My Au Pair Application Isn’t Completely True. What should I do?

by cv harquail on October 8, 2013

We host parents absolutely depend on an au pair’s application to get an accurate and complete representation of that au pair’s background.  

Part of the reason why we use Au Pair Agencies rather than websites or Craig’s List is to have a professional (usually, a field person hired by an Agency) interview the au pairs in person, to make sure the information is real. 

truth lies

And yet,

We know that there are some cultural differences in what might be shared on an application.

And, we know that au pairs often ‘stretch the truth’– there have been TOO MANY case where au pairs weren’t exactly accurate when came to childcare experience, driving experience, and whether or not they smoked.

Host parents are prepared for the possibility that there is a gap between what’s listed on the application and what’s really real.

You can tell from the long, long, long lists of interview questions that we’ve shared here on the blog that many parents anticipate these gaps and take time during interviews to make sure they get a straight story.

{Check out our list of interview questions: Interviewing Au Pair Candidates: Every Question You’ve Ever Recommended We Ask }

But here’s a weird tweak on this issue, from a prospective au pair.

Her application was changed — by the field person who interviewed her — to hide that she’d had therapy for a specific life challenge (not a chronic issue like an eating disorder, or depression). After all, it was no longer an issue, and Host Parents are touchy about past therapy. While the au pair understands why the field person did this, she herself feels stuck:

The Au Pair’s truth is different from the Au Pair’s application.

What should the au pair candidate do?  Here’s her email:

Hello dear AuPairMom!
Your blog has helped me so much in preparing for this experience and I’m really thankful for this.

I have just been approved and my profile will be available on Monday. I had my interview with the company last week and something happened that has me a little bit troubled.

When I completed my application on line there was a question regarding whether or not I had been on psychological or psychiatric therapy and if I had any condition being treated, this is what I answered:

“I have been in psychological therapy for 3 years, I started going because I was thinking about changing my career and it was a huge decision for me, ended up not doing that, I had wrong reasons and I am now very happy with my choice and soon to graduate. I don’t go because I have an actual problem or any condition, just regular concerns about regular life, and I respect psychology as a way of growing and getting to know oneself better.”

I must say I’m a very honest person, I feel that if I lie on something, something bad is going to happen, so I really want to tell the truth always.

When I had the interview the regional manager who was doing it with me told me to take these lines away, and say that I had never been to therapy, because they had a rule of not accepting girls who were or had been in therapy for whatever reason. I was really, really shocked to hear this, because I didn’t think it was a crime.

The manager said that she understood why I was shocked, that in our country it is much more common and much better seen to go to therapy but that American people see it really badly. She said she was only telling me this because the rest of my application was “one of the best she had seen” and she felt sorry that I was going to be rejected for this. She also said she could actually lose her job for telling me not to list this information.

Well I did what she told me: I marked the “no” on the question… and I feel really bad. I don’t want to be withholding this information to my future family, I imagine myself in a conversation feeling awkward, and the worst (or not) is that I’m a terrible liar, you can really, really tell if I am lying, like you can see it in my face.

But if it is true what she told me about American people seeing this as a bad thing then I don’t know what to do… 
Will people run away from me if I tell them? Do you really have this idea about psychology?
Will I get her in trouble if I tell this to a family and they think it is a really bad thing and go to the agency and tell this?

Help and advice is really appreciated!  ~BadLiarButGoodPerson


See also:
Choosing an Au Pair: Will being “in recovery” from an eating disorder ruin my chances to Au Pair?
Au Pair Applications: What would you *really* like to know about an Au Pair Candidate?
When Matching with an Au Pair, Which Signals to Trust? 

Interviewing Au Pair Candidates: Every Question You’ve Ever Recommended We Ask 

Image: Truth Lies, from FlickrAttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by jintae kim’s photography


AnotherSeattleHostMom October 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Well…I personally don’t have that view of psychology at all and it sounds like you had more of a “life coach” session than intensive therapy. We considered an Au Pair who had in her application that she had seen a psychologist for about a year following the death of her grandmother whom she was very close to. We decided not to match for other reasons but not that one. Personally I think seeing a psychologist to get through a rough situation like a death, a break up, or other life change shows maturity (vs. dealing with the situation by taking up unhealthy habits, talking to friends with no experience in the matter, etc.)

Sounds like you were between a rock and a hard place about being honest in this situation. Also sounds like you have the same kind of guilty conscience that I have who couldn’t bear to go into a situation feeling I’d been less than totally honest with a family. Maybe you’re best to explain your sessions to the family when you are talking about matching to explain part of the reason you are planning to be an Au Pair and your career goals. You talked to a psychologist to help you decide about your future career goals, etc. and not bring it up in the context of you having some mental instability or that you are “confessing” a dishonesty to them. I hope I’m making sense :)

Anyway, as I mentioned in another thread, our first (infant qualified) Au Pair had never changed a diaper and had very clearly put on her application that she changed nappies and she put it in her host family letter too. THAT was a lie…and if I had not been so desperate for our first match to work out I might have had a much stronger reaction to it than I did. It did undermine my confidence in her for a good long time and made me suspicious of a lot of other things (although she ended up working out fine).

I actually put in my initial emails to candidates that honesty is extremely important to us because we can work with a lot of differences and different situations but we have to know what to expect going into a match. We give the example of an Au Pair who likes to go out and party a lot not telling us that. We don’t have a problem with going out and partying, as long as it doesn’t interfere with our home and the care of our children. However, we want to know up front if that’s something the Au Pair wants and expects to do and then weigh that along with her total application.

German Au-Pair October 8, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Some agencies seem more interested in selling their products (the au pairs) than being honest. I know girls who were coached to say they want to deal with special needs even though they were terrified of doing so. In one case one girl EXACTLY copied the video of another (including little mistakes and mispeaking!!) and the agency was like ” oh well, how likely is it that a family will see both?”.
Same agency told me they didn’t actually care were my reference came from so I had twice as many hours than I actually had. (My contract said I COULD work a certain amount of hours, in reality it were much less. I told them and they said, they’ll take the reference from the people I made the contract with so for them those hours counted. Didn’t matter for me because I had almost 1000 hours anyway, but I was shocked!)
When I couldn’t remember the name of a family I had tutored for, they said “Oh just write Smith and hope no one asks.”
All of that happened with the same agency and I was shocked by their attitude.

That aside, I don’t think that your kind of therapy is relevant as the questions aims for mental conditions, while you were using it as a basic life coach. I think it’s okay to say no and you usually don’t talk about this stuff every day so IF it ever comes up and you do as ASHM has suggested, I don’t think anyone will view it as lying.

Gigi October 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I actually would totally respect an Au Pair that had the emotional maturity to seek help. We’re therapy loving people :) I think it is really important for the caregivers of my children to be emotionally healthy and I think the changes of someone who’s been in therapy being healthy are better than someone who hasn’t :)

Taking a Computer Lunch October 9, 2013 at 9:23 am

While Americans are very private about psychological therapy, I would like to think that we are open to it (psychiatric therapy would raise other issues for many of us, although people see psychiatrists because here in the U.S. they prescribe drugs, unlike psychologists, who don’t). Personally, if I saw those lines, I’d think the candidate was thoughtful and mature about decision-making, but I can understand from the agency’s point-of-view that they want to present “perfect” candidates.

I would say that therapy is not an issue as long as you believe that becoming an au pair in another country will not be an equal stressor – because your health insurance will not cover therapy here and most psychologists will not do pro-bono (free) work.

DelRayHM October 9, 2013 at 10:37 am

First of all, I commend your honesty and integrity.
I also have a question: this sounds much more like career counseling than emotional or psychological therapy. Would that be accurate?

