Our New Au Pair is Too Quiet: She Hardly Says A Word

by cv harquail on November 28, 2016

We’re enjoying a visit from one of our former Au Pairs, and a friend of hers.  Although both of them speak English well, I’m aware once again of how challenging it can be to interact across language differences, as well as cultural differences, and even family norms.

With communication challenges, I always prefer it when folks try to “fix it forward”, by acting.  By saying something. By trying rather than by retreating. So I get where this host mom is coming from.

If she lived nearby, I’d give this HostMom a copy of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. 

What advice would you give her?  Should she get adjusted to the World’s Quietest Au Pair? Or try to draw this new Au Pair into conversation, in different ways?

Dear Au Pair Mom —    Our latest Au Pair arrived 5 weeks ago.  During our interviewing process she was very engaged and talkative. But, when she arrived at our house, she was very quiet. As in, hardly says a word.

8107327940_943f0618df_mOur previous au pair was still around for a few days, so I thought it would get better when she left as the new au pair would have to interact with us more. Her English is excellent, so it’s not a language issue.

Fast forward to now and our new Au pair literally doesn’t talk to us.

We have tried and tried to have a conversation with her about anything and we get one word answers at the most. We invite her out to dinner, include her as much as possible, ask her about home and family, etc. She says she isn’t homesick and the LCC said she seems happy with us. She is around a lot…eats dinner with us most nights, sits in the family room when we watch TV and is generally around (but looking at her phone most of that time).

I don’t think she has ever said a word to us unless we asked her a question. She does have au pair friends that she hangs out with on the weekends, so she isn’t just painfully shy.

I’m not sure what to do about this. We have had quiet au pairs in the past, but never like this. She does a good job with the kids from what I can tell and they said she does talk to them when we aren’t around. Would love ideas or suggestions anyone has. I don’t think I can take this for another 10+ months.


Image: Quiet, by Jeff Youngstrom on Flickr


Taking a Computer Lunch November 28, 2016 at 9:02 pm

I agree with CV, your AP sounds like a classic introvert. I’ve hosted a couple, and in general, they’re not a good fit for me, but I learned to live with them and enjoy them for who they were. I could not, under any circumstances mold them into being extroverts.

It sounds like your AP, despite her lack of conversation, enjoys being part of the family. She wants to be with you, even if she’s texting someone or searching the Web, which means that while she’s quiet, she doesn’t truly want to be alone.

Five weeks is still early to hold a conversation unless she’s truly fluent or almost bilingual. Listening to a family of native speakers communicate in rapid-fire English, when half of the consonants are barely pronounced, is difficult. It make take all of her effort to listen, so responding during a conversation may be too difficult. Don’t worry, if she keeps eating with you, then it will come. When you direct questions to her, say her name first to queue her that she needs to start listening. (DH was convinced one AP didn’t like child #2 – but when she started laughing at his jokes at month 8, I realized that keeping up with his fast-moving, barely enunciated English took a lot of practice).

When your child speak quickly, it’s okay to slow them down and ask them to repeat what they are asking/telling. That will give a cue to the AP that it’s okay for her, too.

Instead of watching TV, try family game night on a Friday or Saturday if she’s hanging around. If your kids are young, then pick an age-appropriate game. If they’re older, then try a board game that requires some degree of cooperation. Our German au pairs, even those who spoke English well, enjoyed playing some of our German board games (Scotland Yard) or the card game Bohnanza – because they were familiar even if they were playing in another language. Build some new family traditions that force your au pair to put down her cell phone. Introduce her to some of your family’s favorite games.

Build conversational skills at the dinner table – your kids need to learn to listen as much as they need to learn to talk. What did you like best today? Was one of my family’s favorite conversation starters. But you can try almost anything with your au pair – Who is the most interesting person you have met and why? Whatever you do – don’t ask a “yes/no” question!

Understand, she may have grown up in a quiet family where there wasn’t a lot of small talk and it’s a skill that she’ll need to build. Small talk is useful, especially as Christmas approaches, because you can figure out what is important to her.

