My Future Host Mom’s Sister is Creeping Me Out

by cv harquail on November 28, 2010

Okay, “creeping me out” is clearly an American idiom that I have supplied as a headline, but that phrase seems to capture the dynamic going on for this cautious au pair.

She’s matched with a family, and getting to know them through emails, etc. before she joins the family in a few months. The family seems great– except for the host mom’s sister.201011271944.jpg

The host mom’s sister has independently emailed the au pair to offer her “the truth” about what the future host mom and dad are really like.

That’s some kind of sisterly support.

The au pair’s email is long, with some interesting details, after the jump, but here’s the bottom line:

What should this au pair do?

  • Tell the host mom about the sister’s offer?
  • Tell the sister to stop emailing her?
  • Find another family?
  • Say nothing?
  • Some combination of the above?

Dear “au-pair mom”,

Help!As a used-to-be aupair in UK and future-to-be au-pair in America I love reading your blog and opinions of various issues of other moms and au-pairs. It’s interesting and also quite useful as a way that I can learn something about American culture before I actually go to the States and also (hopefully) learn from all of this conversation how I might become a better au-pair for my future host family. :)

One mean pixieAnyway, this time I come to ask about an advice myself…and it worries me that i have to ask for an advice even before I actually meet my host family personally!

I found my host family in the beginning of the summer and since then we are in regular contact over the emails and Facebook posts. My host mom added me to her Fb in early stages of our pre-match. Since I don´t have anything hide from her, I’ve enjoyed this since it’s useful to share more photos and learn about her and her family via her status posts etc. I was very excited about them (well and still am).

Now I have an issue: two days ago i got a new friend request – from the sister of my soon to be host mom. Of course I accepted; I didn’t really feel like I should decline, and I actually thought it was nice of her (the sister). The sister visits my host family a lot and often helps out with their children, and she will probably help to reach with me until I get comfortable with the children.

After I accepted her as a friend she wrote me a message:

We are all excited for you to come, especially the children. They are sooooo cute. You will fall in love with them, and I am going to be jealous at how much love time you will get with them.

You can ask me any questions about (host mom) and (host dad) privately, here on Facebook. You should know what to expect when you get there. They are a little strange in their own way.

I found it quite weird from her to say that “they are a little strange in their own way” and to tell me to ask her a questions. I really had no idea how she meant it. Was it an honest offer and did she really want to make it easier /useful for me to share some information on them from her point of view? Or did she write it because she wants to share with her sister what I might ask her or write her to “test” me?

Of course I knew i should probably be very careful about it and wouldn´t ask anything! Also I think we all are different and what can seem for one to be an annoying habit, other may hardly notice and it´s always better to find out yourself…..if it was point of view of ex au-pair that would be something different I think.

Also i feel bad myself that she is talking behind her sister’s back and i haven´t even met them yet.

So i just replied with a very tactful message back, that I´m excited about meeting everyone as well and that I already fell in love with the children just from the pictures, etc… At the end of all of it i just dropped:

“ehm…anything specific i should know about X and XX ? Do u want to warn me in front of something? haha:D

(i wrote that “haha” comment on purpose, so it was meant halfly as a joke and halfly for real – if you know what I mean)

Well, today I had another reply:

Well Host Dad can be lazy and Host Mom will yell at him in front of everyone. Host Dad can be rude too but he doesn’t realize when he is being this way so just let him know.   So take  Host Dad with a grain of salt; he can be annoying. You just might have to slap  Host Dad around.

Host Mom will rearrange everything in the dishwasher even though it was fine to begin with. She can make a big deal out of recycling plastic dishes and then pour hot grease down her kitchen drain. Just ask  Host Mom how she wants things done for a while. That way you can learn what she is anal about and what she could care less about.

The walls in their house are thin so you will hear the tv which is right under your bed. I find that if you sleep with the fan on you can’t hear the TV. Other than that I think you will like it there very much.

I honestly don´t get it. Does she really mean this honestly. Does she want me to prepare on things in advance and tell me what they are really like? Is she trying to make me change my mind?

HM told me at the beginning that honesty is everything (which i agree on too). She said she really liked me because i seemed to be really honest and seemed to be like an open book. But now i feel like i should tell her because i don´t want to be dishonest with her. But also i don´t want her to think I’m telling on people.

What should I do?

Should I tell her sister that i appreciate her honesty and her opinions but i don´t want to talk behind HM´s back and rather wait till I find myself all about them?  I don´t think it´s very appropriate to tell me this about her sister and husband. I just want to be a “friend” and get along with everyone and would like all the family members to like me, so i don´t know what i should tell her or how to act.

Now i feel kind of bad and feel like I´m losing my excitement.

