Is Snooping in your Au Pair’s room ever okay?

by cv harquail on February 6, 2010

I got an email from “Undercover Host Mom” — she is struggling with this dilemma:_Users_celia_Library_Application-Support_ecto3_cache_5B4D2D15-848E-424E-9956-B0F099DCA1A7.jpeg

Although we have a strict and absolute non-smoking policy, and discussed this before we matched with our au pair, I have come to wonder whether she is smoking in our car and maybe even in the house. (It’s hard to tell whether the smell is from her clothes or in the room itself.) Before I bring this up with our au pair, I am tempted to snoop around in the AP’s room to check for cigarettes.

But my question isn’t about the smoking part. It is about the snooping part.

This is actually one of those ‘tough topics’, when it is hard for us to talk candidly for fear of getting others upset.  Here’s what I’d like to know:

  • Do host moms (or dads) snoop around the AP’s room, ever?
  • Just to see what’s there, anything contraband or inappropriate?
  • Or do they do snoop only if they have suspicions about something bad?
  • Or do other host parents simply never, ever, ‘look ‘?
  • Let’s also take a snapshot, with this poll:

    Have you ever snooped in your Au Pair's room?

    View Results

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    Parents, you are welcome to respond anonymously to this post. However, please choose a fake name that indicates whether you are a mom or dad (or au pair).

    [Au pairs, please do not ‘flame’ parents who want to discuss this issue candidly.]

    Also, let me provide a formal definition of “snooping”:

    Snooping is walking in, looking around, and leaving.  Opening drawers, opening closets, opening suitcases, and opening journals is not “snooping”. I’m not sure what to call that, but that’s worse than snooping. Let’s just deal with plain vanilla snooping here…

    Peek-A-Boo from Lucy James Photography


    NoVA Host Mom February 6, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I’ll go with my usual post name here, mostly b/c I am sure it will come as no surprise that if I have no problem in “snooping” in my child’s room, or my nephew’s or my niece’s for that matter, I certainly will not hesitate to do so in any other room within my home. However, I will clarify that I will do so for criminal violations, such as suspected drug or illegal alcohol use. Then again, I am a cop and so is HD. So I hold my family to a very high standard for that. And I recognize I am potentially criminally suspect for drugs in my home even if I did not bring them in or have verified knowledge of them. Frankly, at that point, I will not be “snooping”, but conducting a full search (no need to check diaries, but I will be flipping open books for secret cutouts for storage of illegal items). I am the homeowner and therefore authorized to provide consent for such searches. No area in our home is entirely and 100% “off limits” for the homeowner, thus removing any question of authority to give consent.

    For the smoking, no. I would not “snoop”. It is not something I consider to be serious enough for that. However, I would not hesitate to sit the AP down, explain that I am not an idiot and can smell cigarette smoke on her person. Regardless of if it is on her clothes, in the room, or in the car, it is not acceptable in our household. I have allergies and asthma, and that can be a huge trigger for me (yes, it does sometimes make my job less fun in some homes – ICK!). I would give her a week to “come clean” (either quit, tell us she needs to quit and begin that process, or remove whatever caused the offending smell), and if it continued I would honestly have to consider rematch. I will not subject our children to it, and I cannot tolerate it in my own home or property (like the car). But, that’s just MHO. And what any resident of our home can expect (God help our children if they decide to try smoking). :)

    franzi February 6, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    plain vanilla snooping is absolutely ok imho. sort of refers back to the post about going into the room and closing the open window.

    why wouldn’t it be ok to have the hosts just walk into the room? like stated above, there’s no opening drawers, no reading diaries, it’s just looking at what it clearly visible.
    i doubt that this would yield info on the smoking though. if your ap smokes secretly do you think she’s dumb enough to leave the lighter/cigarretts out in plain view?

    i’m with NoVA – sit her down and tell her that you noticed and that there is a clear deadline for her to come clean about the situation.

    NoVA Host Mom February 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    franzi, that was my other thought. really, “snooping” as defined here is, unless she is a slob, not going to be very productive. No point. Save that effort for when it is really going to count or make a difference.

    CV February 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I hadn’t thought that putting a limited definition on ‘snooping’ would make ‘snooping’ almost pointless. Hmmm cv

    My 2 cents February 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I gotta disagree with the definition of snooping, too. No way is walking to her room and taking a glance around for something that is making a burning smell, or for dirty dishes, snooping. That’s just observing something in the open which has been left unsecured. Snooping is the opening of drawers, looking under beds, etc.

    Anonymous February 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    I agree… unless there is food under the bed. If I smelled something rancid there, I would look under the bed.

    The Original Smoke-Snoop Poster February 6, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I’m the one with the dilemma. I do in fact feel comfortable with ‘vanilla’ snooping, because that is (or could plausibly be) a matter of seeing that the house is in ok shape and the au pair isn’t hanging wet things on furniture, for instance.