At some point it’s okay to give up. We housed a foreign exchange student last summer (so we weren’t vested like we would be with an au pair). Although she had worked really hard to pass to TOEFL, she didn’t have a lot of practice listening to Americans speak about daily life. Because she attended daily English classes, I engaged her by asking questions about her classmates, the subjects of her classes, or her daily life in her native country, that she could not answer with a yes or no. Still it took us 8 weeks to learn that she was not returning home to her native country, but attending a university three hours from our home as a foreign student. It took a lot of effort, and after a while, we stopped asking questions and communicated among ourselves.

One thing on which I would insist, however, is no cell phone at the dinner table! My teenagers and my APs know better than to look at one during dinner, unless a topic of debate needs to be settled with a quick search. For my family, dinner is the one time of day that we sit and look at each other for an hour – connection is important!

Midwest Mama November 30, 2016 at 12:01 pm

Thank you so much! The game night is a great idea. We have a few games that we like to play that would get her talking because she would have no choice.

We definitely have the no cell phone rule at the table, but my husband breaks it all the time. He’s also an introvert and thinks that the au pair is great (I guess he can relate to not wanting to talk).

HRHM November 28, 2016 at 10:09 pm

All of the above!

We do family game night pretty often (at least every other week) and most of our APs have hung around to play even when they weren’t working. Uno, Skipbo, Clue, Sorry, Yachtzee, Monopoly and Life are some favorites.

For table conversation starters, I love to ask a ton of questions about their country – compare and contrast between the two nations is not only a great part of the cultural exchange but also fosters more “complex” conversation than just daily chit-chat can elicit. We talk about politics, religion, feminism, healthcare, pension/aging/retirement, LGBT rights, etc. It’s fascinating to both sides to hear how different things are from country to country. In addition, each night at dinner we do a daily “Pow & Wow” – ie what was the best thing that happened today and what was the worst. Everyone participates and it gives the kids a chance to practice active listening as well.

Midwest Mama November 30, 2016 at 12:02 pm

Thank you! I thought with the election and the Cubs winning the world series (we live in Chicago) we would have a ton of things to talk about right off the bat. She reads the NY Times too, so it’s not like she isn’t interested in world events. Gonna keep on trying for now and hope that something changes soon.

SomMom November 29, 2016 at 10:34 am

We are having a similar situation now, where our au pair as a candidate interviewed very well and now that she’s here…well, you described it. I am an introvert so I had a reset conversation at month 3 and put that on the table. I think introverts can do a very good job, just quietly. This seems not to be the whole picture, though. She has a vibrant social life with friends and a new boyfriend. My sense is she is just not invested in the kids. For example, one of my two has some executive function issues and getting up in the morning and out to school is a challenge. The au pair appears to be very passive. I find that I need to tell her what to do real time. So, I will have a third reset conversation. The exhausting thing is that there is nothing I can put my finger on. She goes through the motions. It seems she doesn’t care if the kid is late for school, or doesn’t eat, or doesn’t whatever. Caring and introversion are two separate things. So, does your au pair care? How do I even ask an open ended question to get at whether or not mine cares? I think she’d be bummed if I sent her home. Probably need a real reason to send her home and get into the rematch process. With eight months to go, do we stick it out? I have the same dilemma.

Midwest Mama November 30, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Thank you. Sorry you are going through this as well. I think ours does “care” about her duties as an au pair. The house is super organized when I get home (more than if I was home all day) and she does anything we ask her to. My husband thinks she actually wants more to do…our kids are older and in school all day. Maybe she is bored!? I agree though, it’s hard for me to say we want to rematch because she is so quiet since she is doing what she is supposed to be doing. Ours seems to have a good social life too, so she must be talkative with her friends. And she just met them obviously, so it could just be us!

NoVA Twin Mom November 30, 2016 at 3:46 pm

We had one au pair (of the eight we’ve had so far) that just never talked. She actually never came out of her room. She took great care of our girls, though, who were twin toddlers at the time, so we had to learn to differentiate “childcare” from “roommate.” She was a strange roommate, but a great child care provider.

We kept her for the full year, partly for financial reasons but largely because there was no real REASON to rematch. I know it’s strange to a family used to more outgoing au pairs, but as our LCC said, you can’t force her to come out of her room – and you can’t force yours to talk.

As you said, you can try to screen for someone more outgoing in the future, but short of the personality tests that certain companies use, I’m not sure how to do that.

