(Sorry All- I know the formatting is messed up. So much for trying to post from the Garden State Parkway. Here it is, in odd form, until I can fix it tomorrow. ;-) )
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s driving the behavior of an au pair ( or anyone else for that matter, but we’re talking about au pairs). This host mom, below, has an au pair whose commitment has wane. The au pair blames this on a schedule she dislikes.
To her credit, this host mom has done a lot to make the au pair’s job and schedule reasonable. She even has a second caregiver helping out in the mornings. But no matter what she’s done, the au pair is grumpy and withholds her enthusiasm.
Most of us have been in this situation ourselves. How much do we tweak, how much do we lower our expectations, and when do we just tell our aupair to buck up?
Dear Au Pair Mom-
I am a first time HM and am a stay-at-home mom from SC. I have 4 kids under three years old, three of whom are triplets. My 21-year old AP (from France) has been with us for almost 10 months. She understands and speaks English fairly well.
Our au pair has her own bedroom, her own car, we are paying for a cell phone with a texting plan (we don’t use texting at all, she does), she has a TV plus a Roku device in her own bedroom, has her own bathroom. Her bedroom is on the first floor, while our bedroom and the children bedrooms are upstairs. She works 44 hours per week. Her schedule used to be 7-8 am, noon-4 pm, 5-8 pm (we discussed having her work from noon through 8 pm, during the interview process and she was fine with this), plus 4 hours on Sunday afternoon (except for her weekend off). She takes English lessons at the local technical college on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
She loves the kids and does a great job when she is “happy”. However, every few weeks, she disengages (doesn’t interacting with the kids despite being physically present in the room), becomes withdrawn and sulks for a few days. If I inquire if something is wrong, she answers “no”. This has been going on for the last few months and I am getting really tired with her attitude and her expectations. I just need your advice to make sure that my expectations are reasonable and that I am not the one being unreasonable in this situation.
While expecting my triplets, a nanny was helping me with my oldest child, and she has been helping me ever since. The nanny used to help me from 8 am through 5 pm, but a couple of months ago, I cut her hours down to 4 hours per day, so she is now helping me from 8 am through noon, Monday through Friday.
About three months into her year, our AP started telling me that she wanted the 8 to 5 shift to which I replied that I could not do that because I specifically hired her to help me in the afternoons and evenings. I thought that this was the end of it.
She has also been complaining that she is bored because we always do the same thing (i.e. don’t get out of the house except for walks in the neighborhood) and don’t change our routine. Even though, I explained to her that it is hard to go out with children who are this young, especially when you have four of them. Anyhow, despite what I told her, I have been trying to organize one outing per week in an attempt to break the routine and get out of the house. She is now complaining that when we go out with the kids, we go out for too long (we are usually out for 1 to 2 hours) and it wears her out.
Last weekend, she talked to my husband and I and told us that her days were too long and she wanted her hours to be more compressed. After our discussion, I changed her schedule from 11 am through 8 pm with a break from 4-5. This week, I asked her if she liked the new schedule better and if she felt more rested. She told me that her day is still very long and that she would rather work from 8 am through 5 pm. Her answer really surprised me, I must say.
If I point out that she forgot to fold the laundry, clean some toys or wash the bottles, she blames it on fatigue and tells me that I have come to expect so much and don’t realize that she is already working so hard.
I have been asking her to take her break from 3 through 4 pm, while all four children are taking their nap, but she refuses to do so, and always takes it from 4-5 pm. I suspect that she doesn’t want to take her break when they are napping, because if she “works” while they are taking their nap she is basically having a 2-hour break.
I feel that I have been putting up with a lot of her quirks (she is very picky with what she will or will not eat; we don’t drink coffee but we bought her a coffeemaker; I buy different bread for her because she doesn’t like whole grain bread, etc.) and have been bending over-backward to make her feel welcome and part of the family. However, I am now reaching the end of my rope. She seems to have no appreciation for anything we are doing for her and keeps dropping “hints” that she is bored and tired, that she is not living her American dream, etc, plus she keeps wanting to have her schedule changed.
We are planning to sit down with her and tell her that from now on her schedule will remain from 11 am through 8 pm and we will no longer discuss this. We are also planning to let her know that she will now take her break from 3-4 pm unless circumstances warrant for an exception.
Are we overreacting or are we totally within our rights to draw the line here? The whole point of us having an AP was to make my life easier, not to complicate it!
Thank you for your comments and advice.