Is it the au pair’s schedule or is it her attitude?

by cv harquail on August 25, 2012

(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few weeks, she disengages (doesn’t interacting with the kids despite being physically present in the room), becomes withdrawn and sulks for a few days.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.
FrustratedMomofTriplets

{ 143 comments }

Anna August 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

If you are in America, check the rules of your agency – the break only counts as a break if it is at least two hours long. So you can have your au pair work 10 hours without a “break”, but otherwise one hour break is not long enough for her to truly do something in her time off.

That being said, she does sound like a passive-aggressive brat who wants to have nights off to socialize with friends (nothing wrong with wanting a different schedule but that was something agreed upon matching so I don’t think her demands are fair).

If I were you, I would give her a noon to 8 schedule without breaks, and make her work 5 hours a day on Sundays on weeks when she doesn’t have a weekend off, so she would work full 45 hours a week. On weeks she does have full weekend off, she can work 11 to 8 five days a week without a break, for full 45 hours.

Only two more months, I hope your next au pair is cheerful and a better match for your family

Penn AP Mom August 26, 2012 at 9:58 am

Where did you see the information about a break being 2 hours long? I’ve never seen this in any of the literature/information I’ve looked at from my agency (CCAP) or in the government documents. While I know that being the AP for 4 very young children is difficult, it sounds to me as if this mother is looking for extra help/support and has bent over backward to make her AP’s job easier – when none of her expectations are unreasonable. Having had a French AP, I don’t think I’d ever do it again. “Doom and Gloom” as we privately referred to her was in her mid-20’s, had worked as a nanny (according to her references/paperwork) and couldn’t understand why in the US we didn’t slap children for crying. Talk about not nurturing and regarding the agreed upon hours – turns out she worked less than 25 hours a week in France and felt the 45 hours for an AP was to much (although she had known about this prior to joining the program).

Taking a Computer Lunch August 25, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I’m finding myself sympathizing with your AP – 4 kids under 3 does require a lot of energy. My first AP had my 26-month-old (albeit The Camel, who then functioned around 3-6 months) and my 5-month old. I did not ask her to do housework, except for one load of laundry each week and to clean up the breakfast and lunch dishes before I got home. She worked a 7:30 to 4:00 schedule – most of her friends worked that or 8:30-5:00. Both DH and I worked (and continue to work) full-time outside the home – I selected at 6:30-3:00 schedule to accommodate evening classes, and 12 years later my employer still grumbles softly, but tolerates it.

What I have found over the years is that there is a fine line between “making my life easier” and “making a schedule that gives my AP no social life.” Your AP would probably prefer to work from 8 to 5:00 because that matches her friends’ schedule. I understand your needs – as the parent of 4 small children you want help putting them to bed when you’re exhausted yourself.

What about this? Make a deal with her – you’re willing to try scheduling her from 8 to 5 two days a week, if she can show that she is enthusiastic, energetic, and on top of her tasks all 5 days. Tell her your willing to try it out for two weeks, and if she shows the same general lack of enthusiasm she has shown all year, you intend to switch her schedule back to suit your needs all the time. If you’re feeling super generous, then let her pick the two days a week to have the alternative schedule.

However, at 10 months – that’s generally the time to have the “I-need-you-to-keep-on-working-even-though-your-year-is-almost-over” chat.

Europair August 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm

I love this reply! The Au Pair’s issue with the hours is obviously the later nights, as I’d guess that most of her friends meet up around 7-8 for dinner or drinks.

If she’s inside the house all day and doesn’t get an opportunity to go out with her friends, it’s no wonder that she gets depressed every so often.

That said, she should tell you why she’s feeling that way. It seems as though you (the OP) are receptive and reasonable.

German Au-Pair August 26, 2012 at 12:38 am

Um…this may be a weird suggestion…but “every few weeks for a few days”? Am I the only one who immediately thought she might be a girl who cannot handle her period? I have a couple of friends who get really moody when they are on their period. Maybe you just phrased it that way, but the thought just jumped at me.

JBLV August 26, 2012 at 2:16 am

I had the same thought…

Emerald City HM August 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm

That thought popped into my head too. I have a family member with PMDD.

Seattle Mom August 28, 2012 at 2:15 am

The same thought occurred to me!

I’ve also noticed that my AP seems a bit more tired during that time…

FrustratedMomofTriplets August 26, 2012 at 1:17 am

Thank you kindly for your advice. :o) My DH and I will definitely discuss the solutions you are both offering.

I do live in the US, and neither the HF handbook, nor the LLC has mentioned anything about a break needing to be two hours in order to be counted a such. I actually talked to the LCC to double-check the schedule and to make sure that everything was respecting the guidelines.

As for not letting her socialize, many months ago, I have actually told her that if, now and then, she wanted to go out with her friends on Friday night, she should let me know a week ahead so I could make arrangements for someone else to help me. So it is not as if she never has any opportunity to socialize. Most of the time she could socialize, she is on the phone with her boyfriend who is back in France. When she does socialize, she goes shopping with other au pairs, sleeps over at their house (during the weekend) or meets friends from church.

Regarding her periods, she usually lets me know when she has them, because they are pretty painful. They don’t think to be the trigger for her boredom or lack of enthusiasm.

JBLV August 26, 2012 at 2:29 am

Just curious: Au Pair in America has “Au Pair Extraordinaires,” and Au Pair Care has the “Infant Specialized Program.” Is your au pairs one of these types? “Extraordinaires” usually have a background in childcare/daycare, and are used to working a full week with many small children. In my experience, the small extra cost is worth it.

With that said, what is your au pair’s idea of living the “American Dream?” Can you help and encourage her to travel on her weekend off? Can you give a few extra hours on the Friday before so she can fly/drive a little early on that weekend, or on a holiday weekend? It does sound like your current au pair may have “short timer’s syndrome,” but, it is also hard being in the house most of the time, etc. As your triplets get older, it may get easier to visit your local library for “toddler storytime,” or your community center for “toddler gym time” or something along those lines. Have your AP plan for these outings well before-hand. She can be responsible for packing snacks/diaper bags/etc. If she it is really important for her to get out of the house, involve her in the planning!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 26, 2012 at 6:51 am

I agree completely that extraordinaires are worth the money. Of the 8 APs I have hosted, 5 have been extraordinaires. They have 2 years of advanced childcare experience – mostly through their education, but one of mine had been a PICU nurse (just when I needed that most) – she could really juggle caring for my kids when they were babies.

I does sound like you’ve been limping along with someone who hasn’t formed a lot of ties here, and may be using her childcare hours as an excuse. Time to have the end-of-her-year chat about staying on goal.

One of the questions we used to ask, when the kids were younger, was what the candidate would do if one child were getting into trouble while the other needed physical assistance. It wasn’t a yes/no question and the answers were telling about experience handling multiple children. We dropped it when the kids became old enough that it wasn’t an issue. The other question that we continue to ask is “Tell us about a time you were in a difficult situation and how you resolved it.” It’s a very telling question – those that talk about studying for exams aren’t really as ready as those who answer from a childcare situation.

Dorsi August 27, 2012 at 10:37 am

While I am also a fan of the extraordinaire program, in my experience, there are very few that are “infant-qualified” — when we looked last fall, there were 3. We wanted a Spanish-speaking Au Pair and there were 0.

JBLV August 27, 2012 at 8:38 pm

I had the same experience with APIA last spring (we weren’t looking for a specific language, but we found that there were very few extraordinaires that were infant qualified), so we ended up using Au Pair Care, and found a woman from Spain who is infant qualified, has a 4-year-degree, and worked full time in a daycare. She had the “infant specialized” designation from Au Pair Care. I’m pretty sure that I will always host a highly qualified au pair for as long as I am hosting au pairs – even if my children are no longer toddlers. It’s worth it to have someone who is interested in child development in general.

American AP in Europe August 26, 2012 at 5:09 am

Just reread your post about how you “let her socialize”…

21-year-olds do not make Friday night plans weeks in advance. They make them the day of via texting. So your generous offer really doesn’t do her a lot of good. She needs more time off, period. Consider giving her every Friday off.

Secondly, in my circle of AP friends, the only ones who sleep over at friends houses on the weekends are ones that are unhappy with their host families.

Because you’re a first time Host Parent, maybe these are honest mistakes on your end so I apologize for being too harsh in my first post. But the fact is that you’re hiring an AP because you don’t want to pay for a nanny, but an AP is just way too underqualified for the job you’re expecting her to do and all for less than $200 per week.

Because your AP has only a few months left, I would first let her pick which shift she wants to work (and hire more help for the shift that she doesn’t). If it’s the 8 hour shift, give her a 2 hour break when she chooses. You can, after all, take care of your own kids by yourself sometimes. Hire someone for every Friday night and every Sunday free. The girl needs a weekend. Then consider increasing her pay and make it retroactive. Sit down with her and tell her you’re sorry because you’re first time parents and first time host parents and you realize you’ve given her too much responsibility that you can reasonably expect her to handle. If I were in your AP’s shoes and your apology was sincere, especially with the retroactive raise and free weekends there on out, I would be the most pleasant and hardworking girl.

From here on out, I would not get an au pair unless she is older and more qualified (I’m not familiar with the US programs) but I would also strongly, strongly, strongly encourage you to get a qualified nanny instead.

Calif Mom August 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I had a similar thought or two — that asking for a week’s notice for Friday night is too much. Half the time my au pairs are figuring out what they are doing, with whom, and where they will meet as they head out the door for the evening. While I certainly don’t think she is earning an entire Friday off every week, I do think that if there’s a way you can increase the time she has off — during the time most of her friends are off — it might help a lot.

I’m not sure that buying different bread is “bending over backwards”.

I certainly do NOT think there is no au pair in the universe who is appropriate for you or that you shouldn’t try again. No need to give up yet.

Second the recommendation that you find an Extraordinaire or someone who has worked in a childcare center as a full time job for at least a year. They are out there.

Also agree that this sounds like short-timer’s syndrome. She has suddenly realized that she hasn’t done the things she thought she would during her year and that time is disappearing quickly.

Agree that the au pair determines what kind of a year they will have. Ones with little gumption don’t end up doing much, no matter how many kids they are looking after.

A friend of mine had 3 under 3 — twins and a singleton — and they had a very young (turned 19 during her year) French au pair. She was fantastic: energetic, made her own friends, and also spent her own time at the kids’ activities (she was a super helper at the kids’ bday parties, as well as at parties for other kids, set up playdates, and attended scores of preschool activities).

Yes, that’s one less toddler and several interaction circles fewer, but she wouldn’t have been too fazed by another kid.

I think the idea that you talk to the counselor about letting her transition a month early. The fact that she keeps changing her mind on the schedule even after you accommodate her tells me she is just basically unhappy (and exhausted) and grasping at the straw of schedule changes to try and find some improvement.

She’s a so-so au pair, no matter how many kids she is looking for. She doesn’t have the personal insight/maturity to find solutions herself, or bring the issue to you.

That said, I think the hours are pretty tough. Not having weekends totally off is probably not ideal.

And like TACL, I had much lower standards when dealing with that kind of intense caregiving situation. I could hardly get laundry done when I had a baby with reflux. Most days, if I got a shower and had an actual dinner on the table it felt like a major victory. I would fret less about folding laundry if it’s clean. You need the bottles washed, of course, but maybe lower your expectations a bit.

Also, when my kids were that age (and even now, at 12 and 8) I find it absolutely ESSENTIAL that kids get out of the house every single day, even in winter and summer. And I mean freezing weather and 90+ degrees with humidity weather. Kids just behave better, get worn out, and sleep better when they aren’t stuck in the house all day. Adults, too. If you’re only doing one outing a week, you adults may not have your systems down pat yet, so you have to think about everything too much. When you go out every day, you quickly figure out what works best, what you really need to bring and what you can streamline.

With back-to-school schedules ramping up, those regular activities at the library, gymnastics open sessions, or even the indoor kiddie pool at the Y or community center would be a great thing to start up. They are certainly not too young for story times! At the very least, those daily walks in the neighborhood should be long and a learning opportunity.

I do think it’s hard to be an at-home au pair; is there any way you can divide up the kids and pair off sometimes?

LuvCheetos August 27, 2012 at 9:57 am

I haven’t finished reading all of the comments, so forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I did want to point out that the AP only works until 8:00 pm on Friday night, right? My APs generally don’t go out until at least 9:00 on Friday nights, is that not standard?Also, she does seem to have every Saturday night off, so she does have a weekend.

It kind of sounds like she resents not being off at 5:00 like her firends, but she did agree to that schedule in advance and the HM has a good reason for it because it works with her other childcare coverage.

German Au-Pair August 27, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I agree that she knew about the schedule beforehand.

The going out times really depend on the type of au pair. I know a lot of au pairs who are not party girls and therefore don’t go out that late. We usually grab dinner and a movie and usually do that earlier. Especially after an exhausting day I really COULDN’T go out that late :D

Another issue might be a curfew some au pairs have. Depending on where you live (and the distances you need to drive to gte to your friends) that might be a problem.

But I also agree that 8 is not TOO bad, if it really ends up being 8 (and not “oh, I’m 30 minutes late).

BoysMama September 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I was thinking the same thing about keeping her (and future Au Pairs) in the house all day. I have three wild little boys so I understand the fear and loss of control/concern for safety that occurs when going out into the world with your hands full… AND I have learned that you MUST get little kids out of the house. I feel tortured after more than two hours inside with even two of my kids at a time.

So with the extra nanny and you around, why don’t you try to break the kids up? Somebody take two, somebody stay home with two at a time, etc? I’ve transititioned to a stay-at-home mom and haven’t had any problems with the good-match Au Pairs because of it… we just divide and conquer. I’m certainly not taking three kids to Disneyland by myself (or asking anyone else to), but the AP can take one there while I play at the park with the other two. For your own sake as well as that of your childcare providers… figure out how to get out of the house.

If you have matched well from a personality perspective with your Au Pair, staying at home and helping raise your kids is absolutely manageable. You just have to like each other.

DCMomof3 August 26, 2012 at 6:08 am

Again, its not the host parents’ job to make the au pair happy, to give her extra time off, to give her extra money or to bend over backwards to make her life easier. This situation sounds difficult and the host mom is looking for realistic ways to make things better. Giving the au pair a lot of extras is not necessarily going to do that. I’ve also learned over 6 years of hosting, that showing appreciation with lots of perks can backfire, as those can quickly become expected parts of compensation. Better to try to adjust the schedule (within reason), respond to requests for breaks, but also to just be honest about the job that you need for her to do for 2 more months.

