It’s Still AuPairMom…

by cv harquail on January 22, 2009

AuPairMom bird

Hi Moms (& Dads) –

I have been putting off the inevitable upgrade of the AuPairMom theme… I really love the old theme by Randa Clay, with the sweet bluebird, but… those of you who Twitter have probably noticed that Twitter uses the same stock image. Even though Randa used this particular bluebird first, it’s come to be associated more with microblogging than momblogging.

Also, (and this may be TMI for most of you) since Randa hasn’t been updating the theme, it can no longer support all the bells and whistles of the WordPress. And the whole theme crashed earlier today. So,

I’ll be experimenting with how the blog looks. Right now I’ll use the Thesis theme (which I use on my work blog, and just rotate some pretty images until I figure out what to do. I’m so behind in my ‘real* work that I don’t have time to play around (and learn how to customize this the way I want it) but please bear with me. In the meantime you’ll probably enjoy some of the easier features (like comments that don’t take you to a 404 page (more TMI).

Coming soon– opinions about vacations!


Dawn January 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Thanks for the update about what’s happening with the site — I’m glad to see it back up and running again after being down yesterday! I’ll definitely be glad to be able to submit a comment without being taken to a 404 error message! (I guess I wasn’t the only one that was happening to!)

Whenever you do get a chance to “play around” more with how the site is set up, I thought I’d just reiterate the thought that (if possible) it would be great to add a “forum” section to the site, to allow for more back-and-forth discussion than is really possible in the “comments.” I am so computer-illiterate, I have no idea if that’s even possible on a site like this, but if it is, it would be great! (And I did see that someone with computer expertise offered in a comment to help with this if you were interested.)

Calif mom January 23, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Also, some time ago someone posted a link to a different website that was talking about increases in Au Pair in America fees and generally being down on AP programs. That site looked hinky to me to start with, and sure enough, there is no stipend increase in 2009 that I can see. Here’s the APIA fee schedule link, including the state department set stipend rates:

I’m not sure what that other site is, but it smells fishy to me, IMHO.

Thanks for keeping the site up! I really look forward to new posts and comments.

While a forum would be nice, I also like the way cvh takes an issue that’s raised somewhere in a comment, frames it, and fleshes it all out nicely and adds a lot of new wrinkles to consider. And I’m okay with hunting through comments to glean even more wheat.

This site rocks, and I’d hate to lose it because I’ve already gained a lot of valuable ideas or enjoyed having my own logic and values cemented. And that kind of reassurance is just not forthcoming from our community counselor! (Just like APs, there’s a lot of variety among the value I’ve experienced from counselors, as well.)

Whatever format we need to use so that cvh can continue to add value and we can still chime in, I’m for it.

Happy 2009!

Fernanda January 23, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Our …
How wonderful that the site is ok again. It is very good to know and take the view you host mom.

I just want to fix the question I asked in the low post.

If I bother you for not being a mother and not be au pair, but I intend to be au pair, type here and read what you write?

Another out of curiosity, when you choose an au pair you choose the most humble or girls like me who have a middle class life?


Dawn January 23, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Fernanda, I can only speak for myself, but I think it’s fine that you read and post here even though you are not an au pair yet.

In response to your other question, my main things that I look for when we are choosing a new au pair are:
(1) how much childcare experience she (or he) has, and what kind (does she have experience with kids around the same age as mine? since I have 3 kids, does she have experience caring for more than one child at a time? etc.)

(2) why she wants to be an au pair. We had one au pair who went home after only 3 months because she was so homesick. I think she got so homesick because she wasn’t really here for the “right” reasons. She was basically here to try to make as much money as she could to send home to her family. The problem is, when you are far away and missing your family, the money isn’t “enough” to make you want to stay. Also, she never made any effort to make friends or make a “life” here because she never wanted to spend any money. (I don’t think that the problem was that she was from a poor country or poor family, but that she was coming to the U.S. to “make money” instead of to have the experience of living in another culture and being part of an American family.) So now we look for au pairs who want to be au pairs because they are excited about the idea of being part of an American family, learning about our culture, making new friends, and having new experiences.

(3) what does her personality seem like in her “Dear Host Family” letter? We look for someone who seems fun and outgoing, and also someone who really seems to love children.