BadLiarButGoodPerson October 19, 2013 at 2:13 am

I started going because I wasn’t happy with my carrer, but it did not end there. We talk about my relationships, with my mom, my dad, my boyfriend, my brothers, she has also helped me to make other choices not related to my career. I think it is therapy because I think it has helped me improve in many different aspects of my life, I am definitely a happier person now, with healthier relationships, it has made a difference in my life, not only in what my career is concerned.

Multitasking Host Mom October 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

As someone who has a son that has seen a therapist for many years due to his anxiety disorder, I would actually be happy to see the lines, describing your own therapy experience, on your application. I would think you could at least relate in some way to my own child on this issue.
Now that being said, my first thought when reading this is…what is the intent of the question being asked by the agency? They are trying to determine, I think, if you have a diagnosed mental disorder. From what you describe, you do not really have that. As ASHM said above, you really visited someone who was acting in a “life coach” capacity, no matter what their actual professional title. So if you think of it that way, you are not really lying on the application by checking No. (And let me say that I am a rules person, so that is a big thing for me to say.) And also, the reasons that you spoke with the psychiatrist probably will in no way effect your interactions with the host kids. So once again, is it that wrong to not bring it up?
I also wonder what on the application, that the host parents see, is actually stated. Does it just say, yes or no that this au pair saw someone for psychiatric treatment? Does the application have room for the explanation that you provided? Honestly, even with my own children’s experience, if it was just a yes/no answer, I probably would skip over the application if someone had checked Yes. Someone diagnosed with a mental disorder can mean so many things, and my first thought would be could this effect their au pair year in a negative way. I am the one who looks at ALL the applications that the agency provides on their website searchable database. This means I have to quickly scan, and if I see even one red flag, I might just keep going, especially if there is not any explanation of why they sought mental help. Now, as I said above, if the explanation is provided, I would think differently.
If you are still worried about it (and I do commend you for wanting to be honest), a simple explanation when you talk with the host family about why you picked your career is all that is needed.

Should be working October 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm

The suggestions that the AP could have put it in her application miss the point that the agency would not accept any candidate who wrote that they had ever been in therapy. It’s a yes/no for at least this agency (maybe others). And it means that we host families are working with agencies that have totally sloppy filters for accepting candidates, and that encourage dishonesty.

I guess I sort of knew this, but for some reason this post, more than others on related topics of dealing with agencies, depresses me. It reminds me of my repeated conclusion that the AP program is not a good program. I have done well with it and will probably continue to use it, but that’s because (thanks to this blog) I have enough savvy to get out of it what I want.

Host Mom in the City October 9, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Should be Working – I have to agree. I’ve had many people lately ask me if I would recommend the au pair program, and I’ve had to say “no, not really.” We are trying it one more time, but even with the great assistance of this blog, I’m really unsure about it. Too many stories about the agencies encouraging au pairs to lie, too many applicants that I looked at that I simply cannot believe were accepted, too many stories my au pair told me about her friends, too much difference between the program the au pairs think they are joining and the one host parents think they are joining, etc.

Host Mom in the City October 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I admit to being torn on this one, and I say this as someone who is 100% pro-therapy. I completely agree that I’d rather have an au pair who needed help and got it than an au pair who needed help and didn’t for whatever reason. It does show maturity and self-awareness to go to a counselor and I absolutely believe it’s beneficial to emotional healing and that you’re probably in a much better place to handle the stresses of being an au pair after that experience.

That said, there are so so so many au pair applications. We sign up with three agencies when we look and there are hundreds of candidates. So host parents really can afford to be pretty picky. I have skipped over many an application for little things, I’ll admit. And if I see any application that has many health issues (emotional or physical), I will skip it unless the candidate completely wows me in another way.

Now all that said, I agree that what you did wasn’t really what they’re trying to suss out from that questions, so I don’t think you would really be “lying” if you said that, no, you hadn’t had any psychiatric treatment. But most definitely if I found that out after you arrived, I would be pretty angry. I’m pretty appalled at the agencies I hear about that tell au pairs what to put – it seems like it’s a really huge issue. And what happens when they get here and the host family finds out they lied? Not only does it put the au pair in rematch and potentially sent home, but it weakens the host family’s support of the program. So maybe that host family drops out entirely or at least tells their friends what happened. I get that the agencies that are screening the candidates probably don’t care whether or not the au pair actually completes their year, just that they are matched. But eventually, more and more people lose trust in the agencies and no one wants an au pair at all – then it hurts them too.

I would recommend that you be completely honest – why you saw the therapist, what you gained from it, how you think the skills you learned will help you with your au pair year, and an invitation for host parents to ask you any questions about it to quell their concerns. I do think that if I read something like that, it might actually be a plus for the candidate.

And finally, we actually selected an au pair for this year that had a big negative listed on her application. I’m honestly surprised that they didn’t tell her not to put it. We talked through it and I liked her a lot anyway and I liked that she was upfront and honest about it and how it had affected her. She’s just arrived, so who knows how our year will go, but know that host families do choose au pairs that aren’t “perfect” too.

Best of luck!!

Dorsi October 9, 2013 at 6:49 pm

We are just starting the match process and have been casually flipping through some application. My husband said to me the other night, “Show me the ones where they have had traffic tickets, take medication, committed felonies, and suffered abuse!” It was funny because NONE of the applications have done ANY of those things (though they ask on every application). It is a bit hard to believe. (We are with APIA)

Host Mom in the City October 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Our new au pair is through APIA. I was surprised to see this negative on her application since I have never seen anything like it. I have seen some applications at APIA of candidates who went to therapy – the two I remember were because a parent died.

Emerald City HM October 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

This really points out how broken the system is. Rather than just accepting these girls they force them to lie if they want to be in the program.

Some host families might be ok with some of the answers.

I am also like the above HMs, where I honestly don’t recommend the program to others that ask.

I wish more agency directors would read this blog and actually look to see what aspects of the program are broken and make this a good program.

AnotherSeattleHostMom October 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I actually have seen SEVERAL candidates on APIA who are on medication (insulin-dependent diabetic, thyroid medication, etc.), several who have had a traffic ticket (although there is always some excuse how it wasn’t REALLY their fault!) and several who have seen a therapist for situational depression. None of those things exclude a candidate for me outright. I won’t even look at candidates who are smokers (even occasional), vegetarians, or drivers for less than 18 months. Otherwise, I’m game to get to know them better. Although I suppose if someone was on a lot of psych medication I might have pause with that…

A B C Au Pair October 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The same happened to me with CC. I wrote that I had been on therapy after my parents got divorced, I was 10, and a woman from the agency told me that I had to erase that. I also had to hide that I was on medication (metformin) for insulin resistance, among other little things, like the fact that I don’t like riding bikes, that I don’t eat junk, etc. Some other things she wanted me to rephrase so I wasn’t lying but the truth wasn’t in plain sight either. I replied to her email (sent from a personal account, rather than the agency email) and told her I was not going to lie, and I also sent a copy of everything to another agent for the same agency. A week later I got an email saying that they appreciate my interest in the au pair program, but given my personality is wasn’t a good fit. So I looked for other agencies and I am now with APC and my ap year is almost done. My advice, then, is that you tell the families the truth about everything. If they don’t like it, they are not a good fit for you, wait a little longer and fond your perfect match :)

Seattle Mom October 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Wow. I’m sort of horrified by that story.

I wonder if I can ask a question of AP candidates to suss this stuff out, like “is there anything missing from your application that you can tell me about yourself?” I don’t know.. I do ask a lot of probing questions. I’m currently talking to a candidate who can’t eat gluten, and she hinted at digestive troubles on her application but didn’t go that far- she told me about the gluten thing in an email. I wonder if the agency made her take that out of her app. We are OK with a gluten-free person, as long as she can cook for herself on the nights we have pasta.

