Advice Wanted, archived

Here’s an archive of all of the requests for advice — and our responses, from the start of AuPairMom ’till April 2009.


Angie October 5, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Need some advice from other host moms: How to get our au pair to be more of a “self-starter”

We are first time host parents and our au pair has been with us for 6 weeks.
My husband works outside of the home and travels quite a bit for his job. I am a stay-at-home mom of 4 under 4 and am constantly filling our social calendar with fun activities throughout the weeks to keep the children entertained. We have tried our best to include our au pair in family outings (i.e. day trips to explore our historical city, day trips to Annapolis, D.C., etc.) which she has enjoyed, but I’m finding that if WE don’t “initiate” any type of outside of the home activity, she seems to just hang around the house or stay in her room. We would love for her to branch out and meet others in the community her own age so she may have a more fulfilled experience during her year in the U.S.

Upon her arrival, we immediately took her to our wonderful downtown area to see the sites (which is only 5 miles away), gather all kinds of literature about our city, metro schedules, etc. Also, since she had just missed the deadline to register for classes at any of the local colleges, we suggested an ESL class that was starting within her first two weeks. She was very excited about getting to practice and learn more english right away. She also wanted to purchase a bicycle, so we took her to do so right away.

Any suggestions on how to get her to interact more with others? We have let her know constantly that we are very open to her inviting over other au pairs, having play dates with other host families children, using any of our cars to do things at her leisure, etc. She just doesn’t seem to have the “want” to do anything.

Another dilemma is she is not driving yet!!!! This is very frustrating as we really need her to help take/pick up the boys from preschool and outside activities. I am doing this all on my own, which has completely defeated one of the purposes of why we chose to get an au pair.

She has an international driver’s license, has been studying the driver’s manual for 6 weeks, but is not ready to take the test to get a license. We are constantly asking her if she would like to practice driving and she keeps telling us she is not ready. We are having to drive her to stores, church, etc. and really wish she could be a bit more independent. In our city, you can get just about anymore without having to get on the interstate, so we are a bit confused about the driving isuue.

Also, she is 25, not 18!!

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! :)

Dawn November 13, 2008 at 5:33 pm

We are a current host-family, in the matching process for our next au pair when the current one’s time is over. I’d love to see a blog post about what to look for when screening au pair applications, questions to ask in a phone interview, things to tell potential au pairs about our family, etc. — basically your suggestions (and the suggestions of your readers) about how to “ensure” (as much as possible) a good match!

Robin November 17, 2008 at 11:21 pm

I’m having a personality conflict with my au par and am really unsure as to whether to try to work it out or cut my loses. These “conflicts” last for several days after I correct something she’s done. The first time, one of my boys indicated several times over two days that he wasn’t getting enough lunch. So, I checked to see what my au pair was putting in the lunch box. This then became that I was accusing her of starving my children and she wouldn’t speak to me for four days. This last time, she was 20 minutes late in starting in the morning. I knocked on her door to wake her up. This was the second time that week (she’s only on three mornings during the week), so I indicated if she needed help in understanding how to set her alarm clock we would help. That was four days ago. Last night – during our regular family meeting — she indicated that I discount her feelings and am unaware of her perspective on life, and that we were in crisis.

I will be the first admit that I am not a touchy feely person who solicits “friend” conversations with my au pair. I go to law school full-time and barely have enough time for my kids, much less time for a 26-year-old grown woman. I see her in passing in the morning and at the dinner table. I do thank her on an almost daily basis for doing my little girl’s hair, for taking the dog for a walk (not required to do so), for doing this or that with my kids. I say good morning, how are you doing, all the basic pleasantries. We had an au pair for two years and there were no serious conflicts at any time between us. Can it be fixed or will it just get worse?


cynthia November 21, 2008 at 4:29 pm

I am a first time host parent to a 19 (almost 20) year old au pair from Bosnia. She’s been with us now going on two months and I have 7 month old twins who she is responsible for 4 days a week We’ve had some issues with her, off and on, mostly due to adjusting to having someone in the home and she is one who definitely is not afraid of asking for what she wants. She is “good” with the kids but definitely does not go above and beyond. This morning, 10 minutes before I need to leave from work she tells me she is having problems because she has no food. I was initially furious because our cupboards and fridge are filled with food. She then states it’s not food she likes and it’s not things which are easy to make. Let me preface this with she eats more than my 6’7 husband in one sitting and will gorge herself on food and eat all of something within two days. I have contined to tell her not to eat ALL of something and if she does she just needs to tell us but that she needs to be conscious there are two other adults who live in the house. We don’t keep any sweets in the house becuase she will eat an entire package of brownies at one sitting, leaving none for anyone else. She also refuses to eat if there is no bread stating she can’t eat without bread. She will eat an entire loaf of bread in two days. I have always bought food she has indicated she likes. I typically shop every two weeks. That last week or few days before I am set to shop again there aren’t all the goodies that are right after I go shopping and you will have to go to some effort to make things. She asked what she should eat for lunch and I told her a sandwich and she stated she was not going to eat a sandwich two days in a row or if she had one for breakfast. She said she was tired of eating the same things, but I have bought her numerous things which she says she likes to eat. Before she said she wanted apples so I bought them and she ate two leaving the remaining bag to rot in the fridge. I ended up telling her that I was not going to buy food for her to have something different every day and that I was not a mind reader and she would need to tell me what she liked in order for me to buy it. I took her through the fridge and pantry and showed her the numerous quick items to eat and she indicated she didn’t like any of them. The other night I had to work late and she said she had no choice but to eat cookies because there was nothing to eat! My husband offered to make her food. To top it off she complained I keep the house too cold because I told her last week to turn the thermostat lower. It was close to 75 degrees. She was wearign a t-shirt and shorts in the mid of winter. I told her that if she wants to be warmer she needs to put on winter clohtes and that there are other people in the house who need to be comfortable, she snapped back with I only want to save money. We are much younger and less financially secure than her other friend’s host parents and she constantly states how they are rich and spoil their au pairs. I mentioned this to her and told her we are not like that and that if this is such a huge issue she may need to consider going somewhere else. I always engage her in conversation, do things with her, and we try to incorporate her into the family. I was definitely disappointed with this conversation when I have truly gone above and beyond to incorporate her into the family and feel she is trying to take advantage and being influenced by going to other au pairs residences where they eat garbage all the time. Further, I feel she is simply behaving unreasonable because there is so much food in my house and things she told me she liked so I am really unsure of how to handle this at this point. I am truly so angered by the situation due to the unreasonableness of her and the way she is behaving.

C December 6, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Creating boundaries on your kitchen:
Despite the dieting that I hear about with so many au pairs or the aversion to American food, we have an au pair with a ravenous appetite and a terrible sweet tooth. Being a first time host family we were very welcoming with our au pair, letting the au pair help herself to anything in the kitchen. Over the past few months I have become a bit resentful of this, many of my more expensive items (imported cheeses, ice creams, chocolates, preserves, tea and coffee, etc) treats that I buy for myself have been disappearing regularly. A friend brought over some expensive tortes from a famous upscale bakery. Our au pair had helped herself to most of the desserts, which I wasn’t happy about. I recently noticed she has been hording her own sweets in her room which disturbed me since we have been so open with our home. Quite honestly I have reached a point where I don’t want her helping me put groceries the away any more as she oogles every item, licks her lips and comments how tasty everything looks. Realistically what is a nice way of setting boundaries, after so many months of an open-kitchen policy? Is there a way to do it without having to segregate what’s mine?

Anna December 11, 2008 at 5:15 am

I want to see a post about the monetary value of Christmas and birthday gifts.
I am a second-year hostmom; with my first au pair the relationship was easy and I gave from the heart, not expensive gifts, but appropriate and appreciated.

With our second au pair the relationship is more reserved, and I get a feeling that she is expecting more. We are not rich, and I dont’ want to spend more on her gifts than I would on the ones for my husband’s birthday say (my limit for him is $90-$100, and we don’t exchange gifts on any other occasion). I am hoping to spend $75 or less on each occasion (her birthday also falls in Dec). Is it fair?

Maya December 15, 2008 at 2:37 am

Hi. I am a first year host mom. My first au pair was with us for 5 months and then we went into transition. She left yesterday.

My new au pair came today. She seems very nice and since on Friday was her birthday, we got her a birthday cake and my kids made a Happy Birthday banner for her. She was very thankful and was taking pictures of the cake and the banner.

A very good sign to me, as my old au pair would not have even acknowledged the banner or the cake. In five month that she has been with us, she have never found a single thing she wanted to commemorate to her camera for memories.

Anyway, my question is about au pair car use. How do you handle gas costs with you au pair when she uses car for personal driving?

With my old au pair, we just paid all the gas costs including her personal driving which was not appreciate and backfired on us. She had a fit when we were deducting her texting and download cell phone charges from her last stipend and brought up a lot of things that she felt she was entitled to. When I mentioned that we have basically paid all her personal gas usage for 5.5 months, she said that that is not true and that she was paying her own way, which is a lie as we have been closely monitoring mpg in the car she was using as we have had some problems with that car in the past. Basically, every time the car got filled, we reset the trip meter and if the mileage for the full tank of gas was not where we think it should be we took the car in for a service. It is an old car and requires a lot of maintenance. So basically, our generosity backfired.

I have tried to estimate how much driving will be needed for my kids in order to give her gas money at the beginning of the month for kid’s driving and the rest would be her costs, but it fluctuates so significantly that I have no idea on how to even approach this. I mean, there are seriously months where there would less then 100 miles of kid driving required, it was the case with October and November, and now December, and some moths where that would be close to 400 miles, which will be January, March, and April. February and then May and on, there will be barely any driving at all, so we are back to about 60-70 miles per month.

It would feel strange to me to keep giving her different amounts for gas every month, but then as gas prices fluctuate, the gas money would fluctuate too, so may be this is not that strange at all.

Arnie December 18, 2008 at 7:36 pm

We have a third car for au pair use. But which car it is depends on
the day and what we’re doing.

This am the Au Pair who’s been with us since she rematched Nov 24 was
backing out of the driveway with the minivan and hit another one of
our cars that was parked on the street.

Both cars sustained damage. I am not sure yet what the $ total is
because my insurance company can’t send anyone to do an estimate
until after the holidays. But I am thinking both cars will need new
rear bumpers and some body work…

When she told me what happened she looked really scared and upset so
I reassured her that it wasn’t a big deal and I was more concerned
about her safety than about the cars.

My insurance company said we have to pay TWO deductibles of $500 each
because they treat each as a seperate claim.

This is our third au pair, but our first accident…. she has seemed
to me to be a pretty careful driver up until now. But I wouldn’t be
surprised if she’s a little more agressive and less careful when
she’s in the car alone going to the gym….

I was curious whether people who have had an au pair in an accident
have asked the au pair to pay for any of the damages ? I think the
au pair agreement from our agency says you can have them pay up to
$500 toward any repairs… but that seems a little high to me for
someone who’s only makingf $180 a week….

What have others done ? Did you make them pay something ?

Did you restrict the driving after that ??

Any advice would be much appriciated……

Ugh. One more thing to worry about over the holidays….

cvh December 18, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Hi Arnie-
Id you haven’t already, be sure to check out the two long posts on car accidents… you can find them by clicking on ‘cars and driving’ in the list of categories. Also, I’ll post your request separately, and we’ll see what folks have to share. When I hit a parked van backing out the driveway… oooch.
What a tough way to start a rematched relationship– I hope you ap is great in all other ways….

Anna December 23, 2008 at 4:52 pm

I want to see a new blog post where host parents describe an occasion (or occasions) where they went out of their way for their au pairs, did something above and beyond.

Angie December 26, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Rematch Questions

I am so confused right now and was wondering if anyone could answer some questions. We are in rematch. Our au pair’s last day with us is tomorrow and our new au pair arrives at the end of January. We were not able to find an in-country au pair, so we had to search for an out-of-country au pair.

Anyway, our current au pair just informed us that she is upset and has no idea how she is going to get back to her home country.
1. Her two weeks is up and she has not received a new match from another family.
2. The agency let her know she has 30 days to find a plane ticket to travel back to her home country.
3. She has informed us today that she has no money!! (???)
4. She has also informed us today that she has no place to stay!! (???)

First of all, I find it hard to believe that today is the first time she is being told she has to purchase her own plane ticket home if the match doesn’t work out. Doesn’t the home country agency tell the au pair’s this when they sign up? Don’t they also remind the au pair’s during orientation?

Second, how in the heck does she not have any money??? She has made over $3000 over the +4 months she’s been with us!

Third, does the agency not provide them a place to stay while they are transient? She just told me that another au pair’s host family is willing to let her stay with them while she finds a job to pay for her plane ticket home. So, should I let her just stay here, I am so clueless!!! I don’t want to feel like a heel and put her out, but it is soooo tense around here right now with this whole situation.

Anyway, any advice anyone could provide would be so helpful. This is our first time as host parents and we are so confused. I had having a guilt trip put on me, but also have a heart and am not going to put someone out on the street.

Thanks so much!!!

Anna December 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Speak to your coordinator. They are supposed to help her find a place to stay after her 2 wks, but some of them really don’t want to take transient au pairs into their own homes. You can’t kick her out during the 2 wks, but after, you should have help from the agency to get her other housing.
As to getting a job to pay for her ticket home – she cannot legally work here in any other job but au pairing! So she has to borrow or get her parents to pay for her ticket, but she cannot work. Again, speak to your local coordinator or to someone at the main office of the agency.

cvh December 26, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Hi Angie-
Just 2 quick suggestions—b/c lots of the specifics depend on your agency…

First, call your counselor.
Second, have the ap pack her bags, and take her to the counselor’s house.

After 2 weeks, your ap is no longer your responsibility…she is the agency’s responsibility. The counselor is the agency’s local representative and the counselor should take it from here.

Go look at your agency contract, and then at any fine print, if you need any encouragement to send her on her way. (I bet that) You will find that 2 weeks is all you owe her.

It is not hard-hearted, but rather self-protective and kid-protective, to have her leave your house now.

There is a reason that you are in rematch and you do not need your ex-ap in your house anymore. Rematch is ugly and drawing things out makes it worse.

It is HIGHLY unlikely that the agency told her she needs to get her own flight…(I believe and might be wrong that) if your ap leaves within her 12 months her fight home is paid by the agency. The agency can’t legally abandon her. I suspect that the AP is lying, so that she can draw out her time and maybe find another placement or stay somewhere but ‘off’ the program.

She may be able to convince another friend or family to take her in (I’ve hosted my ap’s rematching friend once). Often AP’s (and also host families) dramatize and exaggerate the causes of rematch so that they get more sympathy– and maybe that way get another home to take them in for a while ….but, keep in mind that your ex-ap has formal options and needs to follow them.

it is okay to cut your losses and tell her she must leave. Don’t think that you must take care of her problems (isn’t this part of what led to rematch, I wonder).

