Longest question, shortest answer: Rematch now

by cv harquail on September 12, 2011

It’s hard to imagine that the long, thoughtful email, below — all 1600 words of it — need only two words in reply:

Rematch now.

I could probably add three more words:

Don’t Feel Guilty.

201109121350.jpgBut I will leave it up to you, dear readers, to share other words of support with this mom. ….

Dear APMom,

I could really use a little advice and reassurance about our situation. I’m trying to give details without being too specific, because we have not yet told our AP that we are planning to rematch, and should she read this, I’m afraid she’ll know it’s her. But I needed to reach out to some experienced HM’s for some help…

We are a first time HF and are just about to enter rematch next week (when my backup daycare becomes available). This has been an agonizing decision for us and I guess I could use a little reassurance.

We are parents of one 14 month old EASY baby boy. Our AP has been with us for just under 3 months, and it has been difficult from day one. She is the oldest AP in our cluster (about to age out of the program) and is from eastern Europe. She was great when we Skype interviewed her, which we did at least 5 times for no less than an hour each time. I felt very confident in the questions I asked during the interview process. I did my homework, and I was very specific. I also gave her frank, upfront information about us. I made no bones about the fact that we need someone who is flexible about schedule, for example (see below). I also acknowledged that when it comes to our home, we like for everything to be in it’s place (HD is pretty strict about this). I even emailed her my handbook before we matched, which was over 30 pages of information about us, our life, our area, and a few pages of rules(mostly about driving) and expectations.  We agreed that it was our “contract.” She agreed to everything seemingly wholeheartedly, and we were so excited. We feel her English is pretty good, but we suspect that she often is not telling us if she doesn’t understand something…

Since she got here, we feel we have done everything we can to extend her hospitality and courtesy. We don’t have a lot of money, we live in a very small house (which seemed offputting to her from the first day). But as a sign of good faith we bought a laptop when she arrived just for her to use while she’s here (BIG MISTAKE), a phone, and I even took her for a manicure/pedicure and left a welcome basket in her room. We invite her to family outings and dinners (which she has only accepted twice) and ask her to join us for things whenever possible. She only joins us going places when she is going to get something out of it.

Because HD and I work full time in demanding jobs where there are a lot of “emergencies,” our situation is such that on a regular basis, she is able to have a lot of days off and off time. But every now and then we need her to jump in last minute (which happens maybe once per month) because of a quick schedule change. We were clear about that from the beginning and she agreed to it.

What it comes down to, is that there is no one BIG thing that is an automatic deal breaker. There have been so many little things, but they add up to several feelings for us. Without bogging down an already long email with details of the specific incidents that have made us feel this way, I’ll just relay how we feel. Firstly, she doesn’t seem to like us HP’s. She seems to love our son the way one loves a puppy- he’s cute and cuddly and fun to play with, but we feel the understanding and concern for his safety and well being is lacking. We feel that she is somewhat ungrateful and is simply using us as her meal ticket or her way to get into the country, and that she thinks we’re here to serve her. We feel there’s an issue with priorities. We of course want her to have friends and a social life, but she spends every waking moment of freetime on the internet chatting with her friends, talking and texting on the phone that we’re paying for, and seems sort of overly consumed with her social life. She barricades herself in her room with food, water and “her” laptop and doesn’t come out for an entire day or two at a time. She barely speaks to us, despite our attempts to engage her in conversation. Thus we feel like we are a total imposition on her. We don’t feel we can ask her to jump in and help last minute. And we feel that she has no concept of professionalism and personal responsibility.

We feel she misrepresented her driving skills (she is a TERROR on the road-she absolutely cannot drive), her cooking skills (she thinks that a half a potato constitutes lunch for our son), her willingness to be flexible, and her willingness to pitch in and help do things she sees need to be done beyond doing the dishes occasionally.   She also seems to have a sort of “I’ll do it my way, because I think a half a potato is fine, even if you tell me it’s not” attitude. No matter what we say, she does things her own way, unless we absolutely put our foot down, which we would have to do constantly to get her to do things the way we desire they be done. We don’t feel that she takes responsibility when she makes mistakes and we don’t feel we can trust her. We feel that because we are only a few years older from her, she doesn’t have much respect for us. We feel she’s passive aggressive, which we think is partly why there hasn’t been one HUGE incident to make us feel all these things.  Instead, it’s the adding up of a lot of little things, gut feelings and intuitions on our part.

We’ve tried to talk it out several times. Our LCC is fantastic and has already come over to the house and met with all of us to try to help us work it out. I’m pretty sure she’s also spoken to the AP privately. We’ve split the cost of a driving class with the AP ($250 to us), though her driving did not improve.  She doesn’t seem to understand the dangers of driving in our area, and when I try to explain it to her, she doesn’t seem to care. She laughs off the near misses she has during practice, and all that seems to matter to her is when she’s going to have access to “her car” so she can go out with her friends without having to find a ride home.

We finally looked at our goals when we entered the program: We wanted to have a caretaker for our son with whom he could bond who would be like a niece taking care of him. We wanted that person to be able to take him places and do fun things with him which would provide him with learning and social opportunities. We wanted someone we could trust who was flexible and willing to jump in and help. We wanted someone who was self-motivated (not someone we have to constantly chase after and say something about EVERYTHING to), responsible, and accountable. We want someone who is respectful of us, of our home, of our way of life. We just feel like none of these has actually happened.

Yet because there are so many little things and not one huge dealbreaker, I’m agonizing over the decision. While our personalities totally conflict and she simply doesn’t “get it,” we don’t think she’s a bad person. Even reading this email I feel like maybe it sounds a lot worse than it is, though these are true, genuine feelings that we have. I sometimes wonder if we’re being too demanding or critical because they are little things and not one big thing.  When I arrive home from work at the end of the day, our son is in a clean diaper, fed (though I may not like what she’s feeding him), seems happy (though I don’t feel she’s doing enough with him activity wise to help him learn and grow- she’s just passively entertaining him), his laundry is usually done and even the dishes are done most of the time.

