This Host Mom’s got it all falling apart.
Little seems to be going as expected. When this Host Mom emailed, I’d suggested to her that maybe it would be easier if we separated the topics and had one post for #1 and another for #2 & #3– but they feel too connected in the Host Mom’s eyes for them to be discussed as separate issues. I have underlined some key points.
Frankly, either one would have me thinking “rematch”.
1. She cannot control the kids, they do not respect her in the slightest.
Every time we leave the house all hell breaks loose and it is total pandemonium and chaos. Yesterday she had only two of the 7 (both age 5) and I was in another room and could hear everything that was happening. My children listened to nothing she said, were disrespectful and rude and basically steamrolled her. I had to intervene several times in a few hours.
I have given her tools to deal with this (time outs, taking away privileges, behavior charts, naptime etc.) and she does all of them but they still just laugh in her face. I also have lectured them (in her presence) and told them unequivocally that they have to do as she says, she is an adult in this house and an authority and if they don’t comply there will be consequences (and there have been).
I also make it a point to back her up, if she tells them to do something and they don’t do it and I see it, I immediately say “You heard her. Get going.” And then they do it, when I say it. I also make it a point to not immediately jump in, I wait to see if she handles it first. But when the back talk has gone one 5 min or so with no end in sight, I shut it down.
Also, the same tools mentioned above work for both parents plus two outside (non family) sitters.
I have given her tips such as speaking in a more stern voice, only saying “please” once, otherwise it sounds like she is begging and pleading with them, to use the tools above etc. I have also told her that if they speak disrespectfully to her (“Give me some milk!!” As opposed to “Could I have some milk, please?”) to not give it to them and/or tell them to rephrase and ask nicely before they get whatever it is.
She has a very timid, sweet sounding voice and is not very loud and I think that is part of the problem, since she is doing everything I have suggested and all of these things work for dh and I plus two other (non family) sitters but do not work for her.
She is a very very sweet girl, this is not a personality or attitude problem at all. She needs to find her inner bitch and I’m worried that she does not have one.
And oh yes, I am also very embarrassed about my kids behavior towards her and also am upset at they way they have been treating her- no one should have to tolerate that. This is unacceptable in our family.
There have been serious consequences for them after every incident, from running laps in the yard, to extra cleaning chores to absolutely zero candy last night (Halloween).
It’s like sharks with a drop of blood in the water. Or maybe a swarm of bees taking down an elephant. I feel like I can’t leave her alone with them or pandemonium immediately ensues. And again, yesterday she was alone with only 2 children when this happened, never mind being alone with all 7.
(I am a SAHM and I mainly need her for when I homeschool the older ones, she takes care of one 4yo and one 20 month old then, or if some have outside activities in the afternoon, I take those kids and leave her with the others or if there are doctor appointments etc. Generally I am here with her in the house about 85% of the time, tag teaming with her basically. But I do need to leave her with all of them at times, generally for no more than a couple of hours.)
I am worried that she has lost the kids’ respect, and it’s going to be twice as hard to regain it at this point. I also am wondering if she is simply out of her depth and overwhelmed and that she might be a better fit for a family with one child or a baby who doesn’t push limits? I hate even saying that or thinking that because she has already been rematched once. (More on that later)
2. This may have something to do with what’s happening in #1, but she spends 98%of her time off, including entire weekends, laying on our living room couch either reading or texting or using her tablet.
There is wifi, internet, Skype and netflix (via her tablet) in her room. (Same as in our living room, we don’t have cable in LR but only netflix in her room, it’s just netflix/amazon etc everywhere in the house, there aren’t fewer options in her room is the point.) *Literally*15 hours a day lying down on the living room couch, both weekend days when she is off, this is not an exaggeration at all.
I’ve asked if there is anything wrong with her room (she has her own suite with her own full bathroom, bed and desk and own temperature control) and she says no. I think she just likes to feel part of the family so she sits in the LR. Maybe that’s what she did living in her parents house last year (she had never lived away from home before now).
Anyway, I think it’s confusing to the kids that when she is in the LR, sometimes she is directing them and interacting with them (when she is working) and other times she is not, she is just sitting on the couch doing her own thing, being pleasant enough but not playing with them either.
