How to Handle Under-Age Drinking

by cv harquail on October 7, 2009

How do you handle it when you discover that your au pair has been out drinking, even though she is under the legal drinking age in your state?

_79_237421846_b2a9f55d40.jpgWhat if she has been out drinking with older au pairs? Or gone to a keg party at a local college? Or just bought some wine to drink at home with her au pair pals?

Several host families report feeling challenged by their au pair’s partying habits. It’s bad enough when she comes home late and really tired, but when she comes home wasted, that’s really terrible. And, if she’s underage, she’s actively demonstrating bad judgment.

What should you do?

Your options include:

  1. Looking the other way Don’t ignore this behavior!
  2. Having a talk about “the law” and ramifications of breaking it
  3. Having a talk about what happens to you socially when you get drunk (e.g., bad interactions with men, loss of personal control, drunk driving, embarrassment and shame, not to mention weight gain).
  4. Linking privileges to good behavior.
  5. Providing alternative options for non-alcoholic fun.
  6. Enlisting the help of your LCC and other host parents.

A chance for Host Parents to show some concern, some caring  and some mentoring

When an au pair (or anyone else, for that matter) demonstrates bad judgment and/ or immaturity, it can be a chance for you as an adult to make an important difference in her life. Some listening, some talking, some sharing, and some candid, direct advice from you can help her figure out how to have fun without breaking the law or putting herself in danger. This is one of those situations where you really should think of your au pair as a member of your family, and try to assist her as though she were a niece, a cousin, a god daughter, a friend.

You response may depend on her history

200910071515.jpgMany au pairs come from countries where the legal drinking age is younger than 21 (or 18) and may have already spent a few years drinking legally. Some au pairs come from countries or families where drinking wine with meals is common (even if you are under age). And, some au pairs come from religious backgrounds where liquor is verboten, or from families with histories of teetotaling or alcoholism.

Your Au Pair’s history, in terms of legal experience, as well as any social and personal history that might complicate the drinking issue, should be considered as you plan your response.

It she used to be legal….

It’s hard to tell someone who has already experienced the privilege of buying alcohol legally that she cannot enjoy this privilege in your community. But, unless she wants to get arrested, fined, or bounced from a fun club, she needs to obey the law.

I suppose you could threaten her that she’d lose her au pair job if she were arrested, and that she’d lose all her savings if she incurred a fine, but maybe the best approach is to remind her that this year is all about learning and growing. Learning to obey the law even when it isn’t so much fun is part of growing up.

Some parents have suggested that if an au pair has already been drinking legally at home, it would be okay to allow her to drink in your home (as long as she wasn’t going out later). Your mileage may vary on that one … 200910071515.jpg

If all her friends are older …

You may have the one under-age au pair in your cluster, and her being underage may get in the way of her socializing with the other au pairs. One option would be to encourage her to make additional friends, to find clubs where underage folks can enter and not drink (like a concert venue), or even to permit her to have friends over to your house.

Needless to say, but if you find that your au pair has driven your car while ‘under the influence’, this is a serious safety violation that should suggest a rematch. At the very least, you must take away her personal driving privileges (imho).

What experiences have you had with underage au pairs drinking? Has anything worked well to stop this? Please share….

Underage Drinking by Kitanne on Flickr


CoCa October 7, 2009 at 5:00 pm

I gave a lot of thought to this before our AP arrived, because not only does she come from a country where she has been able to drink legally (she is 18), but I do, too. As an immigrant, I am completely willing to obey American law, but I can also philosophically relate to the concept of being regarded as a “true” adult at 18 without restriction.

As it turned out, our AP is not very interested in nightlife or drinking, so it hasn’t been an issue yet, but she does have a few older friends here and I know that she often has to miss out on what they are doing at weekends because she is underage. This has led me to consider whether next time, we ought to look at getting a 21+ AP.

My take on this, in principle, is that the AP is an adult, I am not her mother or social worker, and so after I have explained to her the full legal implications, I am not willing to do much more should she choose to break the law. (Unless, of course, she were to drive our car under the influence, or be unable to get up in the morning to do her job – that’s a whole different ballgame.)

As for serving alcohol in the house, I had thought that I might let her have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner if she wanted to, but so far she has not seemed remotely interested. In fact, since I believe she comes from a background where adults don’t drink on weeknights etc., I am more concerned about whether she might take offense to MY drinking, given that I often have a glass of wine or two while cooking or with dinner. :-)

This is kind of a relief, because again as a non-citizen, I really don’t want to take any kind of legal risk for myself, either. I am actually a bit paranoid about breaking even ‘small’ laws in the US as I know that my position as a permanent resident would be in jeopardy.

This leads me to another point: One thing that might be worth explaining to au pairs who like to bend the rules a little, is that compared to some other countries, the American police and justice system is quite harsh and unforgiving. I am not putting a value judgdement on that – it’s just a fact.

In my home country, for example, (where you have to be 18 to drink), if a 16-year-old is picked up on the street, drunk out of their head, the police would likely either take them home or to a detox unit (where they would not be locked up), but after that, not much would happen. There wouldn’t be any legal consequences, and they wouldn’t do much to hunt down whoever provided the booze.