One other thing I’ve tried to do when I am around but the AP is working is to split up tasks and offer her a choice. I will say “we need groceries and we need somebody to stay here to superivse the playdate, which one would you rather do?” Maybe the HM could try to split up some of the tasks and just let the AP take the easier ones, if it makes sense.

Calif Mom August 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm

good point!

It sounds like managing a kid — which hosting sometimes is! “Would you rather take a bath or a shower?” can go a long way in giving people the feeling of control over their activities.

Used to be an AP August 26, 2012 at 6:24 am

@American AP in Europe: You are way out of line with your comments. You are basically accusing the HM of violating the rules which she does not do. I’m sure that she pays her AP what the guidelines say, which is what all host families do. But I know that rules in Europe are different, so maybe that’s the reason for your being so upset.

Anyway, there is a grain of truth in what American AP in Europe says and that’s the point about Friday nights every now and then. APs (and most other people who don’t have children) plan rather spontaneously and she won’t be able to notify her HM a week in advance. Also, working until 8 really is tough for APs since most of them get of much earlier and because a lot of them have a curfew it’s really hard to have a social life if you can’t get anywhere before 8:30ish and some of the others have to leave around 9:30 because they have a 10 o’clock curfew. Of course there is still an hour in which she can see most other APs, but she still might be left out (or at least feel that way) in many things because the others spend more time together.
Maybe the HM could find a way for a different shedule (I really like what TACL suggested).
Another point that AAPIE mentioned is the fact that the HM is a stay-at-home-mom. I agree that working is easier when the HPs aren’t home because you just feel more in charge. On the other hand, 4 children under the age of 3 is a lot to handle. Depending on how hands-on the HM’s approach is, maybe she should let the AP work by herself at least for a bit every day (unless there are safety concerns of course).
Also, I agree with TALC that it’s time to have an “end-of-the-year conversation”. Most APs feel a little depressed once they realize that they don’t have much time left until the AP year is over. Many APs have been looking forward to becoming an AP for years and once it’s over they have to get back their normal lives, which can make them sad and moody.

American AP in Europe August 26, 2012 at 6:35 am

By taking advantage of her, I don’t mean that host mom is breaking any rules or laws at all. In theory, a host family could have ten kids and get an AP and have her working 45 hours per week all for the measly $200. I think that Host Mom’s situation DEFINITELY calls for a wage ABOVE the minimum. If I were the AP in this family, I would feel taken advantage of because the situation was so exhausting, but I knew that there was nothing that the host family would need to be doing differently because they are within the laws and contract. Then on top of that, the Host Mom is feeling self righteous because she got her AP text messaging and a coffee maker…it’s just hard for the two to see eye-to-eye in this situation. If I were the AP, I would have been in rematch a long time ago, but as the AP is still young, she doesn’t have the maturity or assertiveness to to articulate herself professionally and ask for what she wants. She also didn’t seem to take a step back and think about how hard 4 kids under 3 would be before she got on a plane and came here. This situation totally makes me *facepalm*

DCMomof3 August 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

I would not say that the host mom’s situation “definitely calls for above the minimum wage.” Its not a “minimum” – its the amount that host families contractually agree to pay and au pairs accept when they join the program. It is an amount mandated by the US government. Everyone here seems to agree that this AP has a tough job. Everyone is trying to suggest some things that the host mom can do to make things a little better for the AP. Giving her more money is not one of those things because it is not part of this program. I know that I’ve seen some labor and tax lawyers on here before who can explain this much better than I can, but basically any additional amounts would be taxable compensation and the au pair cannot legally work for those “extra” wages under the J-1 visa.

Yes, we all know that some AP jobs are tougher than others. I have a colleague who lives in a very rural area in upstate NY. It would be totally undesirable for most APs. She has 5 kids. And she and her husband are both in the Air Force reserve and go on deployments from time to time. Her first AP arrived and she and her husband both had to be gone for a week (I know, under the program not allowed, but stay with this). The AP totally rose to the occassion and they came home to a clean house and happy kids. After 2 years in the US, the AP went home but stayed in touch with a boyfriend she met in the little town. They are now married and the former AP lives in the town and comes to the family’s house every day to work like she did when she was an AP. The only reason I share this story is because some APs would run like crazy from this situation. This girl not only embraced it, but basically is now making this family her career. My point is that part of the original poster’s AP’s problem may be the job itself, but part of it may also be that she is just not the right AP for this (big) job.

NonCoast Host Mom August 31, 2012 at 4:56 pm

To reiterate, the amount of the stipend is set by law. It is NOT a suggested minimum. Moreover, the au pair matched with this family knowing the situation and the amount of the stipend.

DCMomof3 August 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

American AP in Europe,

It shouldn’t make you sad that I don’t know something that is not true. As each and every experienced host mom on this thread has explained, there is a stipend associated with the J-1 visa and it is $196 per week. We pay that as a stipend as part of our agreement to host an au pair legally in the United States. It is not a “minimum wage” that one would pay to an employee coming to work for a company. As I’ve said before, there are other host moms on this blog who are tax and labor lawyers and they could explain this much better than I can. My husband is a tax partner in a Big 4 accounting firm and his specialty is US employment tax. He worked for the IRS for 10 years before the accounting firm. While I find listening to him talk about US employment taxes to be kind of boring, I have picked up that there is a legal difference between an “employee” to whom one pays wages and for whom one pays employment taxes, and an au pair who receives a stipend as part of a cultural exchange program under the US State Department regulations. I am not sure why you decided to get onto this blog to bash each and every host parent on here. The (mostly) women on here are professors, lawyers, consultants and other professionals with multiple degrees, demanding jobs, and caregiving responsibilities that often extend beyond kids to aging parents, busy husbands, etc. We are all taking time out of our very busy schedules to consult this blog and to support each other because we genuinely believe in the au pair program as an important form of cultural exchange as well as childcare. We want our kids and our au pairs and ourselves to have the best experience possible. We like and value au pair input, especially when it is positive and helpful.

BoysMama September 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

AAin Europe: It makes me sad that as an Au Pair you don’t realize that your electricity, water, rent, food, cell phone, television, computer, etc etc etc aren’t included in your “measly $200”. As if someone actually living on minimum wage could afford to live like an Au Pair does.

At what point will you realize that you are spreading venom for no other purpose than to poison a forum where people are honestly trying to help one another?

Former AP August 26, 2012 at 6:39 am

Maybe it is a French thing? I know several hostfamilies that had the same problems with French APs. And also I know several French hm’s in the US that would never hire a French AP due to their attitude problem.

Obviously have 4 kids under 3 is very stressful however, the AP should have considered that prior to matching. Furthermore, you seem to be a great hm because you worry about her and look for the mistakes on your end. However, I think you are not doing anything wrong! The AP is there to help you and not to go out and party with her friends. You are not breaking any rules and her working times are not that bad. There are lots of APs that work until 8 or 9pm every night. Even though her friends might only work until 5pm that is not your problem. If you feel like you need support with dinner and put your kids to bed at night, then that is totally fine.

Maybe if possible (and depending on the exact ages of the children) you could ask the AP to take the oldest child and one of the triplets to the playground for an hour in the afternoon. (unless the triplets are under 1 because they might not enjoy playgrounds as much then) And you can rotate which kids she takes every time. It gives the AP some time out of the house and the kids get to do something special. This is just an idea and it might not work for you.

As someone already suggested, have a talk with your AP about her attitude and her lack of enthusiasm. It is totally normal to be fed up with the job after 10 months! (every AP usually goes through that phase).

And other than that your AP need to recognize that it is a job that might be tough at times but she also only has 2 months left.

DarthaStewart August 26, 2012 at 8:03 am

You’ve got an au-pair who doesn’t like her work hours. Fair enough. So, consider giving her the concession of every Friday night off, and get someone else to help. (Say at 6:00 PM) Then schedule her 45 hours around that.

If I’m reading this correctly, you stay at home, and have her help you, along with a nanny, right? So, carve off her responsibilities, and have her work on them.

Ignore the attitude. You’ve only got 2 months to go. If you can’t ignore it, then have the performance discussion with her, and if it still doesn’t improve, just cut her loose early. Sometimes there’s just a personality issue that isn’t going to fit in no matter how hard you try. And, it’s not fair to either one of you to keep hammering on it.

Have you planned what you will do “next year”? Are you getting another au-pair? Increasing your nanny’s hours? Getting a local babysitter for the hours?

Gianna August 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

I don’t know the personality of the aupair involved in this situation but I do know that French aupairs have been shocked at the number of hours Americans work. They have also been shocked at the lack of vacation time we receive. My sister works for a French company and gets six weeks vacation every year plus all sorts of personal time. German adults, on the other hand, have told me that Americans know how to work but not to play. That might be the cultural side of things although it is late in the year for it to surface. If you love French culture and language, it might be better to wait until your kids are older to engage a French aupair. I don’t think all the perks in the world , including extra money can satisfy a person who dislikes the schedule. My mother in law once told me that having three children under three was harder that having six children ( she had six ). Things do not get easier , but life becomes more manageable as the kids get older. I think the schedule that Anna suggested is a good one : fair and consistent. As far as texting that day to make plans, it is good to know that this is how younger people live but we all have to live within the boundaries of our work lives. That is what I think is good about Anna’s schedule.

davep August 26, 2012 at 9:14 am

A few thoughts:
I presume the triplets are newborns, which is what triggered the need for extra help. Unless the au pair has specifically worked with newborns, I can see how never getting out of the house can wear somebody down – no fun trips to the park with the kids, etc., mostly feed, change, rinse repeat. Do you think was really prepared for this?

Working from 7 am to 8 pm with a 4 hour morning break and a 1 hour afternoon break sounds exhausting to me. What can she do with the morning break? Are you located in a place where she can do something useful in that time? If not, then that is a really long day.

Has she done any traveling through the year, or has this been the routine for all 10 months? In other words has she had a chance to explore a bit? Have you encouraged her and enabled her to do some?

Has she done anything about the education component – taken classes? if not, do you know why not, have you talked that over with her? If she has, how did it go?

If the skyping with the boyfriend has ramped up of late I would see that as a sign that she’s finding that a way to survive the rest of the year. Most likely a symptom, not a cause.

Whatever is going on here, it’s important that you figure something out because, presuming you’re getting another au pair in a couple of months, you could end up repeating the whole thing. The only difference is the kids will be a year older and much more mobile…

EU.AP August 26, 2012 at 11:57 am

I am quite undecided on this.

On one hand, she probably got to the US and didn’t know what to expect. Everything is working nicely for a couple months until she realizes that she has double the workload as her au pair friends, and yet still making the same amount. It is enough to feel a bit grumpy at times. On the other hand, if you were upfront about the hours and work load, she should suck it up and realize that her negativity is standing in the way of living “the American dream” more than her schedule.

I don’t think that every family is suited for the standard au pair, and right now maybe your situation isn’t. There is a lot of work that is being asked, and it really sounds like you need someone with more experience and qualifications.

Lastly, it doesn’t REALLY sound like to have bent over backwards, like other people have said. There is nothing wrong with that, but the wording makes it sound like you HAD to hire an additional nanny to keep the au pair happy, when in actuality your au pair is working 44 hours most weeks, and you require more help than she can legally provide. (Also, trust me, it doesn’t sound like you want a caffeine deprived au pair on top of all of this, you did her a favor by getting that coffee machine just as much as you did yourself)

Tough situation, good luck to everyone involved!

PA AP Mom August 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm

My main question is: Did the work requirements/hours/expectations change since the matching process?

If the Host family was upfront about a stay at home parents with 4 young kids and long work hours with weekend work required, and the AP in question agreed to it, then I would say she is now “sour grapes” when it wasn’t exactly what she wanted and found out that others have an easier schedule.

If, on the other hand, the host family touted a different schedule and then switched the hours midstream without warning or reasoning, then that’s a completely different ball game.

I am always shocked by how many APs agree to care for 3 young children for 40 hours per week and then are surprised by the amount of work required.

EU.AP August 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

I think it’s just a lack of practical experience. Personally, I have no idea the workload. No younger siblings, no (significantly) younger cousins. My only experience with babies would have been a babysitting job when I was fourteen. I think there are some au pairs who would really excel with this, OP just needs to be as frank as possible (maybe she was), and not try to gloss over anything.

My advice for this host mom is to think about adding “held onto a full time job” to requirements if she’s considering hosting again. Then having to do real work for an extended period of time won’t come as such a shock. I was working 55+ hours a week in a burnt out health care system, this is actually a vacation compared to that.

Dorsi August 27, 2012 at 10:44 am

The US regs would have required that this AP had 200 hours of experience with kids under the age of 2. I agree, maybe she didn’t know what 3 x 3months old would be like, but that is on the AP.

MOMof6 August 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm

To be fair to the AP, I’m not even sure I know what 3 x 3month old infants would be like…and I have 6 kids! I wasn’t ever too stressed by my kids when they were babies/toddlers (obv. or I would have stopped long before six!) but don’t think I can imagine what 3 same age, likely premature, babies all at onece would be like and how stressful and overwhelming that could be….so I would be willing to cut the AP some slack re her shock at what it’s like and the fact that she perhaps could not actually give “informed consent” to the arrangement ahead of time bc she likely had no baseline against which to compare newborn triplets— but not at her attitude and seeming unwillingness to buck up….this is one of the situations where I think a day care type experience could be helpful, as working in that environment would likely have provided experience caring for multiple, same age children. (I never looked for day care experience because I didn’t feel it was relevant to what *I* was seeking, but I could see the potential value with triplets…)

albie August 26, 2012 at 1:10 pm

I also had young au pairs when I had 3 under 3 (including newborn twins). I was on maternity leave until the twins were 1,5, so was also home with my kids and the au pairs. My husband traveled full time so was gone Mon-Fri, and therefore I too needed help most days until 8pm. I’m American, but live in Europe and have mostly had American au pairs. I totally disagree with AAPIE on many counts, but won’t go into details. I think the host mom sounds like she’s being very reasonable. I too had two helpers – in my case, two live-in au pairs who generally alternated shifts: M/W one worked 7-4 and the other 11-8, swapped on T/Th, and they alternated on Fridays or both finished by 6pm if my husband was home. With three babies, it really isn’t a good option to regularly have to do bedtime alone ;-). This might be a good solution for the original poster if she has the space for two au pairs (or her part time nanny can accommodate).