MomtoThreeMunchkins October 9, 2013 at 12:33 pm

As a host mother, I would appreciate the honesty in an application. I agree with the comment above that it seems like you received advice and guidance from a “life coach,” but even if you refer to it as therapy, it wouldn’t be a problem with me, because it shows you were mature in seeking help. We had a problem with a misleading statement when our au pair said in her application that she loved to cook. We asked her about it in the interview and she was (at least in hindsight) a bit awkward about it, but we thought it was a language issue where she was trying to figure out how to explain the various dishes she cooked. We have a child who is an extremely picky eater and we were hoping our au pair could help us figure out creative ideas for him to eat a bigger variety of foods. Well, when she started, she admitted that she said in her application that she loves to cook because the agency led her to believe that it would be appealing to a host family. In fact, though, she had never cooked anything in her life! She did not even know how to cook pasta (boil water and put the dried pasta in boiling water) or hold a kitchen knife. Although it wasn’t a deal breaker, it did make me wonder about the agency, and we were disappointed.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Your cooking issue was similar to one of ours. We now ask, what was the last meal you cooked? We don’t really care if the AP can cook or not, but we want to see the types of food in which they’re really interested. We had issues with someone with thought was a vegetarian but was really a “white food” eater with lousy habits that took child #2 about 10 minutes to notice.

Seattle Mom October 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm

That’s a great way to ask about eating/cooking.. I’m going to use it. Because a lot of these APs say things like “I love to cook” and it turns out they love to BAKE cakes and cookies, and the only thing they cook is pancakes. Not so useful!

Seattle Mom October 9, 2013 at 8:10 pm

I am also pro-therapy and I wouldn’t see it as a reason to discount someone, but it would be data to consider with all the other bits of data.

I’m currently interviewing someone who wrote on her application that her mother is bi-polar, and she seems to have had some social/emotional difficulties in her life. She has a lot of great qualities, so I’m willing to still consider her, though I’m not exactly overlooking the mental health considerations. Not that she has been diagnosed with bipolar herself, but I know that can have an effect on the children.. I have a lot of experience with this personally, which is why I feel comfortable considering this young woman to be our au pair.

Should be working October 10, 2013 at 9:19 am

3 of 4 au pairs we had had mothers that, in my armchair psychologist view, had psych problems. With big effects on their au pair skills and lives. It made me wonder if one reason they wanted to be au pairs was indeed to find another family. And it made me wish I could have some frank info about the parents on the applications. A rotten mother would be to me a huge reason to pass on an application. Therapy is not on its own any reason to pass, in my evluation.

Seattle Mom October 10, 2013 at 8:14 pm

We passed on the AP with the bipolar mom, FWIW. Not because of that, but who knows, it probably contributed to the main reason we passed on her. Her personality seemed too passive, and we’ve got a feisty 2.5 year old.

Should be working October 10, 2013 at 9:21 am

By “rotten mother” I mean here for instance, telling our au pair as a kid that if she weren’t so rebellious the father wouldn’t beat her up so much.

Seattle Mom October 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Wow that is rotten. I complain about my mom but she wasn’t that bad. No one was beating me up :) just that my mother is an incredibly condescending, negative person. Definitely contributed to who I am today- although I’ve come really far and have my own therapy bills to prove how hard I’ve worked. My sister did not fare as well as I did, so I can see how some people are more resilient. I think I would have been an OK AP at 22, but not the greatest ever.

BadLiarButGoodPerson October 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hello and thank you all for your advices!

I want to clarify that I can’t put it in the application, if I do, I will be kicked of the program, because they have a rule about it. I don’t understand why it has to be like this, it is the same with many questions. I guess I have to come up with a way to bring it up to the host family and hope I don’t get misunderstand.

It gives me a lot of peace of mind to read what you think about it, I guess it is more of a life coach, but I do call her “my psycholigist”… I hope that my HP think like you.

Also I wanted to add that not all girls get coached about their applications by the agencies, I am in a facebook group for aupairs from my country and a lot of them complain that they really don’t get helped and have been in the matching procces for months. Of course it is really easy to get helped from reading au pair’s blogs and on facebook, there’s a lot of (mis)information out there…

Hostmum in NZ October 10, 2013 at 11:56 pm

This is somewhat linked to a question I’ve been wondering about for a while and never quite got round to asking:
My husband has been diagnosed with Asperger’s a few years ago. We partly decided to try the aupair route because of associated issues and difficulties, e.g. he gets stressed easily and finds looking after our daughter [unnaturally – not a good choice of word but I don’t to start a discussion whether the ‘symptoms’ I am describing justify the diagnosis] difficult / stressful, is at the same time extremely considerate, helpful and reliable to a degree that he will fail to look after himself and his own needs – at all; so he will never have time away by himself unless I tell him to because he doesn’t want to burden me with looking after household and child even for a day or two. So I was hoping with the knowledge there is another person in the house he’d be more relaxed to do ‘his own’ stuff.
The application forms here (NZ) for hostparents always specifically ask whether anyone in the house has physical or emotional disabilities, which this would probably go under. So far, we haven’t been honest and always answered ‘no’. Not sure how agencies would react / if HF get denied access to programs. At the same time I feel bad about lying as this is such an integral part of who he is/ we are (although friends and even family always say they would just think he’s geeky and a bit odd; I think someone slightly more empathic would pick up on something being not ‘quite right’).
My actual questions: How is this handled in the US (same question about ‘disabilities’ on application forms?)? How would you / do you answer such a question? Is anyone in a similar situation (broadly: special needs / non neurotypical parent)? Thanks.

AnnekeAuPair October 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Honesty is really important to me, so when the question about therapy came up, I answered honestly, that I had had therapy when I was 14. I went there on my own wish to deal with some things at school. My agency told me the same thing: We don’t take people who have been in therapy. I tried to explain to them that I went there on my own account and that m therapist even wrote a letter to confirm that and that nothing was wrong. Still they said they couldn’t take me, so I went to a different agency and ticked “no” on the question regarding therapy.
I think it’s sad that the agencies actually promote lying instead of leaving it to the HPs to decide wether or not it’s an issue for them.

reb October 13, 2013 at 8:58 am

Wow, I cannot believe how unethical many of the au pair agencies are (or wait, I probably can!). I remember filling out the au pair form and being asked those questions. Now this was not an issue for me as I have not been in therapy etc but that is not the point.

Surely agencies would want their au pairs to be honest in their applications or they would be misrepresenting au pairs in the matching process, leading to disastrous results!

Honesty is always the way to go. It is OK for people to have had mental health issues in the past or experienced neglect/ abuse in their childhood or been to therapy for whatever reason – as long as they are HONEST about it in the first place…

OP, I am aware the agency is basically saying lie on your application or we will reject you so I think you should ‘shop around’ a bit. By the sounds of things it seems that some other agencies accept people who have been in therapy.

Good luck! ?

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 4, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Coming back to this topic since over the weekend our AP told me two little facts that she neglected to mention on her application:
1. She had been in a car accident (her fault)

Now, I pretty much said that if I ever found out she was texting and driving that would be end of days. We don’t text and drive in our family and it’s illegal to talk on your phone while driving in Seattle too…so it’s hands free or nothing. She swore she’d never do it here and didn’t even want a headphone for the car (she said she always keeps her phone in her purse while driving since the accident).

But frankly…WTH? I wouldn’t have dismissed her as a potential candidate based on this information but I would have made sure to have a very clear conversation (as we did over the weekend) about how texting and driving is a total non-negotiable for us…so give it up or find a different family to match with. I am annoyed with her for not disclosing it when we emailed each other and Skyped during match and VERY annoyed with APIA for not doing their homework and discovering this fact from a driving record or cat o’ 9 tails…whatever.

I went back and looked at her application and it also says in her interview that she has no tattoos. She has tattoos…several. I don’t care (at all) so I didn’t even notice that comment when we matched but again…why didn’t APIA do their homework? What if I were a tattoo hater?


Taking a Computer Lunch November 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm

In a different thread a HM talked about software that would prevent the phone from being used while the car was in motion. Install it on her phone.