    But I will add that I’ve gone beyond vanilla snooping. With our previous au pair (our first one), she was such an odd person, and my husband and I even joked more than once that she could possibly be working as a prostitute on the side–and then I decided that I had to investigate that if we both had come to the same thought, even in a joking way. (Did hardcore snooping. Found no evidence, but we did rematch over personality issues.)

    Having hardcore-snooped on the previous au pair, I discovered that I felt better about having an au pair altogether when I had actually looked through her stuff. She is a stranger, after all, and she is in our house. We don’t really know much about her.

    While I can’t defend hardcore snooping morally, I can say that I felt like I just wanted to see what there is to see. For the record, I can imagine that an AP would also hardcore snoop in our stuff, not an idea I like but I wouldn’t be surprised and I would even sort of understand that. (Snoopers anonymous, anyone?) She might find some ‘intimate’ toys of ours, big deal, and I might find birth control pills, or naughty novels, of hers, and in such cases who cares? But what if I found drug paraphernalia? Or pro-ana (anorexic) materials, or a dangerous object or weapon, or who knows what?

    I agree that suspicion of smoking is not valid grounds for hardcore snooping. But hardcore snooping on the basis of suspicions? Absolutely. Hardcore snooping with no grounds? Hmmm, not sure, but maybe. Flame away!

    EUROaupair August 27, 2010 at 9:46 am

    I would never go through my HM’s or HF’s belongings. Ever. I would be ropable if they went through mine. Its about respect. I don’t mind if they come for a quick glance around my room, there isn’t much to see, but I would be so offended of they expected to find something. I never go in their room. The closest I get to ‘hardcore snooping’ is when I rifle through the kitchen cupboard to find something to add to dinner.

    Anonymous February 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I don’t really think taking a look around the room is snooping. To me, snooping is doing more than just walking in a room – it’s opening cabinets, drawers, looking in closets, or reading letters, journals, etc. with some intent of finding something. I have no problem whatsoever with the former. I generally only go in our APs room for a reason – making sure the window is closed, turning the light off, but I think it’s fine because it is my house and also because I don’t feel that any rooms should be off limits to anyone in our house. I don’t expect my AP to go through my dresser drawers, but it’s fine if she walks into my bedroom to look for one of the kids or if she is in desperate need of aspirin or toilet paper. If anyone has anything that is truly private, it should be put away. I don’t think I would do any serious ‘snooping’ in her room unless she broke my trust in her and I worried about what else she may be hiding or if the kids were in danger.

    Darthastewart February 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    We don’t snoop. But we do go in there and run the vacuum, or clean the bathroom, if it needs it. My last AP swore up and down she’d do it- and never did, so we did it anyways.

    Anonymous February 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    How in the world could you tell someone was working as a prostitute by looking in her room ? Maybe I am naive..

    AnonHM February 6, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    I’m not sure either, but when you see empty jumbo-size condom boxes and Plan B/morning-after pill packaging, and your AP often leaves after 10pm, stays out all night or comes home just before you get up in the morning and when you do see her leave she’s dressed kinda like a hooker, and she has all kinds of new things but doesn’t seem to do much shopping, your mind does go in that direction – at least mine did!

    NoVA Host Mom February 6, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    Yeah, gotta say my mind goes there, too. Probably not a too far off call. I was on another AP/HF site and there was a problem where the HF found out that yes, the AP was hooking and even had a pimp. Nice, hmm?

    Anon February 6, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Wow! That is definitely suspicious… if not prostituting, it looks like dangerous behavior and very bad decision making. Did you do anything about it or confront her?
    I’ve had situations where our AP has displayed similar behaviors (though no morning after pills or new things, that I know of), which have lowered my opinion of her (leaving the house in hooker clothes and coming back the next morning in them). While we don’t expect that our AP has to have the same morals and values as us, DH and I do get frustrated by it because we feel like it is an issue of respect – this is not a dormitory, boarding house, or hotel room, after all – it is a family home with young children.

    NoVA Host Mom February 6, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    See, and my thing is that while they do not need to mirror our religious beliefs or be identical to us, if someone is to provide full time care (and as part of that be an influence and roll model to our children), they do need to reflect our values. At the very least fake it whenever and wherever the kids have knowledge or can become aware. That goes for a regular “walk of shame” home. If we felt that someone was that far out of whack with what we wanted to be taught to our kids, then we would be looking for a new AP. I feel the same way about my kids’ education, so the AP is no different.

    NoVA Host Mom February 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Duh! ROLE model. Ugh. Pregnancy brain and too much snow is not a pretty combo.