Am I asking too much to find an AP who does all these same things AND fulfills the REST of what we were looking for? Am I giving up when I shouldn’t? Are there AP’s out there who fit the bill of what I am looking for, or is my understanding of the program incorrect? Is it wrong to want an AP who I don’t have to watch over and worry about like an angry, uncontrollable 16 year old girl? I think she’s going to be totally shocked when we tell her, even though we feel the tension in the house is always so thick you could cut it with a knife. I think she may be somewhat clueless, despite our attempts to tell her how we feel. I feel bad letting her go because I know it will not exactly be a high point in her life, but I think I’d feel worse keeping her. Add on top of it the total unknown of the rematch process, that I’m so afraid I’m going to end up with an AP who is even worse, and I feel like I’m a little lost.

I apologize for such a long message, but I could really use a little guidance.  MMMHostMom


How do you know when it’s time to rematch?

When you can’t even convince yourself, after 1600 words, that there is anything more that you could have done.  Because there isn’t.

I already emailed this mom with my own thoughts, please share yours here too….


anon September 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm

You know what? Sometimes personalities just do not get along, and that’s ok. It’s nobody’s fault and it doesn’t make either of you the bad person. She may be upset at first glance, but I bet both of you will breathe a sigh of relief when she’s gone. Don’t feel bad.

Should be working September 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm

The AP is an unsafe driver who laughs off your attempts to make her safer. She can kill someone, and it will be with your car. She is endangering everyone else on the street every time she drives. Is this not a dealbreaker for you? An objective, measurable, indisputable fact?

Honestly, I have to wonder what is going on with this poster that s/he would not already have ended this. If this poster lived anywhere near me, I would be angry that she kept an unsafe driver on my roads. In my (harsh) view, this poster needs to work on assertiveness, or at least on what it means to be a manager of someone else and a protector of her/his own, and her/his family’s, interests and safety.

Defiance, disrespect, uninterestedness and ingratitude are also good reasons to rematch. Again, OP, there is no need to second guess yourself in evaluating those qualities. “She’s not a bad person” is not a reason to stay in a match. Probably there are not so many “truly bad people” out there trying to be APs, but there are selfish, rude, misguided or otherwise unsuitable people who try to be APs. Just because you picked one doesn’t mean you have to keep her.

The only reason I can imagine that this poster would be “agonizing” over this decision is a misplaced sense of responsibility–as in “I picked her, so I should stick with her”. Or “I invested so much in her already, with that manicure and computer”.

There is a learning curve for selecting APs. You are now much higher on the curve than you were before. Why would you even be asking for confirmation? The only responsibility here that can be spread around is that toward the LCC. She should have guided you to clear criteria for improvement and rematch as a viable next step.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 12, 2011 at 8:17 pm

When an AP refuses to acknowledge that you, as a parent, want things done “your way,” then it’s time to move on. My first LCC gave some good advice – don’t pick an AP over 25 because you’ll wonder why she’s not moving on with “the rest of her life.” Now, before older APs jump on me, I know it takes longer in some countries to save, gather, acquire enough money to become an AP. But, quite frankly, the oldest AP who has ever arrived in my house has been 23.

She laughs at her poor driving skills – do you want her driving your only child!???

She feeds him half a potato and thinks it’s nutritious enough? Do you need any other excuses for her to go? If you have plenty of healthy food in the house, then there’s no excuse.

Rematch now. Believe me, it’s a buyers market right now. There are far more APs than available HFs, and since you have a typically developing infant, you’re bound to find someone aiming to please. She doesn’t have to be 18, but she doesn’t have to be 26 either.

HRHM September 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm

I agree with TACL about the older APs. We have had a 20, a 23 and a 26. While the 20 was the least “responsible” she was the most “responsive”. Yes, I had to ask her to do stuff more than once. Bet she was flexible and loving and I felt like we mattered to her. This decreased with their ages. The 26 year old was essentially here to use us as a hostel for her year of touring the US. She disliked us as people (HPs) and was outraged whenever our needs interfered with her plans (sorry I got deployed, toots, but I bet I’m more unhappy than you!)

In another post, one HM pointed out that you have to figure out what your kids needs are and what yours are. It can be difficult to find someone who will be able to meet both. If you look for someone playful and affectionate for your baby, they will probably not be the most disciplined and organized in your house. And vice versa. In our case, I tolerated our messy young AP because she loved our DDs (and us) like family and took great care of them, even if she left coke cans all over the house!

In the future, if we come back to the AP program (seeing another deployment looming!) I think I will try a 19 year old Brazilian. I can teach skills, but I can’t teach attitude.

former ap September 26, 2011 at 3:08 am

Good call with the young brazilians. They are know for being warm and loving to children, besides being very hard working. At least that’s who I am :)

emmiejane September 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm

We are on our first au pair; she has been with us about 9 months. We have never rematched. I think you can expect more; our au pair is cheerful, responsible, and clearly loves our children. She is easy to have around the house, and there is no tension in our household.

She does spend most of her free time on her computer, skpying, talking on the phone, and going out with friends. I am fine with this, as we like to have family time and couple time apart from our au pair. She is always willing to help in a pinch and says, “just call me if you need something.” Also, my soon to be 4 year old son’s birthday is coming up and she bought him tickets to a children’s play that he will love that she will take him to on a Sunday afternoon when she would not be working. She does eat dinner with us most weeknights, which is one time that we interact. I might recommend that if you don’t already, you require that with your new au pair to get to know her. You will probably want to ask a lot of questions about what it means for an “au pair to be part of the family” when you are matching again to get what you want in this area. Although, I think you might be fine with her busy social life is she was dynamite when she was on duty.