Host Mom in the City November 5, 2013 at 11:39 am

Wow, AnotherSeattleMom – that would really bother me on both accounts. More so on the driving thing – it would have disqualified her for me. But also on the tattoo thing even though I have one myself. She LIED on her application. In a relationship that really needs to be founded on trust.

We too found out a lot of things weren’t exactly as our last au pair said them on her application. Another reminder that the applications and agencies cannot be trusted to be the whole truth – interviewing extensively is extremely important.

How happy are you with her overall anyway? How long has she been with you? I would make it clear that you’re pretty unhappy with the lies and that if you ever suspect she is texting while driving again, you will immediately rematch and you will let new host families know that is why you are rematching which for sure will be the end of her year. I would also tell the LCC this so she knows.

Ugh, so sorry.

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Just to clarify…I don’t think she lied about the tattoo. The “no tattoos” thing was from the interview she had so it was noted by the interviewer that she had no tattoos although several of them are visible in regular clothing so it seems a very un-thorough interview to note “no tattoos” when she had them (because some lies you could probably get away with…but not that one!) I’m surprised the interviewer wouldn’t ASK about tattoos before noting that. Anyway, I blame the agency on that one.

The conversation I had with her after her “confession” was VERY direct about how we felt about it. We have very few non-negotiables and that is one of them. I believe she keeps the phone in her purse now when driving. And if I ever find out that she is texting and driving (or talking and driving) I will rematch and I told her that.

I like her overall and although I’m annoyed that she lied on her application, I wonder if it wasn’t like the au pair who sent in this submission to begin with…was she TOLD to keep that a secret? I didn’t ask and maybe I should, but shouldn’t the agency encourage them to be as honest as possible? I won’t take smokers, vegetarians, or super religious au pairs but otherwise I’m pretty darn flexible after a conversation. You got in a car accident at 20? Guess what? So did I (and I’ve not been in one since…knock on wood!)

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm

OOps, hit submit by accident….

anyway, I can work around a lot. But I think the agency wants them to look better on paper so encourages them to lie. That is frustrating!

Host Mom in the City November 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Ok, this makes it sound better than I originally thought. I’m really frustrated with the agencies though. I just went back to read over our bad au pair’s application and it was pretty shocking how misleading it was. There were no outright lies, but it was definitely way overstating her experience and the way she described herself was nothing like what she was really like this year. I guess that’s normal overinflating your resume stuff, but a good reminder to rely very little on the applications beyond the basics.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 5, 2013 at 9:22 pm

I call it, “putting her best foot forward.” Just my positive spin. However, a good interview will pull out some of the issues an application won’t cover, but you have to be prepared to listen. AP #8 was pretty honest about herself, but her sparkly personality and excellent English got in the way of our really listening to what she was saying. When we ran into issues, I went back and read my interview notes. It was there, but I had chosen not to listen. On the other hand, while #9 is not perfect, life with her is so good that we have chosen to overlook some of the little things. We do ask bluntly, “Have you ever been in an accident.” And we have received honest answers and have still chosen to match.

The bottom line. To put it bluntly, the agencies are selling a product. While I would expect them to follow up, I understand that mine (APIA) contracts out the work, and it probably varies enormously from country to country (you can see it in the applications – German interviewers are a lot harder on English-language ability than Brazilian interviewers, for example).

We learned, over the years, to ask follow-up questions (for example, AP #1, answered ‘I have owned a car for two years,’ to our question “Do you drive?” I turns out that she bought her license because she knew she wouldn’t pass. Fortunately for her, she had brilliant childcare skills that meant we tolerated the pain of teaching her how to drive (and her self-confidence allowed her to pick it up quickly).

Host Mom in the City November 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

I just went back to re-read our interview emails with our last au pair and the person she was saying she was sounded great. She really describes herself as someone totally different than she actually turned out to be. After our year, even with all our issues and serious discussions and almost-rematches, she really and truly thought she was an excellent au pair. I think she is just completely un-self-aware.

The funniest one is that I had asked her in one of the interview emails what she likes to eat and gave some examples of dinners we make and warned her that we eat very healthfully. She said my examples all sounded delicious and that she eats very similarly and was looking forward to eating healthy. Turns out, she was incredibly picky and literally ate the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch every single day. She had to make dinner for the kids a handful of times, and made the same unhealthy meal every single time. She hated my dinners – turns out she doesn’t like vegetables.

Makes it difficult to interview someone who just has a completely different view of herself than she actually is!

Taking a Computer Lunch November 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Yes, we started asking “What was the last meal you cooked?” and “What did you have for breakfast?” to get a sense of what candidates ate after one fiasco. I am nearly a vegetarian, so when I matched with a “vegetarian” candidate, I was disappointed to learn that she really is what I would call a “white food eater” (pasta, cheese, yogurt) who rarely ate vegetables. Even though I make fresh salads nearly every night, it was months before one passed her lips.

Because I cook, I tell candidates that if they match with us they will eat a lot of foods that are new to them. A few enjoyed the variety and actually started asking me to cook a particular dish. Most do eat with us. A couple, including the “vegetarian,” exited at dinnertime.

The “vegetarian” needed the most job coaching on putting a healthy meal together for children. In fact, we learned to feed them, or at least cook for them, before we went out in the evening.

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm

My greater issue is still with the agency though. Of course the potential APs want to put their best foot forward and tell us what we want to hear and we have some very direct language in our screening process that tells them that we want HONESTY…we can work with a lot but need to know what we are working with. To be honest I never questioned my current AP on her driving because APIA assured me that her country has very safe drivers due to the number of training hours required to get a license. She IS a great driver, probably better than I was at her age. I’m not sure if she would have been honest if I’d directly asked her about being in an accident or not but I have to assume that in most of Europe they have accidents and tickets tied to “points” on a license or similar so it’s pretty surprising to me that APIA doesn’t get a copy of a potential AP’s driving record.

There is a HUGE difference to me between beefing up your experience a bit or exaggerating your organizational tenancies and outright lying or omitting when a direct question is asked on the forms. It sounds like they are COACHED to not put certain information on their applications. I just remembered that AP #1 told us later that she was an occasional smoker (like when out drinking) at home and was told not to put that on her paperwork. She never smoked in America (she wasn’t old enough to go out to bars and you can’t smoke inside in bars here anyway).

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

My husband and I avoid vegetarians or anyone who lists that they follow any kind of special diet because it screams “high maintenance” to me. We don’t eat meat all the time but it’s hard enough to find a good match in terms of eating similar foods, etc. without adding major restrictions to the mix. If we WERE vegetarians, however, I would totally match with a vegetarian. I’ve heard nightmare stories about AP complaints of “not enough meat” after matching with a family that has directly stated that they rarely or never eat it!

Host Mom in the City November 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm

That happened to us! We’re vegetarians and made that very clear on our application – our family (including kids) doesn’t eat meat, but we said our au pair could keep meat in the house, but we wouldn’t be cooking it for dinner. Our bad au pair complained weekly that not eating meat was making her skin and hair brittle and she felt weak. I was like …. “you’re more than welcome to pick up some meat and cook it for your own dinner…” But she preferred to just complain about what I made. One of the last comments she made to us when I took her to the airport was how excited she was to be home and eat meat.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 6, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Well some of it comes down to “desperate to match,” doesn’t it? Sometimes I think candidates say “Yes” to a family, because no one else has communicated with them, they’ve talked with the outgoing AP and know that they’re going to have a better deal than any other family that has interviewed them, or because they have the “I can always rematch” attitude. Our food questions run about 15 minutes and occur twice in the verbal interview process. Most of the APs are highly tolerant — and maybe even come to enjoy the (mostly) vegetarian food we eat. Ironically the two with the biggest issues were AP #5 (Asian, became a vegan but wouldn’t eat the vegan meals I cooked because they were too foreign) and AP #8 (the vegetarian who was really a white food eater).