My impression is that in America, consequences would be far greater for both the drinker herself and for her friends or family who supplied her. I suspect some young au pairs who have simply been told that it’s ‘illegal’ to drink in America may not understand just how seriously illegal it is.

au pair October 7, 2009 at 6:51 pm

It’s a complicated issue. if your au pair is over 21 she is allowed to drink as long as she does not drive after she have drunk. What I have noticed is the my friends and I are really concerned about the laws and we do not want to break them considering it would cost our lives inm USA. Au pairs have prientation about drinking, about drinking AND driving and everything else during orientation days in New York. We know what can help to us if we are caught driving under alcogol influence or if we are underage and drink or even if we are 21 or more and have a drunk underage with us in the car. We know all the rules. In my country you can drink whenever, doesnt matter how old you are. There is a law but neither the people nor the police cares about it. But once I got in USA I understood that I need to follow the rules here otherwise i will be sent home to my country.

Anonymous in NY October 7, 2009 at 6:59 pm

I think that we have been lucky that our three au pairs did not seem to be drinkers, although all of them are over 21. Because we have deliberately selected au pairs who were at least 21 years old, under age drinking is not an issue for us. We do say in the hand book in the car section that drinking and driving is against the law. We also have a brief conversation with the au pair when she arrives about it before we hand over car keys.

I must say though, that although it has not been an issue with us at all, if I ever see my au pair driving while intoxicated or suspect such behavior, it will be bye bye car for good with our a second chance. This however will create a problem for us as au pair drives kids on daily basis, so that also will mean a rematch. All of this was communicated to the au pair upon arrival.

Jane October 8, 2009 at 9:37 am

All my au apirs have been 19 or 20 and from countries where they had been legally drinking form some time already. It is always a topic of frequent discussion in our house, especially in the first few months. I make it clear during the interview process, in the handbook, and during our first few weeks together that drinking illegally in the US is a serious offense and will have serious consequences. My au pairs have all lamented not being able to drink, but they all knew what they were getting into by coming to the US under 21 and have agreed to follow the law. Still, the questions about underage drinking are endless. What if no one cards them? What if they are at a party with older people? I keep repeated the same answer–no drinking, no matter what.

My second au pair told me she was always the designated driver back home so doing without wouldn’t really bother her. Not two weeks after her arrival, though, this same au pair openly told me how she and a friend ordered a drink just to see if they would get carded, and when they didn’t, they had the drink. I was furious. I told her that she jeopardized her year here by doing that, and if she had been caught, our match would have been over. I told her I’d need to discuss the situation with our area director, and this set her straight immediately. Despite all our previous discussions about underage drinking, she just didn’t believe how serious it was until she saw my reaction to her actually doing it. We didn’t have an issue with it for the rest of the year.

With our last two au pairs I’ve tried to soften the blow by telling them they can have beer/wine with us during special family dinners when they aren’t driving anywhere afterwards, but only if it’s just us–I don’t want their friends involved because other host parents might not agree with me doing this. Ultimately though, as a US citizen, I am not to serve alcohol to a minor, so I’ve been very careful about this and only allowing it on occassions like Christmas. For the most part, I just try to sympathize with them that it’s hard not to be treated like a “true adult” at 19. I like the previous comment about this being a growing up experience.

anonymous II October 8, 2009 at 9:41 am

We pretty much think and do like Coco. I find it hard to come to terms with the that you can die for this country at 18, but cannot drink. Plus, truth be told, when I was this age, I was in high school and college and drinking (not driving — totally different issue). Of course, my views change if my au pair can’t do her job due to drinking and hangovers, but honestly, while we do not encourage drinking and make clear drunk driving is very serious, I don’t care much one way or another if our au pairs drink when they are out with friends. We have offered beer or wine to her friends when they come over for a family barbeque or what have you, of course being mindful of how much is being consumed just like we would with any other guest.

Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 9:52 am

My instinct is to always get YOUNGER Au Pairs so that I can just make the black and white statement of no drinking, period. This relieves me of having to judge when they’ve had too much, whether they will be able to function in the morning, etc. In my handbook and in our conversations at the beginning, we make it crystal clear that if they violate this rule, they will be fired. So far, they have understood and complied.

Our current Au Pair will turn 21 in February and I’m interested to see what, if anything, changes in her behavior. She was legal in her home country, but as far as I can tell, didn’t drink there either. And while she’s been here, she’s gotten into countless clubs in DC (it helps to be gorgeous!) and comes home sober every time (yes, I occassionally am up when she comes back).

Anonymous October 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I never thought about the last statement – get someone under age so that you can just say ” no drinking, period “. I think that this is a
great idea. If anyone were to drive my car while under the influence, that would be it for the car. I would discuss the implications of drinking , etc .but I would immediately ask to rematch. I do not want anyone with such poor judgement or even a disease ( and I believe alcoholism is a disease ) taking care of my kids. I make this clear at the outset.