    AnonHM February 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Well, we ended up in rematch with that one. Despite many talks about being a role model, our expectations, etc., she still didn’t “get it” – yet another reason we felt she wasn’t the best match for our family. Exactly right that we didn’t need her to mirror our beliefs, etc., and I certainly had some wild nights back when I was her age, but I wasn’t caring for children, living in anyone else’s home, and I always managed to get up and report to work on time when I was scheduled, and do my job well, which she wasn’t able to!

    Anon this time February 7, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Trust your intuition. I think we americans can be too trusting and naive. There are girls in other countries who are desperate for money and not so moral, and it is easy money, and much more than their stipend. Very tempting.
    Hate to say it, but if she is from eastern europe, very very likely. Religion there took a long hiatus and the new generation was raised in a morally confused environment.

    {note from CV– let’s not generalize about countries, areas, etc. Any ap or host parent from a morally confused background might be challenged…. not specifically folks from particular cultural groups.]

    Anon HostM February 7, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I agree that generalizing eastern Europeans in a such a negative way is misleading and not very nice.

    However, I would argue that the “walk of shame” itself is not what’s inappropriate – if someone wants to stay out all night, and play board games, drink themselves into oblivion or sleep with strangers, that is their choice.

    But, choosing to do that when you are living in a family environment is the part that is inappropriate. It wouldn’t be appropriate to go to work in an office in the clothes you wore to a bar the night before either. Yes, the lines are blurred here, because an AP lives where she works. However, she CHOSE to participate in an AP program, hopefully understanding that she will be part of a family and a role model for children. She could have chosen to participate in a work or study abroad program where she would be living by herself or with peers, instead.

    Our APs are certainly not “expected to be virgin marys”, as you say, however, OF COURSE their behavior is going to influence our opinion of them, regardless of how well they are doing their job, particularly if it seems like they are not able to keep their values and judgment in check with their living situation. What about if the host parents got completely drunk every night after the kids went to bed, but were fine the next day and it had no impact on their parenting? Wouldn’t that impact how you thought of them, and wouldn’t you think that would be inappropriate behavior for them to display in front of their AP?

    Anna Au-pair October 27, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I am from Eastern Europe, Czech republic. Yes, religion here and in the other countries took a long hiatus. But that doesn’t mean that we steal, do drugs or sleep with different person every night.
    Of course, some people do that, but I guess it won’t be worse than in the rest of the world. Even though we are not religious, we have parents who told us what’s wrong and what’s right. And yes, we do not fear God, but we all want to keep the respect for ourselves, especially when we know that the “great western civilisation” sees us like poor people who live in slums and never seen flushing toilet or TV remote before.

    OffendedHMAP August 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    “I think we americans can be too trusting and naive. There are girls in other countries who are desperate for money and not so moral, and it is easy money, and much more than their stipend. Very tempting.”
    I found that so offending. Yes, so every prostitute in North America comes from a foreign country? Ridiculous. I think some Americans certainly have a wrong notion of the rest of the world, and much more, about our own problems and morals as a country.

    Sara Duke February 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    As a host mom I find this thread of the discussion disturbing. The difference between a young woman taking advantage of social freedom and a prostitute is enormous. If you are bothered by the way that your au pair dresses and behaves when she goes out, then have a quiet discussion with her about it (chances are she’ll change at a friend’s house, but then you won’t have to see it). If you want to be a good role model for your children, then you absolutely have to have that discussion – but don’t falsely accuse her of being a prostitute!

    Personally, I’d rather have an au pair that took advantage of safe sex precautions than one who did not.

    What has always mattered to me most is that my AP is punctual for her shift, enthusiastic, loving, and respectful of my children (especially the 54-pound child that must be bathed, diapered, dressed and fed). Every AP with whom I’ve matched has done this and more, and so I personally don’t let my style impede their style when they go out. My daughter won’t emulate them, and I’ve already started talking with my son about treating women with respect.

    As a parent you have far more input in how your children behave as young adults than the multitude of au pairs that will pass in and out of their lives.

    aria February 18, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Kudos X 50, you sound like an amazing HM.

    anon HM February 10, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    You may be surprised what you find if you Google the AP’s mobile, number, too.

    Anonymous February 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    I never have and never would do any snooping, but I have had to to in her room. We had loaned her a fan in the summer, and I went in there to get it back while she was on vacation to use elsewhere in the house. I’ve peeked in to make sure the windows were closed during an unexpected summer thunderstorm. I’ve gone in to get the ironing board when I know she has it.

    But I don’t consider that “snooping”, and I’ve never done any more than go in, do or get whatever I need, and get out. No poking around, looking through drawers or anything like that. And only if absolutely necessary.

    Sara Duke February 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I don’t believe in snooping, nor looking through private belongings. We generally only enter an au pair’s room if invited. However, if the AP is away for the weekend or longer, and her alarm goes off, then we have and will enter the room to turn it off. If the window is open and it’s pouring rain, then we would enter the room to close it.