I think the most important thing is making sure to be up front with candidates during the interview process. Did the au pair KNOW she would be working 45-hour weeks, mostly at home, with four babies/toddlers? If so, and it just turns out it isn’t all she thought it would be, that’s a different issue — and sounds like that might be the problem, but she’s articulating it differently because “wow, four kids is way more work than I expected!” sounds pretty lame. In this case, seems best is to wait it out for the remaining two months – or end early and have more detailed discussions with the next au pair candidates. And to be fair – I can completely relate to the “it is too complicated to go out with this many babies” issue — the children get little out of it, and it is a huge hassle getting everyone in and out of the car and to wherever — and in my situation, it would have meant in snowsuits for everyone, with a risk of getting snowed out as our road was only plowed once a day! (happened only once — one of my au pairs walked home through thigh-high snow for sleds, so we could sled the kids home!).

One thing I have to comment on that AAPiE said: “the fact is that you’re hiring an AP because you don’t want to pay for a nanny, but an AP is just way too underqualified for the job you’re expecting her to do”. If the host mom is home, and is continuing to be the primary caretaker with help from the au pair, then this is EXACTLY what an au pair job is meant to be, and a Nanny would be total overkill. I don’t think it is about the cost. I looked into getting a night nanny when my twins were born, as I was struggling to manage with only about 3-4 hours sleep a night (the twins woke to nurse on different schedules). The nanny agency I spoke with basically said most nannies wouldn’t be interested in the job; as they are trained childcare professionals, and don’t want to work with a mom as a helper.

Good luck to the OP!

DCMomof3 August 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I too have done the nanny/AP combo. When I did it, I had a 22 month old, a newborn and my husband was deployed to Iraq for a year. I was really scared to be in the house alone with 2 babies – I worried that I would fall down the stairs or get sick and nobody would find them for days. Rational? Maybe not. I lived in a big city where all my neighbors were childless and not sympathetic or attuned to my situation. But having an AP in the house for early mornings, nights, and weekends saved my sanity. Even when the AP was not working, she would hold the baby, let the toddler come into her room, take walks with me and generally just be a good companion and friend. I went back to work after my maternity leave and so most of her working hours occurred when I was home. We just tag-teamed and got it done together. A traditional nanny probably would not provide the tag-team, and certainly would not provide the impromptu support of an au pair who is really trying to act as part of the family.

Georgiapeach December 22, 2012 at 3:00 am

Your AP sounds like heaven!!!! Clearly someone who truly loves children and is a wonderful person. She should lead the orientation classes!

Eastcoastmom August 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I think I’d sit down with the AP and just ask her if she wants to go home early. If so let her go. If not, then she needs to suck it up for the 2 months. It’s not that long.

Going forward though, I would take all of this into consideration and see if you can can come up with a different schedule for your next AP that allows a little more time for getting out of the house with friends. Also, maybe get one without a boyfriend back home, so she will make friends in your town and not spend all her time in your house Skyping. The next one will probably have to spend most of her working time in your house, so time away is going to be important for her to recharge. I don’t think most APs really know what they’re getting into, and triplets probably just sounded cute and fun. I’d also think about sending the next one a good description of a typical work day.

The comments about french APs have been funny for me to read, since I just re-matched with my first french AP. I purposefully went back to Germany this time around.

westcoastaupair August 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm

WOW!! American AP in Europe: you ARE way out of line. This host-mom was just seeking advice…wow! i think she has the total right to schedule her hours how she needs them too.. host-parents pay a LOT of money for us!! i know a nanny somethimes is more expensive, but not as flexible..i just figured out how much hostfamilies pay for one year! around 23.000 dollar, leave out all the vacations they sponser us..mine at least do that, and i am very greatful! i also work crazy hours. 7-8 am 11-1 and 4pm to around 8 plus on weekends. do i hate it? no, because i knew it from the beginning on. Do i have young kids? yes–this is my second year, and i stayed with the same hostfamily. sometimes i wish to be off earlier so i talk to my hm. she is very nice and gives me nights off whenever i have something going on. but lets be clear, hf get an au pair because it makes their life easier. and they pay a high price for that. we are not here for fun. we are here for work. and if a au pair does not like the schedule who was already mentoined in matching, then just don’t take the job! nobody is forcing you do do so! there are lots of other au pairs who would be fine with that schedule, and you sound like a loving hf to me. i hope you have better luck with your next au pair. ( ps: my lcc told me, that they once took the french au pairs out of their program, because they dont have a very good attitude..)

Calif Mom August 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thank you for taking time to post. American AP in Europe might be able to hear how out of line her phrasing have been from another au pair, since she doesn’t really want to hear it from us HMs. :-)

Melissa August 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm

While your schedule is technically within bounds of the AP program rules, it is a difficult schedule for an au pair. And even though it sounds like you were upfront about the work hours and she might have agreed to it during the matching process, she likely didn’t realize the work involved until she got here. It sounds like she is being very whiny about it and probably not addressing the issue in the right manner and you should be able to expect to have your schedule needs met by your au pair (as you said, she is supposed to make your life easier not harder). However, for her remaining time and going forward with a new AP, I would really try to make some adjustments to the schedule. Even if they are minor, it might go a long way toward lessening any resentment on her part. Can you end her work schedule at 6pm on one or two days a week, particularly on Fridays? Also, the breaks do add to the difficulty of the schedule. While a 4 hour break in the morning (8am-12pm) is very reasonable, as she can go to the gym, catch up online, or whatever, she is also working until 8pm every day, which makes it a very long span before she is truly “done” for the day. A 7-8 & 12-6 daily schedule is very different than 7-8 & 12-8. Also, the hour break mid-schedule is a tough one. If she is truly very tired out during the day, she might welcome the 1 hour break, but it might just come across as a way for you to maximize or manipulate her hours. Even though most employees get an hour lunchbreak in a typical workplace, it just feels different in an au pair situation (I think there is another post on this?). At this point, since she only has 2 months left, I don’t think it’s worth the time or aggravation on your end to make big changes, but it will probably be helpful if you can try to rearrange the schedule a bit going forward.

Schedule issues aside, it does sound like she just isn’t the right fit for your family and that she is handling her concerns and herself in a very childish, inappropriate manner. I work PT from home and therefore spend a lot of time with my AP and for me personally, one of the MOST important qualities I look for in an AP is someone who I think will “click” with me and our household. Even if she has amazing qualifications (was a teacher, degrees, 10 younger siblings), it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t possess the soft skills that we’ve learned are important to us (initiative, positive attitude, enthusiasm, maturity, willingness to work). I’ve realized that I have a very hard time and very frustrating year if I have an au pair that I just don’t really like, since I spend a significant amount of time with her and expect our AP to work as a team with me.

Best of luck for the remaining two months. Even though it’s such a short time, I know it can feel like forever when you’re super frustrated with your AP. I would have a very frank we-need-to-somehow-make-this-work conversation with her and then focus your efforts on your search or future AP. Would love to hear if you are going to continue in the AP program or choose other childcare after she leaves.

To American AP in Europe… you make some valid points but unfortunately they are completely invalidated by your inappropriate tone. Your posts just come across as bratty and immature. We love to get au pair perspectives on this site, but comments like yours really do a big disservice to the many other thoughtful & au pairs who contribute to these discussions.

Calif Mom August 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Good points here.

I would take one even further: the most important quality is whether they click with the parents (and kids) even if parents DON”T spend a lot of time with the AP. It’s very hard to communicate during the busy work days with someone you don’t click with. Email, texting and quick phone calls often cause more stress than they resolve if you aren’t “simpatico” with your au pair.

MOMof6 August 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I can sympathize with the amount of help you need – I had and AP with 6 children under 8 years old (one an infant, one just over 1 year old) so perhaps some of my experiences are somewhat relevant…I have also had 8 APs over the past decade.

(**but I say this with the caveat that I had no multiples, so while I had a few more pregnancies which were hard on me during those 8 years, I have no experience with multiple babies/toddlers the exact same age which I imagine is significantly more difficult and stressful than even having 6 children all each less than 1.5 years apart…).

I worked PT from home, but in a time zone 6-8 hours ahead, so I worked from 4am-9am each day, then I was a SAHM for the rest of the AP, tag teaming with the AP. I used 45hrs of AP time each and every week. I too hired an extra helper during the summers — a 5th grader who came and played with the middle toddler age kids in a safe/supervised yard for 90 min each morning while the AP helped with either the infant care or the making beds, tidying rooms, throwing in laundry (we switched off most chores, tag teaming. Although the AP had a few kid related chorse that were hers, such as making the beds, kids’ laundry, and wiping out the teeth brushing sink every AM etc., BUT I made sure that she was not responsible for the kids at the times she was doing this — I specifically carved out designated time periods for kids chores each day, i.e. 9am- 9.30 am = bed making time; 1-2pm = laundry time, you are not responsible for the kids during this time, I am. These hours were of course part of her on duty scheduled time. )

I would strongly second the advice of folks above to get out of the house for long periods of time, every single day– or at least have the AP getting out of the house with the kids for big parts of the day. But, I do realize that is difficult with so many little people in carseats (I had all six children in car seats/booster seats for a 10 year period!). Walking everywhere was what saved us…Granted, we lived in a very walkable city, so my perspective is based on living somewhere where I could walk to schools, parks, shops, drugstores, YMCA etc. But no matter where you live, I would urge you to have your AP get out. Divide and conquer perhaps? Take 1 or 2 children for a long walk in the AM, then 1-2 children for a walk in the PM. If there is a store you can walk to (even a drugstore type place) I would have her go on an errand with 1-2 children (in stroller) EVERY DAY. Buy milk every day, or buy bread, or buy shampoo one day, conditioner the next….Create reasons to go out. Go to the post office to mail bills, drawings for Grandma, to the library. I would make the AP (I would try with this one, but certainly with future APs, responsible for making a weekly schedule of “activities” – and I truly use the word activity loosly…walking to the post office every Wednesday counts as an activity in my book! The key in my experience is to have a schedule, involving many outings. Planning for, preparing for, and executing the outings is much less tedious than sitting in a room with 4 children under 3 yrs and “playing” for a 8 hour period of time…

Multiple, small outings can make a world of difference in breaking up the tedium of being trapped in the house with small children. I tried to spend as much time out as possible, in all weather. If I had stayed home except for one outing a week, I would have gone crazy. So in that regard, I am sympathetic to the “exhausting” nature of the APs schedule. I also think a 1 hour break isn’t really fair (unless the AP specifically desires it – one of our APs wanted an 1 hour break at lunchtime every day to go to the gym and workout — this was her desired break and she was not unhappy to “only” have a 1 hour break).

I think the schedule Anna suggessed in the first reply is quite fair – predictable, and “condensed”.
I don’t know where you live, but around here many APs work until 8 or 9pm, especially the ones with school children who work 7-9am and then 3-9pm. I would be sympathetic to the AP wanting to get off a bit earlier on Friday, and not not have to ask a week in advance, but would not see any problem with regularly working until 8pm. Our current AP rarely knows what she’s doing more than an hour ahead of time unless she is going away for the weekend…which is often only planeed 1 day ahead of time.

I also strongly encouraged our APs to find and meet up with other APs and their HKids at the park, invite them to our house, go for walks together. As a mom I enjoyed walking with my non verbal infants much more when I was with a friend!

Good luck to you – I’m sure you are exhausted with triplets and the need to heavily manage an AP is draining. I commend you for trying to get input and other perspective and be so constructive in your approach!

MOMof6 August 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm

I should also add, that I had EXCELLENT experiences with APs, and except for one who wanted to be my 7th child, the other 7 were motivated, independent, mature young women (ages ranged from 19-22) who took the job in stride and were hard workers, friendly and great employees (in the way an AP is an employee) and lovely young women to have in our home (in the way an AP is a member of the family). We never went into rematch, but we did end the year 3 mos early with the one that wanted to be our 7th child…we were too exhausted to parent “teen” on top of our brood!

While we might not have seemed ideal on paper (I get it – 6 kids!!) the women who chose to match with us were up for an adventure and were very helpful. It was a fabulous form of childcare for our family situation. We tried to give non-monetary perqs that balanced out our more demanding than average family situation, but nonetheless our AP did not have her own car (although she had basically unfettered use during the evenings and weekends), did not have her own bathroom, and didn’t travel on fancy holidays with us.

Also, as an aside, American AP in Europe, we have only ever pad the State Dept. mandated stipend (whatever it was in a given year, as it has increased over the past 6 years or so), not “extra”, and we never had any issues with that. (I live in an area with dozens and dozens of APs in our town alone, hundreds in the area, and I honestly don’t know of any who are paid more than the mandated stipend, nor have I heard of this from my APs or their friends (except those who work more hours for more pay, which is of course illegal…and those who extended for a second year with their HF and the HF gave them a raise of $20-25 week.) CV I wonder if that might be an interesing poll/post of its own, re who pays more than the current $195.75.., and why they do so?)

Taking a Computer Lunch August 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm

We round up to $200. It’s just easier for us to pull out of a bank machine. We pay in cash.

newhostmom August 26, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Agreed about the stipend. It never actually occurred to me that you even could or should consider paying more than the stipend. I also know lots of families with au pairs and also did not know anyone to pay more than the stipend, though plenty tried to be extra nice in other ways, both non-monetary and on things that cost money, to show appreciation.

We felt like we were a hard job – all day with two preschoolers – and our au pair didn’t have her own car or own bathroom. So we tried to make up for it in other ways – we did lots of fun activities and trips, were very lenient with visitors, overnight guests, and friends (had an open door policy), let her have time off whenever we unexpectedly didn’t need her or when she wanted to go on a trip or something, really treated her like a true family member, etc. She never took advantage of any of this though – we had a great partnership. Just saying this to show that it’s not always about extra cash that makes an au pair happy. It’s working together so that you both get your needs met – the parent has reliable childcare, and the AP gets the American experience she wants.

I also think frequently au pairs don’t realize how expensive it can be for host families to have au pairs – not that they don’t work hard and aren’t worth every penny – but the costs for host families are much much more than just the stipend. We had an extraordinaire, so we paid her $250/week for 51 weeks as required, which came to $12,750/year. But I added up all our expenses that went to the au pair at the end (car insurance, cell phone, gas, food, utilities, travel, gifts, the fee you pay the agency – which was over $8,000 alone, etc.) and it cost us $27,000 for the year. It was a stretch for us to have an au pair and adding on another $25+ a week or so would have made it pretty unaffordable. I think our au pair, who had a great year with us and who we will always be friends with, would definitely have preferred we try to go above and beyond with non-monetary things rather than not being able to afford her at all.

Georgiapeach December 22, 2012 at 3:40 am

We round up our stipend pay to $200 as well. We owe it to our AP not to (as my husband would say) “nickel & dime” her. But she is a sweet gal & has gone out of her way to help us a lot.