I’m aware I may sound harsh, but I urge you to do what’s right for your family once you have discharged your responsibilities to her. my $.02.

md January 11, 2009 at 1:46 am

I love this blog – it’s been so helpful!! I have a question about au pair blogging. Our au pair seems to be a great fit with our family – really personable, great driver, good with the kids. We just discovered her blog which gave us some concern. She writes in it daily, about the details of her day, including what is happening with the children. She has expressed how hard it is dealing with them and at times that they are brats. We haven’t told her that we’ve been reading it but it is public knowledge. I was upset to hear the comments about the kids and her views on how we discipline our children. I don’t know whether to monitor it for awhile to see if we should rematch or just take it as a channel for her to vent her feelings (which we all sometimes feel about our jobs). Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I’m definately adding “blogging” to our next au pair rule book.

Calif mom January 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Wow. I’m curious — how did you find her blog?

You must feel like you are reading her diary, and yet, it’s a blog and inherently public. Clearly, this is going to eat away at you, so you have to make a decision about how you are going to deal with it, even if that decision is that you are going to ignore it.

You can 1) stop reading it and pretend it doesn’t exist or 2) mention that you read it and ask her to please safeguard the kids’ identity, because you don’t want them to be hurt by this when they are older. Or 3) mention that you have read it, and then see what she says and let her reaction guide your conversation.

This could either be a way to grow closer to your AP or it could divide you. I am pretty sure that things cannot be the same now, because you are not in the same emotional place you were before. Your feelings have been hurt, and you feel your family’s privacy has been violated. Maybe that’s the place to start your conversation with her.

You should look at how you feel about her overall, and decide whether you want to continue the relationship or not before you talk to her about it. I think it could be a good opportunity, but so much depends on her reaction to it, and you can’t control that at all. And you may not be able to predict her reaction, either, so you might want to think about possible outcomes before having this conversation.

Wow. Another topic for the family binder, for sure!

Please post about how this goes!

sunnyvah January 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm

I know a lot of au pair blogs and had one by myself (well, it wasn´t really regular- i was never good at diaries). I think it´s a great way to have a memory and for family and friends to understand what´s going on in your life as you are very far away and they can´t be part of your daily life. It´s also easier than writing the same mail/ telling the same stuff at the phone a thousand times. I do however think, that you´re not allowed to show addresses AND I´m very sensitive with pictures of the family ESPECIALLY of the kids. I wouldn’t put them on the internet for everyone. You can have secure sites with passwords. (That´s a thing you could demand as HM. Definitely)

About the content:
I think it´s her right to write how she feels. I don´t think it means she doesn´t like the kids when she writes a few time that they give her a hard time or she calls them Brats. I give my sister worse names! And i said things like that about my hostkids (whom i love like crazy) a few times as well. Sometimes it´s just necessary to get rid of the bad feelings you had and to get some pity for your hard day !

Honestly, I haven´t read an au pair blog where the au pair never writes anything bad about kids behaviour or how pissed off she right now is. The next entry could be how great the day was. How happy she was about an “I love you” or a drawing just for her.

I kind of understand how you feel :D I found the blog of the au pair after me and, yes I´m reading it every day ;), the first few times when she wrote that she was annoyed by the kids or wrote generally something “bad” about the family, the house… I felt like: How could she? Why isn´t she appreciating the time with MY kids and MY family??? But then I remembered the times when I was pissed off. About my “black day”, when I was working 16h!!! (Europe, not states) and I learned my HM spent the last 2 hrs chatting with her friends. Not to mention the thought that I had to get up in 7 hrs and start again.

I certainly thought very unkind things about my host family and believe me, I did put the kids so early in bed, because one minute more and I would have said some things aloud which wouldn´t be nice (one of the moments, when I was happy that they don´t understand German. Good to know that you can say real nasty things and they would laugh about the weird sounds you´re making!).

It IS hard to be an au pair. Even if you´re preparing yourself for this job- you can´t understand it (one month after graduation picture: Me driving a minivan, with diaper bag, snacks and sippy cups- never had this situation before). I mean you all know this feeling as you are parents. And you had the kids from month 0. An au pair is mostly a young adult who just finished school, did some babystitting etc, but NEVER worked a 45hrs week with kids. And to face your first real tantrum of a 3-years-old with all the “I hate you” in the middle of a crowd… yeah…. great…. What I´m trying to say is, that even parents (at least the ones I know) say from time to time that their kids are Brats. Why do you expect au pairs to be different?

About the way you raise your kids. Certainly the au pair has to accept the way you raise your kids and work things out like you want it. (This is something you have to understand as an au pair. It´s not your own kid, you have to act like you´re asked to do). It is not always easy. Seriously. I have an idea how I´ll raise my kids thru my au pair experience. Some things I would do the same as my HM, some things I learned from her way and defiiately, there are a few things I WOULDN`T DO. That´s just how it is with my own Mum.

Some things will I never do. (well, from my current view of things :D)
Maybe a small example: My 3yr old host kid was allowed to watch as much tv in the morning as he wanted. I couldn´t do a lot about it. It´s something his mum told me a few times and if it is ok for her… So the only “legal” thing i could do was to offer alternatives like building a castle, going outside… and I did that as long as possible. (Luckily my little sausage was mostly happy to play sth). So I could limit his 4hrs tv a day mostly to 2-3hrs. Still too much TV in my eyes, but after a certain point he “really wants to watch Telly NOW,” and “please, could you leave me alone” :D. At least he´s very polite :D
But I said to various people (and I´m writing it here also) that I don´t think it´s appropriate for a small kid to watch so much TV. But that´s all I can do. And that doesn´t mean that I think my HP are doing a bad job. I´m just not having the same ideas in this point. Why should this be wrong to write it down.

I think if it really bugs you, you should talk with your au pair.
But I don´t think it´s fair to rematch because of this. I think it´s absolutely your right to ask for her to use a password on her blog, as this is your family and your house and you don´t want everybody to know your routine etc (f. ex. thieves could use sth like that to know when the best timing is to break in). And you can demand to not show your address and to put also a password on the page for the pics. But the other content of the site is the au pairs decision.
Just my 2 cents.
All the best!

P.S. Is she from an english speaking country or how are you able to read it?

CV January 11, 2009 at 8:23 pm

I wondered about the language thing too– but even if the blog were in a language the host family does not read, the host family’s privacy should still be respected. just a quick thought- cv

Jen January 12, 2009 at 12:03 am

I just wanted to comment about the rematch travel process a few comments back. I am a Community Counselor and for my agency rematch is a 2 week process(AP must work for additional 2 weeks and HF must house AP for 2 weeks) at the end of the two weeks if an AP has not matched with a new family it is the AP’s responsiblity to purchase their ticket home, however I agree that no agency is going to abandon an AP. I have taken AP’s into my home and helped them find alternative housing if needed, It is in my opinion the CC’s job to do this.

Maya January 12, 2009 at 2:28 am

People, I could use some sugestion here.

I just found out today, Sunday, that my au pair’s grandmother pased away on Tuesday. She never told me. Just told me today when I asked if she has talked to her family recently.

I asked if she needs/wants to go back home and she said no. What else can I do? I feel so lost right now with this.

Any suggestions?

Calif mom January 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

This happened with a former ap of ours, too. I gave her a big hug, and we sat at the kitchen table and we talked about her grandmother a bit. I tried to listen and share some understanding (my grandmother died while I was in Europe and my family encouraged me not to return for the funeral, so I could relate a little bit to being away). Just show her that you care and do what you would do for someone else. And respect that relationships with grandmothers are not all the same, so it may not be as big of a deal for her as it would be for you (or vice versa). Maybe, if she is doing a lot of phoning to older relatives, you could offer her to use the phone more than usual during this time, but I would try to take her lead. If she seems distraught, offer her a few hours extra time off to get herself together or write something for a relative to read at the service. Basic human kindness goes a long way, but I think taking her lead is important. If she wants to stay quiet about it, that is okay, too.

Anna January 12, 2009 at 3:24 pm

I would encourage her to go to church (she is Catholic, right?) to pray for her grandmother. You can give her a list of churches in your area. This could be comforting to her.

writing anonymously January 12, 2009 at 11:07 pm

My au pair had a death in her family that was awful, and I was at a loss about how to help her. She was from a politically unstable country, and her uncle & aunt were murdered in their home because of their political activities. It was shocking and painful not only because of the loss, but because of the details. I did my best to listen, and be especially gentle, and I did encourage her to talk with her pastor (she was already active in a church community). We also talked about politics (me listening mostly.) This was not the kind of cross-cultural learning I had expected to have. We didn’t discuss it with the children. She was going home within a few months, so I checked in with her occaisionally.

Maya January 19, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Hi everyone. I would like to have a discussion about taking au pairs on family vacations.

Why do you bring AP along on vacation?
Does an AP usually work while on a family vacation?
How clear or blurry are the working vs off-duty hours for AP?
Is travel time her working time or her off time, especially if it is a long drive?
For those who have taken AP on vacation with them, did you like having her/him there?
Will you take AP on your family vacation again?
What kind of sleeping accommodations were provided for AP while on vacation?
Do you think AP liked going on vacation with you?

Dawn January 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Maya, we typically do bring our au pair on vacation with us. As I’ve said before, we tend to fall pretty heavily on the “member of the family” side of the family vs. employee line, so for us, it just makes sense that our au pair would join us on most family vacations. (Unless there’s a particular need for her to work while on vacation, we tend to give our AP the option of whether or not to come, but usually, our APs have chosen to come.)

On most of our vacations, our AP has been expected to “help out,” but doesn’t have set working hours, as the point (for us) in a family vacation is to spend time with the family — so there’s not much of a need for “childcare.” Sometimes, my husband and I will go out for an adult dinner once or twice, leaving the kids with the AP, but that’s really the only time the AP has “primary responsibility.” Other than that, she’s an extra set of hands, but doesn’t really have any “duties.” (I’d say that the line between working and off-duty is very blurry, because there are really only a couple of hours total that she’s fully on-duty.)

Sleeping accomodations have varied with some of the different vacations we’ve taken, and we discuss them in advance with the AP so she knows what she’s agreeing to when/if she chooses to come. Sometimes she has her own room (as she does and is required to at home), but sometimes, she’s had to share a room with one of the kids or sleep on a pull-out couch.

We do like having our AP on vacation with us, and I think that our APs have always enjoyed going on vacations with us.

With the economy the way it has been lately (and the rising costs of hosting an AP), we may get to the point where it is cost-prohibitive to bring our AP on vacation with us, depending on the vacation. So I’d be interested in hearing how those of you who DON’T take your APs on vacation broach the subject with them without making them feel left out, left behind, or “less than” a member of the family. And do you require that your AP use some of her vacation days for the time that you’re on vacation, or does that just count as extra paid time off for her, since it was your choice not hers?

Maya, BTW, I sent you an email a while ago — did you ever get it?

Anonymous January 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Dawn, thank you for your perspective. No, I have not gotten you message. Would you mind resending it please. Please put something in the subject about au pairs. This way, I will try to find it if it gets filtered into spam.

Maya January 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Sorry, it was me above.

Dawn January 21, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Thanks, Maya! I emailed you again! :)

On a related subject, cvh, I emailed you a while ago as well. I had a topic I wanted to suggest for a future blog entry, but I didn’t want to post it publicly for fear of offending my AP if she happens upon this blog! Also, completely unrelated — when I click to “grab” your RSS feed, I get an error message. I’m not computer-literate enough to know why, but I thought I should let you know in case you can figure it out!

cvh January 22, 2009 at 4:51 pm

Hi Dawn- Thanks for the heads up about the rss button…not like *I* really know what I’m doing, but now I know to go off and try to fix it
I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to be getting emails from you all….I tested the address and my own mails get to me… why not yours? you can also try my work address harquail
at AuthenticOrganizations dot com

Angie February 9, 2009 at 1:38 am

Our au pair shared a bit of information with me last night and I was curious if anyone can offer some advice on how to deal with this situation.
Our current au pair has been with us for a little over a week now. Last week she shared with us that another au pair who she befriended at orientation was already unhappy & homesick and she was worried about her. Apparently the au pair told her she was already overwhelmed by taking care of the small children all day and was upset that the host family’s home was very dirty.
After sitting down with the host mom this weekend to figure out some solutions, the host mom offered her more money. From what our au pair told me, she is getting paid $45 extra a week to keep her happy.
I know every family dynamic is different, but I’m just concerned because I don’t want our au pair to think this is acceptable. She seems like a smart girl and told me she knows money does not always bring happiness, I just don’t want extra money to be something she asks me for in the future if she is having a bad week with my kids!
Any advice?

Deb Schwarz February 13, 2009 at 9:24 am

Hi Angie, That’s a tough one. I would suspect that the au pair you mention is working more hours (or doing something extra like the host family laundry, or cooking dinner for the whole family, more hours), and that’s where the extra $45 is coming from (I don’t condone that – just have heard it a million times). We personally pay our au pair more than the $177 stipend (which is going up to $200 in July, btw)….but we have four kids very close in age, and we always get an older au pair with tons of childcare experience, so in my mind, they are worth the extra $$ (the website has a guideline for $$ for level of experience). I SWEAR my au pair to secrecy, though, as I don’t want other au pairs in our group to feel like they’ve gotten “the fuzzy end of the lollipop” (and I’m a local coordinator so that makes it even more difficult). My husband (who is in sales), and some other host families I know like to give “spot cash bonuses” (e.g. $50 to $100) for a job that goes above and beyond – e.g. like when we move (don’t ask how many times we’ve done that – our au pairs always LOVE that part of the job!), or when they organize the playroom, etc. without being asked. I wonder if the $45 extra per week was a “spot bonus” for that au pair? Although your au pair says that money doesn’t matter (what a sweetie) – in the end, it certainly helps, especially given that they don’t make a ton. In these economic times, cash isn’t falling out of the sky, so this might not be an option for host families most of the time, but the few times that we have done it, it has gone a long way (and it hasn’t seemed like they expect it to happen on a regular basis).

Abby February 13, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Hi there – Want to say that I love your site and it’s good to hear my feelings and questions echoed by others! I tried to email this question, but I don’t know if it worked. I am in Canada (so we have slightly different rules & no official au pair system), and have had my au pair for 5 months. I came home about 1/2 hour early from work to find my au pair had left 3 children (two 7 year olds and a 4 year old) alone in the house while she drove a short (10 minute maybe?) errand.
So….I Iam wondering about how others would handle this situation?

Anna February 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I would rematch immediately.

cvh February 14, 2009 at 4:47 am

Anna is absolutely right. An AP who makes a choice like that is not trustworthy, esp in a more serious situation. Rematch NOW.
This is not a situation where she gets a second chance.

