New Year Review: Reset Au Pair Expectations for 2012

by cv harquail on January 7, 2012

There are several times each year, and several times in each AuPair year, when it makes sense to reset your expectations with your au pair.

The start and end of school, the start and end of summer, when there is a big change in your family’s routine (like the end of maternity leave), or when there is a significant event in your family or community (broken leg, car accident) are all good times to sit down with your au pair and talk about what you need from him or her.

Towls calendar.jpghe neat thing about the New Year (as well as so many of those other markers) is that it “makes sense” to have this kind of reset conversation. The air is rife with talk of resolutions and changes, and you can sneak in a few adjustments to your family rules or a few clarified expectations under the guise of “starting off fresh in the new year.”

What’s a Reset Conversation?

A reset conversation is like a focused, more in-depth family/au pair meeting, where the point is not to discuss the past week or the upcoming week, but to discuss the ‘big picture’. You might need to go over a certain set of rules (like car rules) that need to be followed more closely, or ask your au pair to do something new (cook the kids’ suppers as well as make lunches).

Suggestions for a Reset Conversation:

  • Keep the conversation focused. You might not be able to make in through your entire au pair handbook (and let’s hope you don’t think you have to!). And, you many not make it all the way down your list of the crazy annoyances that you wish would disappear. So, pick the 3, 4 or 5 that matter the most.
  • Frame the conversation about learning and growing, not about ‘fixing’. Remember that your au pair, and you kid(s) have continued to grow and change over the year. Frame the change requests that you make as outcomes of this growth. For example, ‘now that Toddler2 is having playdates, let’s go over the handbook section on playdates so that you know what to expect and how to organize them.”
  • Add more ‘positive’ changes than requests for corrections. We hope that our au pairs have gotten more confident and more competent, and it might be time for you to relax a few rules and to offer an additional privilege. For example, if your au pair has become a great driver, you might let her/him have a larger driving radius, so that s/he can go to the fancy mall 15 miles away instead of the crummy one that’s just down the road.
  • Before you ask your au pair to reset, reflect on your own expectations. You might need to refresh your assessment of your au pair’s skills, attitudes and interests, to incorporate the ways s/he has grown and changed. Sometimes without a reminder to update, we keep on thinking our au pair can’t find her ay around, can’t use a map, doesn’t really understand English, etc. Make room in your beliefs about him or her for some of that growth.

Are you planning to have a Reset Conversation withy our au pair? What will you focus on? Please share your thoughts, below.

See these posts:

Take Advantage of Your Summer Re-Sets: Revise expectations
After the Honeymoon: Seasons of the Au Pair year

4 Ways to Reduce “Seasonal Schedule Shift Syndrome”

Au Pair Asks: How can I gently decline my Host Mom’s advice?

Image: Owls 2012 Calendar by SusanBlackDesign, available on Etsy


JM Host Mom January 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm

It’s so funny that I read this post today!
I was just logging on to look for advice on this very topic. We love our au pair, but we do have some areas that we’ve been trying to help her improve on over the last two or so months. I keep careful track of what we discuss in our weekly meetings, and these three areas are the ones we constantly discuss. They are not improving, so I was just getting ready to post asking for advice that might help us in our re-set conversation!!! Here’s what we’re focusing on:

1. Food. This came as a surprise to us. Our previous au pair ate like a bird and bought most of her own food (without us asking). This au pair is eating us out of house and home!!!!! We’re actually beginning to panic a little because it is absolutely not financially sustainable at this point. We’ve discussed this with her (trying to be as nice as we can and not offend her), and with our incredible LCC’s help, we worked out a deal about what we would buy vs. what she would buy. Problem is, she’s not eating HER food. She is continuing to eat all of ours, including what we buy for our son. She eats more than me, HD, and our son combined. We really love her, but man can she eat!!! What do we do next?

2. The “checklist.” We gave her a checklist of chores that pertain to care for our son and her spaces for her to do while our son is napping each day. We have been specific in our expectations of how everything should be done, showed her several times, etc. But she is not doing everything on the checklist, even when we ride her about it. But we know for certain that she is watching tv, chatting on Skype/facebook, and talking on the phone, which we were very specific should only happen after the checklist is complete. We’re trying not to be ugly, and don’t want to constantly ride her about everything. Any suggestions for a new approach?