We’re a mixed family. There is always meat in the meat bin, I just don’t cook it. DH and child #2 sometimes conspire to have Mommyless meat nights. But it is clear that if an AP sits at my table, she’ll probably eat more tofu in a year than she’s consumed in her entire life.

However, we also adjust to our APs. Because I’m incredibly lactose intolerant, I tolerant food issues for APs who want to sit at our table. We stopped eating corn for the AP who was allergic because we wanted her company (and hey, it was only 18 months). We only ate shellfish on the nights the AP who was allergic to it took classes. We cooked around the AP who hated feta, the one who despised mushrooms, and the one who hated olives, as much as we also cook around other family members sitting at the table. My cookbooks are full of notations – if an AP or other family member goes back for seconds, “X likes” is noted on the recipe. And the child who endured DH and my favorite meals this week because he wouldn’t say what he wanted for dinner, duly noted it (although I did make one of his favorite meals this week because I love him).

That being said, I totally get not wanting to adjust for others. I have found because we’re a household of foodies, we want to match with someone as adventurous as possible. It doesn’t always happen, and the AP who is unhappy at our table is always free to help herself to a yogurt, make her own dinner, or head out with friends.

Momma Gadget November 7, 2013 at 11:13 am

TACL hit the nail on the head-with needing an au pair who was “as adventurous as possible”. It never occurred to before our current au pair, just how important it is to have compatible eating ‘habits’. We’re pretty easy going about it, but we like good food. All our family members have different favorites and aversions, so we eat a lot of different things.
I can not tell you what a joy it was to have an adventurous eater who would try new things with such relish, as our last au pair. It was fun to see him experience lobster, fresh seafood, authentic Mexican, American barbeque, sushi etc… that he had never had before in his home country. The kids would get so excited when they could share one of their favorites with him for the first time. In turn we really appreciated him making the effort to get his families traditional recipes, actually search out the ingredients and share these dishes with us.

Our current au pair is not adventurous or open in anyway to new foods. It is ironic, because we were having a difficult time deciding between 3 bro pairs and we chose him because he appeared to be the most flexible. He eats chicken, pizza, french fries, and nutella. He thinks tater tots are a vegetable. He wouldn’t even try a bite of the lobster my family made for my birthday celebration. Anything I cook he drowns in ketchup… even a beautifully grilled juicy pork chop with caramelized onions in a balsamic reduction (brought tears to me eyes). It is only now that he has been with us for many months that he has been willing to try anything new. After months of professing he hates fish, he finally discovered that he actually LOVES grilled Tuna or sword fish.
I didn’t realize before how important the “breaking of Bread” is to feeling connected in our family. It is the mortar cementing a life long friendship. Our last au pair still texts me how he misses those NY strip steaks HD grills, Nanna’s red velvet cake she’d make special for him,my chilli w/ corn bread, or to request a recipe.The lack of openness in trying new things is really a detriment to developing a strong bond with us. Though we like our current AP, we LOVED our last one. Perhaps that experience left too big a shoes for anyone to fill. If we decide to continue with the program, (my boys are getting older) we will be sure to screen more thoroughly on this point, and not take the “I’m not a picky eater” at face value.

CAmom22 November 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm

reminds me of AP#1 who arrived saying she hated fish and by the time she left said the food she would miss the most was all the sushi available in the US :-)

LookingForwardToBeAP November 12, 2013 at 11:18 am

Hi Momma Gadget! I can see why this is frustrating for you, I consider myself a very adventurous person regarding food, and other aspects, I think that this aspect of personality reflects other aspects, as in if you are not willing to try new foods, you probably are not willing to try many things that are new. When I say “new” I mean something you have never thought of, parashutting maybe something you have never done but has been on your head, so you do it, but dancing in the streets with strangers you never thought of and you wouldn’t do it.

I feel close to this subject because my boyfriend was the opposite of me, and I found the more I pressure him to try new foods, the more his mind changed and he became more adventurous and willing to try new things in other aspects of life.

Sorry for the long answer, my point is that you are doing your au pair a great favor, and although it is frustrating for you right now, you should know that you and your family are probably helping him open a big door in his mind

Seattle Mom November 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

It also killed us when AP #1 drowned everything in BBQ sauce.. even really good cuts of meat that were carefully marinated.

And in the matching process she said she ate everything, but it turned out she was allergic to rice, which is one of our staples.

But we still loved her, and I’m glad we matched with her.

Tristatemom November 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Ha, ha, totally agree!
We had one AP that told me during the interview that she “hated” all vegetables. I ignored that and food later became a major issue with her.
I would not pick a vegetarian because I don’t want the person to make negative comments about food to our kids and food is a bonding vehicle for us.

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair November 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I would have always considered myself NOT a picky eater and it took me years to find out that yes, maybe I am one ;)

When I matched with my first HF I told them I was not a picky eater and I truly believed I wasn’t. Some years and some HF later I would probably describe myself as a VERY picky eater (I do not eat meat, however tend try new meat if bought at a GOOD butcher (and actually ended up eating meat in one HF), I do not like eating eggs, however would if the quality was ok, I love trying new food and eat pretty much everything (vegetarian) if placed in front of me, however I end up ordering the very same food over and over again if I like it and tend to cook the same meals again and again ;), … )

I try to be as flexible as possible when staying with a HF or cooking with friends BUT I would say that most people would consider me a picky eater just because I tend to look for quality and rather decide not to eat something than to eat bad quality food. (turns out, that is something that was normal in my family, but not normal for everyone ;) )

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair November 7, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I stayed in a couple of HF being a vegetarian and it was never an issue with the kids. When asked all I told them was that I don’t like meat just like they don’t like cauliflower or carrots (or whatever). All the kids just accepted it as that and kept eating the dishes with the meat in it, while I had the same one without meat in it.

Skny November 6, 2013 at 8:41 pm

We made the mistake twice of just asking: do you have a drivers license? Can you drive? And not asking more. Promised never to do it again. Now we place driving skills as high in the list as being a non smoker. If you get here and you can’t drive, I will rematch. Can’t afford weeks of teaching

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 8, 2013 at 2:18 am

I am willing to modify around a handful of dislikes (current AP not a fan of turkey. No prob.). But am unwilling/unable to modify around entire food groups or other somewhat intangible restrictions such as “quality” or “healthy” foods (first AP looved salads…smothered in creamy dressing….she went on about how healthy she was…). First AP also wanted organic everything. I told her we shopped organic for the dirty dozen (when reasonable) and other foods when reasonable but wouldn’t be buying organic bananas for nearly twice the price. I promise many people become FAR less picky if they are paying the bills :)

Taking a Computer Lunch November 8, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I had a working class friend who said only the wealthy could afford to be picky about what they ate. If I were to serve something and an AP were to refuse it on the grounds that I didn’t spend a mint / didn’t buy organic / didn’t buy it from a farmer’s market, then I would like to think that I would shrug and tell her to make herself dinner. Realistically, my feelings would probably be hurt, since I tend to cook from scratch and use the best ingredients I can afford.

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair November 9, 2013 at 4:20 am

I don’t even buy organic most of the time and I was not talking about the amount of money spent, when saying that some kinds of food are “better” than others.

I would not and never have expected anyone to change any shopping habbits for me. Also I have bought my own food for about 6 years and decided to rather eat vegetarian food than buying cheap meat and eggs.

None of my HF was affected by my eating habbits. Either I ate the food or I ate something else or got myself food later on.

