’ve finished up her formal orientation and in-home training, but your Au Pair hasn’t stepped up to fill the role. Is there anything you can do?
There are two kinds of early performance problems.
The first one is caused by a lack of skills or knowledge — where the Au Pair simply can’t figure out how to get the kids fed, clothed and off to school. Or she can’t get from dance class to the YMCA, even though they are a block away from each other.
The other problem is caused by the Au Pair not having an attitude that fits the family’s situation. S/he might be too strict for a casual family, too lackadaisical for a safety conscious family whose kids need an eagle eye on them at all times, or too much of a couch potato for a family of high energy types.
An appropriate response to the first problem is to identify the skills that are missing, map out a training/learning plan, and work with the au pair to learn what s/h needs to learn by a certain set time. You should only give up after training someone and being there to coach them as they learn. You need to let them prove to you and to themselves whether they are or are not ‘capable’.
The second kind of performance problem, the kind cause by an attitude that doesn’t fit, is harder to address.
In these situations, you should:
- Start by clarifying for yourself what specific behaviors are missing that you want to see from your au pair. You need to have in mind the kinds of behaviors you’re seeking, so that you can give you au pair some specific suggestions.
- Have a candid conversation, where you tell you’re au pair what’s missing, explain again what you need, and ask if s/he is up to the task of changing.Be sure to discuss both attitudes and actions– a “can do” spirit combined with high energy interactions with the kids, or a focus on building rapport combined with a set of questions and topics to discuss with the Host Kids so that the au pair can deepen their relationship.
- Call in your LCC, and ask her or him to go over expectations with your Au Pair.
- Look for chances to ‘catch her doing things right’ and guide your au pair affirmatively.
Steps 2 and 3 can be part of the normal conversations you’d have about your au pair settling in. During the first four to six weeks of your Au Pair’s year with you, you should be having regular (as in, daily) conversations to help him or her manage the learning curve. In this ‘settling in’ period, there’s no shame in needing to have these conversations– being an Au Pair is a challenging job and it takes a while and some effort to learn to do it well.
The Disappointed New Host Mom who shared this dilemma in the email, below, seems to be pretty aware of what she wanted and what her au pair wasn’t offering yet.
Hold at bay any comments about “What are you doing taking her on vacation her second week with you!” She clearly thought about this and did her best to consider what the Au Pair might need. She was generous, too.
Disappointed New Host Mom is also giving her au pair the benefit of the doubt.To me, it seems like the only thing this mom *might* have missed was being more explicit about her expectations (e.g., Did she say the kids needed to be asleep by 9:30? Did she tell the AP to ‘whisk the kids away’ or did she hope that the Au Pair would think of this on her own?.
So this is a tough one, readers. What do you advise?
This blog has given us a lot of insight to hosting APs. I feel like we approached this process the right way, embracing the idea of having another family member in the home.
We recently took our new Au pair on vacation with us. I was relatively clear about her helping on mornings when my husband was golfing (we have 2 children, ages 2.5 and 6), as well as watching our children 2 nights. She was given 2 full days off during the 6 full days we were at the resort and I paid for her excursions on these days. I understand that a “working vacation” still requires down time, privacy, etc.
I’m not sure exactly what the issue was during the trip. She took a very hands off approach while I was around the children & I had to ask specifically for simple tasks such as getting children dressed, sunscreen etc be done. Every one of her working days she was given free time in the afternoon as well.
Both times she watched the children at night, they were still awake by the time we got home. I was extremely disappointed in her lack of initiative, and worst of all, I feel like I bent over backwards to give our Au pair a vacation and I had only a few hours of downtime the whole trip.
The other side to this is that she is new, having just arrived a few weeks ago. Children are always off their schedule on vacation and this adds to the chaos and craze that we all experience during family vacation. I think I was not as clear in my expectations and she may have felt intimidated to take charge of the children with both HPs present. I always try and consider their point of view as well, but I still feel very upset and taken advantage of.
Is this an issue that you would address with your AP? The single word I would use to describe the situation would be disappointment.
My expectations of her whisking the kids away for an hour or having them both asleep by 9:30 were never met. I don’t want to hurt feeling or make the next 11 months awkward, but I hope that this does not set a precedent for her future with us.
I will certainly be more clear and cautious about vacations in the future. Any advice would be great! – Disappointed New Host Mom
Image by Catherine/ Iron Photographer 130 on Flickr