I would say that the food issue is a bit tricky, as I have found that to be a place where cultural differences really play out. She is from Latin America and is now somewhat getting the hang of what we want our kids to eat for lunch, but it is not intuitive to her, nor is how to prepare the food. Her attitude is good and she tries, but there are moments when I inwardly groan to see what they are eating (i.e. cottage cheese mixed with ham and so forth). If her attitude is bad, I think that is a big problem and you can get an au pair with a good attitude even if they don’t immediately get what you envision lunch to consist of for your child.

Terrible driving, disrespect, lack of care about safety? Yes, you can do better.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm

We had our Brazilian AP cook the food she ate as a child for our son – lots of veggies, beans and meat. He’ll eat just about anything now (although not just because of her – we have wide palates ourselves). I find that with APs that can actually cook (out of 7 APs that would be 4/5) and enjoy it, telling them to prepare foods from their countries goes over far better than their guessing what we would eat – and it usually ends up being nutritious, too. A good question to ask AP candidates, is “What do you enjoy cooking.” If the answer is pasta, then you can pretty much guess that you’ll have to do all the meal preparations to insure your children eat nutritious meals (but it doesn’t mean that they won’t be fantastic APs otherwise).

For our special needs child, we prepare meals and freeze them in girl-size portions – shrimp cakes made with sweet potato and spinach (it works better than it sounds), spinach pie, quiche, baked fish. We write re-heating instructions on the container, which makes it dead easy for the AP to find something nutritious and prepare it for her (that and we insist that every meal have a veggie and keep bags of veggies in the freezer). I also make and freeze whole wheat waffles and pancakes. It may be OCD, but I know that my kids always have nutritious food available to them. (And, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t mind cottage cheese and ham if it came with a veggie. It’s not BAD, just different, and that’s what having an AP is all about.)

Penn AP Mom September 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I’ve come to the realization for my family that there are 3 questions I ask myself every time we get a new AP.
1. Are the kids safe?
2. Do the kids like her?
3. Do we (the host parents) like her?
If I can answer yes to all 3 of those, anything else can be worked out – if not, rematch!

courtj September 13, 2011 at 6:36 am

I whole heartedly agree with you Penn AP Mom, but would change like to complement.

We just went through our first rematch. While we all liked the AP, she didn’t fit into our family, was very judgmental about everything and homesick. I truly believe that HPs can get a vibe very quickly if the match is good, but you can only do that once someone is in your house. It took confidence being a HF for three years before we could rematch after six weeks and feel comfortable with our decision. I think it is hard for first time HPs to make the decision to rematch, but once you do it, it is great to be on the other side.

Tristatemom September 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

I very much agree with this, each time we knew after a few weeks whether it would work or not. The only time we didn’t listen to our gut and kept the AP, we ended up rematching in month 7 anyway because it just became a nightmare. Never again!

As to the original’s poster’s expectation, you sound very realistic and kind. Remember, it is always better to be stricter than you intended to be in the beginning.
One more thing, since you mentioned that she only passively engages the baby… In my experience, that is not a strength in most APs (unless they had a formal education as a kindergarten teacher etc.). The way I have improved this is to write out a really structured schedule for the day and to lower my expectations :)

Single HM October 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm

What if the answer to 2 of these is “maybe”? I am teetering on the edge of rematch.

Anna September 13, 2011 at 8:23 am

Rematch. Trust your instincts. I think your son is not safe with her at all. You mentioned it somewhere; also if she spends all her time texting and communicating with her friends, her attention is not on your child. It takes one small lapse for an accident to happen; and she doesn’t seem to take safety seriously or realize the responsibility.

We had a similar situation. Very similar in fact, but I have three kids, one a baby. We entered rematch because we discovered lies and trust was lost; after she left, I found out how many times my kids have narrowly escaped real danger (she put them in danger repeatedly and systematically, for example leaving them all alone while going to her room to Skype during the day). You don’t know what happens during the day, she might be changing your son’s diaper just before you come home. Watch for signs; for example my baby started playing quetly in her crib after waking up, for hours… I suspect the au pair left her alone on third floor napping while skyping in the basement for hours… If you feel bad about rematch get a nannycam and I am sure you will have to kick her out the next day. She might not be mean, but she is clueless and might not even realize what she is doing. Especially with disregard to your instructions and “I know better” attitude they don’t believe in all the safety instructions along with the half potato story.

Anna September 13, 2011 at 8:34 am

P.S. Oh, and make sure that when she leaves, she doesn’t take “her” laptop along, plus towels, sheets and whatever else she thinks is now hers.

VAHostMom September 13, 2011 at 8:51 am

We are first time host parents. We had an AP who was OK, but we as a family felt more like an employer/hotel/with free rental car with unlimited miles living with a sullen teenager who seemed dishonest than a family unit when she was around. I didn’t make the decision to rematch — as it happened, she got accepted to a university (which she reportedly “hadn’t applied to for this year”) and left to go home for it.

But it was the best thing that could have happened.

In her place, we found an au pair who was in rematch, whose former HM gave her a glowing recommendation…and who feels like family now. Her family has visited and they feel like family too. As a first time family in rematch, I was stressed to the max (hubby was deployed overseas at the time)…but now we have a lifelong friend who feels like an older daughter to me. Sure, she’s social, she uses the car…but she doesn’t lie to me, smoke and lie about it, or put excessive miles on the car when she’s driving. No, she’s just honest, asks for approval beforehand, is great about texting and letting me know she’s OK if out later than planned…in short, she’s a great example of the type of person I hope my own daughters grow up to be. The children love her and give her big hugs at the end of each day…truly, it’s nearly dream-like how well this has worked out. And it sets the bar very high for our expectations of what a great au pair can be like.