I think the sisters’ relationship is very good and that they are very close to each other. Maybe the reason is really a jealousy? I saw HM´s sister commented on one of the baby photos that she feels like she should spend much more time with her sister and help her with the children since the HM did the same for her when her baby was born.

201011271954.jpgAm I just simply being to paranoid all about this? I tend to be very careful in order to get someone´s trust; life has slapped me in the face several times when I was too gullible to someone and then I was the only one who was hurt because of that.

Please, I´d be very grateful to hear your opinions. Thanx very much in advance:)!


Kind of a favorite thing?from
One mean pixie
from Fiona Bradley
Cerise with her older sister, Akiko from


Should be working November 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Hmmm, an interesting dilemma. I do think the sister is jealous and wants to ‘win you over’ somehow to herself. She just sounds competitive and needing to be the one who knows in that situation. (Honestly I can imagine my sister, who is a little weird and competitive and jealous, doing something similar if she were just a little more bold.) She seems to be lobbying for power in the situation: either she’s ‘in’ with you for telling you these things or she can turn it around and be ‘in’ with the sister and someday talk about you.

If the sister lets the HM know that she’s been in private contact with you, it would indeed be a way for her to win closeness to the sister and make you look bad for seeming to talk behind the HPs’ backs. For this reason, and because this sister clearly cannot be trusted not to gossip, I would in your case let the HPs know that the sister had friended you, you had a short exchange where the sister tried to be helpful in preparing you for your year, and you are so excited and looking forward to the year. If they ask worriedly what the sister told you, I’d jokingly say that she said that both HPs are ‘real characters’ and you will like them. If the HPs press for more info or seem very concerned (which to me would be a good sign), you could forward the email.

I imagine there will be many other views on this; looking forward to reading them.

franzi November 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

what sister told you was nothing dramatic (imho). some people are picky about how their dishwasher is stacked, some are lazy bums once seated in their favorite reclining chair, and yes, some frustrated wifes yell at their husbands. but that’s nothing that should take away anything from your excitement to have matched with that family.

there are many reasons why sister send that message to you (and basically setting you up to ask “what do you want to tell me”) and i also side with jealousy and a sense of outperforming the sister. family dynamics can be strange sometimes.

but you have matched with the family and not with the sister so her attempts to befriend you and stay in touch with you are nice but should not be more important than the family’s attempts.

if you can’t let it go then ask the host parents about relatives that come to visit (frequently) and how you are expected to interact with them. this way you can mention that you were contacted by sister and that’s how this question came to your mind. i would not tell them what sister told you because it is nothing of real concern. if she had told you they beat their kids – that would be different. but micromanaging the dishwasher? no red flag for me.

HMinWI November 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm

I don’t really see any red flags in those emails. As I was reading them all I could think was, “I wonder how much younger this sister is than the HM.” It just seems like something a much younger sibling would do (since I have a sister 11 years older than me I can say that with conviction). I think it sounds as if she just wants you to know that they have quirks just like the rest of us. Even the best host family has quirks…but that’s sometimes what our APs remember with fondness after they’ve left.

I wouldn’t worry too much. Just take the sister’s information with a grain of salt and continue cultivating a good relationship with the host family. And, now you know about the dishwasher…it’s always good to know that these types of things happen to everyone and not just you. :)

Calif Mom November 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

What the sister describes sure sounds like normal family life to me! So I wouldn’t be concerned about finding a new family to match with.

Perhaps the HM’s emphasis on honesty comes from being raised in a family where it was a value; now that value is showing itself in her sister’s (inappropriate, in my view) reaching out to share what she sees as “the truth” behind her sister and brother-in-law. AND the sister could be jealous, and a busybody, and a bit of a “pot-stirrer”.

If I were the au pair, my biggest concern would be knowing that this busybody Auntie visits often, and will likely continue to talk behind the back of her sister, and try to draw the au pair into those conversations. Now, having just breathed huge sighs of relief myself at finally getting rid of my relatives after Thanksgiving, I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite, but it’s one thing for someone to try to build a relationship with an au pair, and quite another to manipulate them in some way.

I think the au pair has the right instinct here: tread with caution. Be friendly, but don’t share too much with this Auntie lest it be used against you. It could very well be that the Host Mom is being driven crazy by her sister, but has the maturity not to clue you in on that just yet.

At the very least, you know you are joining a vibrant family. :-) Some families yell. Others sublimate and operate through a system of smoke-and-mirrors. Neither is wrong; they are just different. Perhaps the Auntie and HM didn’t come from a family of yellers, and the Auntie has found it difficult when she visits to see her sister now operating in a different dynamic with her husband than their mother did.