3. The dog. She hates our dog. Our dog hates her. Our dog is a sweet little dog who is very active and exciting. Granted, she’s not the easiest dog in the world IF you let her run wild and don’t correct her. But we’ve tried to be compassionate and have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on an in-home trainer since our au pair arrived to try to help. The poor dog gets so upset and anxious that she barks constantly at the au pair. The au pair is not doing the things the trainer taught her. The au pair complains about the dog, and locks her in her crate for long periods of time because it’s the easiest thing to do. We keep asking her, “are you doing what the trainer taught us?” and she says, “well, no…” We tell her to do what the trainer taught us (it’s not like it’s that hard) and NOT to lock her in the crate (which just exacerbates the dog’s anxiety and makes it worse). But nothing changes. We keep coming home and finding the dog locked in the crate. The au pair says “oh she’s only been in for a quick ten minute time out,” but we’re pretty sure she’s been in there a LONG time because we can tell by the dog’s behavior (she’s our dog, we know what she’s like). Any suggestions?

That’s our focus for our re-set conversation. We’re looking to have it sometime in the next few days and are slowly gearing up. We don’t want it to come to conflict or to have to be harsh or start taking away privileges, but as CV said in the post, these are our 3 things that matter the most. While this is our second au pair, we still feel really new to this game. Any help and suggestions would be appreciated.

Dorsi January 7, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I would encourage you to re-read what you wrote very carefully. It sounds like your AP is not doing her job and making life more difficult at your house. I know this blog sometimes reads like every problem should be answered with rematch, but there are serious issues that you present — and I am skeptical that they can be remedied with a big reset conversation if you are the type of person that has weekly check-in meetings and keeps track of what is discussed. (If these things had been handled sloppily in the past, maybe a stern talk would turn things around, but it sounds like you have been quite clear through the process).

I really should have initiated rematch with my second AP. She was an adequate housemate and tended to children’s chores well, but really had no interest in childcare. I knew enough about the system to be terrified of rematch, so put it off because “things will get better”, “things aren’t that bad” “things could get worse” and finally “she’ll be going home soon”.

Good luck to you!

AFHostMom January 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I have to agree with Dorsi. I know each family and each AP is different but, to be frank (and I don’t mean to sound snarky), I’m not sure how you could love an AP that presents so many problems that, in my opinion, are very fundamental. She’s online and skypeing before having her work done? You have to constantly nag in order for her to do checklist items, that stay the same every day and are clearly outlined? She locks your anxious dog in its crate for what you think may be hours at a time, and she “hates” her? Your grocery bill is unsustainable? And these are just the BIG problems?
I have to say, she sounds a lot like our first AP, with whom we tried and tried but ultimately rematched. It’s great that you’re concerned about approaching her without hurting her, but it sounds like that concern may be coming at the expense of your own comfort in your home. I could be way off, but that is what I took from your comment.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 2:33 am

I agree with Dorsi as well. If you read what you wrote as though it came from one of us, your response would be to rematch. I think we would hear how the AP sounds like she is in this for herself, likely prefers to think you are intruding on her life with her performing the job she was hired to do, and the dog thing is a HUGE red flag.

If she is treating the dog like this and is being intentionally disrespectful of your family in this way, just how is she treating the kids? Is she trying to phone this in? And are you really okay with someone who would rather phone it in (or not be anywhere near the scene)?

Rematch, and that stress will be gone in 2 weeks (with her bags packed, too).

Taking a Computer Lunch January 8, 2012 at 10:25 am

If you decide the relationship is worth continuing (perhaps because your son adores her)…I agree that you have some fundamental problems.

In my opinion, the food you should let go. Young women eat – and if they work out, they eat more. End of story. Don’t buy special food just for her if she doesn’t eat it. Look for bargains and clip coupons. Buy cheaper versions of the food you like.

The dog is yours, not the APs. If you or DH can’t come home for lunch to walk the dog, then how about hiring a dog walker at lunch? Perhaps a neighborhood high school student would be willing to walk the dog every day after school for a couple of bucks.