Angie February 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Thanks Deb! I can totally understand the “spot bonus”. I have 4 kids very close in age also (3, 2, & 8 month old twins), so I try to give our au pair what I call “happy day surprises” ever month with her paycheck (i.e. $15 gift card to Starbucks, $25 gift card to Kohls, Old Navy, or something like this, etc.).
Our au pair mentioned it to me again yesterday and the $45/week is actually part of her friend’s stipend, so she is getting paid $222/week to keep her happy. She is watching 3 children (1 who is in school 5 days a week), but was overwhelmed and homesick her first week here, so the agreement of getting paid more each week to keep her happy was made.
I’m curious as to what will happen when the stipend goes up to $200/week this July. I guess the family will just pay her $245?!
Anyway, when we researched the au pair program, we really liked everything it had to offer, but don’t want the financial part to become an issue. One of the reasons we chose to get an au pair instead of a nanny was because it was more economical. I’m hoping this does not end up becoming untrue because other host families are paying their au pair’s more money “under the table” so to speak, to keep them happy. I’ve never been into “keeping up with the Jones” and see us not continuing with the program again if this is the trend.

HostMom February 18, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Here is my problem. I have nothing to talk to my AP about outside of kids. She is a nice girl, hardworking, pleasant. She is not a great AP, she is not even a good AP, but she is on OK AP. I think she would have done better in a mother’s helper setting then in my family where she is alone with kids and needs to make decisions and take some initiative. Anyway, she is an ok AP and we are working on helping her to be better with things that are more important to us. But, like I said, I have nothing to talk to her about. We talked about her family, but since she does not volunteer much info, I don’t want to pry. Also, I am not very interested to be honest.

She has friends and is gone all weekends, which is fine with us. On a few occasions that we spend time with us on weekend when we did some family activities, she was fine, but for the most part, we ran errands, go between various kids sports and activities and just rest around the house.

It is hard to bring her with us sometimes when we go visit our extended family as we speak the language she does not speak and when we are with extended family, there is practically no English there (a lot of people there do not even speak English at all), so brining her with us where she will be left out and not understand the conversation seem pointless. We do speak English in the house just so you know.

In addition, I don’t find her very interesting from a personal perspective. Her personality is a complete opposite of mine. It’s like outside of telling how kid’s day went, we have nothing else to say to each other.

Has anyone else ever been in this situation? How did you deal?

Alejandra February 19, 2009 at 7:15 am

Hello I’m Alejandra I’m from mexico and I’m an Au pair. I read you’re commet and I would like to say in my own personal point of view that is completly normal that this kind of things happend, because you see the thing since your host mom point of view but like an Au pair it’s other, I’m not saying that what you’r au pair it’s doing it entirely ok, but some times we tought that you would probably like to spend time in your home with your family after a busy and hursh week, and about the vacation well some time even when the family treat us like a part of the family we still know that we are not, so that’s why some time we prefer spend more time by ourselves plus all depends too of the time that the au pair have been in your home.

I hope this can help you to undestand to your Au pair!!!!!!

sunnyvah February 19, 2009 at 5:31 pm

I can understand that you would probably like to have a different relationship with your au pair, but sometimes it just doesn´t fit. If you´re ok with the job she´s doing and you can live with your relationship, well then this is how it is. I guess some HF-au pair relationships are better than others. It seems that your au pair already found her way to deal with it ( beeing away at the week end, spending a lot of time with friends, as you need some good, intense relationships with someone).
I don´t know if this is a reason for rematch ( I personally, would have rematched, as a good relationship with the family is very important for me. Although I didn´t do it, if i would have been in the same situation again, I would have rematched early!)

How about some small talk like politics, community things or what she has done at the week end. Did you try to talk about this stuff?

Mary March 9, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Our au pair has been with us for 8 months. She transitioned from another family and has not been the greatest. She does the bare minimum and has left the children unsupervised. She doesn’t make good decisions and is very influenced by other people. My children are older 10 -12 but needed someone to supervised them, help with homework, drive to activities, etc. When she came we agreed to the dates for her two weeks of vacation. She already took the first week which turned out to be about 10 days. She had family and friends stay with us and went to the city on the weekends. The next vacation is planned for Spring Break and she told us she was going to Florida. We made plans to take a cruise. Since this time she has changed her plans several times and now indicates that she will stay home. I am not comfortable leaving her home alone. She has already had one car accident and I really don’t want her driving while we are away. I also don’t want a house full of strangers. Any suggestions? Thanks Mary

Dawn March 9, 2009 at 10:59 pm

This is a tough situation, Mary. I think the car issue (while you are on vacation) is easily solved — just take the keys and tell her you don’t feel comfortable having her drive while you are away. (Not that it would be an easy conversation, but it’s something you can control.) The not feeling comfortable leaving her home alone, though — honestly that sends up red flags for me. If you don’t trust her with your home, how can you trust her with your children?? That, in addition to the fact that you say she’s left the children unsupervised says REMATCH to me.

Mary March 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm

Thanks Dawn We have already selected our next au pair. We are new to this and kept giving her one more chance. I think I learned my lesson. She is a nice person, but just doesn’t think. She should be going to school during this time. She would need a car to get there. However, if she was going away she would have missed the classes. Is there any requirement to the number of hours they must attend classes at the local college?

Anna March 10, 2009 at 12:06 am

Give her money for a cab or a bus, whichever applies in your situation. You have to provide transportation to school, but don’t need to provide a car.
It might not be that expensive; if you are away for one week, usually the classes they take meet only once or twice a week.

Maya March 10, 2009 at 12:09 am

Mary, if I were in your shoes, I would tell her that the week your family will be on the cruise is the week she is taking her vacation. Period. It is common to have one week of AP’s vacation to be selected by AP and another by the host family. This is the week you have selected for her. You are not comfortable leaving her in your house and you don’t want her driving. Therefore, she needs to make plans for when you are away. Missing 2 classes that week (assuming 2 classes a week schedule) is not a big deal. She can always talk to the instructor and get a makeup class or lecture notes.

Please understand that I am giving you this advice only because you children are older, 10-12. If they were all younger, I would be saying – REMATCH NOW! However, you can still rematch if you want to.

Maya March 10, 2009 at 12:10 am

To Anna, I agree with the bus/cab fare. That will solve the no driving. However, if Mary is not comfortable having AP in the house while they are away for a week, that will not be solved unless AP goes away as well.

Mary March 10, 2009 at 12:25 am

Maya Can you make the AP go somewhere? Is vacation defined as going away, or can she just not work for a week and get paid for it. She also claims not to have any money. It would be so much more relaxing not having to worry about her while we are away.

Dawn March 10, 2009 at 12:30 am

I think that the cab/bus fare is a good suggestion. Maya, your suggestion makes sense, but would it really be appropriate/allowed to say “you are not welcome in our home during the week we are away?” It’s one thing to say that she has to take her vacation time then — meaning that she can’t expect to use additional vacation days another time. But can a host family really say, “you must take vacation, and you must go AWAY somewhere for that vacation”? Doesn’t sound right to me.

I think maybe I’d reiterate that this is her vacation time, so if she chooses not to go anywhere, she still needs to understand that she doesn’t have any additional time left. I’d also leave very strict rules/instructions about what she’s allowed to do and who she’s allowed to have over in the house while the family is away, as well as an explanation that she is not permitted to use the car. If she’s untrustworthy enough that Mary doesn’t think she can trust her to follow those explicit rules, then I reiterate that I don’t think she should be trusted to be responsible for children either. (Even though those children are somewhat older.) The explicit rules about use/respect of the home while the family is gone and the fact that the days will count as vacation days might be enough to “convince” the AP to go away on a vacation somewhere. But if not, then I’d just leave the money for cab or bus fare for the class.

Anna March 10, 2009 at 12:52 am


she has been with this family for 8 month. Many agencies have more restrictive rematch policies and consider a placement “final” after a shorter period of time. But I think that in some cases it can be negotiated.

Maya March 10, 2009 at 1:02 am

Dawn, the way I read Mary’s post suggested to me that her AP wants to go somewhere, but is undecided when, thus I suggested that Mary as hostparent can pick that week as AP’s vacation week. Thus AP will be going somewhere and be out of the house. I do agree that you cannot force AP to go somewhere if she decides to take a ‘staycation’. Then, Anna’s suggestion of providing cab/bus fare is the best solution and then what you said about expectations and rules while family is away.

Anna, I know about more restricted rematch policies. However, like I said, considering age of Mary’s kids, I said that I would not rematch. If kids were younger, and AP left them alone, as Mary said, no agency can prevent you from rematching as you can claim that you AP endangered welfare of your children. Can you imagine not wanting to rematch if AP left a 7-8 year old alone in the house, even if she has been with the family for 8 months? However, it does depend on each individual child, child’s age, and family situation.

Mary March 10, 2009 at 1:15 am

Thanks so much for all of your help. I think I will leave bus/cab money and have someone keep an eye on the house. Hopefully, the new AP I selected will be a better match. It is so hard to know.

Cindy March 10, 2009 at 2:41 am

Does anyone have experience when AP wants to spend the 13 month with you??? I can’t seem to get her to leave. She always says her plans have change or she is waiting for money, etc. LCC said to be patient but this isn’t fair to my family or the new au pair. I just spent three nights cooking for a dinner party and she invited her friends over and ate all the food. She said I only told the new au pair that it was for a party. It is obvious that she has no where to go and plane tickets that are still two weeks away. I don’t want to throw her out on the street but I really don’t know what else to do. She has tons of luggage and it is going to cost her a fortune to get it all back home. I am also extremely busy ( work and don’t have time for this. HELP

Edina Stone March 10, 2009 at 3:21 am

Hi – this is pretty tricky. I have had this scenerio several times when I worked in the au pair industry. Prior discussion of the 13th month is critical – many times the au pair just assumes she can stay (she is a teenager, right? Teens assume things all the time and they can be pretty self-centered).

Now, it is too late and I think you are stuck with her and her luggage! You could ask the LCC if she has any families that are between au pairs (in rematch or waiting for their new au pair) and maybe that family would be willing to take her, in return for her helping out with the kids, etc.

This seems to work well if you can find such a family and your au pair does not mind moving all her stuff there! She should be mailing boxes of things now so she does not have such a huge expense and trouble with all that stuff when she leaves.

Does she plan to travel during that month? If so, she may be out of the house more than she is in. Many 13th month au pairs travel and just leave their things at the house, coming back after each mini-trip or a longer trip.

Hope is goes well, good luck to you and your new au pair!

hostmomtobe March 10, 2009 at 3:41 am

I am returning to work this summer after a three year hiatus and we have chosen a wonderful Au Pair (we hope!). All of the planning has been going well but there is this one very annoying situation that I really could use some help with. So here it goes, I am going to ask a question that seems to be the first time asked on this wonderful blog: How do you handle the lurid comments (eg., Is she hot?, Better watch out for your husband!) made by immature men and women (brothers, neighbors, anyone really) when I share this information with them?!! This really creeps me out and angers me! Please help, I can’t be the only one!

cvh March 10, 2009 at 4:35 am

Oh No! Another au pair myth raises it’s uncomfortable head! This one creeps me out too. I’ve queued this one up for next week!! Thanks for sharing and keep on the lookout (it’s crazy with advice today :-) ).

Joan March 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm

I need help with the 1 1/2 consecutive days off per week rule. My au pair typically works 25 hours a week Mon – Fri. Some weeks even less. She puts my children ages 9 &12 on the school bus in the morning at 8:00 a.m. and then has the off until 3 p.m. unless the kids have an after school activity and then she is off until 5 p.m. She then watches them until we get home which 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. If the week starts on Sunday and she has that day off, then she shouldn’t start working until Monday afternoon or she should have Friday afternoons and Saturday off. If the week starts on Monday, then she could never work on a Saturday night if I need a sitter for a special event. She also feels that school counts towards her hours worked. Her class is on Saturday mornings for three hours. Is this true? If so, what do families with older children do when both parents work. It doesn’t seem like an au pair is a good option for the few hours they are allowed to work.

cvh March 11, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Joan, The days don’t need to be consecutive — so don’t let that mistaken interpretation mess you up. [ [oops– looks like Cultural Care has different rules… see Joan’s followup. In the meantime, all the rest applies…]]]

Have your LCC talk with her and confirm the rules etc. w/your AP. It sounds (from just this little bit of the story) like she is trying to take advantage of you.

Oftentimes, APs with schedules like yours don’t realize how good they have it — and then they get pissy when your family’s needs change (like, in the summertime, or over school holidays). When they are used to working 25 hours, they really can resent it when you need to shift it up to 40 hrs.

One mom I know kept a spreadsheet of hours worked and not worked each week (e.g., 25 hrs on duty, 20 hours not used), and also of weekend nights over the month (e.g., 2 sat nights on, one off, one vacation). SHe did this so that her AP could see just what a sweet deal she was getting… and it helped later, when the AP balked at a 40 hr week when the mom ramped up at work, to show her…. “Well, over the last 3 months you worked an average of 25 hours, with 20 hours unused, for a total of 80 hours of unused time…. SO, given how much free time you have, you shouldn’t begrudge us this change.” ALso, you could look at my earlier post about the true cost of AP childcare and show her that her hourly rate at 25 htrs a week is about $19 per hour!!! Think about it!!!

Also, time at classes IS NOT counted as time on duty. Yes, within reason you need to adjust the schedule so she can make it to a class (and within reason– we should talk more about that) but she does NOT get class hours counted as work time. !!

Has this AP gotten an orientation on the program rules? Maybe you need to ask your LCC to do this.

Abby March 11, 2009 at 5:52 pm

My au pair does not want to attend school. It took me months to get her to sign up for an ESL class. I spent hours reviewing the catalog with her, getting her to take the English test, and then finally to register. The class was $400. She claimed she didn’t have any money so I paid the $400 and told her that she would only have $100 towards the next class and that she needed to start saving her money. She never attends that class. She doesn’t like the people in the class and feels that she is better than them. Now she doesn’t have much time left before she leaves. I suggested that she sign up for a weekend class. The only one of interest to her is on the East Coast. We live on the West Coast. She wants me to pay for her airfare, hotel (she couldn’t sleep in a room with anyone else), food (couldn’t eat any food they provide), give her extra time off for the travel time, etc. I said absolutely NOT. You need to take a class that is nearby. Do I have to provide a free vacation so she can take a class? What happens if she doesn’t register for the last class?

cvh March 11, 2009 at 7:19 pm

Abby, honey, she’s taking you for a ride.

If you already gave her $400 and she didn’t go to her classes– guess what, if she doesn’t fulfill her requirement, it’s not your fault.
DO NOT sign her up for this weekend class and DO NOT give her additional vacation time to take the class. Sounds like she just wants the trip to New York!!! And, silly girl, she probably has no idea just how far away from NYC that campus on Long Island actually is….