American AP in Europe August 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Thanks for your post. I am not familiar with the regulations in the US, all I can say is that my job is very strenuous and my HF pays me a decent wage determined by the job description, my age, experience and education. There is respect all around. It does seem to me like there are many (not all) families that want cheap childcare, and that’s it.

HM Pippa August 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Hiring an au pair is not, by any standard, cheap child care. New host mom’s estimate of about $27,000 is about right. I can place my child in a private school for half that amount. In top of the line daycare for half that amount. In crap day care for 25% or less. I think your perspective on what families want may be limited.

American AP in Europe August 28, 2012 at 5:08 am

An au pair is cheaper than a nanny. Essentially, some families (like this one) expect a full time nanny but without the salary.

MOMof6 August 28, 2012 at 8:58 am

No, most families don’t. They expect an au pair, and that is what they get. This mom needs a helper – she is home all day and she has a part time nanny. So she got an au pair to help her. That is not expecting the au pair to be a nanny. Now, if the mom were commuting to a job an hour away, working a full day (and HD were not home) and leaving newborn triplets and a toddler with an au pair, I might agree with you that an au pair isn’t the right type of childcare. Expecting an au pair to care for newborn triplets and a toddler all day with no other help or support might be expecting too much from a young woman who likely does not have extensive childcare experience. In that situation, it would seem like the family might be expecting an au pair to be a nanny. But most of us who get au pairs know that they are young, relatively inexperienced, and will require training, direction and support in a way that a professional nanny would not (and should not). Asking an au pair to help a SAHM (who also has other help) is not asking her to be a nanny – it is asking to be exactly what she is — an au pair.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 27, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I agree with HM Pippa – it’s not cheap. I am actually eligible for “free” nursing for The Camel. In the 11 months we had nurses, 5 failed to show up for shift, including one who lied about a traffic jam, which I jokingly called “of biblical proportions” to her employer 45 minutes later when I found my special needs child walking with my 72-year-old neighbor. The nurses didn’t hug or cuddle her when she cried – they did what was medically necessary to keep her alive. The nurses were not permitted by law to care for my typically developing child. Bottom line – not the model of caregiving I wanted for my children.

My APs make far more than those nurses ever did, when room & board, car insurance, education allowance, gas for transportation to cluster meetings & classes, and a cell phone are factored in. The U.S. Dept. of Labor controls salary, which is minimum wage minus room & board (and not the other extras) for regular au pairs. The U.S. State Dept. sets the other controls, like the education component.

Bottom line – I have given up expensive holidays, new clothes, and little extras because I want reliable and loving childcare. While it might have been cheaper when my kids were babies and I would have had to pay the infant rate for my special needs toddler and my infant, it is not cheap. I am very fortunate to be able to afford to have an AP (who most weeks works 30 hours or less because I personally don’t need/want to fulfill every possible legally permitted hour now that they’re teenagers (albeit one in diapers).

The bottom line – I want to get what I pay for. (I’m more flexible than some, offer far less “perks” than others.)

Taking a Computer Lunch August 28, 2012 at 7:17 am

I couldn’t – I don’t make that much money. I don’t feel guilty about participating in a legal program that permits me to have childcare that I can afford (not without sacrifices), and I don’t think Frustrated Mom of Triplets should either.

I will go back to using nursing when I’m no longer allowed to use an au pair. Because nurses don’t drive The Camel to the myriad of doctors appointments that keep her alive, I will give up most of my holiday time. It’s the price I pay for being the parent of a special needs child – I keep telling her it’s a good thing she’s cute.

Finally, I don’t think many nannies would accept a job in my home – it’s a split shift with a 6-hour break in the middle of the day (not quite enough time to hold another job) now. Getting someone with a valid driver’s license willing to care for a special needs child is difficult – I know because when I tried to sponsor my first AP as an employer (a PICU nurse in her native country) not one person responded to the ad for a live-in caregiver, except her. (At the time that first AP was working for us, she was actually making more disposable income than her friends who were live-out nannies – because they had to pay rent & utilities, buy food, pay for their car & cell out of their income. One friend who was illegally in the U.S. couldn’t afford to take the classes for which we paid our AP. I know she didn’t have health insurance, either.) It’s not minimum wage when you factor in the perks for which many HF readily pay.

I feel very fortunate to have been able to sponsor 8 APs in my home. They were told what they were getting into, and all master the job well – several landed excellent positions in their home countries based on the experience they had with The Camel while they figured out what to next. Two who said they would never go to university, are now earning degrees for positions that will make the world a better place.

newhostmom August 28, 2012 at 9:30 am

“Exactly- minimum wage. How much would you pay a qualified, educated and experienced nanny for the same job your au pairs are doing? At least double.”

I hope my post above helped to dispell your thinking on this, but just to reiterate. How much would TaCL spend on a nanny? Not sure given her special needs. But I can tell you how much *I* would spend on a nanny – about $35k. To make it an even comparison to the au pair situation though, I’d need to subtract from that number rent, all food for the year, cell phone, car insurance/maintenance/gas, utilities, health insurance (don’t au pairs get that through the agency? Nannies don’t, so a nanny would have to pay for health insurance separately), etc. Then we could talk comparisons.

Oh wait, then I’d need to take into account the huge time outlay spent helping my au pair during the year – how much is my time worth per hour?

Oh, and my au pair wasn’t “educated” or “experienced” by nanny standards, so that makes the comparison different too.

Hm, all of a sudden having absolutely no expenses, having a family to mentor and shephard you through your year, having an agency to set up your trips to and from your country and provide a social outlet and other support, plus making $1,000 spending cash each month doesn’t sound so bad. That must be why there are so many au pairs that keep signing up for the program and leaving happy…

JJ Host Mom August 26, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I think it’s an exhausting job, with tough hours, AND I think you have a princess French au pair on your hands.

My advice – change the schedule to be whatever you both agreed it would be during the interview process. If that’s 12-8 every day, then do that. Plenty of au pairs work until bedtime, so that’s not an unreasonable request. But on the other hand, if she accepted the job thinking that she’d be working certain hours, it’s not fair to change them midstream.

When you tell her you’re changing the hours, let her know that this is what it will be like for the rest of her time here, and that in return, you expect her to be engaged with the children and upbeat during her work hours, 100% of the time. If she’s too exhausted to feel that she can do that, then perhaps you can mutually agree on a transition plan so that she can go home early and you can get another au pair (or another childcare provider if you won’t be continuing with the au pair program.

As a mom of young multiples who has had 4 French au pairs, 3 of whom we had to rematch with, I can tell you that this attitude is fairly typical for French au pairs. So, if you do decide to get another au pair:
– Consider getting another nationality au pair
– Require sustained fulltime work experience
– Create a detailed handbook that you share before matching, and while you’re interviewing, stress, over and over again, how hard the job is
– Agree on everything in the handbook before matching, and stick to what you agreed on
– Once you have matched, read and follow the advice on the AuPairMom post called “Advice Wanted: How to set the right tone from Week 1”

Good luck… we’re taking a sustained break from au pairs following a series of bad matches. Meanwhile I quit my job to stay home with the kids for the last year or so before they go off to kindergarten. We’ve also had two great au pairs, so we know it can be great, and we’re hoping to return to the program when I go back to work. Hopefully it will work better and better going forward, as the kids get older and the job gets easier.

newhostmom August 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm

First of all, to be clear – it sounds like OP is a SAHM who uses the nanny and the AP to assist her with the four kids during the day. So in the morning, OP and the nanny take care of the four kids, in the afternoon, OP and the au pair take care of the kids. It doesn’t sound like the AP is spending 10 straight hours a day totally alone with four little kids? Or am I reading it wrong?

So assuming that, I have mixed feelings on that. For one, I do understand that the OP told the AP what she was signing up for before she came. So she shouldn’t be surprised at the hours and I too would feel pretty irritated if I hired someone for particular hours and then they kept complaining it didn’t work for them. It sounds like the AP is not mature enough to handle this job and I can’t see this relationship improving. We also had an extraordinaire AP for our then one and three year old, and we did that on purpose because it tended to be APs who had held down all-day jobs. Going from occasionally babysitting in the evenings to work full days with kids would be shocking for anyone. I definitely think the OP can find someone who is a much better fit – someone more mature, who has worked all day before, and who really understands what the hours mean and why the OP needs them.

That said, I think the thing that bothered me about the OP’s email is the impression that OP thinks she is really bending over backwards for the AP. Maybe she is, but she seems to think things like buying the bread the AP likes and providing a texting plan on a phone are these huge amazing extras that the AP should be thrilled about. Really I see a very standard package for the AP – own bedroom (don’t they have to have their own?), cell phone that the host parents pay for (not required, but in my experience, completely standard), own car (not required – we didn’t have a car for our AP – but definitely not above and beyond), own bathroom (also not required – our AP didn’t have her own bathroom either – but isn’t really something special). And OP is saying that having a coffee machine and letting the AP pick out her own bread is “bending over backwards”? That stuff should be absolutely standard – having your own choice of bread is not a perk.

So while I definitely don’t think this is going to be a stellar AP and OP should probably ask her if she wants to leave early and just start over, I think maybe OP needs to do some readjusting on what APs need/want out of their year too. Probably a good learning year, and OP sounds like a good host parent in that she is clearly upset about her AP not being happy and really wants to do the right thing.

American AP in Europe August 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Exactly. And I think that the fact the HM says she’s going “above and beyond” is really insightful to how she seems the situation and how it is probably difficult for her to see the AP’s point of view and vice versa. If an employer told me they were going “above and beyond” for me by including texting and my choice of bread, I would pack my bags.

EU.AP August 27, 2012 at 7:41 am

Working in Europe is a somewhat difference experience than what I have seen here, so I can understand where AAPiE is coming from in some of her comments.

1) it’s not uncommon to pay way more — I get close to double — than the minimum. It is based on the number of kids and hours worked.
2) in my area, if you are with an agency, the maximum hours your au pair should be working is about 30 hrs — although I have heard it be as low as 20 with one agency (still not convinced this was right)
3) there is a LOT of exploitation. Girls come from poorer EU countries and work 60+ hours. They stay because it is still better than what they can get back home. They are not with an agency, and since they are a resident of an EU country they don’t need visas. IMO families who do this (this isn’t accidental, this is complete exploitation of someone in a vulnerable situation) are one of the problems with this world

Okay, my only point is that it’s a different experience. I don’t think this HM is in any way exploiting her au pair. I’m sorry to see some heated comments about this, because she really seems to be a good host and stuck in a sticky situation.

Aussie mum August 27, 2012 at 8:41 am

I think that it sounds like the girl is immature and depressed and isn’t able to verbalize what she’s unhappy about. She probably really need s a break from the kids. Ending the arrangement early if possible is a good idea, as shes probably burnt out, it’s a pretty intense experience as your first job by the sounds of it. In Australia girls stay 6 months because of our visa rules, so I can’t really compare, I’ve not had an aupair for as long as 10 months even.

I think the next aupair maybe the HM could look at scheduling that at the least monthly the aupair has a 3 or 4 day weekend to recharge and arrange alternative help for that time. I agree walking is great, a good cure for the blues! Kids and care givers need variety. Sounds like a difficult stage, I’ve got one toddler and she’s full on. Good luck and maybe if you can get additional help, give yourself some recharge time too?

WestMom August 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

I sympathize with your Au Pair. Many want to come here to live their ‘American Dream’ (although I am not sure they really know what it means), and commit themselves to positions without truly understanding what it entails.

I also sympathize with you. As a mother of twins + 1, I know how hard it can be to take care of many young ones at once, and I know I could not have done it by myself. It’s impossible to put a price on anyone else doing this selfless work for someone else’s children.
Your year is almost over. She is burnt out. This was probably harder than she ever expected. Maybe consider what you can do to give her enough down time to have the energy to continue to do her work well. A three day weekend, or a few weeknights off before she leaves might be appreciated.

Are you getting a new Au Pair in 8 weeks? I would screen thoroughly for experience with many children. Personally I really like French girls, and I find them very family-oriented. Many come from families of 3 or 4, and take care of younger cousins. As some people mentioned above, switching to an extraordinaire might be a good option.

Also be mindful that focusing too much on the perks might bring you candidates who will match for the wrong reasons. I would be very explicit about the responsibilities, challenges, and your expectations. Don’t sugarcoat it, to avoid disappointment.

Not in US August 27, 2012 at 9:13 am

Hi everyone, I really like reading aupairmom :) I am an AP in Europe. I probably have same problem with this AP girl about difficulty verbalizing what I have in mind. But I think it is not because of immaturity. I have the same situation about being unhappy and not telling what I have in mind with my HF. It is because every time I have opinion that is contra with my HM’s, she became angry and threaten to terminate the contract. So I prefer to shut my mouth up.
Working hours in Europe is far way less than in US, also the pocket money. But the most important thing is what we signed up for. Either you work 40hrs/week or 20, AP should stick up to the contract you’ve both made and not complaining about it. So if your AP try to change schedule or anything, just show her what she’s agreed upon.
But what if the situation is in reverse that the HF doesn’t value the contract? Let’s say I work 25 hours/ week. But in fact, I almost work 35 hours/ week. Then, it’s written on the contract that I only have to take care everything about the kids, but in fact, I have to do the HP’s laundry and dishes too, even spring cleaning.
But every time I said I work more than I agreed, she says she can terminate the contract and find someone else. What can I do? I need this to learn language. So what I can do is just keep it to myself and unhappy about it (I always happy in front of the kids ;))
Well, what I am trying to say is, both AP and HF should value the contract they’ve made. Even it is harder for AP (maybe only in Europe), because they have less equal bargaining power.

Not in US August 28, 2012 at 6:54 am

I’m in France. I don’t have that much option, I don’t use agency and it takes time to find a new family.
Where are you in Europe? Because I have several AP friends in France and they have really bad stories.

Emerald City HM August 27, 2012 at 10:50 am

I think you have gotten some good advice above mixed in with other comments. These have pretty much already been stated, if I were in your situation I would try:

– Changing her Fridays to 8-4 or 8-5.

– Have her take 2 kids at a time to the park or for a walk or something during the day.

As a side note, when we were first interviewing, we interviwed a German au pair that she loved. Sadly, she did not want to match with us because we only had one child and she wanted a family with more children. However, even with that many kids, she might not have been happy to be essentially a mother’s helper. I imagine it’s a tough position to be in when you have your boss working directly with you every hour of your working day, plus living with them.

Dorsi August 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

A few thoughts:

I echo what the other people have said about looking for an AP with work experience with long days. My current Au Pair is the one exception I made to this; I felt my options were limited and I couldn’t find anyone with 8-10 hours days with kids. I brought this up during the interview and she said, “Yes, it’s true I usually work 4-6 hours per day. But I do that after spending 8-10 hours at college. I will have the energy and attitude to take care of your kids well.” That was absolutely true and she has had a great attitude.

