Integrating an Au Pair when your household has an Older Teen

by cv harquail on September 27, 2010

If you have both little kids and an older Teen, what are the things you need to consider as you plan for your Au Pair?

Carrie asks,¬†¬†because she and her husband are expecting a new baby, for whom she’d like an au pair caregiver. The challenge is that Carrie also has a son from a previous marriage who will be 16 when the family plans to welcome their au pair.

Carrie has two general concerns about having an au pair that are specific to the family also having a teenage boy: Car Sharing and Room Assignments.

Since there are so many things to consider, let’s try to take them chunk by chunk–

Car Sharing with A Teen-Age Host Kid

Since we will have an infant and there is a park withing walking distance, we don’t expect that there will be much need for the Au Pair to use a car for work duties. We are hoping that it’s acceptable to have a “junker” (but still reliable) car that she can use when she is off-duty, and which she will share with our 16 yr old son.

(Right now our son is actually more interested in video games than much of anything else, so I don’t foresee time sharing of the car being an issue at the moment. But, I’m thinking ahead.)


Room Location: Privacy for Au Pair or Teen?

We have a few options for which bedroom/bathroom our au pair could have. In our basement, we have two bedrooms: one is currently my son’s, which he has had since we moved in to the house. The other bedroom is really small, so we’ve made it an office. The basement has its own bathroom with a shower.

Upstairs we have the parents’ room (which has it’s own full bath). We have two bedrooms across the hall from ours, and a bathroom on this same floor with a tub (which anyone in the house could use). We’re planning to use one of thee bedrooms for the baby, the other is currently a guest room.

Our options include:

1. Putting our son on the second floor with us, and the au pair in the basement with her own bath OR

2. Having the au pair take the smaller bedroom downstairs (currently the office) and share the bathroom downstairs, OR

3. Having our son keep his room downstairs, and have the au pair take the ‘guest room’ on the second floor across from us.?

Do I displace my son from the basement so the Au Pair can have her privacy? How do I respond to our son’s need for privacy? Do I ask her if she wants to have the office instead of a room upstairs and let them both be on the same floor?

Maybe a Manny with a Teen Age Boy??

(In response to my/CV’s question about a “manny”):

My son, so far, hasn’t had much interest in girls (it’s all video games right now). We are aware that this is likely to change in the near future. We are looking for an au pair who is slightly on the ‘older’ side, and so we imagine that there won’t be many complications for our teenage son with the Au Pair, other than basic privacy concerns.

We have considered (and would still consider) a male Au Pair– my concern is that searching for a male Au Pair might limit our options for a good match and infant experience. I’d love readers’ thoughts on that.

Other Considerations

And overall, how do other Au Pair host parents feel something like this works when you already have a teenager in the house? Is there anything I haven’t thought of directly related to this situation? We’d appreciate any input– Carrie


PA AP mom September 27, 2010 at 4:37 pm

In my opinion, it makes the most sense to leave your son in the basement where he has his own space and put the au pair in the guest room upstairs. You have your own bathroom, so the only person she would be sharing with, on a regular basis, is the baby.

I think that displacing your son from his basement lair may make him resentful of the AP for taking “his space”. Having them in the basement together could make the AP feel uncomfortable.

Our AP shares a bathroom with our boys. It hasn’t been a problem. This allows her to have the biggest bedroom, other than our master.

aupairfamilienrw September 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I was AP in the stats 96 in nearly the same situation. My host sons have been 4 and 16 years old. For me it wasn’t a problem. The older son had his own life and spend nearly the whole weekdays at school. For him I realy wasn’t interesting and we didn’t have a close realtionship. In that Age 3 years are a lot. I was 19 that time.

The only “problems” I remember have been, that I sometimes at the beginning feelt “controlled” by watching his brother. But now as a hostmum I see it more as chance for you ;) You will have another adult at home how can speak and tell you if somethings wont run the way you aspect.

I would make clear for AP and son that the AP is not in charge for him. But I think with 16 thats pretty clear. But you should also make clear for your son, that the AP is an adult and has the right to set limits.