The chores are another story. Make it clear to her that you expect the chores to be done and that you are considering rematch if you have to keep asking for them to be done.

Julie January 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I think the most important thing is to SPELL OUT what you mean exactly. My sister is a PD with my organization and she’s great with explanations. She told me, don’t say “I would prefer you don’t text me at work.” (and if AP continues,) you say “Don’t text me at work unless it’s an emergency. By emergency, I mean one of the children is bleeding profusely and you need me to meet you at the hospital.” I think you tell her under no circumstances does she put the dog in the crate, unless… (be extremely specific about the unless.)

You tell her under no circumstances is she allowed to skype while on duty. Period. Don’t give her any room on that. She should not be on the computer while on duty. Period. If she needs to text a couple times during the day (and only while the child is safe, ie not in car, not while walking down street, etc), that is fine, but it should be a message of “I’d love to go out tonight. Will call you when done working at 6.” No skype, no computer–or she’s out. No wiggle room on this if it’s already been a problem. Families need to start strict and if the relationship is good, they can let go a little. The other way around is too problematic!

You tell her this is the way things will be moving forward. I would also contact your coordinator and make her aware of the situation and how you’ve remedied it by asking au pair to change certain actions. If behavior doesn’t change immediately, you bring the coordinator over to do official mediation. (I’m a Host Mom and an LCC by the way). Remember, the au pair was hired to make your life easier, not the other way around.

I would also drop the food issue other than this–if there are foods that are just for your son, designate a shelf/area in the fridge and say this is just for him. I wouldn’t do any us/her foods. It’s all for everyone except what’s in that area. Buy some cheaper foods that are filling for around the house. Good luck!

Dorsi January 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Our new AP comes at the end of Jan (#4!). I always joke that I don’t have New Year’s resolutions, I have new AP resolutions. It is always easier for me to believe that we can keep the house cleaner, the food healthier, the kids more active, etc. when I know I need to set a good example for the new AP.

My biggest plan for the new year: really communicating how I want my children to be eating. A recent 15 minute battle over apple slices (AP wanted child to eat them, child didn’t want them) has made me feel like I need to be more explicit in our communication. (The general philosophy: we supply healthy food, child eats what they want. We don’t go get cookies at the local bakery later contingent based on whether lunch was eaten.) I think I will set menus up for the first few weeks of new AP time — to be really clear about how I want this handled.

AFHostMom January 7, 2012 at 9:01 pm

I really have to give a lot of thought to how we handle things with our new AP–who also arrives in a few weeks. I’m kind of panicked because we pretty much did a horrible job setting expectations with AP1, who was already a bad fit for our family. AP2 came from rematch and slid into the family pretty effortlessly, so I never had to really think about what to do. There have been minor problems but nothing that was ever even worth addressing.
I think we’ll have one day of overlap between current AP and AP3–so they can communicate in their native language about our expectations, and how things work in the house (like the washer, dryer, over, etc). I am usually firmly in the no-overlap camp, but AP3’s English is very weak and I believe she will be be more comfortable with current AP still around.
I’m exhausted. I’ve been away so much for work recently, and between that and mothering 3 small children and preparing for 2 huge trials in February and March, I’m stretched super thin right now. I hope I have the emotional energy to welcome AP3 but at the same time I hope she doesn’t suck all the emotional energy out of me :)

NewHM January 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

New Year for us means interviewing new APs. To be honest I am not looking forward to it. I am running in my head tricky questions to ask to weed out fake APs. Our first and last one who last only 4 months sure knew how to sell herself on Skype and managed to hide her real self for 3 months. How do I avoid matching with that again? There must be some kind of personality test I can give the candidates to find the perfect one for us. Their applications look basically the same just different pictures. This blog definitely gives me many ideas but also reminds that rematches are sometimes inevitable part of the program.