Rematching seems scary the first time. But if I had another au pair like my very first, I’d rematch without hesitation — like someone said, it’s GREAT to be on the other side.

Newhostmom September 13, 2011 at 9:11 am

Yes, OP – you can expect significantly more from an AP. Do not feel guilty AT ALL. It sounds like you have gone above and beyond and I think you really need to adjust your expectations before getting a new AP. You can and will absolutely insist that your child is her #1 concern during work hours. You can expect that someone living in your home respects you as a person and as a parent regardless of their age and yours. You can expect that if an AP agrees to your handbook and clear statement of expectations up front that they will not sulk about these requirements when they arrive. You can insist that if you need someone to drive, that her driving skills be up to par and say no to personal driving if they are not (of course you’re concerned about HER safety too and those of your neighbors on the road). Please know that there are wonderful APs out there (we had one!). This program is costing you time and money and the safety and happiness of your child is at risk. Obviously, there is a young adult in the mix here who host parents need to consider too, but ultimately you are the consumer of a service here. If you are not happy and you have done what you can to try to fix the issues and been upfront about everything, then you move on with good conscience.

VAHostMom September 13, 2011 at 9:38 am

One thought, though — regarding the “contract” and family handbook. Is there any way you could turn that into a two-page summary (front and back) that you could laminate about house rules and expectations? We’ve started long and ended up shorter…and it is nice to have an easy reference around. We have a separate doc called “Expectations Regarding Use of the Car” and that one stays in the car.

A shorter doc is nice because at a weekly family meeting, you can easily refer to key points that matter to you. And it’s a nice reference to have on the fridge.

Just a thought.

Former Au Pair September 13, 2011 at 9:51 am


DarthaStewart September 13, 2011 at 10:01 am

We shortened the “rules” to 1 page. IME, if the rules have to be longer than that, you’re making rules because of a former au-pair who should have been rematched.

That said, we have 1 page of real rules, and then a handbook with everything else in it: Activities for the kids, tried and true foods, etc.

HRHM September 13, 2011 at 9:45 am

I agree with all the PPs – rematch yesterday! You can do better. Sometimes, the one you pick looks great on paper and Skype, but in reality is a total mismatch. In the end, it sounds like she is not the one for you (you need a driver? She’s not one. You need someone flexible, again, not her). You may not find “perfect” but you should have safe, accomodating and pleasant.

In the meantime, if you think she’s on the computer too much during her work time, shut down the internet. Our wifi has a timer in the software that allows it to be blocked for certain hours, even for specific users. We invested in this when our AP couldn’t be trusted to stay off the computer during her work hours, despite being told repeatedly. For a small monthly fee ($5?) you can set her phone to only send/receive calls during certain hours or from specific numbers. Gotta love technology! If you’re paying for it, it’s YOUR phone and computer, not hers. Sounds like she needs a reminder of that.

Former Au Pair September 13, 2011 at 9:49 am

I’m really sorry I couldn’t read the whole entry, let alone the answers, but I’ll try to come back.
I learned something from a LCC once: europeans are great drivers, speak good english, and are usually good au pairs. Professional au pairs. Of course, not ALL of them are like that, but is part of their culture that they do the least to fulfill the duties.
Latin-americans (I’m Brazilian) don’t drive very well, often bump or cash the car and their English is poor as hell! LOL. But they would appreciate SO MUCH a little basket, a manicure, being invited to do all the things that I read on first paragraph. She would not, at all, care about living in a fairly good house, as long as she was loved.

So, before reading the rest of it (I’ll try to come back later! I’m working too much!), I’d say REMATCH, of course, and try to struggle a little bit with the English of a south-american girl and I have the feeling you’ll be happier!

Most important: dont stop being a sweetheart family just because of that experience. My family had nine years of au pairs, some worked perfectly some didnt. But they never gave up on being the cutest family in the world (100-y/o house, no computer and no phone) and I was happy because of that.

GOOD LUCK!!! =))

Calif Mom September 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I love Former Au Pair’s response! Certainly my experience — Europeans are more likely to be better drivers (but we had two Brazilians who were GREAT drivers) and are dutiful about their responsibilities and Brazilians may or may not have good English, may not be great drivers (I’ve known others from Central/ South America who were not) but truly love kids and are grateful to be living in our (modest) home.

I find it’s much easier to struggle with language at the beginning than to struggle with someone whose heart is not open.

OP — you sound a lot like I was at the beginning of my au pair host “career” — I’m a total softie. My advice is to get good with your new role as manager. You can still do the fun stuff and be pals if you’re so inclined, but at bottom you are going to need to be in charge of leading your au pair. And these are good skills to develop! — now that I “own” a 6th grade daughter, I’m very grateful for some of our experiences from having lived with young women for the past few years.

Seasoned Host Mom September 13, 2011 at 11:06 am

I don’t have anything to add to the rematch comments, but I do think you’re going to have a fight on your hands about that laptop. If you said it was for her to use while she’s here, and you’re already worried that she doesn’t understand English very well, she could very well have taken that to mean that it is hers, permanently. I think you ought to make it clear that the laptop stays when she goes, and start making that clear now, even before the “R” word (rematch) is mentioned.

Gianna September 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Does anyone have suggestions on the best way to make sure the laptop doesn’t disappear with the aupair when she goes ? I agree that it is going to be a fight. I am also thinking of the car. Suppose she has an accident in the period before she leaves your home ? How will you collect the money ? Maybe you should restrict driving as soon as the rematch discussion comes up.

My 2 cents September 13, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Yep. The instant you sign the paperwork with the LCC at your rematch meeting ask her to go upstairs and give you the laptop and hand over any copies of car keys. There won’t be a fight with the LCC there. If she says she didn’t understand, so what? It’s your property and it’s in your house. Go take it back. Who cares what she thinks?