Another thing I look for is experience with non-family kids. (I don’t know if the stereotype that may French APs have experience with their families is true, but if it is, it may be part of the problem). If you help with your cousins, and you have plans, you may be able to get out of a family committment much easier. I only accept child care experience that is work.

Another thought about extraordinaires — mine was from a developing country. She confessed to me (after many months here) that she never routinely changed diapers in her preschool work (where she had worked with small children full time). In her country, that was not done by teachers, but by untrainted ‘helpers’.

I am just able to get my two into bed by myself without feeling overwhelmed, so I understand having the AP work through bedtime. That will get easier and easier as the kids get more independent. It may make sense to have a more variable schedule for all involved — MW 10a-8p, T/Th 2p-10p, F 10a-6p. I have been astonished by the variety of schedule requests from my APs, and if you have another, her needs will be different. I had one who also wanted a midday break, when possible, for a gym class that she liked. I had another who liked to start and end as late as possible, because her friends didn’t go out until after 10p anyway. Current AP never complains about our random,variable schedule and I make it a point to try to sandwich long periods off — off at 2p Tues, Start at 1p Wed, and she goes to spend the night with the BF.

I also totally understand about the bread. After a few years of accomodating AP diet requests, I made a rule that I would not purchase any food for the AP that my kids could not also eat. That meant no sugar cereal, no candy bars, no white bread. After buying a case of Reese’s at Costco one day, I had to reflect on what a pushover I had become. I don’t let my kids eat crap, so I don’t bring it into the house. Subsequent APs have all had their cookie stashes in their rooms, which I am totally okay with, but I don’t have to support it. There is something galling about APs who “eat everything” during the interview process and their favorite food is “anything” who arrive and want nothing but cornpops and chocolate granola bars. I am happy to buy food out of the ordinary (we are not a big tuna household, current AP loves tuna), but I wont buy crap.

I also agree with the daily t

Former Au Pair Viki August 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

Wow, I cannot believe how cruel some of the parents are on here. You do understand that au pairs are human too? You do understand that that its not easy au pairing for parents who are home all day? Its like being micro managed. I actually feel sorry for your au pair but happy that she will be leaving soon

newhostmom August 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Are you reading the same thread I’m reading? It reads to me like the majority of the host parents have posted in favor of re-doing the schedule to make it easier for the au pair or at least working with her to make it work for both of them.

And there has been recognition that working with a stay-at-home parent can be difficult. No one’s denying that. Certainly, host parents need to recognize how much an au pair can handle and work to make sure they get the experience they want to. But also do remember that au pairs are first and foremost a childcare solution. We loved our au pair and really enjoyed the friendship aspect of the relationship too, but it is an employee-employer relationship at it’s base. The host parents have a job that they need filled and the au pair accepts the terms of the job before she comes.

It sounds like the OP presented the job to the au pair and the au pair accepted the job (helping a SAHM from 12-8pm daily). It’s not as if the OP was pulling one on the au pair here. If the au pair arrives and finds she doesn’t like the job, that’s her choice, but then the best thing to do would be to be an adult about, admit it’s not working, propose alternative solutions that ALSO work for the host parents, but in the end, she needs to leave if the job doesn’t work for her.

Former Au Pair Viki August 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I said SOME, not all parents. I have been an au pair and every story has two sides. I just find it strange that you would wait 10 months and then confront someone. There are only 2 more months to go, the mom must just try tolerate it and part on good terms.

newhostmom August 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm

And I said “majority,” not all. I don’t remember a single post on here that qualified as “cruel” or that wasn’t trying to treat her pair like a “human.” Even OP is obviously upset that her au pair isn’t happy and is trying to do the right thing.

Viki – what would you suggest OP do given her current situation? Completely change the work hours to what the au pair wants (and to different hours than the OP needed her for)? There needs to be a balance and it doesn’t sound like this particular au pair is meeting the OP’s needs much at all. OP needed help in the afternoon/evening, not in the morning. So certainly OP could try to be more flexible, as many have suggested, but she doesn’t need help in the morning. That’s why she told the au pair her 12-8pm hours before they matched.

Former Au Pair Viki August 28, 2012 at 11:16 am

I am not going to argue with you, its my opinion that some people on here are cruel. If you do not agree, that’s your choice. I am not going to justify my feelings to you. We are clearly different.

newhostmom August 28, 2012 at 11:28 am

I’m not asking you to justify your opinion on whether OP is cruel, I’m asking what you would suggest she do. OP is asking for advice on a solution that works for all sides of this issue, and your responses have consisted solely of attacks. How do you feel about her solution?

Davep August 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I’m with Viki on this. Most commenters have just taken the OP’s take on the situation as gospel, when in reality there re two sides of the story. The OP changed the hours, with the added hour in the morning significantly extending the work day with limited opportunity for the au pair to use her free time in the middle. A few people have remarked on that. I wouldn’t tolerate it from my company and I wouldn’t ask someone else to do it.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Wow, it’s amazing how differently people perceive the same thread. I think most people told the OP that her schedule was unfair and that she ought to be more flexible in giving the AP what she wanted – at least a couple days a week. The OP has reported that she has altered the schedule accordingly, so she clearly understood that advice.

Personally, I can’t imagine being in the OP’s situation – and I went through my own trial-by-fire with an infantile special needs toddler and an infant who had had bacterial meningitis as a newborn. It is clear that this family is struggling and fortunate enough to be able to afford extra help to pitch in and make their lives more sane. Just wait until those three babies learn to walk! However, having an AP work 10 hours over a 13-hour period isn’t fair every day, no matter how much the OP depends on that schedule, and I think most posters commented on that.

Former Au Pair Viki September 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

New host mom, its seems that you are attacking me for expressing how I feel. I am not going to feed into that. I stand by what I said. Its cruel how some people practically say the AP has to slave away for 10 hrs a day. Its really sad. I once had a family like that where I worked 10 and sometimes more hrs per day (I remember one week where i worked close to 60hrs) yet they complained that I was lazy… it didnt dawn on them that I was tired from working 10hrs everyday. I have nothing against the OP but she cannot expect the poor girl’s mood not to change after working so much. The au pair program isnt slavery, its supposed to be a cultural exchange, the AP isn’t getting much of that if she works 24/7 and I can see why she is so sad. I was in a similar situation but rematched and got an amazing family that understand that once in a while I needed time to breath, they didnt give me “breaks”, I could sit down when they kids where playing, or nap in their room when they were napping, or read a book whilst they had an hour of tv time. I wasnt a worker, but an older sister.

Newhostmom September 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Viki – I’m not attacking you – I’m asking you to recognize this from the host parent’s perspective too. As mentioned, host parents get an au pair because they need childcare. Yes, it is a cultural exchange also, but it is first and foremost for host parents childcare – and a lot of time, money, and home space. We are told that for our costs, we get 45 hours a week, up to 10 hours a day. Many host parents use fewer, many use 45, and I don’t doubt that there are some who abuse it and have their au pairs work more (which we never a single time did).

Working 10 hours on some days is not working “24/7” or “slaving.” Au pairs are told (or should be told) what comes with the position, hopefully in detail. Even when they do work 10 hours on some days, that would be four days a week plus a half day, leaving 16 hours free on the 10-hour days, 19 hours free on the half day and then 2 full days a week off. 45 hours of work out of 168 hours a week plus vacation time is hardly “24/7” or “slavery.”

And while I absolutely think that my au pair was worth it, we did pay $27,000 for her services and provided her with free housing for a year. She had lots of flexibility, took tons of trips (with us and by herself), had friends over all the time, ate lots of wonderful meals cooked by me and when we took her out, etc. I’m sorry that you had a bad host family, but to characterize all host parents who expect what they signed up and paid for as cruel slave drivers is pretty irritating to me.

Former Au Pair Viki September 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

newhostmom I think you have an issue. I will not respond to you after this comment because you keep thinking I am attacking you for goodness knows what reason. You have selective vision where you totally ignore how I said SOME people are cruel, that SOME families are mean and that I eventually found a great family. I have not once said every host family is bad, I know that there are some crazy APs but there are also crazy families. I shall leave it at that.

newhostmom September 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Ok, Viki – that’s fine. I don’t understand what you’re standing for in your posts. I do actually have an issue – and it’s with your characterization of host families who have their au pairs work some ten hour days each week as “cruel” “slave drivers.” All I’ve been trying to say is that there are good host families out there who are going to use the full 45 hours. I’m not sure how many hours you think would be reasonable for the program and for what host parents pay, but I will say that if the maximum hours were reduced, many host parents would not be able to have au pairs anymore – pretty much anyone working full-time would struggle to stay under 30, for example, and then only if the kids were all in school. That’s all I’m saying.

BoysMama September 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm

When you sign a contract agreeing to work a specified schedule, you don’t get to later cry cruelty and punishment when you are expected to keep to it. You will learn this within the next 5-10 years, Vicki. Many, many adults think we work too many hours… but we accepted our jobs under specific known terms. That’s life… that’s responsibility.

Laura Kennedy August 27, 2012 at 11:59 am

Just wanted to put a good word in for the French au pairs: we have our first after 2 Germans (the first lazy, the second hardworking) and I have found her to be exceptionally hard working and pleasant.

DCMomof3 August 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I was thinking about the French au pair comments as well. While it is true that the American work week, our lack of good, subsidized public childcare and general lack of societal support for families and working moms may suprise the French, I do have a very good French au pair right now. Last night as we were getting things ready for the kids’ first day of school, she suggested that she should go pick them up each day at lunch and bring them home to eat a full, proper meal (cooked by her) rather than a cold sandwich in a lunchbox at school:) She seemed a little surprised when I told her that the school would not allow it and that the kids are just expected to eat a sandwich in the cafeteria. So, I am definitely in the pro-French au pair camp.

JJ Host Mom August 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Glad to hear it! Our strong preference would be to have a French au pair, since our family is half French and the kids are bilingual. We’ve just had such bad luck that I’m a little gunshy (plus comments from multiple LCCs and on this site have led me to believe that our experience isn’t necessarily unique.)

We have had one fantastic French au pair, so if you have too, maybe we’ll dare to try again, who knows. It’d have to be a strong candidate though.

WestMom August 27, 2012 at 7:35 pm

I have to put my Pro-French AP comment too…We have had 2 very solid French Au Pairs so far. We strayed with another country last year and I am going back to a French girl this year. I really appreciate their sense of family, and the importance they put on healthy eating habits/manners. That said, it seems like there are a few French rematch in our cluster each year, but I suspect it has a lot to do with sloppy screening by the HFs. I am very rigorous on that front…

JJ Host Mom August 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Strong NOPE, at least not in my case. I’m a very tough screener, have been reading and following the advice on this site for years. First au pair I wasn’t, learned my lesson and found this site, won’t do that again. Second one, he lied about being a smoker, during the interview process and even up to the day he left, I could never have caught that over VC. I should, however, have picked up on the fact that he was talking to me for extended periods while he was supposed to be working, which translated to him talking on the phone all day while he was watching my kids. Third one almost totalled our car while driving the kids around, and I had screened with all the driving questions I know, including asking references about driving, but that wasn’t enough. What didn’t surface until she got here was her attitude – we said she could stay and we’d waive her part of the deductible if she’d take and pay for driving lessons, but she became very angry and accused us of being unreasonable, so ultimately it was the attitude that got her sent into rematch. I never got a glimpse of that during our extended interview process, not once. So unfortunately I don’t know what I could have done differently to avoid the last two matches. Well, make it the last three – our latest au pair was great, but all of a sudden went home Surprise! pregnant. Definitely nothing she or I could have done to predict it.

Sometimes I think you just get lucky, and sometimes you get unlucky. I’m really, really hoping that I have exhausted my unlucky streak.

WestMom August 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm

@JJ Host Mom (below)- I have no doubt you and most moms on this forum are excellent screeners… To clarify- I was referring to HFs in my cluster, after meeting the French APs in rematch. I was amazed some of these girls ever made it in the country, regardless of nationality. Despite all that, I think French APs suffer from an unfair stereotype. Maybe I will be proven wrong in the future! (Hope not…).

DCMomof3 August 29, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I actually didn’t do the greatest screening this time around, but got very lucky with my French AP. I had asked my former AP to leave early (we got her from rematch) and I switched agencies so I could get an out-of-country AP. So, I did not have a lot of time to look. I did do a lot of skype chat, although only 1 very poor video interview. As for my French AP, we are now starting our second year together. I second the comments about great sense of family and emphasis on sitting down for actual meals, healthy eating and making mealtime very social (for example, our AP was going out to dinner tonight, but still helped me to cook and then set a place for herself and sat at the table with us and then helped to clean up and then went upstairs and got ready to go out. I told her that she did not have to do that since she wasn’t working or eating, but she said she wanted to join us anyway). All of that said, I think my only “issue” this past year has been her very dramatic love-life. I’ve heard from others that the love drama is characteristically French, but it could just be this individual too.

JJ Host Mom August 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

For those of you with good French au pairs, would you mind sharing what agency you’re with? I’m curious if the agency makes a difference.

Seattle Mom August 31, 2012 at 2:03 am

I’m glad to see this little sub-thread. We are in month 9 with our first AP, who is French. We love her! She is starting to get burned out, but my kids are going through a tough time (ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2) and she’s been with them both all day all summer.. she needs a break! Luckily she has a vacation coming up, and then the older daughter starts preschool 3 days per week- that will make life easier.

And we just matched with AP #2, also from France. I looked at (and threw out) a LOT of applications, french and other European APs, and interviewed a few. I am really excited about this new AP, if she’s half as good as she seems from her application & interview she will be great. We’ll see!

We are with CCAP, and there are a bunch of french APs in Seattle with CCAP- they all seem to know each other. They all seem pretty nice, though I have to say, there were some duds in the applicant pool! (and some who seemed ok but not suited to our family) There was a Swiss girl who I interviewed and liked but my husband vetoed her.

Should be working August 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm

I missed this whole thread! But in future matches I would reconsider the AP’s schedule. Having a 1-hr or even 4-hr break is not much fun for an AP and it might feel (esp. the 1-hr break) that you are just squeezing out from her as much work time as you can. Anna’s condensed schedule is a good one. If I took a 4-hr break from work, it wouldn’t feel as much like ‘time off’ because I would know I’m going back. That’s different than, “My work day is over! I’m free!”

Keep us posted. I want to hear where this ends up.

FrustratedMomofTriplets August 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Wow! I never thought that my post would generate so many comments. Thank you all for your advice and comments.