Good luck – we still look back at that year as strange, though we’re still somewhat in touch with the au pair from that year and she’s very sentimental about “her girls”. She did bond well with our kids, and that’s the main reason we had an au pair.

Midwest Mama December 1, 2016 at 3:38 pm

That is exactly how this feels. She does a great job, kids seem to like her, etc. So rematching seems silly based on me wanting someone to talk to! Hopefully it will improve a little bit as time goes on.

NoVA Twin Mom December 7, 2016 at 9:31 am

Glad to see in later comments it’s starting to go better (short of the car accident). In retrospect, I wish we’d seen advice like PopularAuPair gave below. When we specifically asked her to come with us on some outing, she’d come along and seem to have fun. Hopefully you find a better “happy medium” than we did.

Callie November 29, 2016 at 1:23 pm

I’m sorry you are dealing with this. It can be really frustrating emotionally. The game night idea is a very good one!

You said that there isn’t a communication barrier at issue, so I’d be concerned about how she feels about you guys and the kids. Our last au pair we had who wouldn’t talk to us, we found out after 2 months of her telling us (when we asked) that she was happy, that really she was scared to death of talking to us (we found this out when she rematched).

You said the kids say she talks with them, does she engage well with the children? Are they bonding and having fun with her? That would be my biggest concern. The other au pair we had that was quiet, we realized later that she wasn’t really bonding with the kids. Our daughter would cry for hours after we left for work. But the au pair insisted that she had a great bond with the kids, I just didn’t see it (RED FLAG!!!). We got strict with her due to the issues with the kids, and she up and rematched too.

In our experience, both au pairs we these issues with rematched with us, so we didn’t have to make the call. But we figured with the first that if the kids loved her and she did what she needed we were preparing to just deal with the silence. As it was, the experience did teach us to focus on the personality profiles of au pairs in the future. We need an au pair who is social and extroverted.

Best of luck!

Midwest Mama November 30, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Thank you…a friend of mine did say maybe she is intimidated by us. I don’t feel like I’m intimidating, but that could be an issue. The kids do seem happy with her (they are 10 and 12). I see them hugging her and hanging on her when we are all together. The LCC is aware of my concerns and has been checking in with her as well, so hopefully we will know about any issues if there are any. My next au pair is going to be an extrovert for sure, but not sure how to screen for that!

Taking a Computer Lunch November 30, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Be careful about over-compensating! I had an introvert and had a hard time conversing, identifying with her (in the end, she was a real family person – we just didn’t realize how much), overcompensated and got a train wreck of a person, but an extrovert!

(One test, in my experience, is to ask questions about number of close friends – an introvert might have one or two – and to ask who does the planning for hanging out. If your candidate doesn’t do the planning at home, then she might have a hard time sticking her neck out here.)

But if your kids are bonding – obviously that’s more important!

PopularAuPair December 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm

I commented below, but I strongly feel that ‘intimidation’ is the case here. Except intimidation isn’t the right word. *You* aren’t intimidating. How much she wants you to like her is. I suspect that even a sit down, cheesy comment like “Hey, you’ve seemed a little withdrawn, and I wanted to let you know that you can be yourself in my house. I picked *your* application because I liked *you*. Please don’t be afraid to talk to me or my family. We already like you.” would go a long way.

DMMom November 29, 2016 at 4:49 pm

We too had an exceptionally quiet Au Pair who never complained, did a fine job and said that everything was fine (we asked repeatedly). She rematched after 6 weeks siting that she was having trouble bonding with the children. Anyway, this would be a BIG red flag to me that she is not invested and will be/ or is looking to leave.

Our introverted Au Pair, was more “needy”. She bonded closely and talked a lot to our family, but didn’t want to venture out on her own.

Midwest Mama November 30, 2016 at 12:11 pm

That’s what I’m worried about. If she was a true introvert, she probably wouldn’t have much of a social life. She has made friends and is even going on a weekend trip to CA this weekend. The quiet au pairs I have had in the past hung around us more and didn’t tend to make many friends but really bonded with us. It’s tough because she is doing her job well and everything we ask with no complaints. So there isn’t really a reason to rematch! And my husband loves it because he is an introvert as well.