    We remind our APs that no one is to smoke in or near the house. They can smoke on the street or behind my daughter’s swimming pool (and dipose of the butts properly).

    None of our APs have ever given us a reason to enter their rooms for any other reason.

    Anonymous HM February 6, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    AnonHM–that is a little hilarious– also disturbing… I might have the same suspicion!
    We have been somewhat concerned about AP snooping on us. There really isn’t much she could find that would be interesting (I don’t think), but there are certainly things I’d like to keep private–including medications, my personal files, etc.
    Since we are new to this, it is still an adjustment to have someone in our home, and human nature being what it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if she takes a look around.

    Nanda (Future AP) February 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    As a future Au Pair (arriving in the US in March) I wanna say I’d feel VERY uncomfortable if my HM or my HD were snooping in my room.

    I mean, ok, I’m living in their house, not mine, but that should be MY private space, the one I feel more comfortable and if somebody gets there to snoop, how private is this? I’d NEVER snoop their room. It would be like living in a glass house, a Big Brother or whatever….
    However, I understand what NoVA Host Mom said. It had to be something THAT big for a HParent to do this…

    Cigarettes? I think you should talk to her. If it now works, I’m sure your LCC will help you on that…

    host mom February 7, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I think it is human nature to snoop. I do it and I am sure they do.

    Darthastewart February 7, 2010 at 12:59 am

    Oh- one time, we weren’t snooping, but we discovered the JUMBO sized box of condoms in the glove box of the AP car. The AP ended up going home on vacation, and didn’t come back a month or so later- turns out he had left a girl pregnant when he came to the USA, and got caught. We were trying to figure out how to break it to him that he didn’t want to leave condoms in the car, due to the heat breaking them down.

    NoVA Host Mom February 7, 2010 at 8:58 am

    HaHa! Sorry, but I think he might have figured out that lesson the hard way.

    Darthastewart February 7, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Yeah. Sure does, doesn’t it?

    And how am I supposed to add that one to the manual? “You may not want to leave condoms in the glove box of the car as the heat ruins them.”

    Host Mom February 7, 2010 at 6:39 am

    Ok – I have a confession. A number of years ago we had an AP that was extremely difficult to communicate with. She was incredibly shy and quiet and 6 weeks went by where I had no idea what she was thinking. I tried on several occasions to have an informal chat about what she thought about the job, me, family etc. All I got was ‘fine’. But I could not shake my gut feel that she was not ‘fine’ and that we were not ‘fine’. She did a great job and was fantastic with the kids, but our APs are part of the family and we were used to having a much more open and ping-pong relationship.

    So I snooped – hard core – and read her journal and discovered that she thought I was a b…., mocked me on every page, that she missed back home terribly and that she was planning to leave. We are not signed up with an agency so a re-match for us is not an option.

    My initial reaction was anger at what I had read, because I felt that it was totally unjustified and turned 180 degrees. But of course, I had asked for it by snooping. After I cooled down – it took a few days – I had another chat with her, but a very different one, since I now knew what approach to take. I basically took it all on my shoulders – I said that I was really sad she was not happy, that I knew (from own experience as an AP) that she was missing home and that I felt she had channeled all her sad and negative feelings on me who was the one on a daily basis telling her what to do and so in that role it is easy to become ‘the b…. that is messing up my life’. I reassured her that both myself and my husband would do whatever it took to make her stay succesful BUT that she did too and that it is give and take. She finally opened up and told me that she was planning to leave to which I said that I thought she should give it another try and this time a REAL try with herself involved emotionally in a positive way, but also that it was fine if she wanted to leave as we want someone with us that likes to live with us.

    It was a long chat with tears on both sides and in the end we hugged and both agreed to give it another go.

    Our AP changed from that moment and she turned out to stay the full period. We are still after 5 years in contact, she has visited us and we her. I once asked her what she liked the most about her stay with us and she told me ‘I learned to hug and now my parents and I are hugging all the time’. She simply did not know how to show emotion which is really sad on many levels.

    This is a long justification of hard core snooping of which I am not proud – but it was for the better. So therefore I don’t regret it.

    If you feel your AP is smoking, I would ask her straight to her face. If she says no and if your gut tells you she is lying, you have 3 options. 1. do nothing 2. rematch 3. snoop – but what will you do if you find cigarettes? How would you know that she smoked in the room unless you find an ashtray with butts, but these could also have been smoked outside.

    franzi February 7, 2010 at 7:47 am

    your AP is not the only one who could snoop on the host parents! have cleaners who also show up when you are not home? have a bunch of friends over for a nice get-together? no one would notice if someone is missing for some time if that person excused themself….

    if you have someone who feels the urge to snoop hardcore, they will.
    why? because either they have no moral inhibition or a (personally strongly felt) reason to do so.

    i agree with nanda that the AP room is the only private zone the AP has. therefore, many have a problem when the kids just walk in without asking etc.

    if you feel that there is no way around hard-core snooping then think about the possible consequences before you snoop.

    i hope that cases of AP-prostitution are rare – i’ve never heard of this before. i guess there is a difference between on-duty and off-duty dress code but if it’s really skimpy off-duty you still have the right to tell her to dress more appropriate. you could always start with the cultural talk (eg in our culture, girls with these short skirts are considered xyz by men.)