Each agency has a different policy for what happens if she doesn’t take her classes, and these policies also vary by the APs home country. Sometimes they have a stay bonus that they forfeit if they don’t do the classes. Other times, it’s no harm/no foul. In either situation , it’s not your responsibility. Don’t let her take you on a guilt trip and don’t spend any more energy trying to facilitate this for her.

grrr I must be in a hard-#@$ kinda mood today :-)

Maya March 11, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Joan, correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that the days off rule is one full day and one 1/2 days per week, but not necessarily consecutive. Therefore, she has a full Sunday and what ever time on Saturday even if she is working Sat evening. Also, her school time is her free time, not her work time, and don’t let her tell you otherwise. She may not like that it is her free time, but it is.

Maya March 11, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Abby, no you do not have to provide the vacation to your AP for her to attend classes. You do not have to pay for the airfare and you do not have to give her extra days off.

In I were in your shoes, I would not have even tried to get to register in the first place. She knows that she has to take 6 credits to get her deposit back. If she doesn’t it is her problem now.

Joan March 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm

My contract reads as follows:

Host agrees that the au pair will perform childcare services and light housekeeping duties related to childcare which shall not exceed (each a separate limitation): (i) forty five (45) hours per
week; (ii) five and one half (51?2) days per week; and (iii) a maximum of ten (10) hours each day. Host agrees that the au pair will have one full weekend (Friday evening to Monday morning) off
duty per month and one and one half (11?2) consecutive days off per week. The au pair will also receive two calendar weeks (14 days) of paid vacation, to be taken at mutually agreed upon times.
If a dispute arises as to any of these limits or requirements, CC’s determination shall be final.

cvh March 11, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Joan, what agency are you with? This consecutive day thing is different from my agency (APIA) and I believe also different from the gov’t rules.

When an AP or host parent starts forcing the letter and not the intent of the rules, it is a bad sign. You are on your way downhill in the relationship arena. Let’s hope she’s good with the kids.

If you find that you must adhere to this consecutive rule (and you checked with the CC), then (I’m sad to suggest) it looks like you’ll need to find a way to make your AP sad that she pressed the issue. She has so much time off already that (I think) her making a big deal about this is unfair. In your situation, I’d find another way to get the kids on the bus on Monday mornings. … even if it mean hiring someone for those 3 hours or calling in a favor from a neighbor… and then I’d ramp up the APs schedule so that she works more hours. Surely, she can go get groceries, cook when kids are at school, and get that playroom spotless too?!!

Watch out if she is doing all this manipulation so that she doesn’t have to work on Sat nights …. to me, having an AP to work on a Sat night 2x a month is a key reason to have an AP!!! Why should you pay an additional $50-60 to go out on Saturday when you already pay $200 plus a week on an AP who is earning $19/hr???

BTW, you can start your week on Sat, Sun or Mon, whatever works for you. Note that European calendars start the week on Monday, and US calendars on Sunday. :-)

Dawn March 11, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Abby, I totally agree that you don’t need to do anything more to facilitate your AP meeting her educational requirement, other than paying up to $100 toward the cost of a class if she’s able to find one. (That’s the one thing I didn’t understand about your post — your mention that the AP claimed she didn’t have the money for the first class. As host families, we are obligated to pay up to $500 for the AP’s educational requirement, so the issue of whether the AP had the money should have never come up unless I’m missing something.) Ultimately, it’s the AP’s issue, not yours. And as others have said, the “consequences” to her for not completing the requirement may vary depending on agency. I know that with Cultural Care, they forfeit the “deposit” they made at the beginning of the program if their LCC doesn’t sign off on the educational requirement. (The only other time it would be an issue, and potentially “your problem” is if you wanted to extend the AP’s time beyond the first year, which I’m guessing you have no interest in doing! In order to be approved for the visa extension, they need to have proof of completion of their educational requirement for the first year.)

Joan, my understanding of the 1.5 “consecutive” days requirement is that the full day and the half day have to be on consecutive days, but that the HOURS don’t have to be consecutive to each other. What I mean is that, for example, you can’t give them a full day off on Saturday and a half day off on Tuesday and have that count as satisfying the requirement. But if they work 3 hours on a Saturday night (with the rest of the day off) and then have all day off on Sunday, that counts as “one and a half consecutive days” off. (Note that the “consecutive” requirement is not part of the State Dept. regulations, but it is included in Cultural Care’s HF agreement — other agencies may differ.) Oh, and I also agree that the class time definitely does NOT count within her work hours. The limits on work hours are specifically about “hours of childcare.”

Abby March 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I thought I was required to pay $250 per course. I paid $400 for the first course because she didn’t have the money. I then told her I would only give her $100 for the next course, not $250. Is this correct? If you give them all the money upfront you run the risk of them leaving and having paid all the educational costs early on.

Joan March 11, 2009 at 8:40 pm

Does anyone know why CC made the 1 1/2 consecutive days off a requirement if it is not mandated by the State Department?

Maya March 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Abby, you are only required to pay $500 total. If you pay that whole amount upfront and your AP leaves early (rematch), according to my agency AuPairUSA the AP has to reimburse you for the unearned educational money.

This happened to me back on November. I had AP since July and I paid all of the educational money ($500) to her back in Sept when she registered for class. During the time she has been with our family, July through Nov, she did not use any of her vacation days. So when we went into rematch, our LCC calculated who owned what to whom based on the formulas used by my agency.

Per my agency, AP earns $10/week of educational money after the 2 first weeks, so since she was only with me for 22 weeks, she only earned $220 of her $500 educational amount. In addition, per my agency, AP’s vacation time is valued at $32/months after the first month (my agency counts 11 days of vacation for AP). So since my AP did not take any vacation days at that time, she has earned 4 days or $128 ($32x4day) of vacation time. So, I owned my former AP $128 for unused vacation and she owned me $280 ($10×22 weeks) for unearned educational money. The net was $152 in my favor which I withheld from her weekly payment.

Likewise, when I got my current AP who was also in rematch, she arrived to our family with only 9 days of vacation and only $380 of education money that we owe her. Later I found out that she did not get paid the earned vacation and education money by her former host family and when I reported that to the agency they agency contacted the former host family regarding this, but nothing was done. My current AP was shorted $184 by the former family. My AP said that her former LCC did not do the financial worksheet. The worksheet that she did showed net of zero, whereas it should’ve been $184 in AP’s favor.

Now, just by the way my families schedule has been working out, my AP has already had 5 off days that I did not count towards her vacation time, will most likely have another 2 or 3 days off this Spring and her actual vacation will be in August and once again because of our own schedule will probably be 10 weekdays and 3 full weekend for a total of 16 days. So, her 9 days of vacation will be more like 18 weekdays plus a bunch of adjacent weekends. In addition, I felt so bad for her being shorted on the education money that I although I only owed her $380, I paid for her class which was $420+books. She is paying for her second class herself.

Abby March 11, 2009 at 10:42 pm


My au pair is also from a transition. CC told me that I had to pay for any vacation that the other family didn’t give her ( she hadn’t taken any vacation), plus the full education reimburse if she had not completed a class ( she hadn’t). There were no credits to either party.

Maya March 11, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Abby, what agency are you with? That is so weired! How long was your AP with the privious family before the transition?

Abby March 12, 2009 at 12:34 am


CC – Cultural Care She was with the other family from June – Sept

momamia March 12, 2009 at 3:24 am

My new AP doesn’t like her room. She said it must have a window. She also doesn’t like our heating and cental air conditioning. It makes noise when it turns on and off. The room is in our basement. She has a queen bed, full wall of closets, dresser, bookcase, nightstand, TV, DVR, hard wood floor, oriental rug, full bath with granite, etc etc. I don’t know what to do. Is this grounds for a rematch?

Anna March 12, 2009 at 5:37 am


I think by au pair program regulations the room must have a window, I am suprised your local coordinator didn’t check for that.
Additionally, in order to be considered a bedroom (where one can sleep) it must have two escape routes for fire safety purposes.

momamia March 12, 2009 at 5:53 am

It is a daylight basement with French Doors to outside. Just not in the bedroom. No jumping required. The LCC said it was beautiful and never expressed any concern. There are many families in our area that have their au pairs in the basement with no door to the outside. They have had au pairs for years. This is very typical in our area.

cvh March 12, 2009 at 6:30 am

Momamia — we need to get your new AP over to a host family house where the AP’s room is next to the kids’ rooms, where she shares a bathroom with them, and has only a fan in the window. Oh yes, and a twin sized bed (and mattress) that was the host mom’s when she was a girl…! If she doesn’t appreciate a full bathroom all to herself, and year round climate control, and the privacy of being on her own floor at night, and nice furniture, and a dvr … I shudder to think what will happen when you ask her to work on a Saturday night.

You can’t make her happy by giving her more or better stuff.

(1) move her to a less desirable makeshift space until she relents and accepts the “garden level” (it ain’t no basement if there are walk-out french doors)
(2) Try being direct and candid. Tell her that this situation is lovely and any other au pair would appreciate it,
(3) tell her that one in fifty children in America is homeless,
(4) tell her how much it would cost to rent a room like that in a shared house (as in a college town) and offer to allow her to move if she chooses, and
(5) tell her that she has a great situation and to recognize it as such.

Also, right away, cut back on some of the goodies you have set up for her. If she is already complaining, about a decent room, it’s likely that she will take many of your other generous efforts for granted. Withold the extras until they are earned. (This is the object/privilege version of ‘be strict with the rules at the start, and then lighten up.”) Also, read the post “Resist the Amenities Arms Race”

If the LCC cleared the room, it is okay. If the AP is complaining, prepare for either a year with a spoiled girl or a rematch.

momamia March 12, 2009 at 6:46 am

cvh – Thanks so much for your advice. After three weeks of complaints I am starting to feel like I am going out of my way to make this work. All we address is “her” issues. The kid don’t exist because she can not sleep so therefore she can’t deal with them. They fight!! Can you imagine that!! They want attention, they want to be fed, etc. etc. They say she is mean. She just cries and says she can’t sleep here. She needs to open a window. I don’t open windows in my house. I don’t have screens except in a few windows for cross ventaltion on nice days. We have allergies and have hydro-air with heat and air conditioning. She even has her own thermostat. The baement is 2,000 sq with it own family room, big screen TV, pool table, etc, etc. The kids watch the big screen TV and play video games sometimes. We also have two other family rooms where they can play. This girl lived in a flat with her mother. I sent her pictures before she arrived. I have no idea what she is expecting, I know some families are much wealthier, but this isn’t half bad. I work full time and really don’t need another child. Any issue with asking for a rematch immediately or do I need to do more. I am new to this and so far it is not working for me or my family. So glad I happy to find this blog. Thanks so much.

momamia March 12, 2009 at 7:02 am

cvh – Just read the article. Same issue with my kids. They want texting, Coach bags, expensive sneakers, you name it……….my answer is NO you have to earn it. I don’t care what other kids have………….you have a better family!!!!

cvh March 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

momamia– Most agencies have a policy of having you/the au pair wait one month (sometimes 6 weeks) before permitting a rematch… so that you can see whether it is simply an adjustment problem. Sounds like your problem is bigger– especially if you have seen no glimmers of postive attityude or interaction.
You’re getting close to the end of the trial period– so call your LCC right away, talk with her about the issue, and let her know that you expect to need a rematch. She may be able to adjust your ap’s expecattions, but you should prepare yourself anyway.

There are lots of tough issues with rematches- not the least of which is that you are without childcare for a chunk of time unless there is a good rematch candidate in country floating around. Often parents delay the inevitable rematch, hoping to avoid this issue.

Also, once you bring up the rematch idea, your ap is likely to give up completely on doing anything you need– a serious short-timer syndrome, and that can hurt too.

I’ll queue this up soon for larger discussion. Keep us posted!

Anna March 12, 2009 at 7:22 pm


if your kids say the au pair is mean, I think you need to rematch. In any case if she needs to open a window, and your family has allergies, it is not a good match. This is besides all the other issues you mentioned, which make it seem that she needs to go.

New March 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I am looking for childcare and considering hiring an au pair. I found this blog! Does anyone have any advice for selecting an agency? Are they all the same or are there differences? Any help anyone could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much

cvh March 12, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Hi New-
The agencies are all a little bit different… so it does matter to check out a few of them. There is a website , a company where Edina Stone offers advice about agencies… you can get some ideas from browsing through our archives and previous posts here, since moms have written about what they look for in an au pair. Check out the guidelines pages and the handbook pages too. Welcome!

New March 12, 2009 at 11:51 pm

cvh – The website is very helpful and a little scary. Thanks so much!!!

Franzi March 13, 2009 at 2:32 am

@ momania
i think you are not a good match and eventually you will have to rematch. regarding the room/basement are she can use, please keep in mind that many au pairs come from a different life style. houses are different, attitude towards EVRYTHING is different…

i personally could also not sleep in a room with no window. maybe it was not clear from the pictures she saw, maybe she just did not expect that some american (bed)rooms don’t have windows. same with opening windows. A/C is a strange concept to most other cultures. here in germany we just open a window if we need some air – allergies or not.

yes, she does have lots of space but my guess is, she came with the wrong expectations and now is totally disappointed – in everything. the room, the neighborhood etc.
it will be difficult to solve your problems (which is why i believe you will end up rematching) but i think this will be a learning experience for you. you should mention to the au pair (several times) that the bedroom has no window, that you do not open the windows due to your allergies (but that she is free to open the french doors, if i understand correctly) etc.
try to take many pictures, of everything good and bad, put them on flickr and send the candidate the link so that she can see for herself. this way you are very straightforward, and don’t run the risk of “you did not tell me i can’t open a window”

good luck!

Calif mom March 13, 2009 at 2:47 am

New — Please don’t let today’s problems drive you away from au pairing! My doc just told me today that business is up — maybe it’s spring fever, the full moon, whatever. Yes, there are things to know about and have your eyes opened to before jumping in with both feet, but it’s a program that can work, and work really well. I wish I had found this blog so much earlier in our AP career.

cvh — your advice is so sound that I often have little to add. Love having you back!

Momania — Princess Alert! Princess Alert! Either that, or, to be generous, she’s profoundly homesick and unmoored by the transition. Neither are good for you or your kids. Sound the alarm, and follow cvh’s advice. You’re going to want to rematch, and please don’t try to ‘make it work’. I once strung a girl like this along for 3 months b/c I dreaded rematching again. Like bandaid removal, just do it fast and get it over with and move on. Good news is that our best APs have both been girls who were in country, in our area, and rematching. Try to interview candidates in person, if you live in a major metro there are always APs looking for new families.

Dawn March 13, 2009 at 6:32 pm

New — here’s my advice on selecting an agency to work with. In my experience/opinion, the agencies are so regulated by the State Dept. that there aren’t very many differences between them on a “macro” level. The thing that can/will make the biggest difference to you and your AP on a daily basis is how good or bad the agency’s local representative is. (Whether the agency calls them an LCC, CC, etc.) The first agency we worked with was EurAupair — I chose them because I preferred their selection process, where the family was able to have more “hands on” involvement, with access to the profiles of all available APs at once. However, our EurAupair Community Counselor was awful — she was completely unresponsive to our questions and concerns, and TOTALLY unhelpful (and unsympathetic) when we had to rematch because our first AP was so homesick she chose to leave the program. She was also not helpful or “approachable” for the APs in her group — with our second AP, I ended up being the person all her friends came to for advice because they didn’t feel like they could talk to the CC. So, when it was time to “re-up,” we decided to switch agencies. We switched to Cultural Care, and although I personally don’t love their AP selection process (they only let you look at one potential AP at a time, and you have to “reject” her in order to see the next one, so there’s no way of “comparing options” before making a decision), we have been so much happier because the LCC is so much better.