NJ Mom November 30, 2016 at 3:43 pm

I too am a classic introvert and while I might be engaging with friends and love exploring, I find socializing with my boss intimidating. For me, some of it is personality and some of it is cultural of how to interact with superiors. My boss is not intimidating, but I find the situation intimidating. I’m never sure whether I should talk about work, talk about personal life, or just stick to small talk. What’s appropriate, what’s TMI, what’s not interesting – I know I should just talk more and think less.

For AP, we usually try to find out some favorite things and incorporate it into family activities. Or ask questions on culture that require more than a yes/no. Things like “what was the strangest thing you’ve seen so far”, or “how are things the same or different from what you expected” (I love the responses to these 2 questions!). Listen to the response and use follow up questions to have her expand upon it. Also for an introvert, a group setting can be more difficult, so chatting 1-on-1 may be easier to help her open up. Or activity based conversations (chatting while baking cookies, decorating the tree, etc). Also, fight the urge to start talking to fill in the quiet. If your AP is an introvert, you may have to wait out the awkward silence before she speaks up.

DutchAP January 3, 2017 at 7:01 pm

This is so spot on. I’ve been an au pair with three different host families. I’m an introvert but did go out with friends a lot. Somehow adapting to the way my second host family communicated was very hard for me. It really was intimidating, especially because I was young and still a bit insecure about the things I said and the things I did. I thought things through so much that in my head there was never room for an actual conversation. Also keep in mind that translating everything before you can say something requires a lot of effort. Things just got more awkward because my host family started to feel awkward with me being so quiet and we never really talked about it. I always felt like I wasn’t living up to my host family’s expectations. That was also one of the reasons I went out with friends a lot. Because I didn’t feel comfortable with my host family and just wanted to escape the awkwardness. Things were much different with my third host family because there was never any pressure of them trying me to change how I am.

WarmStateMomma December 3, 2016 at 10:55 am

If she’s a true introvert, she doesn’t want or need the social life that an extrovert does. My current AP is fairly introverted so she is less needy than other APs we’ve hosted. She makes her own plans and enjoys exploring solo without needing to find someone else to accompany her. She is less of a conversationalist, though.

I agree with the others that social anxiety or even a simple lack of awareness that you’d like to engage with her could be at play. You will learn so much about people and personalities on this journey!!

2 kids and a cat November 30, 2016 at 7:03 am

Introverts are still nice, pleasant people, if not gregarious. So, the “generally around but always on her phone” sounds like she’s engaged elsewhere but not with you. I’m a complete introvert who’s forged excellent relationships with host families – I like people but just need more me time.
At your next weekly meeting, you could ask directly if she happy with you – directly saying, “sometimes you’ve seemed unhappy living with our family. I’ve noticed X and Y” (two examples are enough, no need to snowplow her). She will then either say No, I really like it here (and be more aware of how disinterested she seems and make more of an effort) or breath a sigh of relief that it’s on the table and talk about whether or not she should move on.

Midwest Mama November 30, 2016 at 12:13 pm

Totally agree…my husband is an introvert but he would never sit there and not talk to someone in our house. In fact, I think he tries harder to talk with her than I do. We definitely ask if she is happy and if she misses home…always says yes and doesn’t miss home at all. The LCC is checking in too in case she is just afraid to tell us she isn’t happy.

BostonAupair November 30, 2016 at 8:33 pm

I have a friend (she’s not an aupair) who is EXACTLY like this. Around our group of friends or her own family she is fine but when she is with someone elses parents or older family members she turns into an extremely shy and quiet person who does not say a word unless it is to answer a question. My parents call her painfully shy but I don’t think she is “shy” I just think she feels awkward/not 100% comfortable/intimidated by people she does not fully know or feels have more power than her – if that makes any sense?

Your AP may also not feel like she knows her place yet or how she should act around you. I completely understand that this kind of thing would be so uncomfortable to live with for the remainder of her year but I also think you should persevere a bit to see if she comes out of her shell more. I love the games night idea but also know that if she is similar to my friend I mentioned that she would absolutely be dying inside at the thought of doing this with all of your family!

I think it could be best for the HM to address the issue (gently) with AP in private or perhaps go out to coffee together as she possibly doesn’t even realize how quiet she is being or that it bother you guys a lot.