The room question is hard to say. I would prefer as AP and as hostfamily the AP with his own bathroom downstairs. If your son will share a bathroom with her is maybe something you can aks himself and the AP.
My hostfamily was always in panic, that on of the sons could see me in underwear oder nightclothes. I think one of the reasons I was placed in the garage appartment. for me it wouldn’t be problematic, because he was ok and never was doing something straing.
One of our APs, she was a rematch, told us that she was always watched and not proper threated by her older hostsons 14 and 17. She always told me how uncomfortable she felt by sharing bathroom with the boys. So I think it also depends on the girls backround and the boys behavior.
An AP need a nice and confortable room. I wouldn’t place here next to the babys room. Because you will be up a lot of times during night and maybe don’t like the idea always to worrie that your AP can’t sleep or meets you in your pyjamas.

The car question is something which is bonus. Here I would make clear rules, that the AP has car for language courses and 1-2 nights to meet friends and your son also has 1-2 night for his dates. Is there public transportation/bike possible?

Wish a good start with the baby from germany.

AnonHM Europe September 28, 2010 at 2:49 am

When I lived with an american family as an exchange student at the age of 17 I had two host-brothers, 14 and 18. We all had to share a bathroom and there was no problem with that. I would never have “romantic” feelings with the boys – they were my “brothers” and taken as that. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind if they saw me in T-shirt and underwear since they would see me at the pool in my bikinis – I (still) can’t figure out the difference.
I would let your son make the choice where he wants to stay and depending on this, let the AP decide on the remaining options. As your son I would probably want to stay in “my” room.
As an AP, I would probably prefer to be far away from they baby and have a smaller room (office) and share the bathroom with the teenage-boy.

You might consider, that your son will be influenced by the AP in further ways: He will have to share you not only with the baby (even though he might seem almost adult it will probably bother him nevertheless that the center of your universe will adjust) but also with the AP. Especially in the beginning the AP will need a lot of attention. I would recommend to point out that the AP is also for his benefits: He will have much less child-caring duties (as you might expect from an almost adult brother) because of her. He won’t have to clean up after the baby, he won’t have to feed her, no changing diapers while the AP is on duty. (I have a 10-year-older sister who after almost 40 years is still complaining about having to do all that plus taking me with her when meeting with her friends etc.)

What are his feelings of having an AP? Would he like to rather have a manny? I have heard that mannies are often much more dedicated to their jobs, since they really want to show their abilities. On the other hand – call me strange – I wouldn’t take a manny with a little baby-girl (of a girl in kindergarten-age). I would prefer AP-girls in this case.

Noelle September 28, 2010 at 8:49 am

I have a similar situation, at least with having kids so far apart in age – 3, 9 and (nearly) 16.

My nearly 16 yo is saving toward buying her own car. If that goal changes, my plan was to continue using Google Calendar (a shared family calendar that we all have edit-level access to), and place the burden on them to block off the dates and times they need the 3rd car. In our case, the car is required for our au pair to do her job during the day, so my oldest has to continue riding the bus for the foreseeable future. The dilemma will be with nights and weekends. I have every expectation of not getting in the middle of car reservation squabbling – put in on the calendar, and work it out amongst yourselves. Hopefully they reach a point of being able to plan together, car pool, and be amicable instead of seeing it as a competitive situation.

As for the bedroom, I agree with PA AP MOM. Your son is already settled where he is. I wouldn’t want to invite the resentment by pushing him to move elsewhere in the house. On the other hand, it could raise questions with your au pair too (“but I’m older, why don’t i get more privacy, etc”). Whatever you decide, the one who gets assigned to the non-basement room might need a conversation with you to understand the decision.

franzi September 28, 2010 at 5:02 pm

as a former ap who lived in her own area under the roof and in another family had the bedroom on the same floor with everyone else i’d suggest the following: leave the teenager in the basement. it is a privacy thing but also a question of really having his own space.

as the baby will likely be a handful in the beginning i think it will help both you as parents and the ap if her/his room is on the same level as yours. sharing the bathroom with the baby or the occasional bathtub addict is not a problem imo.

regarding privacy for the ap, she will have her own room and that is what she is entitled to. the rules do not say s/he can’t stay on the same floor with you. there’s always a door s/he could close if the need for privacy might be.