And I think you might have missed the point I was trying to make. I was pretty much trying to point out, that some things are normal in one family and not normal in another, so some people might not even realise that they are picky eaters before traveling abroad ;)

Skny November 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm

So another host mom has just called with a similar question. Her bro-pair won’t even drink their water. He feels the water filtered tastes different, and will only drink mineral water.
While she understands water is not that expensive the kids also only want to drink bottled water because they feel au pair is getting best.
The family feels they are already doing too many concessions, and the au pair (who will only eat specific foods and NO veggie at all) is not a positive influence on kids

hOstCDmom November 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm

My response would be: “We don’t purchase mineral water for our family. We drink tap water. It is safe and healthy. If you want to purchase mineral water for your own consumption, feel free to do so”. And then I wouldn’t think about it again. I don’t buy anything special for our au pairs –we have a well stocked kitchen and cupboard. I tell them they may use anything they want, and as much of it as they want. And that is that. Anything they want that we don’t have, they are free to buy for themselves (diet coke, chocolate, nutella, red meat, mineral water, candy etc.)

Taking a Computer Lunch November 9, 2013 at 11:13 pm

We do make concessions, by purchasing a few favorite foods every week (juice, yogurt, cheese, cereal, etc.). Our typically developing child notices, and developed a fondness for certain items (e.g. salted butter, nutella) but rejected others (sugary cold cereal). Said child has typically eaten more vegetables than 50% of the APs who have shared our table. In fact, said child is a flexetarian and eats a wider variety of food than the majority of our APs. I think many APs have tried new foods because I have turned and said, “[Said child] requested this meal this week.” We have willingly absorbed the expense of a few luxury items for our hard-working APs (although I will say when I caught DH eating the Pop-tarts one AP requested, it brought an end to that weekly purchase). In our house the AP and each child have their own shelf to stow favorite and special foods. While everyone steals food purchased for the child with special needs (don’t worry, she doesn’t go hungry, but child #2 and the AP are supposed to ask before taking food from each others’ shelves).

Host Mom in the City November 10, 2013 at 8:29 pm

I think we approach this a little differently, but maybe I’m just misunderstanding. Both of our previous au pairs have simply added things to the grocery list and we’ve picked them up. I don’t restrict them to only things we would have eaten anyway. Our last one had a particular cereal she liked that we kept stocked, a particular bread, milk (which we don’t drink but I know that’s weird), and of course, Nutella among other things. We also had the mineral water issue with her – it was the only water she drank.

I will say that the mineral water thing bothered me. It’s not the money necessarily, because it’s only a little over a dollar a bottle. Although she did drink a bottle a day, so that’s $365 in water over the year. I think it was more that I too would drink mineral water only, but feel like its a special treat rather than a necessity and so rarely spend the money on it. So we also had a big stock for the au pair and then didn’t allow the kids or ourselves to drink it except rarely even though they love it too. This was the au pair that didn’t engage with the kids too, so that made me even more resentful about it.

But aren’t we supposed to be stocking at least the basic stuff they want as long as it’s not over-the-top? Do some of the posters not add things the au pair wants that your family doesn’t normally buy?

JJ Host Mom November 10, 2013 at 9:52 pm

We officially give an allowance of $5 a week of “special items” on top of our regular groceries. That our current au pair, who we really like, buys nutritionally complete, delicious food that is imported from her home country, and shares it with us. Frankly I would let her buy anything she wants within reason.

The bro-pair who won’t drink water and won’t eat veggies? That would be a no-go for me.

JJ Host Mom November 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm

That *said* our current au pair…

hOstCDmom November 10, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Nope. We don’t add anything our family doesn’t/wouldn’t normally buy. We don’t even extend the option to add anything to the list, nor do we solicit requests. Tried that once, 8 Au pairs ago, and that was a huge headache. Never again. We have many healthy food options, from all food groups available in large quantities (we have 6 kids, so there are 9 people in our home = lots and lots of groceries.) Our Au pairs adapt to what is in offer in our home.

Seattle Mom November 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm

It would bother me because of the waste… the packaging, and the environmental cost of shipping, packaging, etc. Bottled water just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s one thing if you’re out & about and you need to drink water and that’s what is available, but I think buying bottled water for home use is one of the most irresponsible things a person can do. I won’t buy it for those reasons, for myself or an AP. I guess if they bought it themselves I’d have to put up with it, but I would comment on it.

I do disclose in matching that we care about conserving resources as a family value, but I don’t go into all the details unless the AP asks.

Host Mom in the City November 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm

We say this too, and it’s been lost on all three of our au pairs. We’ve explained multiple times what gets recycled and where it goes, and none of them have done it consistently. We’ve explained that we try to buy things with less packaging, etc. They still ask why we don’t buy the individual packages of lunch foods. I’ve had to just admit that few people are going to care about it as deeply as I do.

Meri November 9, 2013 at 11:23 pm

My 4 year old son is special needs. He is very smart but has issues socializing with other kids his own age, he has a hard time focusing and a lot of energy. He has come a long way though. He is extremely high functioning. Can anyone suggest a good au pair agency to go with for children with special needs. We are also in the process of moving. We have to be in our home by the summer. We don’t have a house yet but we will have a room for the au pair. Can anyone suggest the best agency to go with in this situation. We were recommended to Cultural Care but they want to lock you in right away and we don’t even have the house yet. I was wondering if anyone could suggest a good agency to go with or if they were satisfied with Cultural Care? How long do you need to complete the whole process from start to finish?

Should be working November 11, 2013 at 1:40 am

Our most recent AP also complained that she didn’t like the taste of the water and wanted store-bought sparkling water, and I’m *already* against how much money we spend BUYING WATER for my DH and DS, who like fancy-pants imported sparkling water.

My solution: I offered all of them either 1 bottle a day to share; OR we buy a SodaStream make-your-own sparkling water gadget. They all voted for the latter. It still costs some for the carbonation cartridges, but less than the bottled water. I’m thinking of limiting the whole family to one cartridge per month ($16).

Should be working November 11, 2013 at 1:42 am

P.S. DH buys au pairs, and kids, everything and anything they want from the grocery store. I would like to put the kabash on this. The AP gets smoked salmon–which I never buy because I think it’s too costly but I certainly would love to have it for myself! So I think I want to float the idea for the next round of hosting, if there is one, that we do NOT add special items to our list, or maybe 1-2. They make do or buy their own.

AnotherSeattleHostMom November 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

We have lived and learned and have done things slightly differently each time…

AP#1 (aka “ms organic”) couldn’t boil water (literally) so ended up needing to buy convenience meals for her to make for herself when we weren’t home. Not picky at meals, would eat really anything. She also had an amazing sweet tooth and ate ice cream like it was going out of style (we never even buy it). I told her I would buy her one container per week. She countered with wanting it to be a “name brand” (Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Das), I told her only if it was on sale and bought the Safeway brand. She was actually really pissed about it, but ice cream isn’t really food. I’d totally pick up more yogurt or cereal or fruit (in season!) to satisfy a craving…but not junk food. We put that in our manual. We buy food for meals and snacks, junk food (chips, candy, ice cream, etc ) are your responsibility.

AP 2: Asian country. Hated our food (was very polite but wasn’t eating so we had a talk). We reimbursed her for her groceries and she cooked for us 1-2x per week. She never spent more than $25 and never asked to be reimbursed for Asian junk food.

AP 3: Good cook so is creative with whatever is in the house. Nutella freak so we get it at Costco. She drinks energy drinks but buys them herself. Slightly picky eater but we have tried to eliminate some meals from the rotation.

I couldn’t do a one size fits all for all 3 of these women. They’re tastes and cooking styles and skills varried so much. They all worked out by adapting a bit and communicating.

Skny November 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Thanks! I have directed host mom to read this post!

Host Mom in the City November 12, 2013 at 9:23 am

Well I’ve certainly learned from this thread too. Maybe we do it the way we’ve been doing (open invite to add anything to the grocery list) because we’ve never been totally taken advantage of, and even our bad au pair was appreciative when we picked things up for her. It’s probably a fine line though – of course, like anyone, I’d eat much differently if food just magically showed up in my kitchen for free. Especially if I really had no idea how much what I wanted cost. I’d be drinking mineral water, organic fruit, and fancy cheeses all day long ;)

The mineral water thing is probably a great example of this because it’s much more common in some European countries to drink mineral water all the time. I’d probably consider that perhaps he really doesn’t know that it does get expensive – explain to him how much it is versus tap water and explain to him your grocery philosophy. We’re pretty clear up front that we stock up when certain things are on sale and go without until they are. Or give him an allowance for the month for special items and then if he chooses the water out of that, that’s his choice.