    JJ February 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I admit to looking around the room when my au pair is there and invites me in. If the alarm was going off and she wasn’t home, or I suspected an open window, that kind of thing, I’d go in. Otherwise, the way I see the situation is that she’s an adult roommate, renting the room for us (and paying the rent via the childcare that she provides.) It’s her room for the year and I would never go in there uninvited.

    Note that I was the one who started the controversial thread about whether my parents could stay in her room while she was supposed to be on vacation. I viewed that differently because she knew about it for months in advance and my parents would have been sleeping in her bed, not rummaging through her stuff. But given the responses I got from that thread, I wouldn’t do that again anyway. (And note that it became a moot point because by the time her vacation came around, we had rematched because she put my kid in danger.)

    Host Mom in NV February 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    One thing I have done is computer snooping. The idea didn’t even occur to me until our 3rd AP, who I had some concerns with (our first two were wonderful and we trusted fully, so ‘snooping’ never crossed my mind). Now we have it in our handbook not to download anything without checking with us and to only visit appropriate websites (not that that always occurs). It is interesting some of the things you find out that way. One of our APs was apparently trying to locate casting calls for Playboy, which we found rather funny (would never have guessed!). I don’t see anything really wrong with doing this – I wouldn’t read her email or check on a regular basis, but I think it should be treated similar to using a computer in a workplace (that you are using someone else’s computer and internet provider service). My message now to our new au pairs is don’t do anything online (or at least on our pc) that you would be embarassed by if read by someone else.

    M in NY February 7, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    I’m an au pair, and I think that going into your AP’s room to close a window, turn off an alarm or get a blanket from their closet is fine even if she/he is not there.
    But opening drawers, looking through personal stuff and reading a diary – BIG no-no!! Of course, if you suspect that yous AP is doing drugs I could understand but otherwise? No.
    I would feel very violated and not trusted and I would much rather have the host parents sit down with me and ask me about it instead. And if “the accusation” or whatever you want to call it, isn’t true and it didn’t seem like they believed me I would let them look through my room just to show them that there’s nothing to worry about…

    It’s all about trust, right?

    Italian Au Pair February 8, 2010 at 2:09 am

    To be honest, I am totally shocked about this thread.
    I have been an Au Pair in three different countrys and it never occured to me to have a look into the private stuff of my hostfamilies.

    If an Au Pair cannot feel save in here little room then its a very thing.
    After reading all your comments I have the strong wish to really hide my diary and my little “emergency-homesick-cookies/chocolate” (because I am not allowed to have food in my room) and that kind of stuff.

    If you have the strong feeling that your Au Pair takes drugs, (and I can understand how horrible that must be for a Hostfamily) then talk with her and tell her that you want to check her room while she is with you!!!

    NoVA Host Mom February 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Um, just a word to the wise, but there is very likely a good reason for no food in the bedroom. In our area it will lead to mice and/or ants (or other bugs) in the bedroom. Just saying it might not be all about keeping food “secret”.

    Jeana February 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

    This topic came up just after our aupair called, asking me to go into her closet, find a specific suitcase, and then find legal documents inside. I’ve never snooped, and it felt a little uncomfortable going through her stuff, even though she was on the phone, coaching me through locating the info she needed. My thought is that if I had a need to snoop, there must be something that isn’t feeling right, and maybe I need to figure out what doesn’t feel right. I’ve had three wonderful experiences with aupairs. We had an aupair that was removed from the program, and I probably should have been checking out her room. I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer here, and we need to go with our instincts. If I’m not trusting an aupair, my concern would be leaving my children in her care.

    Anna February 8, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I never snooped and I never would. If I had a suspicion strong enough to do that, I would rematch. If I can’t trust her, I can’t trust her with the kids.
    We rematched with one au pair, and then I had to clean out the computer in her room for the next girl, and discovered that it was completely her language-fied, and was full of pirated movies and software (full copy of Photoshop, huh?), which we explicitly forbidden in our handbook.
    But if I snooped and found it out beforehand, what would change? We rematched anyway because of lying, I wouldn’t find anything that would suprize me. So she lied or was unscrupulous about one more thing…

    ap August 26, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    lol. I hope my family don’t mind piracy, I have over 4 terabytes of pirated goodies. Also, snooping for piracy… that’s pretty lame.

    aria August 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    My old HF had the no illegally downloaded material rule too. I actually observed this to a T- they were lawyers and I knew they would wash their hands of me quick if I made any kind of trouble for them in this sense. I paid for my own internet connection and *blush* downloaded a LOT of pirated stuff. But at least I was paying for the internet!