OB Mom October 8, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Difficult topic because we definitely enjoy our wine with dinner and don’t necessarily agree with the concept that we teach kids to drive here BEFORE we teach them how to drink responsibly, but that’s another story.

I do not get involved in setting lines for whether they consume alcohol outside our house even though they are underage, they know the consequences from their training. We do stand firm on the rule of no drinking and driving. My approach is to emphasize that if they do end up in a situation where they are uncomfortable with their situation (regardless of age) that they should feel no fear about calling us at any time of the night. We may not be able to pick them up, but would certainly encourage them to take a cab that we would pay for. There would be no consequences because it would actually show personal responsibility, but we would talk about the risks she could be exposing herself to (including being kicked out of the country).

We have not had a situation where these behaviors impacted their job performance, but having a curfew on work nights also decreases this risk. But if they were not functional because of late-night partying we would have to consider a rematch.

Regarding the transition from under to over 21, we’ve had 2 AP’s that turned 21 in America. Both increased their social activity once they were 21, and both said that life here is “more fun” when you are over 21. Both were very responsible with the regards to transportation having designated drivers in their group that rotated around. I think that the consequences of DUI’s in other countries are quite severe, and since both could drink in their own countries they seemed to understand. That being said, I do have to say that for both AP’s my adult friends and I took them out to celebrate their 21st B-Day’s in style. We tried to show them that even though your are “old” you can still have fun with a “girls night out”! My friends were actually crazier (but not drunker) than theirs.

NewAP Mom October 8, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I haven’t been in this situation so this is all theoretical. But I think that the way you handle this depends on what kind of relationship you want to have with your au pair.

For me, I don’t want to be my au pair’s stand-in mom. I want my au pair to be an adult who is old enough to take care of herself and make her own decisions. I have to reciprocate by treating her as such.

We also have a work-night curfew, and a rule that she absolutely may not drive our car when she’s been drinking, no matter how little she drank. We also have a curfew for the car. Beyond that, and unless it’s interfering with her job, her personal life is her business.

I am also one of those people who just doesn’t think it makes much sense that people can’t drink here until they’re 21, truth be told. So I’m willing to give some leeway to someone who drinks occasionally but responsibly, even if she’s underage. If she’s making poor and immature decisions about drinking, chances are that she’s making poor and immature decisons elsewhere too, which would be grounds for a rematch.

Franzi October 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm

in my first HF there was a no drinking rule in place and i respected it. but i have to say that it was very tempting when i was out to just have someone order a drink for me.
and their rules about car use were so strict that even though both parents have been drinking (eg when we went to a restaurant), i was not allowed to be the designated driver but instead had to take the back seat while one of them drove.
my second HF said that they don’t want me to drink outside of the home but occasionally offered me a glass of wine or a beer for dinner. i never accepted but having the option definitely eased the “urge” to have a drink when in company.
i don’t want this to sound like i’m an alcoholic. but when you are used to having a drink with your friends or family over a nice meal, it is a big change to suddenly have everyone else drinking but you are not allowed.

Ann from NE October 8, 2009 at 8:40 pm

My husband and I don’t regularly drink for various health reasons, but one of the reasons we did want both au pairs to be over 21 was to enable them to go out socially and be more independent from us and develop their own network of friends. Neither were heavy partiers, thank God. We avoided the drunk driving issue completely since we required none of our au pairs to drive (public transportation is good enough in our urban area). However, when we celebrated the birthday parties of each and holiday meals at home we made sure we had their preferred wine, beer, or champagne on hand. I think we probably would have done that even if they were underage, since I knew they wouln’t be drivng after that. I grew up in a European origin household where even children were allowed to taste some wine at holidays so there was no “forbidden fruit” issue later on.

Sabrina October 9, 2009 at 4:46 am

I sometimes wonder about the North American approach on drinking alcohol. We are Europeans and live in Europe. We have had several babysitters from the US and Canada (all of them under 21) and almost all of them drank a lot of alcohol whenever they had the opportunity to do it (basically several times a week). They were proud of and amused by the things they and their North American friends did when drunk (they often took pictures and showed us afterwards). Way before we had children I was an high school exchange student in the US and noticed how fascinated many American kids were by alcohol. Later on, I became an AuPair in the US and while there were some AuPairs, who did like to party and/or drink heavily, most of us did not. The majority of our friends and family here very rarely drink and our European AuPairs (without exceptions) have never even asked about drinking, even though my husband sometimes has a beer or glass of wine. Several people already commented on how they had AuPairs, who were not interested in drinking. Maybe if drinking alcohol is not a taboo/problem it becomes less interesting. Not that anybody here could change your laws but maybe this is a theoretical approach worth to be considered.

Emma October 9, 2009 at 7:32 am

I agree with Sabrina: ‘Maybe if drinking alcohol is not a taboo/problem it becomes less interesting.” My family always let my my brother and me drink a beer or glass of wine with them at family functions and neither of us ever developed any kind of ‘ooh, lets go out drinking’ complex.