Anna January 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm


what I look in au pair in terms of class/family background is not wealth, but attitude. She can be from a middle class Brazilian family that had a servant, but she has to have an attitude willing to do things that she might not have done at home, and not consider it “beneath” her. Here in America middle class families mostly clean and cook for themselves, and everybody does housework.
My first au pair was Brazilian from a middle class family, and she didn’t know how to boil water. But, she was open, enthusiastic, humble and positive, and was willing to learn to cook oatmeal for my kids in the morning, and I was willing to teach.
So, the bottom line – I look for attitude, energy, happy, independent and positive personality. Family sitation, income etc. is secondary. I also like that a girl has goals in life and wants to go forward, and she is either in college or plans to be in college, and being an au pair is not a be-all and end-all for her, but a step toward better richer (not necessarily in $$ sense) life, and I am happy to be a part of her development.

Maya January 23, 2009 at 6:05 pm

CVH, I sent you an email yesterday. Please let me know if you did not get it.

Fernanda January 23, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Dawn, thank you for responding. I do not want to be inappropriate and opinion nosy.

Concerned about what you see in an au pair, I fully agree with you. Because to get out of our country and live with another family that we even want to be au pair and above all love children.

Before I talk to the agencies thought well, I am very attached to family, but I need this experience and learn English very well and because I trained journalist and I have a job because I lack an Englishman, who in My profession is required.

And we need this experience with other cultures before I present my case and for ever in Brazil. I want to tell one day when I have my children this experience.

I am not afraid of changing habits just afraid to find a family as many girls say they do not mind me, because I am very friendly with all and I’m always willing to do and learn new things!

I know that all this will be complicated, with 22 years now and I’m afraid of not paying my journey to a new culture, but even when you’re quitting my 26 years.

I think I wrote too (:]), required a more vezpor respond.


Fernanda January 23, 2009 at 6:27 pm


Of course you understand, I think middle class is different from the au pair then, although I also like her friend.

In my case I am using that “mãezona” of my group of friends here in Brazil, because I’m always cooking in our meetings, because my other friends do not know anything too. “put salt in bulk rice,” playing the part!

Relmente to live with a family that we have star willing to learn and have good will do many coias home here where I live is even more common because of working out.

Is very good and rewarding mothers of you know what you seek in an au pair.

There are bonds of friendship between au pairs and mothers? Because I feel very badly to live in a house with someone I is not friendly!

Anna Thanks for answering.

cvh January 23, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Hi All- thanks for your comments and encouragement…. one of the things that is both fun and crazy-making about offering au pair advice (by blog, by phone, whatever) is that there is SO MUCH to say. If you could only see the stack of index cards upon which I have topics for future posts…. but we’ll get there. … more soon.
I have been thinking about adding a forum but honestly I haven’t had time even to pursue the kind offer of help :-) Will get there too :-)

Fernanda January 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm

is funny in the good sense, to see for legal outrolado or funny towards bad, ridiculous to hear advice from an au pair?

cvh January 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Hi Maya-
I didn’t get your email yesterday … how about trying my work email,
cvharquail at authenticorganizations dot com … also, let me know what email address you were trying… thanks so much- cvh

Mom of 2 Girls January 23, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Just want to clarify for Calif. mom, the APIA forms I’ve seen do have asterisks with a note that the current stipend was approved by the DOS for 3 years, and is effective until July 2009. I can’t imagine that they would go down, rather than up! It’s always tied in to the Federal minimum wage, which as we all no may have little or no relevance to our own state laws.

And I have to “ditto” your comments about this site giving me so much additional knowledge and plain, common-sense advice. I wonder if you are in my same area, with the same community counselor, as your comments apply to mine as well! Glad that the site is up and running in any format – keep those great topics and comments coming, please!

Ann January 23, 2009 at 10:58 pm

I think it’s imperative that you keep this site up – and if possible, add forum features to it, but if not, I think the current comments set up is fine, and easy to add a comment to. There is nothing else really like it for host mothers right now.

There was a really active discussion board on iVillage for more than three years but for some reason iVillage management closed in December 2008 and merged it with a board for owners of daycare centers, a very different audience. I really miss it – the iVillage board had a very balanced perspective and was completely agency free

Searching the historical archives of iVillage is still possible by keywords and you / your readers may get more advice (I wish someone would compile all those iVillage discussions) –

and here’s some recent discussion about the former participants in the board about the loss of a place for HM (host moms) to meet (they don’t know about au pair mom yet!)