Julie January 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm

NewHM: what agency are you with? If you are with CC, the application has a personality test included in it that host families don’t always read (as it’s a link in the application). I would definitely read it. In terms of Skyping, I look to see if the au pair is interacting with my children. I get the whole family in front of the au pair, let the kids roam, dance, climb on us–whatever will show them our real family–and I look to see if they are talking with the kids over skype. Are they asking them questions? Are they showing the kids things? We had one au pair that didn’t work and three that have and that was the only thing I could see that made the difference when interviewing: how engaged they were with the kids on skype. And I skype 2-3 times before deciding.

I also asked every question I wanted to–no holding out because you don’t want to offend them or deal with language issues. I ask what scares them about coming over, who is their ideal family, what they like to do on the weekends, what they want to do on the weekends here, what they like to eat (to see if they are adventurous), a time when they had to make a tough decision, what does their family think about them coming over here a year (you need their support!), etc.

Lastly, I want to make sure they ask us a lot of questions. Every time I talk with them, I’ll keep checking to see if they have any questions and I’ll end the conversation that way too. I want to see that they are curious about us and trying to gauge if we are a good fit, both our family and the activities we do/way we live. I don’t want them to just accept anyone. Drop me a note if you have other questions!

NewHM January 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm

We are with Interexchange. Thanks for the ideas. I like your point about making sure they ask questions to show they are interested in getting to know us.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 2:41 am

I actually use the types of questions they ask as a great way of guaging their thought processes and what they find important. Our essay is probably overly detailed (about the area where we live, our family, our work, the AP’s work, etc), so if the first questions we get are “what do I get” and “do i have to work weekends” (after a whole separate essay on our work schedules and the every other weekend thing), I know she is not the AP for us.

Read between the lines with the quesions that the AP applicants ask.

Should be working January 9, 2012 at 1:57 am

Let me also put in another plug for that personality test with CC. It is a fabulous tool. The version CC uses is (to save money, I presume) fairly truncated in what you get for results. I took the test myself ($29 online) and learned a LOT about myself and about the test too. Now I know how to ‘interpret’ those brief results in the CC report according to the DiSC rubric. Hugely useful. BTW high steadiness is the trait most sought by me–that means patience and loyalty to the group.

Posie January 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I want to echo the “no holding back” when it comes to questions. There’s a family in our cluster who is on their 13 or 14th au pair and never rematched! The LCC credits this to the very honest (brutal?) interview technique and questions. We’ve only had one AP so far and I think we lucked out because she’s awesome despite the fact that we didn’t ask a ton of hard questions, but we’re interviewing now and I am TOTALLY being brutally honest. I actually came up with a list of things that were unacceptable and would result in rematch (either immediately or “one chance” to fix the issue). I send this to them on our 3rd email exchange.

I actually had been exchanging emails with a potential AP from Brazil and I told her that I wanted to be sure she didn’t have expectations to come to the USA to party. Although I’ve seen the bottom of many a wine bottle, I know how hard it is to care for kids when you’re hungover and I just don’t want to deal with the drama. So I said that I was fine with an occasional night out with friends, even one that got a little “wild” but if she was expecting to come here and go out and party every weekend, that we were not the right family for her. I haven’t heard back :)

(for the record, I’m really not a stick in the mud, but our current au pair has had about 2 late night/wild party nights in the 9 months she’s been with us and I found them stressful worrying about her…and she is SUPER responsible, smart, and level-headed. Don’t think my stress levels could take a girl who is out all night every weekend!!!)

JMHostMom January 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I appreciate the suggestions! Just to clarify a couple things…

Where the dog is concerned, we know the dog is our responsibility. That’s why we spent so much $ on the trainer, to try to help our AP get along with her. She doesn’t have any responsibilities with respect to the dog except to let her outside when she rings her bell (the dog is actually quite well trained). The AP knows it’s not acceptable to crate her for hours on end, but is making no effort to get along with her.