HOWEVER the laws in the US are as they are not because of a complex among teens (that developed after) but because the public transportation in most of the US is so shoddy and drunk driving is such a huge problem that the gov’t has had to up the minimum age in hopes of reducing the amount of people able to drive drunk. It hasn’t really worked, kids still drink and drive, but one of the reasons I think the lower age limit works in Europe is because the public transportation and availability of safe bicycle routes (as I’ve observed/utilized it at least) is much much more efficient than in the US.

Jane October 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

I agree with Emma about the U.S. tranportation issue relating to the drinking age. If my au pair drank, illegally or not, chances are she would be driving, as we live in a very rural area where she does not have many friends nearby to carpool with. I would not want her to be in that situation–tempted to have just one drink–and then drive home. There’s no way we can know if our au pairs will obey our no drinking and driving law until they come home drunk. They probably won’t be drunk after one drink, but they might be a bit more tired, a bit slower to react, and if something happens unexpectantly on the road, it could cause an accident. Accidents are usually a combination of factors, after all.

I find it surprising that many HMs have no probelm giving au pairs a curfew, but then feel reinforcing the underage drinking law is interfering with their personal life. If you really want to treat your au pair like an adult, why have a curfew?–wouldn’t you trust them to know when they need to come home at night in order to be refreshed in the morning? Some of us have learned from experience that some au pairs won’t come home early enough to get the sleep than they really need without our curfew–that’s why so many of us impose one. I have to admit, I felt I was being too much like a “mom” when I finally imposed a curfew–but I had to, because my au pair was getting home at 3 am every night.

So why is it different with saying you can’t break a U.S. law when you are living in my house? Maybe I’m naive, but I didn’t break the law and drink before 21, and I will encourage my children to obey the law too. If I want them to obey the law, how can I say it was okay for their au pair to break it while she was here? I think this is about more than just whether or not you are drinking, it’s about respecting and obeying a country’s laws. I know not everyone agrees with the US drinking age, but until it changes, I’m encouraging my au pairs to follow it.

CoCa October 9, 2009 at 9:47 am

Jane – it’s interesting that you should bring up the issue of curfews because I do agree with you, I don’t like the idea of curfews because if my au pair doesn’t figure out for herself that as a responsible adult you should come home in time to get a solid 7-8 hours sleep before going to work, I am not sure that she should be working for me in the first place.

The only reason I put a curfew in my handbook (and so far, we have not had to enforce or even discuss it) was that our LCC said we ought to. I guess the reasoning behind that was that IF there should be a problem, you can at least start by pointing out that there is a curfew and if the AP is of the firm opinion that no, she is fine on 3 hours sleep, then it doesn’t really matter as there is a curfew.

Sabrina – might I hazard a guess that you live in a central or southern Europan country? My roots are in Northern Europe (Scandinavia and the UK) and there, young people do have a pretty unhealthy obsession with alcohol, too.

In fact, in Britain in particular, the issue of young drunks completely taking over the inner cities on Friday and Saturday night, with all that it brings in the form of noise, fighting, questionable sexual relations and so on, is becoming a huge problem.

In the south of England, there are particular seaside resorts where teenagers, many of them only 15-16 years old, flock every summer with the sole purpose of drinking ’round the clock. Only this past summer, several of them lost their lives in drink-related accidents such as falling off cliffs into the ocean. My impression is that many British parents shrug their shoulders at underage drinking because ‘it’s what we did, too’.

Although I am the first to agree that the 21+ law in America is strange and silly, and that this in combination with the public transportation system has possibly created a warped attitude to drinking even among adults, I also do think it’s nice to be raising kids in an environment where you don’t have to worry that your children and their friends will have intoxication as their main hobby from the age of 15. In fact, it’s nice to be in a place where people are RAISING their kids, period, as I don’t feel this is always the case in some areas of Europe.

Sabrina October 9, 2009 at 9:59 am

CoCa – it’s Switzerland and without meaning to strengthen possible prejudices I did have Swedish, Finnish and Irish AuPairs in mind when I said there were some AuPairs, who really liked to drink and I think part of it has to do with alcohol being so expensive in their home countries. Nonetheless, I entirely agree – nobody should be drinking and driving, AuPairs under 21 should not be drinking while in the US and it is definitely a goal worth persuing to keep one’s children away from drinking. My point was just that a very strict ban on alcohol (for whatever reason) might backfire as I have seen it happening with three Canadian and two American babysitters, who worked for us. They made a sport out of drinking and doing the most embarrasing things when drunk and I found it stunning to see how proud they were of their “drinking skills”.

CoCa October 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

Sabrina – I think we are totally in agreement, I just wanted to point out that Europe isn’t really one single culture in this regard.

I believe that in order to fully understand a country’s alcohol culture, you have to go far back in history and look at everything from religion to socioeconomics and the plain and simple question of what types of alcoholic beverages have been available and in what context.

For example, I think excessive drinking in Scandinavia, particuarly Sweden and Finland, has its roots in the fact that these are not wine countries – traditionally, farmers and industrial workers have been drinking distilled spirits (sometimes they were even paid with them), and since they lived in cold places, drinking was quite frankly often a way to keep warm and forget the misery of the long, dark winters.