AnnaAuPair September 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

I agree with the above posts, that you should leave your son in the basement to avoid resentful feelings.
I also agree, that a room with a door to close and sharing a bathroom with a baby isn’t really a problem. Only thing I would think about is: how thick are your walls? In my first hostfamily my room was right beside the babies room. Problem: The baby would wake up at night, waking me up too. I never complained, because that’s just what babies do and stuff, but still, it kept me from sleeping through the night and left me tired during the day (same as the parents).
Likewise, I had to be extra quiet when I was in my room. Having the TV on or listening to music, I always had to put the volume down a lot, so I wouldn’t wake the Baby.

Still, I guess I would put the Au Pair besides the Baby – just tell her how it is.

IF you consider getting a male Au Pair, I would say, there wouldn’t be any problems letting him sleep in the basement with your son. SHaring a bathroom with another male shouldn’t be that big of a problem.

Carrie September 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thanks for the advice so far! You have eased my concerns with what we were initally planning for the bedroom situation in the first place. My son would really not be happy about being re-located. Plus, during the day, if the baby is taking a nap and the au pair wants to catch some zzz’s at the same time her bedroom would be right there instead of a floor below, and that makes me feel a little better.

I really like the idea of a google calendar for the car use and even more specifically having them work it out amoungst themselves.

As far as room noise goes, it’s difficult to tell given the baby isn’t here yet. However, we can’t hear people snore in the guest bedroom, although we can hear my son’s alarm clock from downstairs through the air vents. We won’t have the au pair start until the baby is 4 months old, so I guess I can hope the baby isn’t quite as much of a handful by then.

Now I just need to figure out what agency to pick!

cv harquail September 29, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I’m a little bit concerned about the idea of having the au pair and teen Host Teen duke it out over who gets the car. The au pair is in a position of authority relative to the Host Teen, and likely she will also have more privileges when driving (e.g., longer distances, later at night) than the Teen. The AP and TH are not equal in terms of responsibility, age, experience, and (perhaps even) need for a car.

I think the Host Parent should create a set of outlines for sharing the car, for example that the Au Pair gets first dibs on her weekend off. Also, the host parents will need to take a much more active role in monitoring the Teen’s use of the car, following the guidelines, dealing with damage, sharing gas costs.

If you think about how much trouble Host Parents and Au Pairs have coordinating a shared car, when they are adults, imagine how hard it could be for a Teen and an Au Pair. Host Parents need to create the template and a set of procedures that the au pair and teen can start with, and then adjust from there. cvh

NewAPMama September 30, 2010 at 9:43 am

Thanks, CV. I was thinking that same thing.

Carrie September 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I do understand the concern. I didn’t really envision a “duke it out” sort of situation. Certainly car rules and general usage guidelines would be very clearly laid out for both of them, because after all an accident from either one of them raises our insurance. I’m also not assuming that the au pair will necessarily be a competent or experienced driver (mostly because we won’t need him or her to be as there is public transportation and the baby doesn’t need to be driven anywhere). I would certainly step in if there were an issue or either one of them remotely appears to be taking advantage of each other. Also, on the weekend off thing, the au pair will pretty much have every weekend off since my husband and I work 40+ during the week and are really going to have to keep close tabs on our schedules to make sure he or she stays under 45 hours. My son isn’t far off from going to college and does actually need to learn to manage his own time and learn how to work things with others on his own.

Certain events will have to take priority, such as the au pair getting to class and meetings, but my son getting to his extra-curriculars is just as important since those can be essential to scholarships and college applications. However, when neither of them “has” to get anywhere I think that as long as they can arrange things as fair as possible and in a way that makes sense (with curfews and whatnot) then I won’t see a need to step in.

I guess I also didn’t envision the au pair as being in a position of authority over my teen, nor do I necessarily feel that would be entirely approriate, since he would be picking up any babysitting hours that are over the limit of the au pair’s 45. Which is another thing that we realize would have to be clearly spelled out.

ex au pair September 29, 2010 at 5:45 pm

personally, because it is best not to move your son, I would give her the upstairs bedroom. Try to avoid using ‘her’ upstairs bathroom as much as possible so she really only shares with the baby. The problem with having her downstairs is that she would need to share with a teenage boy, and they are not usually particularly ‘neat’ when using the bathroom, which bothered me when I was an au pair. Also, having her upstairs with the baby highlights that she will care for the baby, not your son, and she is so close the the baby which is handy. But really, keeping the bathroom for her use mainly is best.

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