My advice is to contact all of the agencies that operate in your area (unless the price or a specific policy of one or more “rules them out” of consideration), and then ask them for references from current and former host families in your area. Contact those families and ask them how their experience has been with the local representative. Ask how helpful and responsive the person has been, both from their perspective and their AP’s. In particular, ask if they’ve ever had any “issues” that needed the local rep’s intervention, and if so, how they felt he/she handled those issues. THAT, in my opinion, is what can really make or break your experience with a particular agency — much moreso than whatever “minor” policy differences there are between the agencies.

Best of luck!

New March 13, 2009 at 6:42 pm


Thanks – that sounds like good advice.

I heard that find an aupair on-line and then used an agency to get her here. Did you ever hear of this before? Wouldn’t they been screen better by the agency? Is one agency better than the other in the screening process? I have read that girls get here and can’t speak English or drive. Doesn’t the agency screen for this???? How do you know its the right person? From your experience is there anything that is a red flag?


Calif mom March 13, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Dawn, spot-on advice! It’s exactly what I did, and I chose our agency based on the responsive, knowledgeable, friendly local counselor, and never regretted that choice; it is extremely important that both APs and hosts are able to tap that rep as a resource. When you need them, you really need them. Our agency switched us to a new rep (b/c the program had expanded so much) and we aren’t as thrilled with the new counselor. It makes a difference to both us and our AP. The girls just aren’t as happy, and feel less supported, as well.

The other factor is to be sure you pick an agency that has a high number of families in your area so there is a ‘critical mass’ of APs your AP will be able to contact. The more the merrier the APs, and bigger the rematch pool if you need it.

Calif mom March 13, 2009 at 7:41 pm

New —
Yes, there are online “au pair” sites. If staying legal is important to you, stick with a real agency, a list of which you can find through the state department’s website.

Friends of ours used one of those sites to find an AP, and ended up with a girl with a “student visa” girl from one of these sites, and it was a terrible experience. She was just looking for a way to stay in the states after her AP visa expired. My understanding, though not a lawyer, is that it is NOT legal for people with student visas to work as au pairs.

Dawn March 13, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Calif mom, like you, my understanding is that only young men and women who are here on a J-1 visa may legally work as APs, and that only APs with one of the 11(?) U.S. gov’t approved agencies may obtain those visas. (I am a lawyer, but this is TOTALLY not my area!)

I think what “New” was referring to is that some people “pre-match” with an AP by using those online sites, but then work with one of the agencies to bring that AP to the U.S. I believe that some (all?) of the agencies may offer a discount on their fees if it’s a prematch, because that reduces their workload somewhat. But I don’t have any experience doing this. I might think about doing a “pre-match” if I knew of a particular young person who wanted to become an AP (i.e. a family friend or perhaps a relative of a former AP), but I don’t think I’d pre-match with someone I found on the internet. I’d rather trust the agency to make the “first cut.” (It’s already such a leap of faith to invite someone to live in your home and care for your children after only being able to do a PHONE interview, so I’d at least want someone who’d first been screened in person by an agency — and who was committed enough to the idea of becoming an AP that she’d already taken the steps to sign on with one of the agencies.)

Glass half full, or empty? March 13, 2009 at 9:07 pm

We are approaching the time to decide whether to extend with current AP. Because she may have seen me reading this blog on my computer, I want to stay vague but give enough info to generate discussion.

We’ve had several APs, and a few rematches. Two kids, one in kindergarten, one still in elementary. She shares bathroom with kids. We have had problems with ‘princesses’, as Calif Mom puts it, because we have a modest home and we are not neat freaks. We have a regular housecleaner, so it’s not dirty, just not overlyorganized. Both parents work out of the home. Current AP has been with us since last summer. She drives kids in a great car.

AP is 23, goes to church most Sundays (we don’t!), very calm and reliable. Great relationship with kids, handles bickering siblings without getting rattled, and stays fair. She is a serious introvert, though, in a family of extroverts. She is not unhappy, but retreats to her room when host comes home and isn’t seen again until the next morning. I am pretty sure she just needs the down time. We took her on a family vacation last year and things went very well.

There are a lot of food issues, from my perspective: We are a family where we sit down to dinner together to eat and talk about our days, but she does not join us. It is not the food, though, because leftovers disappear and she says I cook just like her mom. She says she prefers to keep her big meal during the middle of the day (she is from latin America). She cannot cook and sad to me, has shown no interest in learning how though I have not given up trying to inspire that in her (we are very good cooks and care a lot about food both nutritionally and politically). I have taught previous APs to cook, so I know I’m not overly intimidating. I am back to packing my kids’ lunches because she does not put together an adequate amount or balance of food to get them happily through the school day and we’ve had some real problems, though there is ample food on hand. She seems to not know which foods have protein, for example, and attempts to teach haven’t helped with that. I am concerned about her as a role model for my kids on food. Much junk consumed in her room, and erratic consumption (several bananas one day then, half a casserole the next). She is all about convenience food. And white bread! (what is it about APs and white bread? we’ve had this issue with almost all of our APs… I’ve given up and just buy the blasted stuff and make sure my kids get real bread when I’m feeding them.)

On a trip a few months into her stay with us, I took her to the grocery store without kids, I tried to show her what we buy and offered to stock up on what she likes, but she instead asked to go sit in the car — was very amiable — and said she was fine with me buying whatever. In retrospect this reads like a subtle attempt to keep from being tasked with grocery shopping, something which she has plenty of time to do and which would make my life much easier since both parents are under job pressure these days (aren’t we all?). Was this similar to me being consciously incompetent when it comes to fixing the photocopier at work? : )

She is not a great driver. Had an accident on her own time, in our car, which was expensive.

She will only rarely take the dog outside, even if whimpering, and she hasn’t said so, but I can tell she doesn’t really like the dog. She’s pleasant to the dog, but not friendly. We have someone come tend the dog when we go away for a weekend, even if AP stays home.

I’m looking ahead to the summer schedule, and remembering that while she is willing to take the kids to the neighborhood pool and stand in the shallow end, (hot southern summers!) she doesn’t like to swim, so my kids were disappointed that she is not very much “fun” at the pool.

Other issues are more minor, and I think I could improve her performance on these things. Host dad thinks she has it pretty easy and is doing just enough to get by. When she first came to us, for example, she did the dishes every night. I always thanked her profusely for this, trying to cement the behavior, but it has faded. She does the girls’ laundry regularly, and unloads the dishwasher, like cvh’s AP, but doesn’t oversee homework or even get the kids bathed regularly before I get home from work, so all that falls to me while I’m trying to get dinner ready.

I am quite sure that she is intending to extend a second year, since she has said this since the beginning of our time together and because the economy is in the tank in her home country and there aren’t many opportunities for young women there. Because she is an introvert, because she has found friends and a church she really likes here and knows her way around, I don’t think she will want to switch families. Again, she always says she is very happy. Her English is excellent, and she’s getting a lot out of her college classes.

My question for all y’all is whether the above issues are sufficient for thinking about finding a new AP, or should we just stick with ‘good enough’ because she is stable, pleasant, reliable, the kids love her, she knows the routines, there is always a chance that we will end up in rematch with a new AP, and all those transitions really suck, frankly. Should I just get busy “managing her performance” as the HR people say, or is it time to think about switching? Do I risk alienating her if I start tasking her with shopping, or start managing her more clearly, using schedules and checklists, for example?

I suppose the only way to know for sure is to start “actively managing” her now, and see what happens, and then I’ll have my answer. but I’d sure appreciate any advice from you wise women! Pitfalls to avoid, approaches that work — all are welcome!

Anna March 13, 2009 at 11:58 pm

I think if you start the selection process for next year early enough, do it very thoroughly, and trust your gut you will find somebody who matches your family better. We are also a family who cares about food and nutrition, and you can really find a kindred soul; for example I came across many au pair candidates who are into healthy lifestyles, or a vegetarians..
You can gave a GREAT year with an au pair, in fact this is how it should be, instead of “scraping by” another year with this one. Ask yourself – if you knew a great au pair was coming for sure, would you be really impatient for your year with the current girl to end? I know I would be , and if you can give the same answer, there is your answer.
You can also register at a different agency, that has a matching process giving more freedom to families, that let you see a lot of candidate dossiers at once, so you can find hopefully exactly what you are looking for in a shorter time.

Anna March 14, 2009 at 12:00 am

Besides, an au pair’s job is to make your life easier – she makes yours harder – shifting her responsibilities to you (packing lunches, cooking for kids, bathing kids). Also it doesn’t seem like the kids are in love with her either, or are they?

Kathy March 14, 2009 at 12:16 am

Glass Half Full or Empty

I have had 7 au pairs. In the beginning, I made myself sick worrying about my AP and spent far too much time trying to make them happy. It never worked. Then one day I woke up and said that I either needed to find another option or make this work. I really took charge and was very specific about what I wanted done and when. I had the same problem with kids lunches. I wrote instructions for how to make a sandwich – how much meat, cheese, type of bread, mayo, etc. What snacks, fruit, drink, etc. I would then check the first couple of times. If the kids didn’t complain (they are very good at that) then I figured she “got it”. I have given up with tasks like grocery shopping unless I need one or two items. I found that no matter what I did, they bought the wrong thing and spent far too much money on junk. It was just easier to do my own shopping and get what my family wants to eat. I haven’t found any AP that could cook. Reheat – yes. So when she feeds my kids they can make a salad, chicken nuggest, pizza, hamburger, hot dog, etc. They can also breakfast – cereal, toast, eggs, waffles, etc. Most of the AP can handle that and like to eat it themselves. I use the communication log daily. I write down what needs to be done each day and have her check it off. Getting homework done, kids bathed, chores, etc are on the list. If it is not done, we talk about it right away or she writes the reason in the book. Sometimes she has a good reason, and then it is fine. On Friday’s I ask her to write down any groceries she would like or that we need. I have made it clear that I do not buy candy, chips, soda, etc unless it is a special occasion. If they want white bread, fruit, cheese, etc. that is fine. I do buy Nutella for the German au pairs. White bread is cheap. I was tired of waking up all night wondering if she was home. I now have a curfew of 11 p.m. on nights when she works the next day and always an 11 p.m. curfew with the car. If she wants to stay out late over the weekend, it is fine, just not with my car. Since I started taking control, everything has been much better for everyone. The AuPair understands what needs to be done and how and when to do it. Most were never in a rush to do anything. Now they have a timeline. AP knows she can ask for an exception if needed.

Hope this helps.

Franzi March 14, 2009 at 12:33 am

like the other commentors, i also think the AP is not quite doing her job. SHE should pack the lunches (according to your guidelines) and SHE should bath the kids if this is what you want and it is within her working hours. i absolutely don’t understand this.
about the lunches, did you tell her “3 slices of apple, one p-j sandwich, 5 crackers and a cheese stick” (something to that extend) or did you leave it all up to her what to pack and that went completely wrong?

my first host family did not allow me to pack the kids lunches (go figure) whereas the second family showed me what the kids liked and then i packed accordingly. and you learn what they don’t like when it comes back uneaten….again, i don’t understand your au pair. it’s not like this is rocket science. and even if she doesn’t know what are carbs and what is protein, she should have seen one of those food pyramid things that explain what’s good and what not.
usually, these charts are shown during orientation to make sure the APs understand the “servings” idea.

about the dog, i am with your AP. i don’t like dogs but rematched into a family who had a dog because i LOVED the family (apart from the dog). it was ok for me to pet it, and i did take it for a walk sometimes. but it is not an AP responsibility to take care of the dog! most families who are used to dog-lovers never run into a problem like that. but as soon as you have a “not-so-much-dog-lover”, you run into misunderstandings like the one you mentioned. this should be something you should ask during your next matching process.

regarding the matching, i think one year with her is ok, but you should not stick with “getting by” any longer than necessary.


D March 14, 2009 at 1:09 am

I have a situation that I’m not quite sure how to handle. “What do you do when your LCC is on the rocks & going through and audit, and your asked by the District Rep to verify her logs for the times she has spoke with you?”

Upon review of the logs the district rep sent us for the conversations our LCC had with us, we discover there are several in-accurate respresentations in our log. Then upon review of our au pairs log & journal hers has discreptcy as well. In fact, our au pair went for a period of 3 mos with no contact from the counselor and neither did we. Then on that 3rd month the counselor did meet with our au pair & wrote in our au pairs log book they had a cultural event & then another meeting at a coffee shop that never actually occured or for any of the girls in the group for that matter. (meetings that never happened)

Anyway, I’ve just been put to the wolves or so we feel anyway. But yet…have I? Is this just a matter to be simply honest as the best policy? However, we still feel bad for the counselor & hate being put in this position. (we are a nice family) But on the other hand we feel the LCC put herself in it, then lied about it, and mis-represented herself. Now all the families & au pairs as well, have to accurately give the info to the agency and on the spot.

Our reply to the District Rep:

” There are a few dates below that we did briefly speak, but there are some dates we didn’t though. We really feel bad to be put in this position, but yet we understand. Hopefully you are able to speak with other families & au pairs to get a fair consensus. Really this is for the girls benefit, so feel free to call our au pair anytime for any questions as well. ”

I then had to report 1/2 of the dates in the log that were mis-represented.

Did I do the right thing??????????? We feel SOOO bad for this.


Kathy March 14, 2009 at 1:24 am

Do you know how LCC’s get paid? I never really thought about it before. Is it a full time job or by the hour?

D March 14, 2009 at 1:37 am

They are volunteer primarily & get paid little. Which makes me sad as the LCC’s have the most important job in the agency (in my opinion)

The LCC’s are required to log meetings & such as the agency uses that for reporting back to the Department of State.

So thats why I feel so bad about saying anything. However, the reason I feel compelled to is in our au pair’s best interest & she needs support from her LCC. Even though the LCC is volunteer, not calling the families or meeting with the girls isn’t fair to anyone. Certainly not fair to the girls or families put “on the spot”. ugg.

Franzi March 14, 2009 at 3:28 am

my first councelor was hardly present at all. in six months i saw her 4 times tops. and that included the very first visit after i arrived and my rematch talk. oh wait, come to think of it, i think that happened via phone. she did not answer her phone/ the messages we left on her answering machine etc.

your counsellor does get money for her work, so she should do work. what she apparently did was fake the books. and not once or twice, and not just with you and your AP.

while it might not be fair by the agency to put you in the uncomfortable position of “telling” on her, they agency has no other way really to know what meetings have happened and which did not.
and for both the family and the AP, regular meetings and check ups from the counsellor who is supposed to be a balanced outsider are important to notice problems before they turn into an explosive device.

i think you were fair in the way you told the agency. don’t feel bad!