In southern Europe, wine has always been the drink of choice and the climate and social culture has been warmer, so people have been getting together in large groups to share meals with accompanying wine. These communities have also, I believe, had stronger social control, meaning that people living in close proximity keep an eye on each other and conform to acceptable levels of drinking.

I think that what we are seeing today is the effect of many years of conditioning, both socially and politically, and of course America has its own history to explain its attitudes to drinking.

Sabrina October 9, 2009 at 12:41 pm

This turns out to be quite a learning experience here! I had never thought about the wine in the South and distilled spirits in the North question. Thank you for pointing that out!

E2 October 9, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Philisophical discussion on drinking age aside…we had an underage au pair that was going through the process of creating a fake id. She even bought a laminating machine (who knows, maybe she was going to produce some for the other au pairs). We put an end to it, but our trust in her was severely damaged. We know that the underage girls get together at one house or another (usually when the host parents are not home) and binge drink. We’ve found the evidence at our home and in reading Facebook pages…and in having older au pairs that have mentioned that they do the buying. So we talk about drinking a lot when interviewing, and focus on over-21 au pairs when going through the selection process.

Dorsi October 9, 2009 at 7:31 pm

My husband and I had some disagreement about the curfew issue (I know this is a little off topic, but just continuing the thread). He is appalled that your employer could control your personal life. The central problem for me is that if my AP has had 3 hours of sleep and spends the day alone with my infant, she might feel like she is doing a good job. As long as she works hards, she can probably keep the baby out to trouble, feed the baby and put her down for naps. Because I have such a small child, I would have no way of knowing if they spent the entire day with AP snoozing on the floor in front of the TV. Because her work is not directly observed or measured (unlike an accountant who has a list of tasks to complete, and is doing there job well if they do the appropriate tasks), I think I can require her to be prepared in a certain way for work.

This is why the doctors at my work can surf the internet and take breaks as they please, and the nurses can’t. It is the difference between a job which you are paid for each hour you put in versus the work that you actually accomplish.

So, we require that AP is home 8 hours prior to starting work.

Ann for NE October 9, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Although neither of our au pairs drove, we encouraged them to get a state photo ID to prove their age (>21), a standard procedure at the local Registry of Motor Vehicles, partially so they wouldn’t need to carry their passports around and risk losing them, and partially so they could get into over-21 locations for their social lives.

just wondering October 10, 2009 at 6:22 am

This is a little off-topic, but I still don’t totally get the curfew thing. Well, I get it, but I just don’t see how it ensures that your au pair gets a decent amount of sleep. Your au pair could stay up all night watching movies/talking on skype/on the internet even if she didn’t leave the house that night, right?

Theresa October 10, 2009 at 9:21 am

Yes, but I think you are much more likely to go to bed at a decent time when you are hanging out by yourself at home, than when you are out with your friends.

Anonymous October 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm

An executive in my oarganization was interviewed by a business magazine and she was asked how she handles three children, a husband, a job, two dogs, an apartment in the city, and a house in Connecticut. Her answer was ” I only require three hours of sleep “. I do not know if that was tongue in cheek . It was many years ago. Now , I read Zen literature all the time that mentions the importance of sleep. At the time , the woman I referred to was regarded as an outstanding role model for working women.

Emma October 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

“An executive in my oarganization… she was asked how she handles three children,… her answer was “I only require three hours of sleep “.

A woman in my HM’s class (she’s gone back to university for a masters or something) asked the professor a very similar question. The professors response? “I have an au pair.”

NewAP Mom October 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Ha ha, Emma, I’ve actually said that to people mself. Even with the problems I had with my last au pair, I still think that having an au pair is the key to juggling everything in my life. We thought about putting the kids in daycare and then thought about all of the logistical problems it would create that are just solved with an au pair… decided to try the au pair route again. What I can’t understand is why everyone doesn’t have an au pair.

You guys may be right about the futility of a curfew. I had actually just added it to my handbook to try to prevent some of the problems we had with our last au pair. In retrospect it probably wouldn’t have solved those problems anyway (since she did indeed never go out, but stayed up all night on the computer instead) and our next au pair seems much more responsible so it probably won’t be an issue.

LVMom October 11, 2009 at 1:10 am

I have a Swedish au pair who is under 21. I have had ZERO issues with drinking. She does go out and they do let her into clubs (she is a beautiful girl) and I have warned her about having drinks while in the club as there are tons of undercover cops. She dances and comes home, doesn’t drink at all. As for curfew, I have one. I think they are important as she is taking care of the most important people in my life and can’t do it on 3 hrs sleep. My previous au pair I had to tell her no tv and computer after 11 pm because she would stay up until all hours of the night and I would have to wake her up the next morning AND she would be tired all day. Once I put an end to that I had no further issues.

aussiegirl October 11, 2009 at 3:15 am

I was only 20 when an I was aupair in the US so I had been at legal drinking age in Australia for 2 years.I always stuck to the rules of not drinking. I am not a big drinker anyway and was occassionally offered drinks by the family on special occasions and refused. I only had one drink the whole year. when my mum was visiting and we crossed the border into canada where I was legal. Now at 24 i still rarely have a drink!