The only other public discusison forum that I’ve found is this rather one-sided thread about the potential financial downside of hosting an au pair:

dawn January 24, 2009 at 4:45 am

Okay, this is my first time on the site. I need some advice. We have our 4th au pair. I have 3 little girls 8,5,2.5. Our AP has been with us since Sept. and we have had some incidents. The first couple of weeks, I went with her to a couple of churches as we did not ahve a young adult group. We found her one. I dropped her off at 7pm and we discussed picking her up at 9pm sharp. I waited until 920 then called her phone. She was “talking with some friends”. I told her I was waiting and had much to do at home. 10 minutes later, I called her phone again and she told me she had found a ride home. I was furious!! The next day she told me that I treated her like a teenager. My response was, I would expect more of a teenager.
My biggest issue is she lies–she busted the van and we questioned her about it for 2 days until she fessed up–it was a hit and run…not good. We did not approach her in a threatening manner. This was not quite 2 months into the contract. Since then, she has done other things–more lying, that I am having a difficult time with. She bold face lied to me again today about an incident, her story does not add up. Now I am getting a taste of having a teenager..ugh. She comes from a strong Christian family (as are we) and so I would expect some of these behaviours would be non-existent. Our issue is that we are in the medical field and cannot get daycare early enough and we have no family near us. An au pair is the best way.
We have not had much luck with them: 1st went home after 6 months to go back to get her Masters. 2nd: from Maldova and was fostering an immigration ring (but it did not work). 3rd was a rematch and was a nightmare and now this….we do not have any great feelings about this whole AP deal.
She is good with the kids, to the best of our knowledge but is lazy and will leave things despite my instructions. We take her to Taekwondo with us, as it is our family activity, and we pay for her to attend. She really enjoys it but jsut does not see what we have done. At Christmas, we got her a leather binded folder for when she goes to school. She immediately started going through the pockets to see if there was anything more in it…We also got her some other gifts but she just seemed like “so”.

Anyhow, not sure what we should do? any advice? I am ready to pull out my hair. Dawn

Carissa February 5, 2009 at 10:36 pm

The au pair stipend is going to increase. “beginning on the week of July 27, 2009, au pairs must receive at least $195.75 per week.” Last July (2008) it went up to 176.85 and this year (July 2009) it will go up again. The good news is that there currently aren’t anymore increases planned. It’s on the government website but I can’t find the page right now. Here’s a page from 1 of the agencies: This increase is mandated by the federal government, so all the agencies have to abide by it. But they probably won’t advertise it, they wait until you sign up and then tell you. I specifically asked my last agency if the rates would go up in July 2008 and they said no. But they did! I got an email in June and my au pair came to me asking about it.

Dawn, I’ve been through similar experiences. Unfortunately finding the perfect au pair is almost impossible. (I’ve had 5 between December 2007 and January 2009). Some were good, some were absolutely horrible and some were okay. 1st asked for a rematch, 2nd – we asked for a rematch, 3rd went illegal, 4th was just here till her contract ended (but she was great), 5th – we can’t afford the program anymore even though we like her. We are now going to cut out after school sports and just use after school care. If we had younger kids than I would keep our current au pair. We like her well enough and the cost for an au pair is comparable to daycare. But there are lots of things I don’t like about her. You have to decide if the things that bother you are things you can live with. If I had the problems you are describing though – I’d have already kicked her out! We have been pretty lenient/tolerant of our au pairs, so don’t think I’m just being harsh. The reason for string of au pairs seems to be just bad luck. Perhaps we have ‘suckers’ written all over us. Sigh. But I can handle not remembering where the bowls go after 4 months much better than lying and busting up my car. Our au pair did scrape the side of my tire on a curb but she was honest and told me. The one that ran off lied so much that we probably would have rematched except the au pair disappeared first! We had tried a male au pair because we have 2 boys. My daughter didn’t like him after she met him though. He lied constantly. Then one weekend he said he was going to a friend’s wedding after the au pair meeting. He never showed up to the meeting and never came back either. So trust your instincts!

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