Dawn March 14, 2009 at 3:39 am

D, you did exactly the right thing. The LCC is the one who did something wrong by fabricating the logs — in addition to not meeting the conditions of her employment, she also violated the State Dept. regulations if she failed to have the required number (and timing) of contacts with both host families and APs. My understanding is that being an LCC is a part-time, paid position. They get paid per AP in their group. It’s not a lot of money, and likely it’s a tiny amount “per hour” when you break it out by time spent, but it is most definitely NOT a volunteer position. Your LCC put her agency at risk of losing their State Dept. “approval,” as well as not providing one of the “services” that you as a host family pay for as part of the agency fee. (And as I mentioned in a reply above, she could be responsible for the agency’s “loss” of HFs to other agencies — I switched agencies because our LCC wasn’t doing a good enough job being responsive and available to us or our APs.)

I agree that it’s a tough position to be in to have to “rat someone out,” but there’s really no other way the agency (or the government for that matter) can check whether she’s really doing her job. You did the right thing. Absolutely. It’s too bad if this woman loses her job or has other consequences because of this, but if she does, it’s due to her actions, not yours. And hopefully, the agency will hire someone in her place who will do a better job!

name withheld just in case March 14, 2009 at 3:53 am

Half full or half empty — I was in a similar position to you when it came time to decide whether to extend with our last AP. Things were “good enough” with her, but there were definitely things that I wished were better/different. (Similar to your situation, she was fine with the childcare aspect of the job, which is obviously the main concern, but there were shortcomings in other areas.) DH and I basically decided to leave it up to “fate” as to whether we’d extend — if she brought it up and asked to extend, we would agree, but if she didn’t say anything, we wouldn’t ask her to extend. Well, she did end up extending for 6 more months, and it was “fine” the whole time. But if I had it to do over again, I would NOT choose to extend (although that would be an uncomfortable conversation if the AP said she wanted to stay!). The reason I say this is because now with our new AP, I can see the difference between “good enough” (last AP) and FANTASTIC (new AP). Now that I know how much a “fantastic” AP can not only make your life easier but actually be a wonderful addition (as opposed to a “neutral extra member”) to the family, I will never again settle for “good enough”!!

New York City Mom March 14, 2009 at 7:51 am

When choosing our AP we unfortunately couldn’t go through an agency because their rules don’t allow placing APs in diplomats’ families because we don’t live in the US permanently. Our AP (whom we have luckily found by word of mouth in our circle of friends) will arrive at our home in New York City in 6 weeks. We are a first time host family.
How can I compensate for the fact that she won’t have an orientation?
Any ideas on how I could get her in touch with other APs in the area?
Your advice is highly appreciated!

Calif mom March 15, 2009 at 2:45 am

D — you absolutely did the right thing! In addition to comments above, you are also modeling how you would like your AP to respond to ethical dilemmas. She knows what’s going on, so to ‘cover’ for the LCC would not be good precedent. And you’d feel icky about it, I bet.

We’re with APIA, and our counselors DO get paid. Our favorite LCC held the job as her only income (and was fabulous!), our new LCC sort of fits it in around an entrepreneurial gig of some sort, and you can really tell the difference.

Calif mom March 15, 2009 at 3:04 am

NYC Mom — I’d just call a couple counselors for different agencies and see if they would share their contact list, or short of that, ask them to tell you which Starbucks, parks, or popular library story times the APs tend to hang out at, and when. Many APs strike up friendships at certain parks, and have informal sort of drop-in playdate times (if your kids are that age, of course).

Calif mom March 15, 2009 at 3:19 am

NYC Mom — Couple more thoughts — as for orientation, I’d give her at least 3 days just to get over jet lag and acclimate to English-speaking world (depending on how many time zones away she’s from). Your family handbook is really going to be important! Mostly, frankly, our past APs have told us that Orientation is a bit of a joke, because they are all still on adrenalin, jet lagged, and still adjusting to hearing English all the time. Many have reported not getting much out of it at all, except some basic rules (about what to do with your passport, never drinking and driving etc) did sink in. But I wouldn’t worry about her missing out on too much by not having an agency-sponsored orientation.

That said, I would *absolutely* invest a day for her to take Red Cross first aid and CPR. Red Cross also offers babysitting certification which, while designed for teenagers, might be really helpful in explaining cultural approaches to childcare. They teach games to play with kids of various ages, and basics like how to operate a sippy cup. YMMV, depending on age of your kids and experience of your ap, but I thought I’d throw that out there.

Building a social network here early on will also be helpful. My last AP had met a bunch of local APs before she ever got to the U.S. through a social networking website. Kinda scary, but the new reality, so it might be a useful tool.

Calif mom March 15, 2009 at 3:30 am

re: the LCC audit

We got a funny email from our LCC recently, which read “If I haven’t spoken with your or your au pair recently, send a reply to me that everything is fine.” And offering to help if we needed it of course, too, but talk about (not even) phoning it in!

Calif mom March 15, 2009 at 4:50 am

Glass Half–

I can see where you are torn. We’ve had 6 APs, one of them fabulous (adored us and our kids, loved swimming, cooked, and drove like a native) and one really great (missing some of those value-adds but fit in well with our family). And then we’ve had the two princesses (rematched at 2 weeks and 3 months, respectively) and a depressive sour puss who left after 4 months or so (we were her third family, and yes, they sent her to another host instead of home). Our favorite two came from rematch. (coincidence?) So I can identify with being worried about ending up in rematch by going back to the AP pool!

We’ve never tasked an AP with grocery duties, but had one who was happy to help when I was crazy at work. She would also cook dinner, unbidden, which was a lovely surprise, again, when things were crazy at work. She felt like family, and still does, and embodied for us more of what the AP experience is marketed as. Since then we’ve gotten a bit more jaded, but still think it’s the best option out there for us, at this stage of parenthood.

My instinct is that you would be better off with a really good match; my heart says that it would be a terribly difficult conversation to tell her you didn’t want to extend. Maybe the best idea really is to start ‘managing’ the situation and see what happens. A little pressure may cement things one way or the other. That selection process is so nerve-wracking, I’d be inclined eerything in your power to avoid going through it sooner than later, but agree that “settling” isn’t a good solution here. You’re clearly disappointed, and when mama aint’ happy….

Calif mom March 15, 2009 at 5:00 am

New– agency screening processes should be taken with a grain of salt. Don’t rely on their interviews; they say everyone has wonderful language skills, for example. But I still prefer agency because you can see from their letters a LOT about how they live and interact with children, and most especially, what they think you want from an AP. Very telling. You have to read between the lines and be critical, though! Have more than one phone conversation if possible. Check out other suggestions in recent posts.

CK March 16, 2009 at 6:58 am

Hello — We are a host family who’ve had au pairs for 4 years running. Our current au pair, who is nothing spectacular but fine is trying desperately to marry an American. She’s online constantly trying to arrange a marriage for herself. This week, she told me she’d “met someone” online who is offering to marry her, pay for her schooling, buy her a car and a home, but he wants to meet her first, next weekend in NYC. I told her I was terrified for her, that this sounds like an extremely dangerous situation potentially, and she promised not to go. However, I’ve since learned that she planning to go the weekend after next. Nevermind that I feel her judgment is lacking, I’m extremely concerned for her personal safety and have this idea that she’ll go and no one will ever see her again. I would greatly appreciate some guidance. I am concerned that if I get the “company/my LCC” involved, I will lose my au pair’s trust.

Calif mom March 16, 2009 at 7:13 am

I may sound harsh, but you have to get the LCC involved. If your AP were to disappear, you would not be able to forgive yourself. If she does get married to some creepy figure, is she going to stick around and be your AP still?

More to the point — would you really want her to?!

You may lose your AP’s trust, but she is clearly not focused on making good decisions, and you can no longer count on her to take care of your kids wisely. You need to see this as the beginning of the end with her as your AP.

Run March 16, 2009 at 6:31 pm

CK – Go to your LCC as fast as you run. AP is going to leave you and hopefully she won’t introduce this person to your children or steal from you. Beware It seems very clear that her first priority is not being an AP and taking care of your children. She signed up so she could get a ticket here and get a husband.

Seriously! March 16, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Yes, you need to call LCC right away and start lining up your back-up childcare. Even if it takes her awhile, she’s going to disappear one way or another, and you don’t want her in your house! You need a new AP.

Jennifer March 18, 2009 at 3:16 am

Question Do we have an obligation to keep an au pair in our home after her two week notice is up?

We did an intervention with our aupair (she smoked, refused to drive, ran up a 66 page cell phone bill on work time, refused to go to school, and stayed out all night, ending up stranded in a motel room party100 miles away. ’nuff said). We all decided it was best to put her up for rematch. My husband and I decided to take a break from au pairing so we are not seeking a replacement. We all agreed that the AP would continue to work during the 2 week notice. We stated we would happily release her from her 2 weeks should she match sooner. As of Friday, she will have been with us two months.

The two weeks are up on Friday. I called the CC on Monday to inquire what the arrangements would be. She called back today and said 1) no matches yet, but 2 families are interested 2) the AP is to stay with us indefinitely until she is placed with another family. 3) Since Euraupair already charged back our credit card ( not enough, BTW), then the AP would be staying with us with free room and board and not work retroactive to last week!

There was no letter outlining such a plan. Our contract does not state we have to feed and house a transitional AP indefinitely. We asked for the amount of our refund, but had no idea they had already charged back the credit card until today when I got an email from the agency

The CC is furious and was screaming that she has no responsibility to house AP. We said that if our AP contract is terminated before the two weeks are up , then it’s the CC’s and agency’s responsibility to find her a place to live. Now. Or better yet, retroactive to last week.

Since our transition discussion, AP has come and gone as she pleases, and picks and chooses her duties. I have worked from home and have been away no more than 1 hour at a time because I do not trust her to make good choices.

We are planning to go away next week, and WILL NOT leave her here, nor will we take her with us.

Should we go over the regional office’s head and address this with the corporate office? The CC is a mess with two kids 2 and under and has been that way from the beginning.

Any words of advice?

cvh March 18, 2009 at 4:54 am

Absolutely, call not only the regional office but also the central office. You are not obligated to keep the Ap at your house, she should be the agency’s problem now. Sounds like your CC can’t deal although she should be doing more. You’re lucky in a way that you hve plans to be away, b.c this gives you an absolute cut off.

You should also tell the AP that her absolute last day in your home will be (2 days before you vacation). Tell her that she needs to call the agency office and get them to take charge. Tell her it is up to her to find another family, a friend to stay with, a couch at the LCC’s, and/or a solution with the agency.

Ask her to pack up all her things but her essentials, “so that she can go the minute she has a place to go”. This may help prevent additional damage, lollygagging, or you getting stuck with a mess.

Also, take away everything that she has that can be considered a privilege — cell phone, dvr, computer, car (if she drove for herself). You want to make it as uncomfortable as possible for her to stay at your house, short of being absolutely mean. Take away her house keys, give her a curfew. The idea is to put as much pressure on her to get moving…b/c even another day is too long.

This is a really tough one…. and I’m sure the LCCs who participate in AuPairMom will hate to hear me say it, but be ready to pack the girl in your car with all her luggage to drop her off at the LCC’s on your way to your vacation. Let us know what happens… hope it gets solved with phone calls to the agency!

D March 18, 2009 at 7:23 am

Definitely post back & let us know what happens OK.

But ya, I would definitely call the regional contact first. If you don’t get the answers you need then call corporate.

I’m also with Euraupair. I have transitioned once. However, there was a grey area mentioned in terms of where the au pair is to stay during this time. “to stay with the host family – until a new family is found ” Is all I know We were lucky & the transition was only 1 week. However, this is one area, that needs to be clearly stated & signed as an “agreement”. The grey area isn’t fair to you as a host family.

I wish you luck!!! Post back. Enjoy your vacation BTW.

Maya March 18, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Ladies, I need some advice.

I am having food issues with my AP when it comes to feeding children. She is a carbo-holic and considers pasta with rice with bread to be a meal. She does eat fruits and vegetables, and likes things I cook, and such, but mostly, she will eat carbs and carbs only if left to her own devices. With her arrival, for the first time in years, we have white bread in the house. We generally did not eat bread as a family, and kids were getting English Muffins for their sandwiches ones in a while. Now, all they want is white bread and sandwiches all the time. I cannot really tell her not to eat bread, or rice or pasta for that matter (we very rarely had those things in the house before also). Our general meals are protein and vegetables; so grilled chicken or steak or fish and salad would be considered a full dinner at my house. I am not talking about occasional treats and such here. Of course kids have those too within reason.

Convenience foods are very – convenient, and we do have frozen chicken nuggets and meatballs in the freezer for the days when I don’t have anything specific cooked. We already had a plethora of food discussions with our AP (after I came home early and caught her feeding my kids a plate of plain pasta and plain rice for dinner when I had a refrigerator full of prepared meats) and the clear message was “WHEN WE HAVE PREPARED FOOD IN THE REFREGIRATOR, THAT IS WHAT KIDS EAT. FROZEN CONVENIECE FOOD IS FOR WHEN I DID NOT PREPARE ANYTHING SPEFIC AND DID NOT LEAVE ANY OTHER SPECIFIC INSTRUCTION”. Things seemed to be improving after that, but I am not home in the morning to supervise her when she packed kids school lunches.

Anyway, this morning, I was home, and found out that my older child got packed for lunch 6 chicken nuggets and 4 cherry tomatoes (with appreciate snacks, but still). This is when I have a refrigerator full of grilled chicken, turkey breast bought specifically for kids lunch sandwiches (and told so to AP), and a whole pork roast. I asked her why she packed the chicken nuggets and she said it was what older child wanted. Arrrgggg! I have so many issues with this. Besides the fact that it was just not enough food for the child and the child would’ve been hungry in school there are also
(1) how do I know what is being packed for kids lunches when I am not there to supervise, which is practically every day;
(2) the whole issue of undermining au pair’s authority in front of kids, which is what I had to do this morning when I repacked school lunches; and
(3) I bought a whole thing of turkey breast specifically for kids lunch sandwiches and told that to AP. If they don’t eat on it, it will go bad and I will have to through it out.

In addition, for breakfast, the older child was given two slices of white bread with two slabs of cream cheese between them. The child only ate one slab of cream cheese and left the rest. This was before I came downstairs and did not see it being served. The AP would’ve send older child to school with just that for a breakfast. No wonder the child has been complaining about being hungry in school. Once again, the child asked for a cream cheese sandwich for breakfast and that is what was prepared. I would not have had an issue with cream cheese sandwich, if it would’ve been on English muffin, not white bread and be accompanied by other things. After I demanded of older child to have a normal breakfast that I would approve of, the child had a yogurt and strawberries. This is fine with me.

