A request from VtMom — Dear Au Pair Mom readers –I have a minor issue that’s been bothering me and wanted to solicit the collective wisdom of the group.
Compared to other posts on this blog, I have nothing to complain about. Instead, my issue surrounds something that’s “nice to have.”
Background: We have three children ranging in age from 3rd through 8th grade. Our kids are very busy and a lot of our AP role involves driving them – to school, activities, friends’ houses, etc – and cooking dinner for them a few evenings per week, supervising homework for the youngest, and serving as referee. It’s a 40-45 hour/week schedule, with rare weekend time that’s known well in advance. During their time together, the kids are getting ready for school, doing homework, eating and getting ready for bed. It’s rare during the week that all 3 have free time at the same time.
Our current AP is doing everything that she has been asked to do. She’s respectful of our rules, our belongings, always finishes the weekly tasks, is a good driver and I find her pleasant to have around. She’s followed through excellently with discipline for my youngest. She even volunteered to help shovel snow!
My biggest disappointment is that she has not developed much of a relationship with my kids.
[If I had little kids and my AP was home with them during the day I would feel differently, but with older kids, this is not a rematching matter.]
She’s friendly & affectionate toward the youngest, but I’d describe her relationship with the eldest as ambivalent. My eldest describes that the AP is “always on her phone” and the AP complains that my eldest is “always on the computer playing games.” There’s definitely some friction there, but I try to listen to both and to remain neutral.
I understand that it’s vastly easier to bond with a 5 yo than a 13 yo, but our previous AP managed to develop a good, warm relationship with each child just 1 year ago. My middle child is warm and cuddly, yet the AP has not made an effort to build a relationship and it’s not reasonable to expect a young tween to initiate it entirely on her own.
What might have led to this?
In retrospect, there were scheduling issues at the start of her year that limited opportunities to bond. Plus, the AP has a boyfriend in a different part of the country (did NOT know that before she arrived and probably would have passed on her had I known) so she’s often away and, consequently, has participated in only 1 family outing since she’s been here.
We invite her regularly, but she almost never eats dinner with us. I forced my kids to invite her to play board games with them on snow days – I think she would have been content to be on her phone all day while they played on their own.
At this point, we have 5 ½ months left. [[Why have I waited so long? Inertia. Waiting for the “right” time. Inability to confront this subtle issue head on.]] I can mandate car privileges, but it’s tough to force someone into a relationship that they don’t want to fully engage in. How do you tell a person who is doing all other parts of their job well that I want her to be more friendly and outgoing with the kids?
One specific guideline to change
While I can’t force her to develop a relationship, there’s one obvious thing that she does not do which I think would help. She makes dinner for the kids but then does not sit down to eat with them. All of our previous APs and nannies have eaten with the kids – perhaps not every day, but frequently enough that they’ve had time to chitchat and learn a bit about each other.
As I see it, I have a few choices:
Choice A: Let it be
My kids are so busy that, to be perfectly blunt, they don’t NEED a warm relationship with their caregiver. I could just chalk it up to a learning experience and, with future APs, be on the lookout for schedule issues & boyfriends that might limit early bonding. Also, with future APs, make it clear from the start that they should plan meals that they like to eat and sit down together with the kids at least once/week.
Choice B: Mandate that she eat dinner with them at least once/week
The menu is her choice, so I wouldn’t be forcing her to eat something she doesn’t like. I could couch it in terms that I’m surprised that she doesn’t sit down to eat with them and that one of the ways that our past APs got to know the girls better was to eat with them. I could also mention that communication would improve.
However, it’s possible that she just doesn’t like eating at this time…to which I think my response will be that she should sit down at the table with them even if she’s not going to eat. Any suggestions for how to have this conversation would be most appreciated.
Choice C: Hint. Ask her why she doesn’t eat with them.
Tell her that it would improve communication and give them all a chance to get to know one another better if she eats with them.
I see a risk in this approach that she doesn’t take my hint and then I will become resentful.
I’m leaning toward Choice B, but I would appreciate input from our community on advice on how to have this conversation.
While the advice is flowing, I’d appreciate any tips from those with older kids (those beyond the age of being read to or played with) on how you laid the groundwork for a positive relationship on both sides.
Thanks so much to everyone on AuPairMom — VtMommy