As recommended by many of you, my DH and I will change our AP schedule to three days with an 11am-8pm day (with a 1-hour break), and two days with an 8:30am-5:30pm day (with a 1-hour lunch break).

We will hang on until the rest of the week, and go back to having our nanny from 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday.

As for the age of my children, my oldest is turning 3 in November and the triplets
turned 1 last month (our AP arrived two weeks before they were 4 months old.

When it comes to food, the bread was just one example of things I have to do to satisfy what she only eats (she doesn’t like pork, fish, unless it is tuna or tilapia, doesn’t like vegetables, unless it is lettuce, tomatoes or zucchinis, only eats brie or gouda, the watermelon can’t taste too floury or she wont eat it, will only drink OJ without pulp while we drink it with pulp, and the list goes on and one).

Thank you again for helping us make our decision. Your input was most valuable.

newhostmom August 28, 2012 at 9:37 am

Glad you found a solution! I hope this works out for everyone! And thanks for adding to the bread example – I think this might fall under the category of “I would do anything for a good au pair, but for a complaining, moody au pair, I don’t feel like putting out for an extras at all.” I think there’s a post on that here somewhere – for example, we adored our au pair and would have bought her whatever she wanted to eat whenever she wanted. We had a partnership where she would routinely go above and beyond for us, and we for her. But if you have one side of that partnership not even meeting the minimum standards, it’s hard to then feel like going above and beyond from your point of view. Totally understand. Hope it all works out!

German Au-Pair August 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Something you might want to consider for your next au pair that might make your life easier regarding that matter: my host parents give me a credit gift card every month. I use it for the kids (like when we are out at the movies or something -which will not be a problem for you) and for my own food. We don’t have regular dinner times and every one eats what he likes and when he likes. I am welcome to eat anything they buy but I can also get my stuff. I drink the soda they buy (but they also drink the soda I get with my credit card) and I use things that would be useless to buy for everyone seperately (like milk and bread) but I don’t eat the special things they buy for themselves (like special meat or cheese). When I use up things like bread I put it on the list and when I use up something more special I make sure I bring it when I’m out shopping for myself.
That way my host parents never have to worry about anything like that. I can imagine that it can be annoying to consider things like you mention (like buying pulp-free orange juice when you usually buy pulpy one). A credit gift card with a certain amount every month could solve that.

anon August 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Amex has a card for teens – “PASS” that works perfectly for au pairs. It’s a debit card, no fees to load. Can load any amount ($25 minimum) from a bank acct. You have a login portal so you can see all charges (venue, amount, time), and can elect to get (or not get) emails and texts every time a charge is made on the card. The card is in the au pair’s name. I have them for my teen and for my au pair, and love it. My au pair can buy things for the kids, can fill the car with gas, and can pick up things at the grocery store and I never have to give her cash ahead of time, or reimburse her, or worse, have her use her own money and then wait for me to reimburse her. I would highly recommend it!

JJ Host Mom August 28, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Thank you! Great tip! Been trying to figure out how to do this for years.

Melissa August 29, 2012 at 12:21 am

Wow – this is great! Wish I had known about this a long time ago. Thanks for sharing!

Should be working August 29, 2012 at 2:11 pm

This is just what I was wondering too! I keep meaning to find out if gas stations have a special card to do this with.

MOMof6 August 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

(I am “anon” above who posted about the PASS card – I was using a public computer and didn’t want to use my regular handle when I posted. )

I just happened on this bc I have a regular Amex credit card and they sent me an email about it over a year ago. When my son turned 13 (cardholder has to be 13+) I signed him up so that he could load his allowance/spending money track his own spending habits (easier to see how much you are spending on pizza and at the candy store when you have an itemized list!) Both the cardholder and the “parent” can check card activity…and while investigating the options/process it occured to me that this might work for my AP.

I had previously used Amex gift cards or other gift card options. But I liked this better bc it is debit, one can’t spend more than there is on there, there are no fees, you can restrict or fully prohibit the ability to withdraw cash on it, I can reload it whenever I want, by tel or online, and there is a record of exactly where it is used, how much, when etc. While I don’t ck often, the fact that I can, and the AP knows I can, motivates its proper, ethical use. It is NOT linked to my credit report or credit history, and the card is in her name, not mine. (I never wanted to give an AP a card in my name, nor did I want to get her an additional user card on one of my credit cards….)You can also summarily suspend (temporarily or permanantly) its use with just a click, if that were warranted.

Also, the sign up process did NOT require me to “lie” and say that the AP was my child – I simply filled in all her correct info (name, DOB etc.). Child/AP doesn’t need a SSN to get the card.

In all, I felt like it was the perfect solution for an AP. We’ve had it for a few months so far and my AP (and son) loves it. :)

EU.AP August 30, 2012 at 6:05 am

This would be nice, I don’t like dealing entirely in cash.

I go grocery shopping every day for my family. Nothing too big, just one or two items. I am free to pick up some food for myself on these trips. Since I am a vegetarian, I have found this system useful — HM keeps a little jar of small bills, nothing significant. It’s not as high tech as the Amex card, and I suppose she has no way of tracking the use of the money.

Seattle Mom August 31, 2012 at 2:08 am

I do this for my AP and it has worked out great. SHe mostly uses it for gas and for occasional outings with the kids. And for when we run out of coffee :). I told her she oculd buy special groceries, but she’s really good about eating whatever we have in the house. The only thing our AP doesn’t like (that we eat a lot of) is rice. And she’s french :)

Runner Mom September 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I have this for my APs. It’s handy and I can keep track of what they spend and get an email anytime she makes a transaction.

Keep in mind that if you use it for gas, all stations put on a (at least) $100 hold on the card, so make sure you have enough on there for gas + the hold. The way around this is to go into the gas store and ask for a pre-set amount to be charged, but that’s tough with kids in the car.

Also not every place takes AMEX.

FrustratedMomofTriplets August 27, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I forgot to say that we will also have our Saturday nanny help me during the eveningour AP will no longer work, and she will help me every Friday night once our AP is gone.

LuvCheetos August 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

Wow. It sounds like you have done a lot of juggling for her. I hope it solves your problems.

I just wanted to say on the salary issue that my current AP had come to the US on a work and travel program before. She told me that the AP is so much better than work and travel becuase with WT she had to work essentially 2 full time jobs to make enough money to pay back the cost of the program and to make enough money to pay rent and food, etc. She thinks the AP is much easier becuase the most she has to work is 45 hours (and we don’t do that very often) and the program itself was cheaper for her to do. So it sounds like at least some APs think this is not a bad deal compared to other programs. I wonder, though, if in some of the “richer” countries it is sold as an adventue rather than a work/culture exchange, whereas in “poorer” countries, like the one my AP is from, the APs get the message that there is actual work involved, along with the experience of living in another country.

Au pair August 30, 2012 at 12:36 am

I am from europe, from a first class country. When i applied to become an au pair, they sold it to my like an adventure. Like: you can travel all the time, meet new people, go to college,live the american way of life etc. Sereously, they NEVER mentoined how hard it will be. Problems you might have with hf,hk etc. They also never told us how hard it is to leave after you builded up a great relationship with the kids. But one thing is for sure. When i go back, i will sign up for the meetings to talk to future au pairs, and i will tell them that this is WORK and not vacation!!! I also think that this is one of the hardest thing i’ve ever did in my life. Taking care of someone elses kids, make parents and kids happy is not easy. So yes, they do sell it to future au pair as an adventure. At let in my country.!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 30, 2012 at 7:02 am

I think many HF realize that it is sold to APs as an adventure. In my experience, AP candidates who have already worked, either as practical experience as part of their education (esp. the German Ausbildung), or because their family situation required it, the fact that they have to work does not come as a surprise.

For younger APs, who may be using the AP as a “gap year” between secondary school and university, it does not matter how much you inform them in advance of the schedule and work requirements. In my experience they are so excited to have matched with a HF that the reality of the work hits them only when they arrive.

There is some time for adventure each day. APs may find the first few weeks exhausting as they adapt to a new culture and a new language. However, most APs have at least 14 free hours every day, and even taking into account a good night’s sleep, there’s still plenty of free time (at least in the U.S.). Remember, most of your HP work full-time, switch gears and come home and take care of the children (not complaining – I’m happy and fulfilled with my life – but my guess most HP are like me, “free time” comes in minutes, rarely hours).

LuvCheetos August 30, 2012 at 7:43 am

Are you from Germany? I think they do sell it as an adventure n Germany. We had a couple young (19) year old German APs who really didn’t seem to get it that it was work. We had an older German AP who understood. Now we have someone from a country farther east in Europe who totally yes that it is work (she’s the one who did work and travel before).

It’s very unfair of the companies to sell it to you that way and sell it to us another way. Our cluster, which used to have about 15 German APs, only has one or 2 this year because last year was so awful for the families with German APs. THere were all kinds of behavioral issues, excessive drinking, not wanting to work, etc. I was discussing it with my LCC, who thinks there may be an issue with the way they are pitching the program over there. She was going to speak to the corporate headquarters about it.

I’m glad you are going to talk to future APs about what it’s really like. I really think it’s important that both parties go into it with the same (or similar) expectations. It’s not an exchange like being an exchange student, in which the family gets paid to host you while you go to school. The family is paying (a lot) to host you with the expectations that they get something in exchange. I think the programs don’t make that clear. Both sides are paying (although the family is paying a lot more). I suspect there are families that don’t understand that the AP also pays to join the program and she has expectations as well.

It sounds like this year was harder than you expected, but good for you for sticking it out! You are gaining valuable life experience in how to make people happy and get along with an employer. Also, I’m sure you’ve made a lot of good friends and had some fin. Enjoy the rest of your year here!

German Au-Pair August 31, 2012 at 9:19 am

I can confirm that.
While I personally don’t have that many hours to work as an au pair because my family doesn’t require it, I can confirm that the working part is hardly ever mentioned.
It is never mentioned, how hard and challenging life with kids can be, either. I don’t have that many hours but work with my kids can be emotionally draining (they have special needs + puberty hitting so every single thing is a struggle and required constant adjusting and finding new ways of getting things done). I have a little sibling and have worked with special needs before so I was not surprised.
But the agencies don’t tell you anything. They encourage you to say you’ll take special needs even if you clearly state that you are not up for it (I know at least 3 au pairs who said they didn’t want to but have been pushed by the agency to increase their chances of finding a host family).
It has already been discussed that they coach the au pairs but I know of one agency who doesn’t take the truth about things that seriously and enables -and sometimes encourages- au pairs to…pimp…their application a little bit so they will find a family faster. (As in: make up names for families you babysitted for and hope no one will call them to confirm, adjust the hours a little bit, say you drive 3 times a week when in reality you haven’t driven a car since you made your license and that sort of stuff!)

I think both au pairs and host parents need to realize that the agencies are just companies and their inhterest is not in making either one of us happy but to satisfy us enough so we bring the money. They will sell the program to HF as inexpensive but super flexible child care and to AP as a year of fun and a warm and fuzzy family life.

Not in US August 30, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I am so agree with you! What I read on all advertisements were all nice; AuPair: cultural exchange, equal, be a big sister!
When I signed my contract, it was so nice too: only 5 hours/ day, only taking care of kids, a lot of free time, bla bla bla..
But in reality, I also work as a cleaning lady and more than 5 hours/ day.
At least in US, from what I’ve read here, APs only taking care of children. In Europe, most of APs also work as cleaning lady. Like me and my friends do right now.

LuvCheetos August 31, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Thanks for your candor, German Au Pair. I had a feeeling that’s what some of the recruiters are doing. I’d be interested to know what company, but if you’re not comfortable, I can understand that. It’s really a shame because it sets all of us up for failure. It’s good to know so that HP can make it more clear in the interviewing process. The job in our family really isn’t too bad becuase it’s before and after school care and the kids are a little older (10 and 7), but there are long hours in the summer. I know our first AP, who had a lot of experience as a camp counselor, told us it was much harder than she expected, although she really rose to the occasion and was a fabulous au pair.

Seattle Mom August 31, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Could you tell us what agency you’re with? I wonder if some agencies sell the program as being an adventure (and not a job) more than others. I get the impression that my agency (Cultural Care) prepares APs for the realities, because reading the in-country interview notes that always seems to be one of the topics (e.g. “she understands that it will be hard work”). But maybe they aren’t telling the whole truth? And maybe it’s different in Germany.. I know I’ve looked at some German AP applications, but so far only matched with French.

NonCoast Host Mom August 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Not to get terribly off-topic, but there is a decided slant to the advertising to host families that may lead to unrealistic expectations as well. I did my homework (including reading nearly this entire site) and my experience has generally been about what I expected. That may not have been the case has i relied more heavily in the print materials and sales pitch Advertising to host families emphasizes affordable and flexible child care. It directly compares the cost per month of an au pair versus a nanny or day care. Of course, as discussed elsewhere, the overall cost to a
family is higher than is touted in these comparisons. While advertised as child care, many au pairs are relatively inexperienced in this regard. They certainly are not required to have any significant education in child development. Notably, the contract expressly states that the agency is not committing to the family having child care and emphasizes the need to have backup care available. As we all need, rematches and even unexpected au pair family emergencies can throw a wrench in the childcare situation My point is that all advertising has a bent to capture the attention of the target audience. (maybe this begs the question of what demographic the agencies SHOULD be targeting). I think the program overall could benefit from better management of expectations. In the meantime, I know many of us on the site work on this on an individual level. When I interviewed my (fabulous French) au pair, I talked to her about her work and child care experience and emphasized how challenging it can be spending extended periods of time with no adults with whom to interact and working all day with no real break. We spoke about the minimal vacation time and how that differed from that of her parents. I suppose there is always the risk that believing you can handle something is not the same as actually living with
something. Still, I think directly addressing during interviews the issues that we think may arise from misleading advertising is invaluable.

German Au-Pair August 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm

I’m with APC but have also applied to APIA. APIA took the hours very seriously, which I liked.
My case was a little special because I worked in a daycare for a year but had my contract with another organisation. My contract with them said I worked about twice the hours I actually worked.
I was open about it to the agencies. APIA wanted my references to be written by one of the people who have actually worked with me and with the actual amount of hours. APC said they didn’t care and wanted the reference written by the people I had the contract with who have never seen me with the kids (they would have heard about negative stuff of course, but had no clue what was actually going on). I had twice as many hours with APC. (It didn’t really matter in my case because I have a ton of extra experience and even the actual amount of those hours was more than enough. But in some cases it MIGHT actually matter.)
Then I couldn’t remember the name of the family I used to tutor for a couple of years ago. They told me “Write Schmidt and hope no one asks.” If I had tried to fake an experience here, they would have made it really easy.
Recently an au pair posted that she was totally scared to drive in the US because she had never driven a car after she had made her license but APC told her to mark the “1-3 times a week” button in her application “because it’s so easy to drive in the US anyway”. Now she was sweating about how she could tell potential host parents that she is absolutely afraid of driving.