PopularAuPair December 1, 2016 at 12:24 pm

I am just going to hop in here quick and give perhaps a different viewpoint. I think there is a chance that your au pair isn’t actually an introvert at all. I’m highly extroverted, but I also have some amount of social anxiety (official diagnosis and all). For me, I’m brilliant in social situations where I’m kind of ‘meh’ on whether or not I want you to like me. But if I desperately want your approval? I clam right up.

This rule doesn’t apply through email or skype. I’m wonderfully chatty. Easy to get to know (I am currently regularly skyping with my host family, and I already know them pretty well, and I haven’t even left yet) too. But there’s a degree of distance there. But when I’m with you and in your house, and it’s important that you like me, I really struggle to put myself out there. I’m prepared for my au pair year, because I know this is who I am, and I’ve put myself out there like this before, therefore I know what I have to do to get over it myself. Your au pair might be struggling, because this could very well be a new thing for her.

But her mannerisms almost perfectly match mine. I struggle with people in my own age group who I have ‘friend crushes’ on, rather than people who are older or younger than me (who I usually just click with right away). But if I was in this situation and my social anxiety was acting up, I would probably hang around ‘doing’ other things, but hoping desperately the other party would engage me. I would happily answer questions, but clam up pretty quickly. My biggest fear is that I will talk too much and start to annoy or bore you.

My best tip (for what would help me), is to actively invite her to stuff you may think is implicit. “Hey, do you want to join us for dinner and talk about everyone’s days?” or “It’s family game night, and we’d love for you to join us!” Invitations that aren’t enthusiastic always feel halfhearted when my anxiety is acting up.

Midwest Mama December 1, 2016 at 3:43 pm

That is super helpful. I actually have two friends that have told me they are exactly like you describe which shocked me. They both seem so outgoing and the life of the party, but have told me about their extreme social anxiety.

Thank you!

TexasHM December 1, 2016 at 10:05 pm

Midwest Mama,
I hesitated to respond because I wasn’t sure I could provide you any value but after seeing your responses wanted to chime in. First off, kudos to you for caring. Seriously.
Second, as someone who really struggled early on with having difficult and akward conversations (both of which are a regular part of hosting life) I just wanted to say that I think you need to be candid with her about all of this. I completely agree with PopularAuPair’s feedback above that while you are not intimidating and are not doing anything seemingly intimidating it is very possible that she doesn’t feel comfortable opening up for whatever reason. I think you really need to level with her – as in literally tell your AP everything you are telling us here.

Start with telling her what a great job she is doing and how the kids are obviously fond of her and how when you interviewed you really enjoyed your conversations and were so excited for her arrival but that you have noticed that since she arrived she has really been very withdrawn. I would ask her if it is because of something you are doing (be prepared for it if she says yes and if she does – ask her what and how you can make her more comfortable). If you have ever read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People this is Seek First to Understand which frankly, I think is the most effective thing a host parent can do while hosting.

For a little context, most APs spend the first few weeks terrified. All mine have candidly told me later and we are VERY effusive with praise and reminding them we don’t expect perfection and are prepared to invest in them and know there will be mistakes – you get it. They are still intimidated. Especially the great ones. The great APs are probably worse because they are SO invested. They so badly want to fulfill the job duties and exceed your expectations that they are in perfection mode all the time. Now that we have hosted for years, I remind the APs on arrival that all of our APs made mistakes and we didn’t rematch on them. They all think one little mistake and they will end up in rematch or shipped home. Then after they arrive over the first few weeks they hear horror story after horror story from their orientation AP friends and watch some of them go home, others end up in rematch, others stay in bad situations too scared to rematch which only serves to heighten their anxiety if they were already worried about rematch.

I am not saying this is the case. It could be something else. Just saying the #1 piece of advice I got about hosting was to openly and honestly communicate. You want her to be happy and feel comfortable and like she can talk with you about anything. Right now you don’t feel like that is the case. Having the LC check on her might even be exacerbating that (imagine being worried about rematch and now the LC is regularly calling asking if she is happy, if everything is ok and she knows LC isn’t calling her other AP friends).