I am having a lot of issues with this. First, the whole carb fest in my house. I am not sure how to deal with it. I cannot ask AP not to eat it, but at the same time, I cannot continue having tubs of rice pudding that she makes in the fridge al the time. Kids eat it, and what’s even worse, my husband eats and he is a diabetic. This is one of the reasons we generally limit carbs and sweets. There is also the pasta and white bread issue. Second, how much more clear can I made “IF THERE IS PREPARED FOOD, THAT IS WHAT KIDS EAT. FROZEN CONVENIENCE ITEMS ARE FOR EMMERGENCIES ONLY”.

And now, to be completely fair to my AP, I will say that she has done a great job in other areas. She got kids involved in cleaning and maintaining their room, they are responsible for putting away all of their laundry with her supervision, they have been a lot more consistently using polite language (an issue that was horribly worsened by previous AP), and although it definitely took them a while, they are starting to think of her as fun and a friend. Recently, there has been a lot more of “I miss AP” and “AP is fun” and “I want AP to read me a book” then before.

The only other issue besides food that I had with this AP is the weather appropriate clothing for children over the course of winter. We resolved it somewhat, but thankfully the winter and cold weather is almost over, as I was not completely happy with the outcome of that.

So, what do I do?

PS: I am not considering rematch and would really like to keep this AP until her year is up in Septemeber.

Dawn March 18, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Maya, there’s a lot to respond to here, so I may be back later with some more thoughts, but I did have one suggestion that popped into my head with regard to the packing lunches issue. Could you make up some kind of “chart” where it lists all of the various items the kids are allowed to have in their lunches, and a note that the AP (or the child if the child has favorites or preferences) should pick “one from column A, one from column B, one from column C” or something like that? That gives her and the kids some flexibility to mix and match, but it also means that she’ll have more guidance as to the types and amount of food that you feel is appropriate. (You could actually do something similar for breakfast.) With something like the turkey, I’d either mention to her (or put in a note) that the turkey will go bad if it’s not used, so you’d like her to make sure to pack it in the kids’ lunches this week.

With the rice pudding and the other things that she eats that you’d prefer the kids not to eat, can’t you just explain that to her? What’s wrong with saying, “it’s fine for you to make such-and-such for yourself, and I am happy to purchase it when I do the grocery shopping, but I would prefer that you do not give it to the kids EVEN IF THEY ASK for it”?

Franzi March 19, 2009 at 12:55 am

Jennifer, I hope this issue will be resolved soon. While I don’ know the specific rules of your organization, I do think that you have done more than enough keeping her for the two weeks.

I actually had ap friends who were dumped on the street by their host family. I’ m not saying this because thats what you should do. you have shown your good will. however, if she is not out before your vacation, i’d dump her right at the councelor’s home. yes it’s a very mean thing to do, but if you have decided to terminate the program and have put up with her longer than necessary, then this is not your problem anymore and the councelor should step in!


Maya March 19, 2009 at 1:17 am

Dawn, thank you for your response! I will try to do that in terms of making a list and having them pick, but I am juts not sure how effective it will be. I don’t have predefined, always available things in the house. It all depends on what I cook and when and how many leftovers I have. My AP has gotten the snack part of the lunch really well; a yogurt, a fruit cup, fresh fruit, cheese stick, and a bottle of water. It is the actual lunch that seems to be the problem, as all they want now are white bread sandwiches.

And I don’t really know if it is reasonable to have things like rice pudding in the house and not give any to kids at all. I don’t want them to start thinking about food as good or bad (and thus forbidden). I want them to think of food as healthy and ‘treats in moderation’. But if AP is supposed to model the behavior for kids, then how can I explain the badness (un-healthiness) of white bread and rice with pasta if that is what she eats daily. She also eats her dinners with kids and how can I explain to a 4 and 6 year older why she can these things and they cannot when they eat together?

Calif mom March 19, 2009 at 2:08 am

For kids that age, “let’s see how many colors we can put on our plate” is a generally well-received approach. The more colors food has, the generally more healthy it is, especially the way your family eats.
Oh boy, Maya, I know exactly what you are dealing with! It’s very complex, these food issues.

You have an important lever — your husband’s medical condition. Be shameless about using it. It’s relevant to the kids because you want them to learn healthy eating habits since they are also at risk for developing the disease.

I once brought home library books about nutrition, hoping the AP would absorb some key concepts while reading them to the kids. Sort of worked, but not as well as I had hoped.

I LOVE the “one from column A, B, C” idea, and may steal it. It is also a teaching aid for the kids, and you can give the AP “political cover” that way. Have her get the kids to pick what they want in their lunches, negotiatble as long as it fits the ‘food group’. I wonder if the homeschool/ educational supplies places have posters and stickers that would be helpful. You could plaster a big colorful chart on the fridge itsefl.

I don’t pack my kids’ lunches, but I am the one who puts leftovers away at night, so if there’s something I want to be sure my kid gets, I put it in a small container and slap a sticky notes on it that says “for X’s lunch’. Then the AP just fills in with carrot sticks or whatever and a drink.

As for explaining to a 4 yo and 6 yo why what the AP chooses to eat is not good, you got me by the tail! We don’t want to undermine them, but we want to teach them, and the kids, too. I have been known to do things like observe that a friend’s mom is riding a bike without a helmet, and while that’s okay in her family, in our family we ALL always wear helmets (her toddler’s helmet was completely improperly worn, too, but I left that out — you don’t want your kids lecturing other people!). You could perhaps do something like that with nutrition that doesn’t totally undermine her, but lets your kids know that you expect them to eat foods from all different groups. When I was a child I once lectured my mom’s best friend about the evils of smoking, and she surprised me by saying “you know what, you’re right, and I really wish that I could quit. I’m really glad that you know not to start” or something to that effect. Made an impression on me!

I will confess to a couple sneaky things I’ve discovered — Whole Foods is now making spelt bread that looks and tastes like regular white bread, but has some protein in it, at least. They also have a ‘soft wheat’ that is squishy, but has a little bit of whole grain. My last AP would eat those. I’ve also been known to just let the AP run out of bread for a few days…

But the pasta with a side of rice thing is out of control!

OH — I bet part of what’s going on here is she’s having a hard time with boundaries! The kids are whining and wheedling for white bread, and she wants them to like her. Maybe you can find a way to reward the kids for not asking for it. A sticker chart for each meal they eat that has more than one color in it? You need to look for other ways you can help your AP learn to set firm boundaries, as well. How long has she been with you?

Jennifer March 20, 2009 at 12:12 pm

Comment about feeding kids and update on AP status

I feel your pain about nutrition. Previous AP bragged about her cooking skills, but fed our 15 month old macaroni and ketchup. She also thought that sour cream was appropriate as a main dish. Yes, my baby was eating macaroni and ketchup with a half cup of sour cream for lunch!

I almost passed out from shock, but then had to laugh. This young lady had no clue about cooking or nutrition, but had the bravado of a sous chef when we discussed what to feed Little One.

Bottom line is you have to make menu lists. I had sample meals listed. I wrote out lists according to food groups so she could substitute. Even then, she couldn’t understand the nutritional difference between milk and (sour)cream and would make very liberal substitutions.

Update: AP left on Wednesday. It all turned out OK, I suppose. Turns out their ranting about “you signed a contract” meant nothing because the agency terminated the contract when they provided the refund (almost two weeks early). Once we made it clear to regional that we weren’t gong to be bullied, they mobilized quickly.

I almost felt sorry for the AP. I told her I thought it was unfair that they would deprive her the chance to make money while she waited to be placed. I paid her for the days she worked and made sure she said good bye to Little One. But as much as I feel compassion for her, it would have driven us nuts to have her hanging out and not working for a month.

She’s spending a week with a local AP and host family and then will stay until April 6th with the CC before heading off to her next family.

Now that it’s over, it cracks me up. The agency thought they could pull the rug out from under us by prematurely terminating the contract and then expect us to keep a nonworking AP vacationing in our home for a month!

The final chapter will be filing a complaint about how the agency deals with smoking APs. The agency refused to change her application to smoking when we discovered her smoking “full flavor” Camels. They said she’d be given a warning. We know for sure that nobody will volunteer that she smoked. Of course, they didn’t let any potential host families talk to us.

Let that be a cautionary tale to all….

Maya March 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Jennifer, as they say, all’s well that ends well. I am glad your situation is over and thank you for update.

If you don’t mind, I do have a question regarding something you said. You said “This young lady had no clue about cooking or nutrition, but had the bravado of a sous chef when we discussed what to feed Little One.”. Can you please elaborate what exactly have you discussed with her and what would you have done differently based on your experience? Have you asked her specifically what meals she can prepare? What she thinks are appropriate child meals? What do you think would be good questions to ask in that regard to get a really good understanding of what au pairs nutritional values are?

I would welcome comments from everybody regarding this.


anonymous mom March 20, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Jennifer, please tell us what agency is this that would rematch such an au pair… so if any of us are with it we can beware…

anonymous March 21, 2009 at 2:55 am

Well, APIA rematched a girl from a Baltic country who should have been sent right back home. Not only for smoking, which she did — even asked me to drive her to 7-11 for a phone card immediately on arrival, but it was really for cigs! — but also because she didn’t like kids. She was using the program to get back to a boyfriend she had met in Chicago a year before through a McDonald’s sponsored visa program. Watch for girls who have lived in Chicago already — sounds like a great deal because they know the states, but not so much….

Calif Mom March 21, 2009 at 3:10 am


you’re going to have a much more relaxing weekend and trip! Glad it’s behind you. I think you said you had decided to leave AP’ing? I must say that I think I would be much less comfortable with an AP if I only had younger kids. That said, I know lots of people do fine with them, and there are amazing infant-qualified APs out there, but since I do work outside of our home, knowing that my kid is able to share info about anything that’s hinky is quite reassuring. For example, I’m thinking of the time my 4 yo said “Guess what, mom! We got locked outside today, and I got to go in through the window and unlock the door!” You kind of want to know such things, even though I myself have been locked out of cars and houses more than once with the kids in tow…. it’s not a judgment on our AP, it’s just something I am glad to know and a 15 month old just can’t be a little reality check on things for you the way an older kid can. I can figure out exactly whose house they were at, which park, and who they played with, and what kind of junk food they ate (well, within a certain scope of accuracy, of course! “today” might really mean two weeks ago, after all!) .

thanks for sharing what finally happened. We have found that usually, in disputes, the agencies bow to what the hosts need to have happen. I did read one contract — I think it was cultural care, the one based in SF, anyway — that was clearly written to protect the agency, and seemed pretty iron clad. We are with APIA and haven’t had major dissatisfaction (knock wood!).

Mom of 2 Girls March 21, 2009 at 10:13 am

Jennifer & Calif. Mom:
I agree with your comments, and am glad that APIA has the “requirement” that prospective host parents speak with the current HPs when considering an extension or rematch AP. (Although the current HPs of our recent AP never did call us, even though advised to do so by the LCC because of some concerns; hope they’re willing to put up with a lot more deficiencies than we were, or they’re not going to be too happy!)

Another question for anyone who may have had a similar experience:
What happens when your AP arrives and you discover that her Visa was issued two months before you actually matched with her? Seems she was matched, but then the Visa wasn’t approved by the US consulate in her country and the other family couldn’t wait, so they matched with someone else…meanwhile, she re-applied and was approved without technically having a family? This all sounds weird to me, but I’m concerned mainly that we won’t get our full year (again) and will have to be interviewing over the Christmas holidays (again). I will eventually check with APIA and our LCC, but wanted to see if anyone out there has had this happen – maybe it’s more common than I think, and the Dept. of State will somehow arrange for her to stay until the date that she actually arrived…I don’t need to worry about this in the midst of training her and while she’s adjusting. She has been here only one week and is soooo homesick. Thanks for any input.

counselor March 21, 2009 at 8:52 pm

To Mom of 2 girls
The background sounds different from what you think. Evidently, the aupairs was matched with a family, all the paperwork was done, visa was obtained from the US embassy in her homecountry. Her host family must have backed out. Reason is unknown to me of course. The agency obviously tried to match her again, and found another host family for her. Not really a reason to be alarmed. Possible reasons for the first host family backing out, especially in this ecomony are that the host dad or host mom lost her job. They moved close to grandparents, etc. Sometimes host families change their mind after all has been said and done already.

Homesickness: tell her that all aupairs get homesick, it’s part of being an aupair. She will feel better in another 2 weeks. Help her to meet other aupairs, meet young Americans, get her socially active. Tell her about family vacations you are planning. In another 6 months you’ll laugh about her homesickness.

Need help with au pair car usage March 22, 2009 at 7:40 pm

I need advice about car usage for our au pair. Our au pair has been with us for a little over 7 weeks now. She is doing a great job and has really blended well with our family. Part of her duties (driving) are to drop-off/pick-up our children from school 3 days a week & take them to a set weekly palydate. She is a good driver and we haven’t had any problems.

We have been completely flexible with personal usage of either of our cars, but I feel like this priviledge is being a bit over used and need some advise.

A few details:

Our au pair is currently taking her first class ( to fulfill her education requirement), so of course she has usage of a car for this. She needs to travel 112 miles (roundtrip) for her class once a week, but also goes to some local churches 4 nights a week for ESOL classes (about 20 miles roundtrip for each), used a car to go to the gym every day on her break (about 6 miles roundtrip), and also uses a car several times a week to visit with friends, go to the mall, etc. on her days off.

Here is my dilemma, she is putting a lot of miles on the car weekly for personal/social usage and I am constantly getting in the car with a 1/4 to almost empty tank each time (I fill the car up at the beginning of every week).

We want her to feel comfortable and be able to socialize, etc., but every single day of using a car is getting to be a bit much.

Also, my husband travels a lot for his job, so there are many times when there is just one car here and if she is using it, I am homebound with the children.

Can anyone help me with some “fair” limits for car usage? I really want to be fair and don’t want to be a monster about it, but I’m also concernd about the wear & tear on our cars. I feel like I have a teenager in the house! :)

Anna March 22, 2009 at 11:53 pm

I think the simplest thing to start with, is to have her ask your permission every time she wants to take a car. It makes sense especially because there is no specially designated “au pair car”, but you only have two cars, yours and your husband’s. So, the rule is – if the car is home, you can’t take it and go. The usage priority is the parent’s, and you have to first ask if they need it and if they mind you taking it, and you have a full right to give conditional permissions – i.e. she can use it but has to bring it home by hour X.

As to gas, asking her to pay for personal gas usage is normal. You are not obligated to pay for that. You might want to help out if you live in the boonies, but its totally optional and is a perk. I don’t ask my au pair to pay for personal gas usage, but she uses the car very little, and never has to go very far (we live in a very lively and well -connected area). We also just have to cars – mine and my husband’s, and she always asks.