In my experience, APIA has been much more interested in checking the hours. Also, I know a LOT of au pairs with APC whose references have NEVER been called, or they have been called after match. And I mean the references over the 200 necessary hours.

I hope it’s okay to write this hear, if not, feel free to delete it, CV. I’m not trying to say mean things about an agency but those are facts that made me worry about how easy it would be to fake an application if you wanted to.

JJ Host Mom September 1, 2012 at 12:10 am

Thanks German au pair, that’s helpful. From very unscientific poll based on reading of this board, I *think* that many of the happy long-time host parents with the best track records use APIA. Personally I’ve been using APC and have a crummy track record. So maybe this explains why…

German Au-Pair September 1, 2012 at 1:00 am

JJ Host Mum, I don’t think it entirely matters, which agency you use regarding everything else. It all depends on the area director and the families and the au pair. There are crazy host familes everywhere and there are crazy au pairs everywhere.
I don’t have any issue with APC, I’m here with them and they haven’t done anything to me personally. But I was stunned how they treated those issues.
And those are only some…I know a few girls who were pushed to say they are willing to work with special needs children even though they had never done it before and even though they said they weren’t up for it. The agency said things like “there are things like learning diasbilities or ADD and many children have them so you should say you will take special needs to increase your chances to find a host family”.

My advice to host families would be to double check things. There are those childcare experiences that you don’t need to prove with the reference. Since it’s so easy to fake them, I would ask questions about every one of them, if the hours are important to you. Even with babysitter jobs in the past, I’m sure everyone can come up with an anecdote about it, if it’s real.
And if the experience really matters to you, I’d consider double checking the references. At first I thought that would be weird but now I think it might be necessary. It has become common knowledge (at least here in Germany) that APC tends to NOT call to check the references. I don’t know how that works with other agencies but I know that my applictaion with APIA was not prcoessed before my references have been reached to at least confirm that I actually went there.

Anon September 2, 2012 at 2:12 am

Out first dream AP was from CCap. She was well prepared, responsible, honest and trustworthy. The next three disaster APs were all APC. While 2 of 3 were prepared to do the work, there were huge issues with dishonesty, theft, drug use, and misrepresentations on the applications. In my limited experience, the agency makes a huge difference in the quality of candidates. Our CCap LCC wasn’t great, but there were no problems with the AP. Our APC LCC was fantastic, but there was no end of trouble with the APs.

Former Au Pair Viki September 2, 2012 at 2:09 pm

The agency I used sold it as a vacation, even though I knew it would be hard work because my friend had left as an au pair and updated me about the real work. You should see the pamphlets we get, its usually a picture of an AP on the beach chilling out and the kids frolicking in the distance, they write “Want to spend a fun year abroad” etc. They dont tell you that you might end up with a creepy HD or child who cries none stop everyday all day for no reason. Sure, you choose the family but some families are not 100% honest about the work load. Whenever someone asks me about being an AP I tell them to ask every question, no matter how silly it seems at the time because its not a vacation.

Floris August 30, 2012 at 8:17 am

Well…. I am European, so maybe my vision is a little different. I know in the US as an Au pair you can work for the maximum of 45 hrs a week. That is a maximum… You all should realise that being a hostfamily and an Au Pair brings mutual responsibilities.
As an Au Pair you should realise it is not only fun. As a hostfamily you should realise that an Au Pair not only comes to your family to work but also to explore your country, make new friends etc. You have to find a balance in that. With all due respect, with 45 hours work in a week, there is no possible balance. I know it is legal in the US but it makes it very hard for an Au Pair, with those hours, to enjoy her stay etc.
Before you agree on a match, make sure you have made it very clear what you expect. And what you eat and when etc. I did not read in the story above that the Au Pair was fully informed. On the other hand, if an Au Pair is organized it is possible to manage things in a short period of time. In this case; nothing seems to work so end the contract, if you have. Best for both.

In genereal; if you are only looking for a help in the house, employ a housekeeper. If you are looking for a big sister, a familymember take an Au Pair. But find the balance between work and free time for the Au Pair. Because, in origin it is a cultural programm.

But that is my opinion:)

newhostmom August 30, 2012 at 9:13 am

I think this is really important to communicate as a host parent to a prospective au pair. The good host parents 100% recognize that the au pair isn’t coming to the U.S. to watch your children, that she’s coming here to get an American experience, to learn English, to meet new friends, to be a part of something big and different. Definitely. I’ve said before that there needs to be a mutual understanding and partnership for this to be successful.

Host parents need to actively communicate and au pairs also need to understand that the main reason (note I said main, not only) we get au pairs is not because we want to show a young foreign woman a good time in the U.S. It’s because we need childcare. If we didn’t need childcare, and we just liked the hosting aspect, there are other more appropriate choices. But choosing an au pair is choosing a childcare solution.

U.S. parents don’t have a ton of childcare choices. And most full-time working parents (which I have found most AP-hosting parents to be around us) work 40+ hours a week, as is standard in the U.S. We don’t have a choice on that. So we need childcare to cover those hours plus any commute (frequently it’s about 50 hours a week that parents need). We also generally don’t have a bunch of time off and bosses usually do not look fondly about unexpectedly taking time off. We need to be there every day.

U.S. parents could get a nanny (assuming the kids aren’t in school, in our area for 50 hours would be about $50,000/year), we could use a daycare (most around us have 2-year waits), we could use an in-home daycare (which IME don’t frequently have enough regulation). Or we can choose an au pair, which is cheaper than a nanny yes, but I believe I’ve gone into some of the trade-offs and the reasons why it is cheaper.

We couldn’t afford a nanny plus preschool, so that wasn’t an option for us. We could afford daycare (actually cheaper for two kids than an au pair), but didn’t get called off the waitlist in time. I liked the idea of hosting an au pair, because of the cultural exchange aspect and getting to know someone new, so we chose that.

Absolutely, we loved having our au pair and getting to know her and learn about our country. But we signed up to have her come because we needed childcare. And we needed it for 45 hours/week. We were upfront about that and about our hours in the beginning, as I agree host parents should be. And we had a great year. She got to travel, made lots of friends, had lots of free time (all evenings and most whole weekends to explore even though she worked 45 hours/week).

So au pairs, please remember to see this relationship from your host parents point of view also. And remember how much time and money we are spending too. And that we are doing it because we need reliable chidlcare. You are not going to get to take every trip and go out every time your friends go out and take off whenever you like. And that’s not your host parent trying to control you or ruining your stay or not understanding your purpose for being an au pair. It’s your host parent expecting what THEY signed up and paid for in return for understanding why you are an au pair, which for host parents is reliable childcare.

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids August 30, 2012 at 10:31 am

There is definitely a balance that must be maintained between the needs of the host family and the au pair. I think you laid it out pretty well.

But I also want to emphasize that I personally, and I think most host moms and dads who follow aupair mom, make a big effort to support our au pair in meeting her goals. We ask a lot of questions (during matching and when they arrive) about specifically what they want to do when in the US. If it includes a visit to a particular city, we give them guidance on the best way to get there, where to stay, and for how long.

Our first au pair was going to drive from the southwest of the US to Florida during her travel month and was going to only drive a few hours each day so she could explore. We gave her our opinion that she would come across certain areas that didn’t have a lot to see (mostly farms & small towns) and she may want to plan around certain points of interest (like spend extra time in New Orleans). When our au apairs have been interested in exploring our area and we make sure that they are planning the right amount of time to get back and forth (regardless of what google maps tells them) so that they get the most out of the experience.

Those are just a couple of examples, but for me it is generally little effort to give them some guidance on these kinds of things (oh yeah, I really try to help them find the best classes for their educational component too to make sure they are not bored). We have had au pairs who are independent enough to have thier own ideas about what they want to do and we just coach them along. This is actually a really fun part of hosting an au pair for me, as long as I do not turn into a travel agent.

EU.AP August 30, 2012 at 11:29 am

IMO working 45/week does seem like quite a bit for something that is being sold as a cultural exchange program. The solution isn’t to decrease hours, but for agencies to market it for what it is… to both parties. Work exchange, maybe? No one is going to get off that plane and be shocked to learn that they are going to be experiencing a different culture.

And I do think most au pairs understand that parents host them primarily for child care reasons. It’s one of the things I find really cool about the program is the exchange of services for non-monetary incentives.

newhostmom August 30, 2012 at 11:42 am

Thanks for these additions to my post and I hope I didn’t come off sounding as if we aren’t as flexible as we can be so that our au pair can get what she wants out of the program too (which was one of the questions we asked as we were matching). Of course, our au pair got her two weeks paid off, but we also gave her another two weeks off unpaid at her request, had her visitors stay with us for a total of 3 weeks during the year, tried to come home early if she wanted to do something that evening, and let her request which weekends she wanted totally off so she could make plans. She also went on all our vacations with us and had more limited hours during those. And she did have every evening and most weekends off because all her hours were during the week days.

She also knew upfront that we would need her for the 45 hours each week. It was definitely hard for her at times, but she said at the end that it was the good kind of challenge. The kind you get through and feel stronger. And she grew in all kinds of great ways.

But I agree that if you’re going to be a family like ours who uses the 45 hours, then you need to be upfront about it and explain what that means, because obviously the agencies aren’t doing it for us! I think I just wanted to present the perspective from my side about needing childcare as a reaction to this comment: “With all due respect, with 45 hours work in a week, there is no possible balance. I know it is legal in the US but it makes it very hard for an Au Pair, with those hours, to enjoy her stay etc.” Because while I think it’s very important that she enjoy her stay and that I try to do the best to provide her with balance, my main goal is reliable childcare. It’s not that I’m being mean or preventing her from having fun, it’s that my needs need to be met too.

NonCoast Host Mom August 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I should have read farther to see that others has made my same points – and with better paragraph breaks and fewer typos. Sorry – just having some quality time with my iPhone.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 30, 2012 at 9:56 pm

I think the bottom line is that Americans work longer hours and with less vacation time than Europeans. Money is for us a trade off – we pay a premium for college and retirement that most Europeans currently don’t (but might in the future, yes?).

The State Dept. permits host families to require up to 45 hours a week because that meets the needs of most HF. When DH and I went back to work after child #2, our LCC made it clear to us that we didn’t have the luxury of commuting together. Even today, when AP #8 works far less hours than AP #1, we split our shifts. I leave from home at 5:30 am (I am a night person trapped in a morning person’s schedule), DH at 7:30 am (and he gets to work from home 2 days a week, lucky duck). I return home between 4:10 and 4:20 most days, and DH around 6:00. (Sure, I pay a price for my earlier schedule – my boss argues that I put a lot of pressure on my colleagues, who have to be there for the late PM calls from Congress, but I can get a lot of work done before they show up.)

My current AP works less than 30 hours per week on average (just because I COULD have her work 45 hours per week doesn’t mean I DO). Families with small children probably max out their hours each week – I know I did until child #1 entered full-time special needs preschool and child #2 went to half-time preschool for socialization). Now that both kids are in school full-time I schedule the AP to work in order to make in convenient for DH and I to work and keep the household running (e.g the AP feeds The Camel in the morning while DH gets child #2 ready for school and she feeds The Camel in the evening while I prepare a homecooked meal). Our AP only works 45 hours a week during school vacations (and since The Camel attends summer school we’re only talking 6-8 weeks a year).

I will say, that based on reports from APs in Europe that American families tend to require less cleaning. Certainly the program emphasizes that cleaning & laundry may only be done on behalf of he children (I’m sure families make exceptions). Because my current AP works less than 30 hours in most weeks, I require that she does a load of the kids laundry and cleans The Camel’s space on her own time once a week (it takes me less than 2 hours to do this, it may take a neophyte AP more – but certainly no where close to 45 hours total).

I do argue that once APs have settled into their routines, have adjusted to life in English, that 45 hours per week still gives them plenty of free time. Even allotting for 8 hours of sleep a night, there are still 67 hours a week (unlike HP, they don’t have to switch gears from work to childcare – once their work is over they’re free to dash out the door – although those cautious about money will eat with the family and may have less “free” time).

Yes, Europeans may think we’re miserly, but they may not count up all the hours their APs work to achieve their goals, while we Americans always have a clock ticking against us.

HM in Chicago August 31, 2012 at 1:07 am

Westcoast aupair you are wonderful I think you got it!!! I wish you could be my au-pair :( after rematch I am hoping that my coming out of country au-pair from Germany can meet my expectations. American au pair in Europe you are wrong nannies in the US are not bring paid $60K but hey nice try. I am a resident physician and then my salary is even lower than that how could I afford you???

germanchickx September 3, 2012 at 11:24 am

I used to be an Au Pair too and I’m now a nanny.

If the older child is 3 years old, he definitely needs some outside time every day. Why not send the Au Pair to the playground for an hour or two with the older child and maybe one of the triplets. It would give her and the kids some outside time. I’m in a nanny share with two 1yo and I know I would go crazy if I couldn’t take them out every day.

I do think her hours are tough, but I do think she didn’t know how hard they would be once she makes friends. I think you really need to start telling Au Pairs how hard it really is or you might run into this problem with other Au Pairs as well.

Being off at 8pm is ok sometimes, but considering she sometimes has to be back at work as 7am, it really limits what she can do at night if she also tries to get a good night sleep.

Little M. September 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I was an aupair in Europe last year.

It didn’t work out (they wanted a maid, a cleaning lady, a slave… Job actually was +60 hours a week, all house-jobs (laundry, vacuuming, kitchen, playroom, HD/HM clothes, grocery shopping,cooking..) All that plus babysitting every night and one day off a week.) Worst thing is that they plain lied saying it was a 25/h a week job and thats what I signed for.

Situation was quite strange because I found myself trapped in a house in a foreign country (luckily I didn’t have any language issues because English is not my first language but IMO by now I’m mostly bilingual bween English/Spanish) and I didn’t have no-one to go to because I went there on my own (must say, thats what I found brilliant about the American system, it is organized from both sides even when there’s a bit of a mess sometimes) and they had me working more than sixty hours a week and all the mentioned above.