As to the food, we’ve been working on this issue for a while. I don’t want to be ugly or overly critical of her eating habits, but this is more of a problem than I think I articulated to begin with. Our grocery bill has tripled, our eating out bills doubled. We can’t just accept it and keep going, because along with some other AP related expenses that we weren’t expecting (not necessary to articulate here because there’s nothing we can do), this expense will drive us out of the program (or at least into rematch) if it doesn’t change. I don’t want to have to say, “hey quit eatig so much or we’ll have to rematch,” but that’s where we’re headed unless we come up with another solution. I understand we have to provide food, I’m not trying to get out of that. But if this were my son eating like this, I would most certainly put a stop to it before it puts us in the poor house. Nowhere in any AP literature does it say we’re expected to fulfill every gastronomic desire of our AP and her constant snacking habits to the point that it breaks us. With our LCC’s help, we asked her to buy some (SOME, not all) of her own foods- the things we felt were over and above what we would naturally buy for ourselves or our family. She did indeed buy some foods. But as I mentioned, she’s not actually eating them. She’s eating ours because she knows we’ll buy more. But at the rate we’re going, we won’t be buying more. We’ll be rematching.

We have been working closely with our LCC. She’s fantastic. She actually recommended that I post here and look for suggestions. I think even she is running out of ideas. So all you host moms and LCC’s, please help! Y’all have been so helpful with advice, I’m praying someone may have an idea that we haven’t thought of yet!!!

hOstCDmom January 8, 2012 at 10:38 pm

We had an AP like that – food can be a much bigger issue than one can imagine! This AP was a HUGE meat eater, and we are not (only poultry, completely disclosed on application. not religious reasons, so we told her she could eat/store/cook other meats in our home, but we don’t buy them and we don’t prepare them. We eat veggie-ish with poultry approx 3x/week.) This AP said fine….and then it wasn’t fine with her. She also thought I would cook a hot breakfast every morning (because her mom did!) AND that I would cook a mid-day meal every day (bc she came from a small town in Europe and that was what she was used to, and I know her town/lived for years in her country, and speak her language fluently so I actually explained when matching the differences in eating habits, how our main/hot meal is not in the middle of the day, what the kids typically eat, I don’t cook heavy meals, we eat mostly raw vegetables, light meals, easy prep cooking. Healthy, but not gourmet. At the time I had six children under the age of 8 years…and worked part time. Cooking was NOT a priority for me, and there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell that I was cooking a hot breakfast every morning!! (I worked 4am-10am every day, from home, with a break to give my kids their breakfast and hand them over to the au pair at 8.00am).

She said yes, yes, yes….didn’t matter, she ate everything etc….but it *did* matter. When she got here she wanted what she was used to. We also made the “mistake” the first weeks of asking her what foods she would like to add to the weekly grocery list….and she made a list as long as our usual weekly list and that would have cost 50% more than what I normally pay for groceries. Now, for a household of 8 people (9 including AP) I was already spending $400-$500/week on groceries!! we had TONS of food in our house – our pantry was an entire 6’x6′ room off the kitchen! freezers, 2 fridges etc. If the famine came our family could have lived for a month on the food that was in our house. Yet this AP keep telling me she had no food…and telling our LCC that she had no food!! and that we weren’t feeding her!! The wise LCC (unbeknownst to me) asked her to keep a food diary/meal diary for a week about what she ate/what she ate at meals she joined us at/what WE/KIDS ate even if she didn’t join… suffice to say the LCC laughed when she read the diary alongside the complaint of “I have nothing to eat”….she told the AP that she was lucky to live with us and to have such healthy meals and plentiful snacks, sodas available, treats etc.

But, we still ended up rematching. Over meals. and Meat. That was our APs stated reason on her rematch form: reason for rematch – “not enough meat”.

My advice to you is to buy what you normally buy, but ~1/4 to 1/3 more (adjusting the amount depending on the ages of your children and whether their consumption is a significant percentage of your grocery bill, or whether diapers/formula constitute a significant portion of your “grocery” bill.) Ensure that healthy food is in the cabinet/fridge. And cereals, oatmeal, fruit, veg (or frozen veg), rice, beans, eggs, bread, soups and pasta count as food available — even if the AP isn’t inclined to want to cook or prepare foods for herself. you do not have to provide ready made snacks/processed foods/specialty foods/pre-prepared foods. Invite AP to join you at meals when she is on duty (and off, if that is your family style) and make available healthy (large, adult) size portions for her. And if she wants snacks, or treats, or chips, or chocolates, or fresh orange juice, or specialty yogurts, or baked goods….she can buy such treats for herself. You only need to provide solid, healthy, varied food stables for a standard diet (think college dorm or boarding school meals).