Again, I don’t see a reason to not match with the family based on the Auntie’s information, unless you really hate people yelling once in awhile. Otherwise, the dishwasher and recycling things are clearly just things that any au pair needs to figure out with any host mom–which things does she really care about vs things she lets slide. Because those vary in every family.

My 2 cents November 29, 2010 at 10:46 am

Wise advice above all around.

I would add that I’d find out now how much time this nosy sister will be around and assisting you (or interfering) in caring for the kids. She sounds like she may be a bit of a challenge herself. IShe sounds kind of lonely actually. ‘d either use FB to find that out from her directly or ask host parents. You do not want to be stuck with someone who is observing your every move and judging it, as she apparently does with her own family, for many hours a week. It will drive you crazy. I would read some of the postings about the disruptive grandparents if you want to get a feel how that can go for an au pair.

Calif Mom November 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Good points!

In that vein, if she decides to join the family, I’d suggest she set her FB privacy settings so Auntie can’t read AP’s every status update when she starts her new job with the family. Don’t need to “un-friend” her, because that would be viewed as a hostile act, but she doesn’t need to read everything about the au pair’s life, either.

aupair who wrote the original email November 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Thanx bunches for everyone´s feedback & to aupair mom for actually putting it up on the site:)!
I must admit that it passed a few days i sent aupairmom an original email so I had a few days to “sleep on it” and I have to say i calmed down a bit since then. It was just the first moment after reading this kinda..weirdly innapropriate message I really freaked out. (I never considered to match a new family though). I think it might also be the first kind of cultural difference I came accross – from my european point of view americans seem to be much more open than we are, and especially this sister seems to tell everything what comes to her mind. We would barely tell these things to our friends let alone to the people we haven´t even met yet.

Anyway, I think My 2 cents might be right in a way with a point that this crazy sister can be a bit lonely – since i wrote this email i had the chance to swap two other short messages with her where i got to know for example once again that HD really drives her nuts and that HM is actually the only girl she does things with!! (which makes me think she is really just a bit jealous or (as i´d like to hope) just really wants to “friend” me.
I´m just trying to be as cautious as can be in my posts to her so she can not use it against me somewhere in the future. I just mentioned to her i don´t mind yelling unless it´s at me and she said that most of the yelling is at HD or at her lol, and that it´s not that often. Maybe she really just wanted to prepare me that there is not gonna be just “honeymoon” kind of time (which i would have never thought of)!

@HMinWI – she is actually as old as HM is:D.

Thanx to everyone´s reasurrance that this probably doesn´t mean anything I´m really calmed/relaxed again, and am probably just even more curious to meet them including this crazy relative lol.

NoVA Host Mom December 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm

My first impression, based on what she wanted to “warn” you about was a sister with an axe to grind, if you know what I mean. I would let the HM know that her sister contacted you privately, but my guess is that the HM already knows her sister thinks she’s nuts for rearranging the dishwasher (to be fair, I do it too, sometimes, when I know we can fit more in if things were better placed or to keep the dishes from hitting each other and chipping). As for shouting at her husband, well of course her sister might see that. They are married. And the sister is family. Frankly since you are about to be living there, I am guessing you will hear the HPs argue too. It’s natural in relationships. It keeps things healthy and out there (not bottled up).

And I’m also guessing the sister has stayed in the now-AP room when visiting and would like it back, so to speak. You are the “new kid on the block” and little sister is making sure you know she’s important too. Just be kind and polite (she is the kids’ auntie!) but if you feel uncomfortable about her approaching you, let the HM handle it. That’s what she is there for. Good luck and enjoy!

Should be working December 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Dishwasher comment: I actually try to arrange the dishwasher so that after the dinner it will look as full as possible, even when it is not, so that whoever is last to put something in it (usually DH) will then TURN IT ON. I like to start each day with all fresh dishes and an empty dishwasher (after AP or I empty it in the morning). I also point out to my APs that one reason we bought more expensive appliances is because they are energy saving, so I don’t mind small loads of laundry and not-completely-full dishwasher loads.

Julia December 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I was matched with a family that has a “crazy sister” who pulled similar stands like that and yes she wrote me messages like that or even worse and my best advice is to ignore it and let it be. I would even consider telling it because if it comes out somehow there might be trust issues. I ignored all the stuff and ok my hostmom and her sister’s relationship was a big strange thing but those emails came up and my HM got upset about me not telling and just to keep it even and if u tell her and she gets mad at u and will rematch u than it wasnt the right family anyway but u were honest with them and that is the most important thing. I loved my hostfamily but those strange emails and other behavior of the sister ended up being a huge problem on the relationship to my hostmom and if I could over do it I would tell her and let her deal with it. Hopefully Im not offending anyone here but Americans thinks different about interaction with other ppl and all in all I would tell her and let her handle it.

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