Deb Schwarz September 13, 2011 at 11:34 am

For those of us who have been down this road, the first rematch is the hardest. Once you get an au pair that you love/like, you will NEVER regret your decision. So – imagine an au pair that has a positive attitude, that can drive, that interacts with your family, treats your son like a boy and not a dog, and that you like – that will make pulling the plug EASY.

Good luck!

Deb (LCC in CA and host mom to 15 au pairs)

luckiest au pair ever September 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Well I am from South America and my English is excellent ( I am showing off) it is true. Some of people in my country do not have the opportunity to study English but it does not mean that all latinos speak bad English. I was in a bilingual school since I was 8 plus been travelling to USA before being an au pair. About driving…. well I am the only au pair who have not crashed my host family’s car and all the former au pair were europeans, so let’s move on with the stereotypes :)

some au pair September 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm

;) Ditto.

franzi September 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

i’m with the rest of the commentators: rematch.

if you’re paying for the phone, take it away from her before it “conveniently” disappears. also, taking the phone means you will not end up with surprising charges such as long distance, international calls and whatnot.

also, take the laptop if you did state that it was the AP laptop and not her personal one.

i was an AP in rematch and i understand that these measures may come across as harsh but really that’s what you have to do in order not to end up with more problems than you already have.

JMHostMom September 13, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Thank you all so much for your kind advice and reassurance. I think there were several reasons that this was such a tough decision for us. Firstly, we felt we bore some responsibility (as someone said, “we chose her”). Secondly, it was our first time doing this, and we were so disappointed. Thirdly, we were so determined to do everything in our power to give her a fair shake and to make things work. In the end, though, we did decide to rematch and told the AP we were moving on. She didn’t seem terribly surprised. She took it well, actually.

We already agreed (in front of the LCC) that the laptop stays with us. I was really concerned about this. She hasn’t ever driven by herself because her driving is so bad, only in practice with us and the driving instructor. So we’re not allowing her access to the cars at all.

Reading back over my post, I can see how laughable it was that we stayed in this situation so long, and I can read the anger and resentment in my own words (to the point that I’m almost ashamed of myself. I’m not usually one to air things publicly). HD and I are very much at peace with our decision (due in large part to the reassurances of our LCC and AuPairMom!) and are eager to move forward.

For the future, I hope I’m better prepared after this experience to be clearer and firmer about where I draw lines. I’ve never been one for confrontation. I tend to swallow my pride and turn the other cheek. But when I read my OP in retrospect, I realized that now that I’m a mom, and hosting an AP in my home, I can’t afford to do that. I have to do what’s right for my family.

In the meantime, I just received word that there is not a single infant qualified au pair in the country with my agency. Fabulous. Wish the agency itself was as good as my LCC is.

Anna September 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm

We were in rematch needing an infant-qualified au pair, and our agency didn’t have any. I registered with several other agencies (they give you free registration for switching) and looked there. If you are able to get a good refund from you current agency, you might want to do that.
Or if you have backup care, you can look for an out of country candidate right away (along with waiting for a suitable rematch candidate to appear with your agency).

My 2 cents September 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm

You sound like you are still blaming yourself, if only for being too naive or too nice. Don’t blame yourself at all! We all have been first time host parents and I think most of all us were “too good” to our first au pairs and/or to eager to blame ourselves or look the other way when things may not have gone right that first year. Confidence comes with experience.

Good luck to you.

SoCalHostMom September 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm

If it makes you feel any better, I went into rematch one month after my first au pair came into my home. It was AWFUL. She was just about aged out of the system and the most immature person I’d ever met. Interviewed her in advance and had a few reservations, but she seemed nice, loved the US, had excellent English and the references I called gave great reviews. After my neighbors let me know how she was yelling at my children and my eldest (five at the time) told me over and over how she hated her and had been shaken for not getting in the tub, I decided she needed to get the heck out of our house ASAP.

Unfortunately, the company I went with was probably the smallest that there was and not only did they have no infant qualified au pairs in the US, they had ZERO au pairs in the US in transition. I had to make the decision to bite the bullet and pay new fees to go with a much larger company (CC). It was a FABULOUS decision. The LCC was right in our neighborhood, they had tons of au pairs in transition that we could speak with that could be in our home in a week or less. I was able to find a really great girl (20 as opposed to 26) that got along fabulous with the girls and we never had any drama with for the balance of our year. We’re now onto year 2, where we’ve gone with an extension au pair that is probably the most remarkably amazing au pair I’ll have the pleasure to meet. At 19, she’s responsible, responsive, friendly, outgoing, and on and on. I think that I’m going to be Mrs. Extension Au Pair Mom in future posts… There’s nothing like a good referral from former host parents & the LCC to really know what you’re getting into.

In retrospect, I should’ve fought for a full refund of all of my fees from AP Agency #1, due to the remarkable ineptness of Au Pair #1, but even without the refund, I would happily pay the extra money to switch agencies again for the larger pool of au pairs to work with.

Good luck to you. Although the next few weeks will be challenging, my guess is that you’ll end up in a situation significantly better than you are now.

DarthaStewart September 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Hugs to you. I agree- you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. I’ve had au-pairs for just over 13 years (this week), and honestly, we’ve had some good, many excellent, and some not so good au-pairs. I can’t explain what we did differently any given time with interviewing, but I just think we got lucky those times that we got excellent au-pairs. Fortunately for us, that happened the vast majority of the time.

DJs Mom September 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I agree: rematch and don’t feel guilty

I have felt a little disapointment about our APs preference to stay in her room and Skype pretty much 100% of the time when we aren’t eating a meal or she’s not working. She NEVER hangs out with us and I think only eats with us because she cannot cook anything. Girlfriend cannot boil water. Seriously. We had hoped to have her be more “one of the family” but she is pleasant, a good driver, and good/safe with the kids, so I have let go of the “one of the family” fantasy on this one. I think some girls want to be one of the family, others prefer to be more social and being an AP is “just a job”. That’s fine as long as they do a good job…just wonder how to tease out that “one of the family” feel with our next AP?