When I told them I was going to leave because I thought the actual job wasn’t what I signed for they freaked out and told me that I had to stay and took my bags away from me and locked them in the rooftop storage. I ended up leaving the next day scorted by the police after my HM entered my room at 4 o clock in the morning and started looking at my stuff. (Obviously I was already trying to make my way out but I wasn’t really convinced of leaving without getting all my stuff back and I was convinced that they would ultimately make up their mind and just let me go. Looking back I think that the best thing would have been leaving them out of the blue and making my way out of the house as fast as I could. ) Anyway, it had a happy ending (I left, I found a house and a job and Ive been living in this city for more than fourteen months to the date. On-my-own. With-my-money. And working like a horse but happy enough. Funny thing my actual working weeks are almost 50 hours… Oh.. Nevermind).

Thing is (and thats what I really wanted to say). I don’t think any of you HM’s is being unfair with her aupair. 45 hours a week is not a big deal at all. IT IS A JOB. AN ACTUAL JOB. With its upsides, its downsides, its highlights and its awful moments. Just like all jobs. It is something you do for a living (You aupair for a living; You work Z hours a week to get room and board and a stipend). So sometimes I don’t really understand why some aupairs complain when they have to work their hours. They knew beforehand (or they should have known. Sometimes I’ve seen the agencies selling the aupair year as ‘fun abroad with a bit of childcare’ and it should actually be ‘get a fun year abroad while you work and study’ or something like that. WHILE. Not as a purpose. Of course some hours may be odd. But thats what a job its like. And they can still enjoy their time. I would thrill if my actual working weeks were just 45 hours and then two days off. I never get two days off (or almost never and then I have to fight for them). (I don’t wanna be a martyr, I work with a purpose and I’m truly getting it and I’m sort of happy about it.

So, what I wanted to say through this strange mixture of *rant,story,allsortsofrandomthings* is that I don’t think that this HM (and most of the HM’s that post) is unfair with her requirements. You-are-bosses. And you pay for a job to be done. Special connotations pay? Maybe. But still a job.

Good luck with your aupair. I look forward the day I’ll finish my studies and stuff (Im still on the young-enough-I-have-plenty-of-time-to-aupair side) and try to aupair in the USA.

Little M. September 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Btw, sorry about the wrong spellings and stuff. Typing quickly on an ipad while you go on the bus and try to settle a bit after a twelve hours working day is not easy at all…

Best wishes to you all and good luck!

bluerain September 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I have read this blog many time but never posted until now. After scanning through most of the comments, I want to speak up for French APs. I am a first time HM with a French AP who is just fantastic. She works 45 hours every week from 7am to 7pm with a 2hr break in the middle and she is always on time and fully engaged with my twin infants. Not only is she loving, competent and diligent while she is working, she always offers to help out during her off hours. She constantly thinks of new things to enrich their days and keeps me posted on their developments. I have a job that allows me some flexibility to work from home frequently and she has no problem switching between me being away or at home. I do think parents needs to be more cautious at selecting their au pairs. While I complete disagree with American AP in Europe’s vehemence, I do think that picking a 21 yr old with bf at home is probably not the best fit for 4 young children. Obvious there are mature 21yr olds but the odds are they might be overwhelmed.

However, that being said, I don’t think it’s the HP’s fault if the AP is immature. That the AP’s issue. HP should not be responsible when an AP doesn’t rise to the occasion that is described to them back at home. Just as HF needs to do the due diligence in selecting APs, APs needs to have done the home work and figure out what they can handle or what they are getting into before hand. If they are unhappy but refused to work with the HF to reasonably address it, then they are the problem. Immaturity is not an excuse, it’s an inherent character flaw of the AP that can be overcome. People learn to become mature by dealing with challenging situations.

Molly September 16, 2012 at 2:12 pm

American AP in Europe, as a fellow American Au Pair in Europe, I am terribly annoyed by your comments. You are giving American young women a bad name. As a 24-year-old young American working as an au pair, I receive a small stipend, about 1/4 of what the au pairs working in America get. However, I receive room, board, insurance, a tram pass and have my language courses paid for. That is a lot more than many people have in this economy and I am grateful for the job. These young women who come to America are aware of the job requirements and honestly, they are getting paid a hefty stipend on top of getting free room and board. As a person who has lived on her own for several years now, I can tell you that that in itself is quite expensive. I really think you need to stop responding to these post, as, despite what these women tell you, you seem to keep repeating what you’ve said the entire time. You’re a broken record.

These women on this forum seem to care deeply about their au pairs, otherwise they wouldn’t be on this forum talking about how they could improve their relationship with them!

Reb September 18, 2012 at 9:21 am

Whilst I can understand why the Au Pair thinks her days are very long, and possibly demanding with such small children, she should not be having this argument with you at this stage. The hours were discussed and agreed prior to matching. I could have understood her if she came to you home, started working and quickly realised that the long days was to much for her. That would have been the time to discussed this with you, after a month or two. The only problem is that she has waited 10 months to do so, and by the sound of you, when the au pair addressed the issue she did not do it in a respectful manner.
It seems as if you have welcomed your au pair to you family with open arms, trying to accomodate for her the best you could! I would keep going for another two months and then get a new au pair..

Btw, having read some of the comments above I feel it is totally inapproriate to disciminate against french au pairs – saying “they” have a bad attitude – absolute rubbish! (I am not french….!!!)

Former au pair mum October 19, 2012 at 7:54 am

Have not read all the posts, sorry. I empathise with the frustrations of the OP, esp with 4 little ones! I do think that the hours (11-8) definitely sound better than the original schedule but the hours do not sound like the Au Pair gets to do much with her day except Sat.
Can you have her start earlier 1 or 2 days per week so she can finish earlier and have more chance to meet friends etc? ie 1 or 2 days 9-6 or 8-5 and adjust nanny hrs.

Just a suggestion.

HRHM October 19, 2012 at 10:25 am

I have read all the posts and this is the one thing that sort of puzzled me. Why not give the AP the early shift and switch the nanny to the later hours? Obviously, if your nanny can only work those set hours, then you can’t do it. And certainly, AP knew the schedule before she took the job. But it would be worth keeping the peace if it was possible.

FrustratedMomofTriplets December 20, 2012 at 3:01 am

Just a little update, in case some of you are wondering.

Our au-pair left us a little more than a month ago and found a new family for her second year in the US. We have increased our nanny’s hours back to 40 hours per week (8:30 am through 12:30 pm, 2:00 pm through 6:00 pm) and are really much happier with the new situation.

Things are really not going well with our former au pair’s new host mom. She has finally come to realize how good she had it while living with us. I feel so sorry for her, now that she is in a family where she has hours that suit her, and only has to care for two children, she is complaining that she does not have a car, that all she has to eat are corn-dogs or sandwiches and that her host mom does not like her. Her new family decided to do a rematch and she feels devastated because she was finally getting used to the idea that she was no longer with us.

Should be working December 20, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Thanks for the update! It is always so interesting to hear how things work out!

HRHM December 21, 2012 at 9:40 am

I think it’s pretty common for APs to find that the grass is rarely greener on the other side! We’ve had 2 past APs extend with other families for year 2 (neither was invited to extend with us) and both ended up having issues. One rematched within the first month she was there. The other ended up quitting and going off the grid to stay in the US illegally.
It’s amazing that the stuff they griped about eternally while they were here (car curfew, having to work a couple weekend days a month) later paled in comparison to being treated like a servant, having no one care about them and having to work 9 hours straight 5 days a week with small children.

Host Mom in the City December 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

Glad things worked out for you and thanks for the update!

Apple January 25, 2013 at 7:03 am

Well……………I am anti-anti-anti french au pairs.

My au pair apparently was from paris that comes from a unfortunate upbringing she says. Played the victim so much. She was lazy, she just wanted to spend the day on facebook. She would complain about everything. She had a nasty attitude. The worse attitude I have ever seen. She would be defensive, she would only appreciate her culture. She was lazy with the kids and complained all the time about how bored she aws.

I am glad I got rid of her. I have had an au pair from IRAN she was awesome. I had an au pair from ARGENTINA she was great. I had an ITALIAN au pair. I would stick to only those 3 au pairs. Latinos all the way or middle eastern. They were hard workers, never complained. Had common sense.

Plus I would only hire an au pair 25+ as my last princess of paris was just a complaining, nasty girl.

julie January 30, 2013 at 12:28 am

I haven’t read all the posts, just the first few. We have had 5 au pairs, 4 were great, even when our kids were littler and harder, but one was very much like what you describe. She agreed to everything up front (not too bad a deal – 3 kids, a car, daytime hours, 35ish a week – but she often worked weekend days).

Every month or so, she’d have a new complaint — needs Saturdays free to socialize. OK we gave it to her. Needs Sundays too. OK we will hire someone some Sundays but not all. She’s bored, the kids are noisy, our appliances don’t work as well as where she came from, whatever. Finally we told her to leave, and we are SO much happier. We haven’t gotten a replacement yet but even the babysitter makes our environment so much more positive.

We are sorry we didn’t do it the first time she started renegotiating the deal that we agreed to up front. (I could mention the illegal use — and breaking — of our car here but will save that for another post). The complaining is because it’s who she is, not because of the situation. You can bend over backwards but it’s her, not you, and you can’t fix it. We tried for a half year before we realized that.

And let me add – I stopped reading at that vile post from the American Au Pair in Europe. Apart from her total lack in confidence in 20 year olds, many of whom can handle challenging jobs with grace and still enjoy themselves, she keeps referring to the host mom being too cheap to get a nanny. (As if the mom’s finances are any of her business.)

Many of us prefer au pairs, but not because of the money – we have to pay the agency too, she seems to forget. I feel that a foreigner who has childcare experience and is interested in coming here to combine it with learning about our culture makes an interesting playmate for my kids, and good company for all of us. I don’t feel that way about an American who is only nannying because she needs money while she figures out what to do with the rest of her life.

Anja February 23, 2013 at 12:54 am

I can actually understand her, because I know how it is when you don’t have anything from the week, you are basicly working all the time and at 8pm you are dead tired and can’t go out….. So yes her schedule sucks! (from an aupair point of view).
I think parents often don’t understand that yes we come here to babysit, but its a cultural exchange visa! It supouse to give us also some time to explore the country. Try to see it from her point of view – you get sick of the rutine, of the schedule thats not flexible mostly, everything… I can’t say for this girl since I don’t know her in person, but sometimes even tho you are really grateful for everything you just don’t show it. Why don’t you just openly talk with her and tell her how you feel? And dont go with: you do this and that… tell her from the “I” point of view!

legalresearch in aupairing April 6, 2013 at 5:45 am

It is in my opinion that au pairing has lost its original meaning from the basic law where all au pair regulations all over the globe originated – The European Council on Au Pair Placement. An au pair contract is not a labor contract. Au Pairing has become an industry. Let us admit that “most” of the au pairs who are really nice and educated came from countries where labor employment is so low. They do not want to be deported back. That is the inequality of globalization.

So if you chose to have an au pair then you should know the risk. Why not just get professional nanny care or domestic help instead? Is it because it is much more expensive? If HMs argue that they can afford those but still choose au pairs, then what is the logic of still “hiring” them?

Please read more about the current au pair situation and research in the world before you comment. I agree that 10 hours a day is against labor rights and for just a measly 200$ a week.

HRHM April 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I can’t answer for other families but we choose APs because of the flexibility and the paper-less employment. We need someone for 1.5 hours in the morning, 3-4 hours in the evening, 4-5 hours every other Sat night and occasionally all day (when school is out) You would be hard pressed to find an American nanny who would agree to this crazy schedule, even for good money. As far as the paper work, hiring an employee is a paperwork nightmare if done correctly and legally. FICA, SSA, local and state taxes, workers comp insurance, bonding, etc. We don’t do anything under the table due to security clearance issues so we are really avoiding a major tax and paperwork headache by using APs. For us it is not really cheaper. With agency fees, room and board, stipend, education fees, and flights, it averages us $470 per week of work. During the school year we rarely exceed 30 hours per week, so we could easily, in our area, hire a nanny for this money. In addition, we don’t include the increased insurance, third car, third cell phone and other things we wouldn’t buy for a nanny if we were using one.

As for “against labor rights” it’s clearly legal in the US and regulated by the state department. The AP is actually being compensated at the minimum wage with 40 % of that money being retained by the host family in exchange for her room and board, not a “measly ” 200 per week but closer to 400 per week.

PA AP Mom April 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I’m with HRHM on this one. My boys go to school so our au pair works 1.5 hours in the morning and 4-5 hours in the evenings. She has worked one weekend day (Sunday) in her 10 months of being here so far. Usually her work hours equal 25-30 per week. We would not be able to find a nanny who would want those hours.

We also provide a third car for au pair’s exclusive use, car insurance and multiple trips per year. These are things we wouldn’t have to provide a nanny, so it really doesn’t end up being any cheaper for us.

We use an AP because we need the flexibility and we love having the au pairs as part of our family.

JJ Host Mom April 6, 2013 at 6:01 pm

If you want to coordinate with CV and write a guest post for this blog about what you’re calling the “current au pair situation and research in the world” I’d be happy to read it. But your comment that au pairs make $200 a week doesn’t indicate to me that you understand the au pair program well enough to make judgements about it.

Au pair April 6, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Dear girls who wrote above. I’m not sure if you understand. Having an au pair and being an au pair hast benefits for both parties. I did not come here, because I don’t have a future in my home country, believe me I have a better future where I’m from. And I’m nice. My hf asked me to stay after my second month, and I’m soon going to finish my second year. I came here because I wanted to become more independent, show my parents that I can live on my own, learn a language, grow..and $200 dollars is a lot for us who don’t have ANY expenses! We don’t have to pay for food, insurance, housing,laundry or car! We basically have $800 each month to shop, eat out and travel. I would say, it’s a pretty good deal for au pairs. For hf’s:they get flexible Childcare, a new daughter (or friend) someone that is there all the time, so they can foti work and don’t have to worry. So I don’t know why you are so angry, because there is nothing bad about this program. Hireing a nanny is not as personal as an au pair. I like the fact that my host kids see me as their big sister and their au pair. I have a much deeper relationship with my host kids than my nanny friends have with their kids ( and they have been with them longer)I would love to know and see that my kids are loved and well cared for.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

The $200 stipend is the obvious benefits to APs. However, in addition, they received room & board, and many HP on this Blog (myself included) through in a free cell phone, access to a vehicle, and $500 toward the costs of education. Many families include their APs on their vacations and other family events. Nobody is denying that being an AP is hard work – even caring for school-age children has its challenges.

I once had an AP who thought she ought to be paid $15 an hour like her nanny friends. I then tallied up my true costs to host her and the direct benefits she received, and then pointed out all the things for which her nanny friend had to pay (rent, utilities, car) and asked her who was better off. The bottom line is that I felt I was better off – she really knew and loved my kids, was on time for her shift, and was good company on family travel.

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