    Busy Mom August 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm


    Your attitude is truly disappointing. Since the computer AND the internet connection belong to and are paid for by the host parents, why is it “lame” to snoop for piracy. Wait until you get a real job at a company that monitors your email exchanges, prevents personal email from being accessed at work on company computers, and prevents flash drives from being used. Think I’m making this up? Nope. This was routine security at an investment bank I worked for.

    We have a house rule forbidding piracy in any form…software or music or whatever.. on our computers using our internet connection. I’m not a lawyer, but it would be a professional liability if anyone in my household were caught pirating. We make it clear that piracy is grounds for immediate rematch. It’s unethical and ILLEGAL! I’m sure that there are many host families who do it. I know that some of my friends do. But, my family doesn’t.

    Host Mom NY February 8, 2010 at 9:29 am

    We recently rematched due to an aupair who was staying out all night frequently and then sleeping all day the next day. When we confronted her about this, she told us that she was allowed to do this in her home country, Germany. She didn’t seem to understand that her behavior was interfering with her job performance and conflicted with our family’s values. We rematched after she lied to us about a number of things, including where she had driven our car. During this time I never searched her room. I feel that is the aupair’s private area. If I felt that there may be something illegal going on, I would probably feel justified in searching her room.

    PS Our new aupair is wonderful. Rematch was not so fun, but the outcome is great!

    anon HM February 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I look around the AP room and closet occassionally, audit the cell phone bill, the internet explorer history and mileage on the car when I have a concern, but wouldn’t feel comfortable reading a diary or rifling through documents. The types of concerns that have made me look are: AP went on vacation and I had doubts AP would return (AP took most clothes and belongins,) AP had irregular eating habits (found kitchen appliances in closet,) the bank kept calling the house for the AP (found ALOT of shoes and expensive makeup/toiletries,) AP had irregular laundry pattens (found dirty sheets and clothes stacked in the closet,) AP was never at home when off duty and putting alot of mileage on the car (found she had signed up on “marry a” and driving to a military base,)

    The things I found by snooping are only symptons of problems, however. To really understand and help an AP you need a lot more information.

    The Original Smoke-Snoop Poster February 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Update: I still smell smoke. Her room smells like a hotel room for smokers. DH says he doesn’t, and believes it would be much stronger and more acrid if she were actually smoking in her room. I told her again this morning that I smelled smoke in and around her room, and she said she doesn’t smoke in there. I think I need an independent nose to visit and see what the judgment is. Not sure what to do next on this!

    TX Mom February 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Obviously this is bothering you; I would be obsessed with the idea until I got resolution. If you can’t catch her with a lit cig in your house (test your fire alarms, pop in the house unexpected when you suspect the smoking is happening, etc.) you need to remove the smoke smell from your house and prevent it from returning. Tell her she needs to wash herself and her clothes when she gets home from being out in smokey environments; she should keep non-washable clothes (jackets, boots) outside. Have her wash the curtains, the linens, the carpets, etc in her bedroom to get the smoke smell out. Vaccumn the textured walls and ceiling, too. I think one weekend of cleaning and putting on a cold winter coat will make your point.

    franzi February 9, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    you would need an independent nose that is able to detect smoke though ;-)

    does your AP have air refreshers/fabric refreshers in her room? more than what one would think is needed? that’s also a sign something could be going on. is she going out a lot (to smoked places)? that could explain the smell in her room – the stinky jacket or dress she didn’t want to dry clean etc.

    The Original Smoke-Snoop Poster February 9, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    No, my husband points out that her windows stay closed, her door open, and that no true smoker would ever do that. Also she has spent long stretches of time with DH and kids or me and kids (e.g. 5-6 hrs) without any break that would make a cig possible.

    Sara Duke February 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Personally I’m extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke. If my AP gives a smoking friend a ride home, even if that AP does not smoke in the car with the windows rolled down, I still smell it for days, sometimes weeks, afterward. Once we let a new AP take our minivan with GPS to go clubbing, because she did not yet know her way around. Big mistake! Even though the women she took with her did not smoke, they all had it on their clothes afterwards. It made me gag! (However, if you smelled smoke, it could be simply a visiting friend and your AP’s failure to enforce your rules.)

    I find that if you have something on your mind, it is best to call a meeting before enough builds up that you snap at your AP and accuse her falsely. When we call a meeting, we always start with the positives, then target what we don’t like. We also give the AP time to complain about our behavior. (They usually don’t do the latter.)