Amelie ex au pair September 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Aside from dinner (I could cook for myself if I wanted, I enjoyed having a meal with them), I almost didn’t spend any time with my host family when I was living with them… I did (gladly) attend birthdays and schools events, but that’s all. Although I really liked them (still do, very much), it felt awkward to hang out with them, and normally I felt so tired after taking care of 3 kids under 5 the whole day, that I just wanted to go to my bedroom and unwind.

I know my HF really likes me, I’m sure I was a good au pair, and I feel that the time we spent together was meaningful enough. So, I think it depends on the au pair personality and what the HF expects in terms of HF-AP relationship…

(BTW… I was 24 when I was an au pair – turned 25 during my year in the US. Most Brazilians finish college and save money for a while before becoming an au pair. The au pair my HF hired after me turned 28 during her second year. She became a friend of mine, and I know she’s an awsome au pair – I heard so from my host parents!).

A host mom September 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm

We just ended 2 years with fabulous au pairs. We were probably more relaxed than usual for our interview process for the next one. Our new au pair arrived in our home about one month ago and we knew from the minute she got here that she will soon leave. She was not interested in us or in our children. She didn’t care that we took her sight-seeing on her first weekend and to lovely restaurants. She was a sad appendage to our family waiting to finally “meet some friends.” Thus, on Sunday of her first weekend we had “the talk” with her in which we told her “we want an au pair who is happy and grateful to be in our home and most importantly one who connects with the children and we are sure she exists out there.” We gave her a warning that “we are concerned this is not working out”. On the next day which was her first official workday in our home, she was in tears when I arrived at home from work and said, ” I think I can do this if you stay home with me, it is maybe not for me, oh and by the way can I take your car to see a movie with some friends tonight?” That evening I called the LCC and said we need a rematch. I did not let the au pair use our car but she did get picked up by some “friends” and broke curfew on her first work-night arriving at 12:30. We proceeded to call friends and family to piece together childcare for the foreseeable future. When she arrived home we were surprised to hear that she may “want to stay here after all.” We told her that this is not an option. Two days later she moved to the LCC’s home and about one week later she flew back to Germany. She stated she was too homesick to go forward with the program. Fortunately, we found a great in-country match and she arrived the following weekend. Given our experiences, we have learned that if this person doesn’t connect with the HPs and the children, they need to leave immediately. Mutual respect and interest in the job is critical. Remember that there are plenty of great au pairs out there waiting to come to your home. In the future, I hope that you can weed out au pairs like this from day one to avoid undue stress to your home. Best wishes for your rematch!

Calif Mom September 15, 2011 at 11:38 am

It’s really hard to pin down which will be “one of the family” before you meet in person. What tends to happen is they say they want to during matching, but when they arrive, they learn this whole other “au pair living in the US” culture exists. They didn’t really know about that when trying to get hired.

Also, I find that the fewer hours your AP is scheduled (my kids are in school, so she has the middle of the day to herself) the more she wants to hang out with us in evenings and on weekends. I totally understand APs who need refuge after a long day with babies/toddlers/preschoolers!

My advice on picking someone who wants to hang out more is to be sure she is really truly an extravert, with a big E. And, just as important, be sure you *like* her, too, and share values/interests, or you risk ending up with an AP who wants to hang out with you *all the time* but who gets under your skin. Been there. Started running to my own room after dinner myself! Then went back out to clean the kitchen as silently as possible after AP had gone to bed because I just couldn’t stand the endless, inane chatter about shoes and TV shoes I find silly. Crazy to live that way!

Current au pair, Gem, was helping hub make dinner when I got home last night. They were chatting about world events. Homework done, two kids showered, and clean underwear for the next day. Glorious!

MNTwinsPlusOne September 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I had nearly the same experience. Our au pair actually requested the rematch though. I had confronted her about something and she knew she was caught after I had to back up my questioning with proof because she was blatantly lying to us regularly. It was our first au pair and we didn’t know if we just had too high of expectations; and I also didn’t want to “fail”, so it was drawn out tooooooo long. She was only with us a couple of months, but it was such a relief to part ways. Our house was really uncomfortable, really often. I never questioned whether my kids were safe with her, but that would be it for me. I think it’s absolutely necessary for you to rematch asap. The program is for your family, it should not be a hinderance.

CaliHostMom September 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Twice our in many years as a HF we have gone through rematch. In the most recent case, I did kind of agonize if I was throwing in the towel too soon. You invest sooo much time in picking an AP, that it is really hard to call it quits because it is an admission that you picked poorly (even if you couldn’t have predicted what would happen). You want to believe things will get better…if only this, if only that. You delay in fear of going through matching all over again, and what if you end up with someone WORSE? Well, I took the plunge, and have to say that I was sooo glad I did. The AP we got was a much better fit and I knew it almost instantly. What a great sense of relief. It is worth it to risk the rematch!

In the older case, I felt within the first month that the match wasn’t quite right but that I could stick it out. The AP decided to go back home in month 9 instead of 12. At first, I felt panicked and rejected. Later I realized that all along I had sensed the AP life was really not for her and it wasn’t so much us, as the job. I got busy looking for our next AP, and sure enough, it was a much better fit. In the end, I actually wished that I had initiated a rematch at the end of month 1 or 2. Hindsight is 20/20.

All I am saying is to all the unhappy HMs out there…and the OP in particular, it probably won’t get better with the AP you have and you are better off trying for a new one that is a better fit.

northcalmom September 22, 2011 at 6:10 pm

We are a HF with our 4th aupair. We are Asian Americans and we had experienced candidates “turned” us down during interview process because we are not American enough. There are aupairs out there wanting the full American experience with less ethnic families.