Maybe because I’m a bit of a picky eater myself (being a vegetarian, don’t eat processed foods much, eat lots of vegetables and fruit, etc), I can understand how difficult it would be to land in someone’s home that’s supposed to be giving me “room and board” as part of my compensation and then have to eat only whatever they already have. It would then become a big deal to me to know all about how they eat before matching. So again, as always, this is probably one of those things that needs to be very very clear up front. Then those candidates who aren’t quite so picky can be sought out.

Host Mom in the City November 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

The slight difference between the host family websites and the au pair websites might be an issue here. The CC and APIA host family site says one of the costs is “room and board.” The CC UK au pair site says “your room and meals are provided by your host family.” The APIA UK au pair site says your host family provides “all meals.”

The au pair sites seem to stress that the stipend is pocket money since all your living expenses are taken care of. I could completely see a candidate thinking that a host family just pays for all their meals, whatever those may be.

When I think of “room and board” though, I think of “board” as being meals with the family (typically in the family home eaten together). Which could certainly be interpreted as “help yourself to our food and we invite you to eat with us when we do, but anything else is on you.”

It’s a subtle difference, but I don’t think it’s clear from either perspective.

Seattle Mom November 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

This is a really good point.

Host Mom in the City November 12, 2013 at 9:34 am

(I used UK just because it’s in English, but maybe the other languages have their own nuances to whatever word they choose to describe what meals the au pair gets?)

interested HM November 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

out of interested I went to look up the relevant info on the German websites:
CC seem to be the ‘worst’ advertising full board with HF and specifically pointing out that APs don’t have to pay for ANY food or accommodation and have thus loads of money for fun and travelling.
AIFS, which I think is APIA, says: “you will have your own room and you will be able to join the families for meals”
and on it states: “3 meals a day have to be available to the aupair.”

Momma Gadget November 13, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Most of our Au pairs have been reasonable in their requests.
Our SA au pairs both loved mayo which we never use. Our last bro pair would go through gallons of bottled water a week. I had to tell the current AP to take it easy on the OJ which he was drinking several gallons of a week. We buy mineral water/seltzer regularly depending what’s on sale that week or a better buy at Costco.
We are happy to comply with reasonable requests, and APs are welcome to anything in our cupboads or refrigerator unless it is specifically for a special meal I am planning. We did have an AP that loved american steak… If there was an entire beef filet left over , no doubt he would have consumed the whole thing. Lol. If we were planning to make another meal out of steak leftovers ( my kids love beef stogenoff) we would just tell him. If we are going out or ordering in for a meal we always invite them, and we pick up the tab
None of our APs felt that we were responsible for every morsel they consume. All have been very generous with my kids- either sharing special foods they bought themselves, were sent from home, or occassionally treated them to icecream etc..
I think as with most ap/hf issues comunication is the key… As long as both parties have reasonable expectations. Of course it is always easier to be genrous with APs who do a great job, and make an extra effort with your kids.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 13, 2013 at 9:59 pm

I agree with you that it’s easy to be generous with great APs. Of the 9 APs I have hosted, most have been absolutely fantastic with The Camel, and have come to love our child with special needs almost as much as we. It’s easy to go the extra mile, when the AP is flexible, hard-working, and conscientious. I don’t begrudge expensive favorite foods, topping off the tank of the car for which she is responsible, or even buying a gift certificate for her favorite restaurant as a thank you for going above and beyond (we’re having that kind week this week).

The AP that requested Pellegrino did so because that’s what she drank at home, not that she wanted us to get an expensive bottled water for her. Once she realized that Vintage seltzer tasted close enough (and was embarrassed when she realized how expensive the other was), she chose the cheaper beverage. I imagine bro-pairs can be expensive (we housed the brother of an AP for a month and it wasn’t cheap to feed a 21-year-old – they’re not that different from 16-year-olds). My advice, for the bottled water bro-pair, buy him one expensive bottle and several cheaper bottles (or get a Soda-stream). If it tastes any different, he’ll learn to make it last. If it doesn’t, then he might agree to the cheaper fizzy water.

Host Mom in the City November 14, 2013 at 9:21 am

I am totally experiencing this with our current au pair, who is really quite terrific. Things that drove me crazy about our old au pair, who was terrible, don’t bother me a bit with our current one. Want to drink mineral water every day? Turn up the heat until it’s like an oven? Need to take an extra day off? Sure! Go ahead! She makes my life so much easier and is so so good with the kids, that frankly, she can pretty much do whatever she wants. Funny how that works.

Seattle Mom November 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Same here.. I give my current AP a pre-paid credit card for her groceries, since she cooks all the time and rarely eats our food. We eat her food more often than she eats ours (she is Thai) and she often cooks good meals for the kids. So she spends more money on her groceries than she would cost if she were eating our food, so what? She goes above and beyond and never complains about anything.

With the next AP I’m going to put out a few more guidelines about buying groceries, just in case. And I will insist that receipts be submitted for all grocery purchases.

Should be working November 15, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Here is a question that I couldn’t find a good place to put–the post on eating disorders was already closed to comments.

We are looking at a candidate who seems really good in many ways. She has asthma and allergies, however. Her med report includes mention of a hospital visit after a bee sting. Takes daily asthma medicine and I guess has other options to add when allergies kick in, and apparently some special med in case of exposure to nuts or bee sting.

Is this just too risky-sounding to pursue? We have bees around sometimes, like anywhere when it is warm. We don’t each nuts particularly, but in the USA there are sometimes nuts in things you might not predict.

How much does this health issue matter for matching?

Taking a Computer Lunch November 16, 2013 at 12:34 am

I’ve lived with an AP allergic to corn (you think nuts are in everything, try corn!) and one with a light allergy to shellfish. We also hosted a Chinese AP who retreated into veganism when it became clear to her that cheese and dairy was everywhere in the US. We also hosted an AP who claimed to be a vegetarian, but was really a white food eater for whom vegetables rarely passed through her lips.

Food allergies don’t have to be a huge deal. If the candidate seems highly desirable in other regards, you make it clear to her that you expect her to take the lead in ensuring her own well-being and that means carrying her epi-pen (or her medication) and reading the packaging. Labeling on packaging has gotten so much better in recent years, that she should be able to avoid most risks. We just ate around the APs for the year they lived with us – after all it’s just one year (and in reality it didn’t make our lives that much more complicated). Of course, it’s easy for me to say, I have substantial allergies and intolerances (I do most of the cooking, so the family joins me in eating around them).

The reality is that every AP brings favorite foods and foods she just cannot eat to your table. The question is, for candidates with real allergies, is she adult enough to take charge of her own well-being, because the last thing you want is an AP who is always sick because she just wants to be “normal.”

NoVA Twin Mom November 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm

I think it depends on your comfort level with asthma and allergies. One of my daughters has asthma, so that wouldn’t really bother me. Our current au pair has some food allergies – certain fruits that are fairly easy to avoid. If this seems like a great candidate otherwise, can I suggest some questions to ask?

What triggers her asthma? Is it strenuous activity (i.e. running laps, something you might not have her doing on a regular basis?) or dust/pet dander? I know the pet dander is usually seen as more of an allergy, but I have relatives whose asthma flares if they’re in a house with a cat. Basically, find out what her flares are and evaluate whether or that will work in your house. We have wall to wall carpet, and many people with serious asthma/allergies prefer carpet-less houses. If that were something an au pair needed, it wouldn’t work in our house. Just like, frankly, someone that needs very little dust would not work in our house.