Calif Mom October 11, 2009 at 9:11 am

Ann from NE — funny, at first I thought you meant Nebraska, and then you said no driving because public transit was good enough, and I thought… In Lincoln? I can’t imagine making an AP take a bus (do they even have trains in Lincoln?) in the winter. Then I realized NE was regional. :-)

As for only getting APs under 21, if you want to have any hope of them extending for a second year (which we are really appreciating–now that we have a good thing going, it’s lovely to not have to deal with transition issues for awhile) you would have to get someone really young to go that route.

Our APs have always been on the older side, a product of our wise LCC’s advice to get someone who has lived independently before. (age doesn’t make them immune to immaturity!) but we have not had problems with drinking and driving, even with the AP who did the ‘walk of shame’ back home one Sunday morning while we were returning from a grocery run. Fancy strappy heels in hand, raccoon-eyed and slightly dazed, she was dropped off by a guy in a camaro. I thanked the powers that my girls were too young to have a clue at that time. This would not be so easy to brush off now that I have a 4th grader. As my girls get older, I have to think harder about the role model aspect of all this.

Our party girl from Brazil had such passion for our girls, and such enthusiasm for life in general that I was able to look past some of those wild nights. She wasn’t on duty, and as long as someone else picked her up and she wasn’t driving, it wasn’t my business. It’s all a balance, right? There is no perfect, but there is alignment with your values. That’s the important part, it seems to me.

Calif Mom October 11, 2009 at 9:13 am

Which I guess is to say that I myself may have done the walk of shame once or twice in college…. ;-) You only get to be 21 once…

StephinBoston October 12, 2009 at 8:56 am

CalifMom, lol re: “Walk of Shame” we’ve all been there (well most us us anyway..) All my APs have been over 22, and I haven’t had any problems with drinking. I’m with you, not driving, fine by me, you can party just not on work nights :-)

TX Mom October 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I think the biggest concerns I have about AP drinking are related to safety and responsibility. The AP’s maturity have been key – rather than her legal age. Young people don’t have a good sense of safety (or at least I didn’t!) and I worry now about my role as a host parent. I usually discuss with each AP about “What if I have to make a call home to your parents because you are missing? I can’t tell them that I have no idea where you are or who you are with…” Alcohol usually makes the situation worse – where did they crash and with whom? I ask for some information in advance when they go out and a text message when they don’t come home. As for responsibility, when I was young I knew the consequences of the law or school or sports leagues if I got caught drinking and I made calculated risks (OK, I gambled.) As a HM, I make sure the AP understands the consequences of underage drinking and I insert my nose at times. “If you are going camping with some AP’s who are not legal age, be aware that word (or pictures) could spread back to the LCC or other HF’s.” I definately don’t want an AP to get deported for underage drinking. I do remember being their age; I spent summers in Europe between 18 – 21 years old and drinking legally was a big deal to me!

Anonymous October 12, 2009 at 2:13 pm

This is something that I think about all the time . Who is going to tell the aupair’s parents that she has gone missing and what am I going to say when they ask why I let her go ? If an aupair asks me why I do not want her to go to certain places or dress a certain way, that this going to be my response: I want to be able to tell her parents that I told her it was not appropriate. I will be sad but my conscience will be clear.
Suppose some unsavory character shows up at my door and says she hit his or her car ? Suppose she wakes up someplace and cannot tell us where she is ?

PA aupair mom October 12, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Our current AP is 21 and from Sweden. She drinks occasionally but definitely is not a party animal.

Our last au pair was 18/19 and German. She had been drinking in Germany since age 15 and she refused to believe that it was against the law to do so here. We warned her about drinking in public where she might get caught but she continually ignored our advice.

Her last month here, she got arrested for underage drinking. She had to pay a nearly $400 fine and appear before the judge.

Maja-former exchange student October 26, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Coca, about the teenagers in britain who goes away to party in the summer. I’ve seen the same thing in the states. Last summer i went to country fest in wisconsin and there where so much underage drinking, but no one cared.

I was an exchange student when I was 17-18 years old. In the beging of the year I was really scared to get sent home so i didn’t drink at all but in the end of the year all my friends drank so i went with them. However, i never rode with anyone who had been drinking and I usually spent the night at a friends house after a party since i lived quite far away and i didn’t want to to wake host parents. I also told my host parents where i was going and where i was staying.

As an exchange student i wasn’t responable for children and i didn’t have to act like a role model. So i think an au pair should be able to go to parties and drink a little, but preferable spend the night somewhere else (he or she should not be drinking if he or she has to take care of the children the next morning). It is also important that the AP tells the HF where she is going so that they don’t have to worry. Drinking and driving is absolutely not accepted!

Maja from Sweden!

Anonymous October 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Most children who are killed by intoxicated drivers are passengers in the car with the intoxicated driver. I was told this by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I do not want someone who has been up all night driving my children anywhere ever and I do not want someone caring for them who is grouchy because she has a headache or a sick stomach.