She isn’t doing anything wrong but its that it is inconsistent for them and they don’t know what to expect from her since it’s different on weekends than during the week.
At times she even gets (understandably) annoyed when they are loud right next to her and she is trying to talk on the phone or when she is trying to read and they are climbing on the back of the couch etc. but she still stays there, on the LR couch.
I’ve said “why don’t you make calls in your room where you can hear something?” after she has shushed the kids in an irritated voice and she has just said “no, no, it’s fine.” to me and continued to try and talk on the phone in the LR. I’ve also said “If they are annoying you (by climbing on the couch she is laying on), feel free to go read in your room.” immediately after she has said to them in a clearly irritated voice “Get down! Get off!” Etc.
If it were me, I’d head up to my room to read, chat and use the internet, especially since it’s clearly annoying to try to do this with a bunch of little kids all over you, so I just don’t get it. I’d jump at the chance to go to the quiet of my room if I had that option, lol!
I’ve also told her that this is her workplace and that everyone needs a break from the kids no matter how much she loves them and to not feel bad about not spending literally every waking second of her time off in our LR. I get that everyone needs a break from kid chaos, I certainly need that. But she responds by telling me that it’s fine and she loves the kids and loves her job and still wants to spend all her time off on the LR couch. Anyway, I have brought this up with her recently so I think this part may be solvable…
3. This isn’t really a huge issue but maybe goes along with #2. She is very much a homebody and prefers to spend all of her free time lying on our couch, literally nearly every second.
I have gotten her gym membership info, gotten her a library card, gotten her on the meet up site and helped her put in her interests and showed her how to use the site, I have had a party for the other au pairs in the area and have encouraged her to go out, do things and make friends. I did research on Facebook groups for au pairs to connect and found her an app for au pairs to meet up and put it on her phone.
We are in a city where there is a lot to do btw, but not that many other au pairs. Finally, after she did not join the gym, any meetup groups or make any plans to leave the house, I basically forced the issue and told her that she had to start going out and meeting people, otherwise she was going to have regrets, leave in a year and feel like she didn’t do or see anything here and that this is not just work but a cultural exchange. Since then, she has gone out a few times with a few other au pairs, either to a club or movie etc. but it is still very rare.
I make suggestions on activities that she could be doing on her time off several times a week, but it’s rare that she does any of them. Last night I insisted that she go out with another au pair to a halloween party (plans were discussed early in the week but no commitments were made and I insisted that she firm up plans and she eventually did) but I almost feel like I am forcing her to have a social life that she does not necessarily want.
I insisted that she go out on her 21st birthday and gave her two assignments: 1. Have 3 alcoholic drinks (she was not driving) and 2. Talk to at least 5 boys. I doubt either happened.
Again, this one is solvable albeit with a lot of effort and insistence from me, but maybe it plays into #2, which plays into #1 if that makes sense.
She could not be any sweeter. Great personality, no attitude problems at all, kind, gentle and sweet girl.
So, any advice from more experienced HM’s? Am I doing something wrong? Can this be fixed?
Also, she is a transition AP who was let go due to language issues. We have had no issues with this at all, partly because I speak her native language, but she also has no trouble communicating with Dh who does not speak this language.
The other family only had her a few days before going into rematch though so I don’t know if they had the same issues and didn’t mention them – it doesn’t seem like that’s likely because she was only there a few days and the HM wasn’t home (traveling out of state) much of that time.
I’m also concerned that if we withdraw from the AP program and put her into rematch, she will take it as a two time rejection and I don’t want to crush the spirit of this young girl, because we truly do like her.
That said, if I can’t leave her alone with even just 2 kids without total chaos ensuing, it’s hard to justify having an AP at all. I feel like I need to hire one of my outside sitters to help her if I need to leave the house for any amount of time at this point. If either of the outside sitters is here they can handle it alone, they don’t need the AP, so why am I paying 2 people? I don’t want to have to pay another sitter who is only there to help her out and keep the kids from going mental.
Any more experienced HM’s have any advice? Is this normal/typical? Is this fixable?