Find out about the nut and bee issues. Do they cause anaphylaxis? Swelling but not anaphylaxis? Discomfort but not much more?

If they cause anaphylaxis – or even severe swelling or discomfort – what is her plan for getting medicine while she’s here? I would want her to at least plan on bringing enough for a few months with her (I recommend that my au pairs bring enough OTC meds to get them through a few months anyway, to give them a “cushion” to get comfortable here before having to find meds under a different name while here). Does she have an epipen – and emphasize TACL’s statement that she will be in charge of figuring out what she can eat, though you’ll do your best to keep packaging around so she can read the labels.

What happens when she gets a bee sting? Does she watch and wait, or immediately use an epipen and go to the ER? This will give you an idea of her allergy “level”, though an allergic reaction can be much worse with each “exposure.” And what happens when she ingests nuts – the same?

When she says she’s allergic to nuts – peanuts? Tree nuts? One but they avoid both due to cross contamination issues? Even her ability to answer these questions will tell you her comfort level with her own allergy. And her ability to answer them in English will give you a comfort level that she’s done some research.

Personally, as long as she has a plan for dealing with bees, that one might not bother me as much. I’d want lots more information on the nuts issue because you’ll be feeding her for a year.

BUT – if you’ve already been in contact with her, or for any au pairs out there with severe food allergies that might be reading – you may want to suggest that she actually emphasize this as training. If I had a child with a nut allergy – this would be a golden opportunity! She should emphasize her years (presumably) of dealing with food allergies in her application!

So to sum up my comment – I don’t think it would cause me not to talk to her if she looks great for other reasons. But I would want a LOT more information before matching.

Momma Gadget November 18, 2013 at 1:12 am

We had one healthy au pair knock on our door at 3:00 in the AM and need to be taken to the emergency due to severe abdominal pain.
We then needed to take her to multiple specialist, and ultimately she needed emergency surgery. Of course we took her, held her hand and offered her our caring support going through such sn awful emergency so far from home… As we would for any family member.
It however is not somerhing I would ever want to repeat.
As others have suggested, you need to find out more about the nature if her asthma an allergies. But for me,
This AP candidate, as portrayed, has way too many health issues piled on top of issues for me to consider her.

Should be working November 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

REALLY IMPORTANT thing here that I need to check out with you wise HMs. I asked the placement director if the higher-end insurance the APs can buy covers preexisting conditions. She said no. I think this means if the AP candidate ends up in the ER with asthma, NOTHING is covered.

Can this be true?? Has anyone dealt with an AP with any preexisting condition, or looked into the insurance??

Emerald City HM November 20, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I haven’t looked into that aspect, but I was wondering how their insurance (which is garbage) could possibly work with the AFCA. My husband looking into it and J-1 visa holders are exempt from the AFCA. So yeah, I totally believe that is probably true.

Should be working November 20, 2013 at 5:13 pm

What’s the AFCA? And the ERIKA extended insurance, the higher-end one, is also garbage?

Anyone out there with experience with APs making use of their health insurance for something fairly major?

Momma Gadget November 21, 2013 at 12:32 am

During our emegency room experience, I personally spoke with the APs insurance company. They swore up and down that she was only responsible for the co pay. It was a couple of months before Our AP was due to leave. She resubmitted and resubmitted the bills before she left.In between the agency decided to switch insurance companies. The old company refused to pay a cent,and basically stuck the hospital, and doctors with over 35k in bills. Scam artists every one.

Emerald City HM November 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Oops AFCA is a typo. I meant ACA, Affordable Care Act. I haven’t heard about the extended insurance, maybe that depends on agency and which insurance company they use.

Host Mom in the City November 18, 2013 at 9:47 am

One more comment based on our experience – depending on how your summers typically go, you’ll want to make it very clear with her that she will be expected to be outside/at the pool/at the park with the kids in the summer and that there are bees around in your area. She needs to confirm that she understands that this is a job requirement and that she is still happy to be outside with the kids even with the presence of bees. I would also ask her exactly what she would do if she were out somewhere with the kids and she was stung by a bee, and then listen for a good response to show you that she’s thought about managing her health issues while on the job.

Skny November 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Good idea. I’ve had au pairs refuse to ride bike, run and play with kids before. You want to make sure her asthma won’t stop her from. As well as she will be able to get kids safely home even if a bee situation happens

Should be working November 18, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Skny, refuse because of asthma, or another reason?

Skny November 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Bad períod that lasted all summer. Couldn’t take kids to pool, parks. We started asking au pairs after that about their period. Even if I know it is absurd

Momma Gadget November 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Never have to worry about bad periods, or pms with Bro pairs!

hOstCDmom November 19, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Did I miss something in Bio class….a period that lasted ALL SUMMER…?!

Seriously, if my AP (or friend, or daughter etc.) had a period that lasted 3 months I would be strongly urging medical care for unexplained bleeding!

Skny November 19, 2013 at 4:20 pm

6 long weeks. She said it was hormone related or whatever. She did not want to go to md and pay the deductible.
But did not feel comfortable wearing internal napkins, so no pool or bike (because of possible mess).
I don’t honestly think she had it all this time, but rather her last few weeks were on summer and she didn’t want to do those things. Unfortunately, ask her to show me her period would be crossing a line. It drove me crazy as if we went to a pool I was the one in the water with 2 infants and she was the one In shorts and tshirt sitting by the side just in case.
After her I started asking au pairs about how they handled their period. Very embarrassing, I know, and kind of crossing the line. But we spend summers by the pool so it is important.
This same au pair refused once to play outside one day because could rain and mess her hair (she spent hrs straightening it early on)….

Should be working November 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Skny, I have debated adding an interview question or more than one about a candidate’s hair! How much time spent on it daily, how important is it to her, how often dyed, etc. This would probably tell me a lot of what I try to find out in other ways–how self- and appearance-obsessed is this person?

Skny November 19, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Funny story though: she went her second year to a TERRIBLE family. Really abusive. Bad bad bad. Called me crying multiple times. At some time my au pair had met a guy and decided after a few months to get married (meeting to marriage less than 3 months). We had only 3 more months on our contract and it was winter months. We were resolved to be done with the program anyway. So we decided better the devil we knew, and invited her back (she was safe and knew the kids at least). We could compromise.
She ended up being the best au pair ever. Can’t express how changed she was when she moved back. She was suddenly caring, thankful, helpful… Took the kids to play on snow, decided to participate in family activities. Amazing. I even offered to keep her a few more months under a different visa.

Skny November 15, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I would pass. I cant guarante a nut free household. I need an Aupair to make my life easier not more complicated.
If my child was also allergic to nuts, sure. But not otherwise

Host Mom in the City November 18, 2013 at 9:22 am

Our last au pair had a number of health issues on her application that she insisted wouldn’t cause any issues during the year. She also had a number of health issues that came to light during the year, one of which basically made it so she didn’t want to be outside at all during the summer months. That one in particular made for a very difficult summer. In my experience, their insurance is awful and our medical system so different from other countries, that it made it very time-consuming during the year to find appropriate care for her various maladies. This was the au pair who was terrible at her job too, so it made it really difficult for me to suck it up and help her through everything (although of course I did, even spending an entire day of my only vacation during the year locating clinics with her, and also paying for it that time).

I hate to say it, but unless a candidate absolutely wowed me, I would probably pass over a candidate with anything other than very basic health issues just based on that experience. Actually there were a lot of things I’d never do again based on that one experience (like have another au pair who’s not an extraordinaire or comparable), so maybe I’m just the worst-case scenario opinion :)

Should be working December 9, 2013 at 1:57 am

FYI: Reviewing AP profiles lately at CCAP. I’ve seen about 4 where the candidate answers, in answer to the question in the medical portion if they have ever had psychotherapy, that she has seen a psychologist/psychiatrist. I think all of them said it was related to parents’ divorce, one of them says it lasted two years, and then they end with “and it’s fine now”.

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