Franzi March 23, 2009 at 1:02 am

i’m with anna, you should talk to your ap about the car use. especially when you need the car as well. if you establish an “ask before use” policy i think all sides should be clear about each other’s plans and needs.
if she is so busy socially (which is great to some extent) then maybe she can be picked up by one of her friends from time to time.

E2 March 23, 2009 at 4:35 am

We’re having a similar issue with car use right now…our au pair has been with us for a few weeks and is behaving as if the car is hers. We’ve asked her to ask us first before using the car, but will need to reinforce this. We found with previous au pairs that if you don’t control the car use right away it becomes an entitlement and then correcting the behavior becomes a “big issue.” We also ask our au pair to keep a log of miles driven and then to put in gas when she goes a certain number of miles. Worked ok with an organized au pair, but I’m not sure our current au pair has even written anything down.

Momof4 March 23, 2009 at 7:39 am

Thank you for your responses, it really helps! I sat down with our au pair tonight and discussed the car usage. We went over her current routine of car usage and discussed mileage, etc. She was a little defensive in the beginning because two of the girls she has befriended in our cluster have their own cars and two of her friends from her country who arrived when she did (also au pairs in the area) also have their own cars. She is under the impression that they don’t have any limits, etc. I have no idea! She also told me that ALL au pairs that she knows are given their own car. Anyway, instead of having to keep track of all of her mileage, we came to the agreement that she can just pay x amount of money each week for gas based on her current usage, and when/if that changes we can definitely revisit the issue. We also decided that if there is only one car here, she needs to find another mode of transportation (i.e. friend, etc.) so there is always a car here for emergencies or for me or my husband to be able to take the children out.
I talked to our LCC to brainstorm about it. She is going to chat with our au pair about how car usage is a priviledge and not a given.
We don’t live in the boony’s, but you do need a car to get to places in our area. All of the shopping malls, YMCA, etc. are within 3 to 8 miles from our house, so nothing is very far.
We have also established an “ask before you use the car” rule, so hopefully, that will help. I did ask her to try to give us some notice if she is going to want to use the car for a special outing, etc. because she is currently just coming down the stairs when she’s about to leave and asking for car keys without any notice. I had to say no today and she got really frustrated. I don’t think she has any concept of how expensive cars are (we have an SUV & a minivan because we have 4 kids) or how expensive car insurance is, especially when you add a foreign driver. She doesn’t come from a poor family and had her own car in her country, so I think the having to have rules about car usage is annoying to her.
Anyway, wish us luck and thank you again for all of your responses!! :)

cvh March 24, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Momof4, would you please get in touch with me, by emailing me at (aka mom@aupairmom) thanks!!

counselor March 23, 2009 at 9:20 pm

To Mom of 4
Regarding the educational component. Please keep in mind that a total of 6 credit hours at a POST SECONDARY school, an accredited school is required. ESL classes at churches do not qualify for the educational component. You are not to pay more than a total of $500. Most Au Pair agencies equate 6 credit hours with around 75 – 80 hours in a classroom with a textbook.

Regarding the car. All host families should set the rules for the use of the car and everything else in advance and present a list of rules to the Au Pair in the beginning, or better during the matching process already. This sort of thing that happened to Mom of 4 and E2 is common. Au Pairs easily get the sense of entitlement if you don’t set the rules in advance. You don’t need to feel bad about not having a designated Au Pair car. Around 50% of my host families don’t. The other 50% of Au Pairs get access to host mom or dad’s car.

Ann March 23, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Summer au pairs. We’ve had an AP for three years, since our daughter was two. Now that she will start elementary school, we will make do with the school’s aftercare program, but still might be interested in an AP for some summers. Our added incentive is bilingualism – both of our au pairs were pre-matches from the country whose language we are teaching our daughter as her second language.

Who has had experience with summer AP programs? Which agencies offer them? How do you deal with the educational component? Any other pros/cons of having an official au pair for such a short period of time (expectations etc)

Franzi March 24, 2009 at 12:38 am

@ Mom of 4 and E2: it is true that setting up rules for the car after the au pair has been in the home for some time and had freedom of usage will put some strain on the relationship. yes, having a car is a privilege not a given, however, if there were no rules before, the circumstance of having such easy access to a car can easily be taken as given.

and from the point of view of an au pair it might feel like being “lured” into a match, with the car dangling as a carrot, and suddenly, there are rules and limits.

for your next match, i would already make the rules clear during the matching process. if you don’t want to seem too strict, explain why you set these rules. for example, my first family had a curfew on the car (not for me though) . they explained this with the over-usage of the previous au pair who took the car over night without letting the family know where the car would be parked etc.
that makes it easier for the future au pair to understand where your limits are regarding car usage. once the AP is in your family and proves to be reliable, rules might change.

as for now, making the rules clear is all you can do, i think.

Maya March 24, 2009 at 7:39 am

OK, I have a rant here. How the heck do you deal with a 25-year-old au pair who gets hysterical when you are trying to have a meeting with her to tell her that she has been feeding your children crap contrarily to your specific instruction and two prior discussions on this topic? And when I say hysterical, I mean, red in the face, heaving, wheezing, tears rolling down the face, cannot talk because cannot take a full breath, hysterical. Basically, picture a 3 year old who has just been told that he cannot have another cookie. Oh, and this is the third display of hysterics that my husband and I have had to deal with since January.

And here is the kicker: after she agrees that yes, she should follow our instruction, and yes, it is not right to through food away because she was not feeding kids the right food that I have prepared, and yes, she will fix it, she tells us that she is not comfortable here with us, but would not tell us why. She said she will think about it and send us an email tomorrow telling us why she is not comfortable. Sheesh!

Any ideas on what to do next?

Momof4 March 25, 2009 at 1:36 am

Thank you again for all the great advice. We made sure to include car usage rules in a manual when our au pair arrived and also covered car usage before her arrival. I even sat down with our au pair on two separate occasions and covered every single page of the manual with her, had her sign the car usage rules (included info about her financial responsibility if she is in an accident, etc.), yet I am still having to reiterate car stuff over and over again. I know au pairs have difficulty with the language barrier and went through her dictionary with her whenever we came across a word in the manual she did not understand so everything was as clear as possible. She is really stuck on the fact that most of the girls she has befriended have their own cars and the freedom it brings. Other than that, I don’t know what else to do. I’m hoping this will not be a continuous issue. She’s really great with the kids and after a not so fantastic experience with our first au pair (was with us for 4 months), I’m so over the drama of the experience we’ve had with 20 something au pairs that act like teenagers!

Counselor, yes, I am aware of our financial responsibility for the educational component. Our au pair is attending an accredited school for her first 3 hrs, but really wants to work on her English and has chosen to also take advantage of all of the free ESL classes available in our area. Unfortunately, both the University & the College in our town do not offer English as a Second Language classes for credit and has expressed that she doesn’t want to take just any ol’ class to satisfy her education requirement, so this is why she travels an hour away, 1 day a week for school. She also stated that since her English isn’t as good as she’d like, she wouldn’t understand anything in a History, or any other type of class offered at the University.

Calif Mom March 25, 2009 at 2:18 am

@ Mom of 2 girls — Those stamps inside visas are sometimes a couple months SOONER than the AP actually traveled to the U.S. This is something to watch for if your AP is planning to travel out of the U.S. , because they have to be back in the states before the one-year anniversary of that visa stamp date — NOT their actual arrival date in the states.

Jennifer March 26, 2009 at 2:30 am

Now that we’re settled in I thought I’d update on our situation.

To Maya- yes, according to AP she was a fabulous cook who cooked for two children Little One’s age and cooked for her family. She understood about dangerous foods (nuts, honey, egg whites, and choking hazards), so I believed her. Turns out she had strange beliefs about cooking. I did a pot roast in the crock pot and she about got sick. She stated ingredients must be cooked separately and put together at the end right before serving! She had no tolerance for any spicing, not even salt. (That’s why I guess ketchup was considered a sauce!) For dinner we ended up modifying a portion of what we made to be able to include her. She eventually ate pizza and tried bland Mexican, but was limited in not just her cooking skills, but her palate

I would have had her make in front of me all the off-list things she wanted to feed Little One before.. Otherwise she would have to stick with the menus I had made out.

Anonymous Mom, we went with Euraupair on the suggestion of a mom who had 8 APs. This lady was really gung ho on German APs, ( they speak English and drive very well) and Euraupair is 75% German, 10% French and 15% the rest of the world. From September to March, we had 3 APs for a total of 3.5 months of childcare.

The first was from Denmark and stayed two weeks. She admitted right before she came that she had a boyfriend, but insisted it wouldn’t be a problem. She was great with the baby, but didn’t like the other AP’s, was afraid to drive, and was actively bulimic. She left for home with 24 hours notice when her boyfriend broke up with her on email.

We rematched with a German AP who stayed 1 month. The agency refused to let us talk to the HF , saying they didn’t want to talk. She came from a HF with three kids and had alot of responsibility, so she vacationed when she got to our home. Refused to get a license (” I don’t want to take another test”), took over the computer, and the Tivo, ate us out of house and home and neglected the baby. Neglected as in fed Little One a handful of crackers and a banana over a 7 hour period, didn’t check or change diapers (felt every two hours was excessive) and never (not even once) brushed the baby’s teeth. I had written guidelines outlining all her duties, but then changed it to an hour by hour schedule. Once the CC was brought in and we all went over the hour by hour schedule, AP decided to go back home because she was tired of Americans.

The third AP’s story is listed in here already.

We decided to not have another AP for a number of reasons. First, I work part-time at best, so we rarely needed an AP for more than 20-25 hours. Plus, I really like being with my Little One, and had to work extra hard to make sure the AP was on the same page with how to work with her. It’s a crucial age and we got leery about having to train yet another AP.

Having just one pre-verbal infant and not alot of responsibility lends itself to boredom, homesickness and slacking off on what’s required. Finding a good balance between being engaged with baby, and being able to fill the 3-4 hours she spends napping was tough.

Third, where we live is in the heart of suburbia with very little to do. There are a couple of parks and a strip mall within walking distance, but it’s nothing that interesting. I think it is a big shock to come to our house and have to travel 45 minutes to get to the cool, European influenced walking/shopping areas. There is alot of highway driving involved. Public transit is pretty good, but it takes some effort and coordination our APs didn’t have or want to have.

And frankly, we’re tired of adolescent behavior. My husband is very laid back and doesn’t like having to set limits and parent a teen. We put in alot of work in being welcoming and trying to help with the adjustment, but found the hurdles involved were bigger than we were.

Would we do it again in the future? Maybe, when the baby is older and
when/if I work more.

What would we do differently? Alot. We’d definitely go with another agency. We’d match in the summer, to make sure AP is driving, enrolled in classes and settled in socially. There is an “AP season”. Missing the window makes it harder to build friendships with other APs. APs can be clique-ish.

Even though I doubt I would have an AP drive my child, driving would be required. For our APs, refusal to drive was also symptomatic of a fear of the unknown and having insufficient coping skills.

I don’t want to scare anyone off. There are many wonderful APs out there I am sure. We just never got a good match.

First time host mom March 27, 2009 at 2:26 am

I am a first time host mom and I can definitely relate to what Jennifer wrote. My first and probably last AP arrived last summer and we still have four more months to go. We have had a few issues here and there but overall, we were able to manage it and have a smooth relationship. The main problem is lack of initiative, motivation and introversion I see in my AP. She is 23 years old but maturity definitely is lacking. I could go on and on about aspects of her behavior that I’d wish would change but I have given up. After finding out many phone international calls made during work hours that would sometimes go over 1 hour, I have decided to pick my battles and just let these months go by. I guess this is her attitude, she is just waiting for time to go by with a minimum effort rule. I don’t consider the experience terrible since my daughter picked up a few words in a foreign language but unfortunately, counting on the AP to apply your rules regarding mental and physical stimulation is utopic. (My AP just stands or sits and watches while my toddler is playing with a ball). Also, I have come to the conclusion that what she writes on the diary might not reflect exactly what was done during the day, while I was at work… Anyways, I really don’t think I will go this route again. It served a purpose so that I could study in the evenings to take my bar exam but after my AP leaves I could totally do this relying on the preschool that my daughter already attends and a small child care place she has attended since she was 2. I will definitely enjoy my end of the afternoons and my evenings with my daughter! I know we should never say never, but for now, I don’t think I’d consider having another AP again. Good luck to all of you! And, thank you for creating It is wonderful! I wish I had found it before!

Mom of 2 Girls March 27, 2009 at 5:24 am

@ Calif Mom
Thanks – that was one of my concerns! This topic is on my list to discuss with our LCC, who is supposed to be contacting us for the “2-week” home visit, but today is the anniv. of our AP’s arrival, and we’ve yet to hear from her regarding when she’s planning to come! For our last, re-matched AP, we never got a visit, she hardly ever was in touch about anything, and for any problems or issues, would only speak with the AP and never heard our side of the story. (Needless to say, we’re not thrilled with the level of service we’ve been receiving, and if we decide to continue with this program, we’ll definitely be switching agencies next year, since we almost did so during our search this time, as we weren’t getting any help or good candidates from the coordinators.

Dawn March 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Mom of 2 Girls, I had a similar experience with a less-than-satisfactory LCC with our agency a few years ago, and ended up switching agencies as you are planning to do. It was definitely a good move! I don’t know if you’ve decided on what agency you’ll work with yet (if you decide to continue hosting APs), but my suggestion is to contact all of the agencies that operate in your area and ask for references from current and/or former host families so that you can contact them and ask specific questions about the responsiveness and support they get from the LCC. IMHO, the agencies are all fairly similar on a “macro” level, so the thing that can make or break your experience is the quality (or lack thereof) of their LOCAL representative(s).

Dawn March 27, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Oops, one more thing I wanted to mention regarding switching agencies — if you do, be sure to ask the new agency whether they will give you a discount equivalent to what you would have gotten as a “repeat family discount” with the former agency. Mine did. (I switched from EurAupair to Cultural Care.)

Anna March 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

AuPairCare doesn’t match the discount. I switched to them for next year, and asked for it, and their attitude was “we are the cream of the crop so be happy you are with us now even if it costs you thousands of dollars, more, there is a good reason, you switched after all, didn’t you?”
This was after I already matched with an au pair with them. Of course NOW I cannot switch back! But next year I will. Truly horrible customer service in the main office.

Anna March 27, 2009 at 6:17 pm

I am sorry your au pair experience was horrible.
I was lucky to have a great au pair the first time, and even though the second year was much bumpier, it showed me how great the program can be.
I think if you had the right experience before, you would put your current au pair in rematch almost right away. Talking on the phone for hours while on the job is reason enough, lying on the report sheets alone is reason enough, not changing her behavior after your working with her on that is reason enough. This is not how it is supposed to be! Also, hate to sound prejudiced, but I suspect I know what country(ies) your au pair is from, I am not making this mistake again either. There are good girls everywhere, but for some areas of the world your chances are much slimmer. And “buying” your experience and even buying the driver’s license is way common. It doesn’t sound like your au pair is experienced in childcare at all.

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