Did you talk at all about the type of relationship you wanted with this AP before she arrived? If so I would remind her of that and ask her what she would suggest to help you both get to that type of relationship/interaction. Sometimes you have to put yourself out there and be vulnerable to get her to let her guard down and do the same. This is tough. We had a couple APs that were very quiet the first few weeks and I was very nervous about the year to come (excellent at the job though) but I saw flashes of promise so I just reminded myself it would take some time for them to come out of their shell and they did big time. 5 weeks with someone that won’t hardly say two words to you living in your home is an eternity. Prayers and positive thoughts your way! Please let us know what happens…

Midwest Mama December 5, 2016 at 6:06 pm

Thank you…that is very helpful. A crazy thing happened today…she got into a car accident. Not her fault at all, so we rushed home to deal with the car situation and make sure she is ok, etc. We took her out to lunch as well. She talked a little bit more, but maybe the good thing that will come out of this is that she will open up. She obviously had to tell us all the details, so that was the most I have talked to her since she arrived. Could be a blessing in disguise!

catherine December 12, 2016 at 7:46 pm

We are in the same situation except that she has been with us for 7 months. We have had lots of conversations but little change in the communication or lack thereof except she now will text us when she is going out so we know when she will be home (would run out the door and be picked up by men she met online down the street and we would have no idea when she would be home)
It has been very hard on us- because she literally says NOTHING unless spoken to.
Like no Hello or good morning. for seven months.
She came with us on a vacation for thanksgiving and said nothing in the car and nothing the entire way there.. or back. Turns out she did have a good time but I had no idea as she did not say anything. We did several fun things as a family but again– she did not talk. We played some games and asked her to join us- and she would play for about 5 minutes and abruptly leave. This has been very difficult and I’m not sure I can continue. She interacts well with our four year old who will talk to a brick wall all day- but other older boys (6 and 9) have found her more difficult.. Not sure I can do 5 more months of this and seriously dreading Christmas. Any ideas for me? She does do her job well- in terms of care and helping with clean up after the kids. But very little actual talking or interaction beyond minimally necessary. It is very very difficult to live in a house with someone this quiet– and I’m an introvert…

Mimi December 13, 2016 at 2:05 pm

“It is very very difficult to live in a house with someone this quiet…”

Have you told her this?

Taking a Computer Lunch December 13, 2016 at 11:25 pm

So she’s doing an okay with 1/3 of your children and even, you, an introvert, dread having her around. How have you reached month 7 together? You could try to go into rematch – as long as you don’t exit the program, the financial penalties shouldn’t be too prohibitive. Child care isn’t just about cleaning up after kids (really – that’s the boring and tedious part – IMHO!) – it should be about interaction, communication – and helping them to build skills they will need as independent adults. If she does that fine and the lack of interaction is with you as an adult – hey I’ve been there and it doesn’t get better. You can choose to ask questions that cannot be answered yes/no, but sometimes it’s just easier to throw in the towel than to come up with questions to initiate conversation that’s one-sided. (Sometimes I think it’s just a serious lack of curiosity on their part.)

Do you need/want her to be with your family over Christmas? If you’re not traveling and have not already booked tickets to travel with her, then you might see if she intends/wants to head off with friends, or is counting on a family Christmas. If the latter, don’t feel compelled to try to entertain or include her in everything.

You decide how much you invite her to join you. “It would be great if you wanted to play this game with us, but it will be disruptive if you are not able to finish it. It’s okay to say you’d rather not play.” It’s also perfectly acceptable, given the fact that she does not communicate, to choose family activities that you are going to do without her. Just make it clear to her that she’s not included.

I will say, given that you’re at month 7 during the holidays, that you can expect it will go downhill afterwards. In my experience, once they get the separation packet at month 8, it can be hard to motivate yourself to keep up the attempts at interaction – which can be necessary to keep the au pair motivated. Do want until the packet arrives to make it clear that you have decided not to extend with her – in the event that she is counting on a second year with you. If you decide not to go into rematch, then limp along until the end of her year and look forward to her successor! (Be careful – interviewing for an extrovert can lead to a wild swing in the opposite direction – that has happened to me!)

catherine December 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

A few more things– she has acted like we are asking more of her in terms of communication than her family at home who “let her do whatever she wanted” but we have learned this is a lie and that her step father was actually very controlling of her.
We have wondered if this is why things have been so difficult as she sees us as authority figures and her step father is very controlling so she is nervous/ not used to more relaxed situation.
We have tried very hard to communicate more– taken her shopping, taken her on nice family outings.. etc ..
Any ideas would be appreciated..