    My 2nd AP asked one day, “Why do you trust me?” I told her all the reasons why I trusted her, and then talked a bit about the application process, and how her recommenders talked about her, and our own telephone interview with her, in which it became clear she was an honest and open person. (And quite frankly, after that conversation, she took pride in being a trustworthy person.)

    All of our APs have been trustworthy and as a result we have not felt it necessary to violate their privacy.

    A Nonny Mouse February 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I would just like to add that I have an incredibly sensitive nose and if someone was even standing next to a smoker the day before I can smell it on their jacket/scarf/…etc. It is also possible that she goes places where others smoke and it gets in her clothes. Hopefully that is the case.

    Anonymous HM February 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    I would strongly suspect that she is smoking or spending a lot of time with a smoker. Maybe she is not smoking in her room, but if it is on her clothes, you will still smell it. I would not want to live with a smoker if I had made it clear up front that we were looking for a nonsmoker.

    Should be working February 9, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I also hardcore snooped once, and found nothing incriminating except a parking ticket (unpaid) in the wastebasket. Now what do you do about that? To admit to finding it is to admit snooping. To not admit finding it is to let the fee double periodically. I think the latter is a ‘natural consequences’ solution and thus preferable.

    MTR February 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Eventually you will get something in the mail addressed to you (or your husband), the car OWNER, saying that you have outstanding parking ticket for $X plus the additional fees for non-payment. That mail will also have a copy of the original ticket indicating date, time, and location of the incident. Show it to AP and make her pay it. Then have a conversation with her about responsibilities and privileges of using the car. If the ticket was during her free time they she should pay the ticket plus all fees. If it was during working time then it is up to you if want to make her pay for the ticket (she shouldn’t since she was working, but she also lied) but she should definitely pay every cent of fees over the actual ticket amount. And that can be significant. My husband once got a $25 parking ticket that we forgot to pay. A 1,5 months later we paid $115 for it.

    Two out of my three au pairs have had parking tickets. They both came to me with the ticket that day asking what they should do, and they both paid their respective tickets. If I found out that my au pair got a ticket and did not tell me about and did not pay it that would be the last day she used my car. Period. And since I must have a driver that would also mean a rematch.

    NoVA Host Mom February 9, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Keep in mind that if the AP has a habit of throwing out parking tickets, it is very easy to have your car booted in that jurisdiction. Just another point to share with the AP when you have the “you now owe $100+ for a $15 ticket” chat.

    Should be working February 26, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Shame on me! Turns out she had paid it online, told DH all about it AFTER she had already handled it herself. Serves me right for garbage-snooping.

    Notimportant February 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I am currently an American working as an au pair in Germany. If you allow her in your room when you are not there then it is probably safe to go into her room. I personally do not mind when my host mother goes into my room because usually she is just grabbing my dirty laundry to wash (even though I don’t ask her to). For me it is a perk that she goes into my room. But, don’t even dare going through her stuff or opening her drawers. Just think about how you would feel. So, by your definition of snooping, it doesn’t seem that bad.

    NannyKelly February 12, 2010 at 8:14 am

    As an au pair, my room was “snooped” on numerous occasions. The mom would make comments that made me believe there was snooping going on. One weekend after being away, I had accidently left my phone charger at the HF house and my phone died before I returned. The morning after I returned the mom asked me if I had received her msg (it wasn’t urgent) and I said “no, my phone died while I was gone…” and she quickly said “your charger is here, isn’t it?”. I thought that was a bit strange due to the set up of my room she would have had to been snooping to find my charger. The outlet and location of the phone charger was fit tightly in small space between my bed and a bookshelf, only noticable if she had been snooping through the bookshelf.
    Also, when I returned from the Christmas holidays all of my clothes had been rearranged in my drawers. Maybe a nice gesture of her to fold my clothes? But probably really her just snooping and then using that as an excuse (they weren’t the nicest people).
    Another time, I came home from a weekend away to see jackets rearranged, my bed rearranged and things in my closet rearranged.

    There’s nothing they could have ever found, but they were after me!

    AnonHMinPNW February 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I feel very strongly about not going into the APs room. I’m not sure what I would do if I did suspect something like drugs or prostitution. I would go in to close a window, but I wouldn’t go in to vacuum without permission. The one time I did go in without explicit permission was a Saturday morning– our house was on the market, I had told her there was a showing Sat morning, and she chose to go out Friday night. She said she would be back and clean up before the showing, but 10 mins before we had to leave, she still wasn’t back, so I went in and made her bed, put any clothes that were out in a basket in her closet, and roughly piled up some stuff on her desk. I saw stuff I felt was personal, but did my best to put my blinders on and ignore it all.