DarthaStewart September 26, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Honestly, you’ll get people turning you down for all sorts of crazy reasons- location, ethnicity, speaking a particular language, too many kids, not enough kids, car, cell phone, computer, religion, weight, you name it, I’ve probably heard it all. And, I’ve been turned down for almost all of the above. Go figure.

I would take it all with a healthy grain of salt.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I agree. If a candidate turns you down, then the match wasn’t meant to be. You can’t force the young woman who you think is “the best” to live with you — and quite frankly, you wouldn’t want to.

My family gets turned down frequently – in fact we send out 100 “it’s okay to say no” emails, interview 5-6 women, and match with 1. This after ruling out “special needs willing” candidates who don’t have any special needs experience or child care experience that would readily translate to the appropriate skill set.

The end result – we have the au pair that is best of us. In 7 au pairs we’ve only been tempted to rematch with 1 (and we didn’t because there weren’t any appropriate in-country APs available).

Now that almost all candiates are contacted directly by HF via email or Skype (as opposed to the cold call in the old days), use those tools to present your family unapologetically as American.

honey bunny September 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I am an au pair and my american experience has been wonderful. However, I have a close friend who is having a miserable time but she can’t make rematch because she had troubles with her program coordinator and she was told that if she goes in rematch again she will be send back to our country. Her first rematch was because she got bronchitis and the first host family said that they don’t want a sick au pair. Now she is living with a jewish family but they are really complicated, my friend is not jewish but the family make her follow their traditions and diet. Second, they neither provided her a cell phone or let her buy one by herself because they don’t want distractions, she can’t take left overs home from restaurants because of the germs, she is not allowed to drive and they never drive her because of their time also, she is not allowed to be picked up by friends because they don’t want anyone who knows the address due to “privacy issues”. They told her that they are not going to give her the money for the educational component because it is not necessary for someone “without aspirations in life” (of course my friend has ambition) but she is being understimated. She is not allowed to have guests at home etc, etc…..plus the host dad is a little bit coo-coo about clothing issues. She works the required time without extra hours but still she is like the indoor pet at home. It is obvious that she is not allowed to use the computer…plus she is cleaning all the house including host parents mess….how can she deal with the situation I am really sorry for her and want her to be happy

Taking a Computer Lunch September 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Every family has their own rules, but the bottom line is, if the AP finds something unreasonable, then she has to speak up with her HF first. Nothing will change without a conversation with her HP. If she feels uncomfortable talking with her HF alone, then she must invite her LCC to the table. If she can’t initiate a conversation, then she’s stuck with the status quo.

If the AP and the family cannot come to a compromise (and there will be certain issues, like food, over which she cannot expect a family keeping kosher to change), then it is time to invoke rematch.

Time and time again, I see APs in rematch (many of whom have stayed in my home for a few days or a week), who do not do their homework. They want the family with the biggest house, the easiest schedule, the best privileges, but they don’t ask questions, some don’t even visit the family first. I understand that there is far more pressure on APs than on HFs during rematch, but ask questions! Ask to talk to at least one previous AP!

Anna September 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

If an au pair comes to an observant Jewish family, it should not be a suprise that she cannot bring non-kosher food inside the house, and will eat kosher food with the family. Of course the way you put it “not allowed to bring leftovers from restaurants”, “make her follow their diet and traditions”…Hey, nobody dragged her there, I am sure they told her that she won’t be able to fry bacon on their kosher pans. I keep kosher too and have au pairs successfully, they know what they are getting into.

If your friend is so miserable, she should rematch. If the prospect of going back home is even more miserable, she should stay. And she should not take the very first family that asks. And if she stays, she can be more understanding about religious and cultural differences, and more respectful.

About the educational money issue, she must have the agency counselor intervene; these are rules, and the counselor should make the family comply.

You cannot put your own head on your friend’s shoulders. Sorry, but she sounds meek and fearful. Not the qualities that can be helpful in au pairing. Also I suspect the reason for her first rematch was more than just pnemonia – you know it from her words, you don’t know the other side of the story.

Aupair in Germany September 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Without having read all the other comments (I start work soon so I unfortunately don’t have time!), I would say GET OUT OF THERE!!! Rematch straight away. Regardless of what she thinks or feels, this is YOUR house, YOUR car, and most importantly YOUR SON!! That’s important. She works for you and needs to do things your way, regardless of what she thinks about it. I may not agree with what my host family does 100% of the time (although I probably do about 95%!) but if they say it, I do it because that’s my job.

You deserve the best for your family – don’t stop looking until you’re 100% satisfied – there are plenty of good au pairs out there too!

LuvCheetos September 30, 2011 at 9:03 am

Well, we’re headed for rematch, too. I would rather not get into the details, but I was wondering what advice people have for choosing an new au pair. Our last au pair was great, so we never thought we’d find ourselves here, but our current Ap has not met our expectations. I’m concerned about having the limited rematch pool. How do you screen to make sure the new AP isn’t worse than the old? How can you tell if the “problem” was the old AP or the old HF?

Calif Mom October 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Meet rematch candidates IN PERSON.

And just accpt that you will never really know whether the AP or the HF was “the” problem. Usually it’s a mismatch of values/personalities/communication styles, with some blame for each to go around. Not really worth demonizing anyone. Like hiring the wrong person at work. Most people do it once.

Very worth your time to plumb the depths of the rematch candidates though. Leave no gut instinct unexplored as you are talking with the AP.

LuvCheetos September 30, 2011 at 10:26 am

I just saw the August 25 thread on rematch, which was quite helpful (and somewhat depressing). Any further insight is welcome, though.

Dorsi October 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm

You know who is trying to make themselves “sound important”? Someone who uses the term “bourgeoisie snubs” on a blog for no apparent reason. Were you looking for urbanbaby.com? Or maybe something else?