Anonymous host mom (another one, this time)(another host mom, this time) October 26, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Thankfully, neither of my au pairs Both of my au pairs have been physically and mtired enough from the demand

Anonymous host mom (another one) October 26, 2009 at 10:12 pm

(Sorry, hit the “submit” button too early). I don’t think the AP position should be compared to an exchange student experience or standards. It’s a full-time, live-in childcare position in which the host parents are entrusting the safety and lives of their children to an AP. While usually the AP will know her working hours well ahead of time, she also may sometimes be called upon to work last-minute, so she should always assume she needs to be well-rested and clear-thinking. The daytime demands of providing full-time childcare is physically more demanding than many APs expect, I think. (Look at the exhaustion of young mothers!) And then add on evening obligations to attend courses and do homework to complete the AP academic credit requirement; spend time with host family, AP friends, calling home on Skype, etc. I think that there are enough reasons that APs get tired, without adding alchohol unnecessarily into the mix. If an AP is driving, you don’t want her tired or using bad judgement; but the same is if she’s taking your young, fast-moving toddler somewhere on public transportation where they have to cross busy city streets.

Anonymous October 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Lots of people need to come to work with their wits about them: doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, bus drivers , police officers, etc This is a job , too. Aupairs need to be sharp in mind and body and although we all know that a 21 year old body is a wonderful thing ,
groggy minds from late nights of partying cross generational lines.

NewAPMama July 1, 2010 at 2:41 pm

We do not allow alcohol, smoking, or anything else in our home due to religious reasons. My current aupair does not drink. I would prefer to continue with aupairs who also do not drink. If this is not an option, then they may only drink if they are of age, and they are not to come back at curfew drunk. That is not something I want my daughters to see.

PA AP mom March 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I know this is an old post but I have never had this problem before.

Hubby and I were away from our home for the weekend. He in Vegas for guys’ weekend and me at my parents’ house with our kids.

On Friday, our AP asked to go to another AP’s house for the evening. I said “ok”. It involves driving 25-30 miles one way.

On Saturday, I ran by the house to get something that I had forgotten. Our AP car wasn’t there but the other AP’s car was in our driveway. No one was home.

I sent her a text and asked what she had planned. She said “C and I stayed at our house last night and now we are just hanging out and then going to a movie in H (30 minutes away) tonight and I am staying at C’s house”. No problem.

When we returned to my parents’ house, I was reading my FB and there was a post from my au pair that talked about playing beer pong the night before. Someone commented on the difficulty of the game and she said “I know. I was really bad at it”.

So, this means that she was drinking beer and then driving back home to our house afterwards. The worse you are at beer pong, the more you have to drink. I am not sure how much drinking she did, but it was at least some and then she drove home.

We confronted her about it last night and she denied drinking. She then promptly erased the post off her FB wall. She also erased a comment from a guy saying how nice it was to meet her at Friday night’s party.

I feel like I can’t trust her now.


PA AP mom March 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm

And she’s only 20.

emmiejane March 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I think I would bring in the LCC for a discussion about it. I feel that this very serious, and this kind of behavior (driving after drinking) could be life altering for her and another person.

Our au pair doesn’t drive; we are working on it, but she hasn’t gotten proficient enough yet. That said, she hangs out with other au pairs, who drive her around. They are often out very, very late. The other day she told us how her friend, who was really drunk, refused to give up the keys to her host family’s car. So, my au pair and her other friends followed her home in another car to “ensure everything was alright.” I’m sure the host family has no idea. We have made it a mantra, don’t ever drive with anyone drinking-call us at whatever time. This could end someone’s life, and so on. My au pair’s story made me wonder how often this is happening; they are young, drinking makes you lose judgement, and then a lot of the social life seems to happen at least in my au pair’s circles, at like 4 in the morning-when I think reality seems blurred. Not to be an old fogey, but as my Dad always says nothing good happens after midnight.

That said, there is just so much at risk with this kind of behavior. I would bring in that third person mediator, the LCC, and discuss it with her again. You can tell her it is such an important issue, you think it bears another conversation. Tell her, you need her to be honest, and that you are very concerned for her safety and the safety of others. See where the conversation goes, but if she doesn’t admit it, and it was clearly on her FB page, that would cause a serious lack of trust. I’m not sure where I would go from there, but I definitely would not let this go.

Amanda March 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I’ve played beer pong, but didn’t drink (my partner did) because I knew I had to drive home. It is possible to play, but not drink. That may or may not be the case here. But I think it is only fair to give her the benefit of the doubt, and at least hear her out before you pass judgement on the situation. Just my two cents…

Anon for this March 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

Yeah, I’ve had a similar experience of late in our cluster. Our au pair actually decided to stay overnight where she was, but the others left her and drove home after drinking until 4, at several which our au pair admitted had too much to drink. On this, I went ahead and told our LCC and gave her the names of the girls. Many were not within our group, but basically I gave her the information I had and let her take it where she felt she should with her girls and the other LCCs. I have no idea what happened but I felt an obligation to spill those beans and my LCC reinforced that I should have done that. I would absolutely want to know if my au pair drove drunk or there was any suggestion of that. It takes a village.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm

PA AP mom, I know you’ve posted here frequently, but what I can’t tell from your post is:
1) how long your AP has been with you
2) did/do you actually like your AP?