Catherine December 13, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Yes we have had multiple conversations about it
She seemed to think we didn’t like her.. not sure why.. as from our perspective the main difficulty has and continues to be her lack of communication. I.e. If we say something she doesn’t understand she doesn’t let us know we just eventually figure
It out..
we have had many people live with us
Including a previous AP, several homeless families, and a sister in law (not concurrently) just to communicate we feel pretty good about our ability to make things work with a variety of people..
any suggestions
About how to deal with a stubbornly quiet AP would be appreciated..

Taking a Computer Lunch December 13, 2016 at 11:29 pm

We housed a foreign exchange student like that last summer. She rarely left her room, except to eat dinner with us. She was from China, and after a month of coming up with journalistic questions to ask her each evening at dinner to engage her in conversation, I gave up. It was too much work! She did voluntarily share some of her interests with us, but by the end of 11 weeks, we happily said farewell and best of luck to her. No one has made any attempts to communicate with her – there just wasn’t any bond.

Anna December 14, 2016 at 9:03 am

I think it may be more than just quiet. I have a friend whose au pair (as it turned out) was withdrawn with them, but really she was of the opinion that they disliked her, that they disliked her mother (when her mother visited she even told her not to come back to the host family’s home for her last weekend because they are bad and mean, even though the host family loved the mother and was looking forward to it).
this was some psychological handicap of “everyone is after me”, “everyone is wrong and I am right”, she persisted in things she made up about the family that everyone else told her were not even possible. She was ok with friends, but it seems she had a determination to not go out of her comfort zone in trusting people and including people – her friends were from her home country. The most difficult thing for my friend was that as much as they tried to show the au pair their goodwill and inclusion, the au pair always found an excuse why the family was still hostile to her and noninclusive – if they invited her she would think “they are pretending, they don’t really want me there”. Basically she made up her mind, she made up the story in her mind about how the family was, and nothing they did or nothing they or other said, or no evidence to the contrary, could change her attitude. They ended up rematching despite the au pair’s stellar skills with kids. The poisonous and passive-aggressive atmosphere the au pair created in the home every time she imagined she was slighted (which was all the time, her imagination was really something), was too much to bear for the family. Interestingly, it was not too much to bear for the au pair – she wanted to stay.

Midwest Mama December 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Sorry to hear you are having the same issue. It’s so hard! I haven’t seen much improvement at all and have just given up trying. I also was not looking forward to Christmas with her around and sure enough, she never left the house and was always hanging around. I think her friends have even ditched her as she hasn’t gone out one time in the last month or so. I’ll probably have a super extroverted au pair next time…and I have had one in the past and definitely had issue due to that personality as well! Sorry, no advice for you, just know how you feel!

DNA December 19, 2016 at 1:37 pm

I am in a similar situation. Our au pair has been here over two months and I can’t really find any reason to rematch. However, I’m not sure she likes us and is happy here. She doesn’t talk much. While I really want to like her, it’s hard to establish any type of bond. If she leaves our family, I don’t see us keeping in touch at all. That’s not exactly the experience we were looking for. We are not looking for a roommate childcare provider, but rather someone that loves and wants to be with our kids. She says she is happy, but her actions speak differently. I have never seen her hug or kiss my kids. I’ve never seen her take a selfie with them. When one of the kids needs something, I’ve often heard her sigh. As if she doesn’t want to be bothered. She does housework related stuff great and has no attitude about anything I ask her to do. She does interact with the kids, but 2 of my kids are pretty much indifferent about her. There just doesn’t seem to be anything loving about her. Any time there is a more difficult situation, she physically and emotionally backs away. Its very frustrating. I understand that sometimes she doesn’t know how to handle something. But this repeated behavior makes us view the situation as if she doesn’t give a crap about our kids. Like they are a chore. One example, my daughter got hurt this morning while AP was supposed to be getting her dressed. AP carried her out of her room and I got her as she told me that my daughter had fallen off the bed. My daughter’s face was bloody and she needed ice. AP just walked away and did laundry. No concern! No questions about if she’s ok or not. I’m sorry, but if I see a stranger’s kid get hurt, I feel empathy and concern. Am I overreacting or expecting too much? I really don’t want to rematch, but my ultimate responsibility is to my kids. I want to make sure they feel loved by their au pair.