(I know, I know, I shouldn’t feed trolls, but this post just cracked me up. How do these people find this blog?)

ArlingMom3 December 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I’ve settled for the past few months with our rematch au pair after our new au pair left us in a lurch after being here only 2 weeks (our first one was great). I accepted our rematch since she was sweet, but quickly learned she can’t drive at all (almost drove us into a stone wall, crossed double lines, etc). Since I work from home, I accepted that I would have to do all the preschool driving because I naively hoped everything else would be great. Since we have 3 kids ages 4 and under, I feel like I should just be thankful we have an au pair who wants to be here. The driving is getting to be too much and limits other activites my kids used to do with our au pair last year. Although she is sweet, she has no time management skills, doesn’t clean up, and is used to being coddled by her parents. Little things are getting to me too, like she’s alwasys texting and she took my dress coat all weekend without asking. I’d like to be more patient and laid back especially since I see a lot more than most moms since I work from home, so I don’t want to judge too critically. She is a great mothers-helper. I can’t decide if we should rematch since there aren’t a lot of girls available, or if I would be left in a worse situation with nobody or someone worse who isn’t even sweet. Any advice or insight is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

Anna December 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I think you should lay down some rules. If in the beginning there are these things that irritate you, it is not going to improve, she is going to push boundaries farther and farther.

So you should tell her that there are boundaries, and what they are. First, no texting, internet, or personal phone calls during on-duty hours. Then, give her tasks to complete during the week, maybe help her with setting up a schedule (for example, Mon and Wed laundry days), and tell her she needs to be successful in doing them – to solve her time management problem.

NoVA Host Mom December 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm

If the driving thing were not in the way, I would actually set out that you are putting her on notice to shape up or move on. I’m sorry, but taking your good coat without asking? Cell phone glued to her hands? You are not paying for a mother’s helper, but an au pair. Someone who is to be fully responsible for the care and welfare of the children during her working hours. That is her job. Her only job.

That said… the driving thing. You hired an AP because, even though your office is located at home, you work. You work and are not available for 100% dedication to carpooling and shuttling to activities, etc. It is limiting not only to your kids, but also to you, that you have to pick up the school commutes. But yes, kids have playdates, outside activities (say, Gymboree or whatever) and then there are special occasion things (our cluster has an event every year for APs and kids together). If you need a driver, than you need a driver, and even if she were able to complete her job at hand (which it sounds like she is not), then she is still not able to perform her duties as your family requres.

Sorry, and you can always explain it to her that while if it were just the slacking off in the other stuff you might have considered giving her more time, but the driving has to be the cut-off and she has not met those needs with safety. Sweet as she is as a person, she has a job to do and you need to look at it with those eyes. Once a AP can meet the job requirements, then it’s a matter of living as a family. But they have to get past the first part to move onto the second.

Sorry about that. I know rematches now can suck (just did it myself – thought I was going to end up on the top of a clock tower or something. at th very least be bald for pulling my hair out).

LuvCheetos December 20, 2011 at 2:38 pm

The inability to drive alone is cause for rematch. You requested a driver and you need a driver. My DH always says that the point of paying for an AP and living with the downsides of having an AP is that it is supposed to make life easier and happier for us. It doesn’t sound like your current AP is filling the bill as far as making things easier and happier for you.

I’ve never had an AP use my clothing (except maybe gloves), so I think it’s bizarre that she would think it was ok to take your coat.

It sounds like she is not doing what you need her to do. I would sit her down and tell her exactly what she needs to be doing that she’s not and set clear boundaries on things like your clothing (who knew you’d have to set boundaries on that?). If she can improve and you can stand to do the driving that you hired her to do, then keep her. If not, I would rematch. We just went through it, so I know it’s not easy, but unless you can turn things around and put up with not having a driver, you don’t have much choice.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I agree, you have an AP who has suddenly realized that 1) she doesn’t have to meet your criteria to get along in your home and 2) that led to thinking she is another one of your kids. Time for a meeting pronto!

I have one question – do you live in a place where you anticipate getting snow this winter? If you do, and the AP has no experience driving in the snow, then no amount of driving lessons will get her to the point where you are going to feel that your kids are safe when the roads are slippery. Not if she starts in December!

Otherwise, press your LCC – if you are a repeat customer, then you might be able to leverage them to pay for half the cost of the driving lessons (we were able to do that when splitting the cost 50-50 of the first set of lessons with our au pair did not lead to a road-worthy driver).

But before you invoke rematch, sit her down and tell her what’s up. Mention the driving last! You would love her to bits if that were her only issue, right? I think her big issue is what it means to be a family member who is also an employee – she may think it’s like living at home and doing a little babysitting. Just because you are working from home doesn’t mean she can sit and text her friends, she may not borrow any clothing in the house without advance permission, and certainly she has to find a way to complete her tasks (although if you have 3 kids under 4 you may have to build up to that one). Then, drop the bomb – that her driving is atrocious and that while it’s not a deal-breaker she’d better figure out pronto how she is going to improve it – and that she won’t be doing it in your car (e.g. she’s going to take lessons).

Explicitly say that you are considering rematch, then email her with the gist of the conversation and openly copy your LCC. That way, your LCC knows you are unhappy (if she doesn’t already), but more importantly, your AP has information in writing, which may be easier for her to digest than aurally.

I have been in your situation, except the AP, once I invoked the word rematch, got her act together, although she was never warm-and-fuzzy with us, her HP, she did fine with the kids. Her driving skills remained an issue even after the 8-month benchmark when we told her we wouldn’t extend (and although she never asked, it was her lack of connection with us and her driving that synched it). Unfortunately for her — and us –, the year she lived with us we had record snowfall so HD and I had to take extra leave to schlep our children around by car. No fun.

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