How you react depends on those key factors, really. One AP who has been “the favorite” initially made bad choices in friends which led her to make bad decisions about how to lead her life. We did our best to tread lightly (the friend played her hand, DH and I revealed our own growing up stories) and we all able to move forward. I don’t think drunk driving was involved however.

I agree with emmiejane. For this, you must bring in the LCC, because your AP made it 2 issues 1) the potential for drunk driving (can’t prove it, can suspect it, so maybe a stiff warning — and, if you need to, you take all the sets of keys to the car with you when you travel) and 2) how she presents herself on FB (it wasn’t “cute” to you, and it won’t be “cute” to the next person who reviews her application, even if it’s in her home country).

Before you sit down to the table with her, decide what you want out of it? Do you trust her with your kids? Has she been doing her job adequately? Has she been participating in the AP program – attending meetings & classes? Is it worth you to finish out your year with her? Then, tread lightly. But, make it clear to her that drunk driving is a felony in this country, and you do not have resources to prevent her from spending a night in prison. In the future, when she takes your car, she will have to refrain from drinking alcohol, and that may mean spot checks and not keeping the car out all night until you feel that you are able to trust her again. And why, because you could not live with yourself if she totaled the car and you had to call her parents and say she was injured/dead, and you hope she couldn’t live with herself if she killed someone or permanently injured someone else.

(And yes, for the record, DH and I routinely left town with all the car keys for one AP whose driving was inadequate – she didn’t drink and drive, but we didn’t want her driving when we couldn’t ask for a phone number for her destination.)

My handbook says “Don’t drive drunk. If you find yourself in a position when you cannot drive home call us in the middle of the night. REALLY.” Personally, I’d rather bitch about an AP who called me at 3 am to pick her up, then to have to call her parents and give them bad news the next day. REALLY.

PA AP mom March 22, 2011 at 11:05 am

Our AP has been with us since the first week in October. We do genuinely like her. Our boys adore her. Prior to this she had shown very good judgment, save one breaking of curfew which wasn’t a big deal.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

My recommendation then would be to call a meeting with the LCC (if your LCC is good at what she does), and talk about her strengths and not to enter rematch, but to have a serious discussion about your trust and her violation of it.

You need to decide what the punishment will be: restriction of car privileges, no overnight trips with the car, etc.

I would also recommend having a serious discussion with her about the public face with which she presents herself.

My 2 cents March 22, 2011 at 9:31 am

Ugh. This is an awful situation.

Honestly, I’d take the car away for weekend night use until you are comfortable again with her. Maybe that’s next week, next month, or never. But you absolutely cannot afford to risk it. The fact that you feel that you cannot trust her says a lot. And I wouldn’t either for what little that is worth. Sorry, but you do not actively engage in beer pong and not drink. The other players don’t invite you — especially men that want to get you drunk and tend to be the ones engaging and encouraging your involvement — unless you do. That’s the point and the “fun.” My bet is she’s lying to you out of desperation and embarrassment.

Doing what I’m recommending or really taking other disciplinary action including bringing in the LCC to give the lecture may damage your relationship permanently with her, but in my book it’s worth it. She can get rides to weekend parties or take a taxi.

Should be working March 22, 2011 at 10:13 am

My handbook says in capital, bold letters that drinking&driving, unstrapped passengers, letting other people drive our car, and texting or phoning while driving are all grounds for immediate rematch. I talk about this with AP candidates on the phone in a serious tone. I talk about it in a serious tone when they arrive. I talk about it again when they start going out and staying out late.

It’s not that I think that talking about these things and emphasizing them will actually make such a difference in whether or not the AP does them (although I hope it does); the real reason for my harping on it is that if she STILL does any of these things after I’ve been so clear and obvious and intense, then I can truly say that she just has bad judgment and it’s over. So all the hype I do about this is also for my own benefit, it gives me the chance not to question myself if any of these behaviors occur.

I’ve been lucky so far that it hasn’t been an issue for us. (touching wood.)

Chev March 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I’d also mention to her that getting caught drinking underage gets you sent straight home (i had a friend with CC, she drank underage, her HF found out and asked for rematch and CC said that drinking underage = breaking the law = plane ticket home ASAP) and that getting caught drink driving gets you locked up for the night and then home the next day (neighbours AP with APIA, got picked up from the station in the morning and flew home that night)

Gianna March 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I find this to be a big dilemma with FB. I learn alot of stuff that I am d**m glad I know but sorry I know, too. I do not want to spill the beans and announce that I know these things because showing my hand will cause my sources to dry up. For instance, this past New Year’s , I read an announcement on FB, inviting the entire aupair world to my neighbor’s house for a party. My husband told me to mind my own business.
Probably , your aupair will adjust her privacy settings or unfriend you. Maybe she will be more circumspect in her comments. She may stop drinking and driving. Personally, I would not count on that. I would probably take away the use of the car. That is a real pain in the tail. I hate being a bad cop. Do you trust your LCC ? Can you have the LCC drive this home in writing as well as verbally ?

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