Susannah December 28, 2016 at 7:17 pm

Have you talked to her/debriefed with her about those situations? Although I agree that this is not acceptable behavior, to give her extreme benefit of the doubt she may be deferring to you in some way as to make sure that she’s not interfering with the way things want to be handled? Maybe try asking her what she would have done if she wasn’t there? Two months is long enough for an emotional bond, and I think after a certain point you ahve to go with your gut

DNA January 7, 2017 at 6:32 pm

We went into rematch and have already matched with a new au pair who will be joining our family next month. She is warm and continuously smiling. We got to meet her since she is extending for a second year and switching families.

Ultimately, it came down to us just not feeling bonded with our current au pair and feeling awkward around the dinner table, etc. Feeling like our au pair doesn’t love our kids. I don’t think it’s my job to be a life coach to an au pair. I am not looking to have to sit there and coach my au pair on having dinner conversation with us or showing empathy when someone is hurt or giving our kids hugs when they’re upset. While in my heart, I would love to do this for AP, the reality is that it’s too much to take on for me in my life right now, and I also would be trying to change her personality which isn’t really appropriate. This was such a heart breaking decision for me to make, but we’ve had several instances to validate our choice. We had another issue with a child getting hurt, screaming like a tortured soul from pain while AP was eating breakfast in the same area on her day off. I was in my daughter’s room getting her dressed. Once again, AP did nothing and went to her room while my oldest was hysterical with broken bloody fingers in my arms and my youngest was pulling on my legs throwing a girly tantrum. I understand that it was her day off, but all my children’s caretakers since they’ve been born have loved my kids like crazy. To me, it’s completely unacceptable to walk away while a child is screaming in pain. It was just one of several situations that made me even more comfortable with our decision to rematch. I can deal with a quiet au pair, but I can’t deal with an AP that doesn’t love my kids and show it.

WarmStateMomma January 8, 2017 at 4:15 pm

Wow. Anyone who could ignore a child screaming from the pain of bloody, broken fingers because it was her day off just isn’t quite “right.” A stranger passing you on the sidewalk would stop to help – it’s just not normal to ignore that regardless of whether you know or love the child.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 8, 2017 at 10:22 pm

I agree with WSM – any au pair who ignores the blood-curdling screams of an injured child and doesn’t offer to pitch in is heartless (or already burned out and working as an au pair for all the wrong reasons).

Long time host mom January 14, 2017 at 10:26 pm

I had an Au pair who was almost exactly like this. She was from Germany and spoke excellent English, so language skills were not the issue. I think she liked being around people but didn’t want to do any of the emotional labor involved with the relationship. I’m an introvert myself and didn’t really mind her being quiet. But when she (age 19) approached me after only 3-4 weeks in tears because the kids (7-year old twins) didn’t interact with her, I was stunned. I told her to give it some time. Also, in that short period, we invited her on a camping trip (it was a Cub Scout family trip and I didn’t think she’d be interested) and she came but didn’t initiate a single interaction. All of the conversations needed to be initiated and carried by another adult with her, and it was like interviewing someone. It was exhausting. So I gave her some ideas on how to get the kids involved with her, and everything seemed fine.

But at the six week point, she said she wanted to rematch. She said she didn’t feel bonded to my kids. Now, my kids are really nice, especially my daughter, so this really stung. But we didn’t fight it, and we just went about finding another AP in rematch. During this period, I paid closer attention to the one leaving, and I saw her sitting on the couch staring at my kids while they played. She just seemed so painfully awkward.

My advice to this LW is to rematch. Your AP is unlikely to change, and it is your children who have to deal with her poor social skills in the meantime. It is not fair to them, and they are your top priority.

The one we rematched with is highly extroverted, so that presents its own set of headaches for another post. But this one seems happy, talks to all of us, and has a kind disposition.

I’ve rematched twice and not regretted it, though the situation was an unwelcome hassle at the time. A year is too long to put up with this kind of nonsense.

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