    For our first 2 APs, they shared the family computer. I gave them their own account, but had parental protections on (limited to no porn, no installing applications without permission; I think it automatically kept track of when they logged in and out, but I ignored those logs). Our second AP (who lied multiple times and was otherwise untrustworthy) kept wanting to install gambling applications; it then occurred to me that gambling apps on the family computer in the family, where she can play and make it “normal” for the kids to see, was something I’m uncomfortable with, and added it to the rule book for the next AP.

    Reggie February 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    I had this issue with our first aupair. Dh thought he smelled smoke coming from her room her second night in the house. We asked her if she was smoking, she said no and insisted that it came from outside the house (she often left her window open). This went on for 3 weeks. Dh and I wanted to check her room but couldn’t bring ourself to snoop. One morning on my way out of the house with the AP and my kids, I mentioned to my house keeper (a darling woman who has worked for my family for years and sees my kids and grandchildren) that we kept smelling smoke. I asked to to let me know if she noticed anything while vacuuming at AP’s room. My house keeper went through the APs room and found cigarettes, some packs and many stubs. We confronted her about it. The AP denied smoking until I finally told her that our house keeper found her smokes. She finally admitted it but by then we didn’t trust her anymore so we ended the match immediately. It was a good thing too. Not only was she smoking in the house, some of our jewelry including my husband’s wedding ring disappeared during those 3 weeks. Thankfully our rematch AP (who has been absolutely wonderful) found Dh’s wedding ring in the corner of the top shelf in her closet 10 months later but I will never see any of the other pieces again.

    Bottom line: If you think you smell smoke, you do smell smoke.

    So, my advice to you is to either snoop or if you want to be more confrontational, ask your AP to show you her drawers. While we do need to respect their privacy, APs live in our homes. Not only does smoking cause property damage and in my case as an asthmatic, health problems, lying is indicative of other dishonest behavior. Also as an aside, my AD was surprised I gave our AP the benefit of the doubt for as long as I did.

    Sorry you are going through this!

    The Original Smoke-Snoop Poster February 22, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Update and, I believe, closure:
    A friend with an ‘independent nose’ came over and said he didn’t smell anything–and I really thought he would! Then I did a little more snooping, i.e. literally sniffing around her closet (TMI warning) and noticed that, um, her laundry/odor standards are definitely not American, i.e. her clothes clearly had been worn a number of times without being washed. Smoke was only a secondary odor on them, if you get the drift. I have no problem with that, in fact, I’m only concerned about whether there is live smoking in her room. And I respect the non-American reasonableness and ecological restraint around laundering.

    Meanwhile I also noticed that from my office, with my window slightly open, I know precisely when someone has lit up 20 feet away from the entrance below my 4th-story office. So live smoke is different, I have a ridiculously sensitive nose, and I would smell it, I think, if there were live smoke.

    And also DH and I both told her pointedly again, a week ago, about no smoking in the house. And lately I don’t smell smoke, just an old smoke smell in her room which I do believe is clothes.

    She is so wonderful, and we are so happy with her, I’m reconciled to this issue. AND I got DH’s promise that when she leaves HE will be responsible for any repainting, steam cleaning or anything else that needs doing.

    CV February 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Thanks SO much for sharing the rest of the story with us! And, it’s great to know that things are working out well, all stinkiness aside.

    GermanAupair *in USA* February 22, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Wow, I am surprised about how many HP snoop!
    I have a very good relationship with my hostparents and I cannot imagine them sneaking in my room when I’m out – on the other hand, if they did, I would feel deeply mistrusted and betrayed. Even since I don’t have anything to hide (honestly, I don’t even write a diary) and would always “invite” them in my room, when I am there, it is a matter of respect in my opinion.
    In contrast to what a lot of HP wrote , I wouldn’t go into my hostparent’s bedroom either. I don’t feel that it is right to invade in someone’s private sphere this way. Like others wrote earlier, if you don’t trust you Aupair and think she takes drugs etc. you should probably re-match.

    aupair March 7, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I have to say, I let my HM amd HD to come into my room. They first knock politely at the door and then I invite them inside. Maybe often they just tell me they will go inside to take/ fix something. BUT TO SEARCH IN MY RUBBISH BIN??????? omg…I can’t believe that some of you do that! it shows the lack of respect you have for your AP’s intimacy. it’s really desgusting!
    and to read her diary or to open her computer or drawers?
    i’m shocked…and it suppose you are the mature ones…if you suspect your AP of something, why don’t you just confront her in face? why you have to smell her clothes and then to say, on a public space, about their bad way of taking care of themselves? why don’t you just say : hey, i think you smoke, I can smell it? I would like you to stop it?
    and to go into your AP’s room on her back…..what kind of persons are you? teenagers?
    I’m really desgusted….I can’t find something else more horrible than shooping in a bin!

    cv harquail September 6, 2010 at 8:33 am

    (comment has been edited) cv

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