Yes, your grocery bill will go up with another adult in the house, and a young woman may well eat more than you and/or your husband; and you may really notice it if you are a family of 3-4 people, who were used to buying food for 2 adults and 1-2 babies/small children and now you have another hungry adult to feed (my household with 6 kids, 2 of whom are teens, 2 preteens and 2 younger + DH + AP + me is already so beyond the pale I’m not sure I really notice the addition of a “normal” AP, but can see how a smaller family would) — but, your grocery bill need not triple and you don’t have to buy/provide what your AP wants — you need to provide room and board, such board being broadly defined by what your family generally eats.

And if that doesn’t work for the AP….rematch. My experience in this regard (nothing solved the food issues!) won’t be heartening to you, but I think a re-set on the grocery front is possible, and need not end in rematch…although odds are good that it will.

Just my $0.02.

momto2 January 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

We had an AP like this, and she definitely left a huge dent in the pocket book! She ate all the time, and definitely more than any AP we’ve ever hosted. She ate more than our family of 4 put together (no lie!). I remember the first time I made Belgian Waffles for breakfast right after she arrived. She put away 4 full size waffles! It was unbelieveable, and a little nauseating to watch. We didn’t want to have food issues with her, but she cleared out our pantry and fridge every couple of days and the cost was starting to add up. She wasn’t overweight, but she was tall and large built, and she exercised a lot. We are not the type of family to label food as “off limits,” but she would cook up steaks which were intended for family dinner, and she would eat them for lunch, leaving us in a lurch at dinnertime. We did a couple of things to try to mitigate this: 1) We joined Costco and started buying things in bulk so that she wasn’t going through things so fast. This did result in some savings, since boxes of oatmeal and pasta and econo packs of tuna were much cheaper in bulk, and 2) When it came to more specialized meal items, (ie., steaks, pork chops, etc.,), as much as it was a pain in the butt, we stopped off at the store on the way home to pick these items up on the day we were planning to eat them, so that they would not be consumed during the day by our AP.

We have always made sure we had plenty of healthy food options available for our AP’s to eat during the day, but we don’t operate on the type of budget that allows us to feed them steaks for lunch every day, and then again for dinner.

Anna January 8, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Skyping during work and lying about the dog for me would be deal-breakers. Lying is something that breaks my trust, and I have rematched twice for that. If you are ready for rematch, you can install a nannycam and confront her when she lies about crating the dog for only 10 minutes.

Regarding food, you mentioned that she snacks all the time – I assume she is munching on snack foods, like chips, cookies, popcorn…. I would just stop buying snack foods for my household. They are not nutritionally essential (i.e. you can do without them), and if she can’t, she will have to buy hers. If you need to put some in your child’s lunches, maybe you can temporarily switch to letting your child buy lunch at school…

JJ Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 1:08 am

Agreed. Or if you want to buy junk food, hide it. It’s hard to believe she eats that much food; any chance she has an eating disorder?

Should be working January 9, 2012 at 2:01 am

My thought exactly. Is she bulimic? Is she gaining weight? If she truly eats 3 times what a normal adult eats, over several months, and is not extremely active, I would imagine she will be gaining weight. I would be looking for signs of bulimia.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 9, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Another likely option is that she is hosting her friends and their HK for lunch. We had one AP who did that, and I didn’t mind as she mostly cooked beans, rice and eggs. If she cooked meat she bought it, as at that point I was making all the dinners and I don’t cook meat (except to microwave a hotdog for a child).

It may be worth a surprise visit home in the middle of the day. I did that when things weren’t going well – it’s amazing what you will learn.

NoVA Host Mom January 9, 2012 at 2:50 am

We will be having a New Year’s discussion, but since we just got AP4 two weeks before Christmas (not much of a normal schedule then) and my work schedule is about to change somewhat drastically tomorrow, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to restart things the way they would have if she had come to us at a more stable contract time (for us, like February or April or October – I know, we are “special” ;) ).

I actually have been feeling badly for her because she came during such a chaotic time period for our household that it was only tonight I realized she did not know how to use the DVR player for her tv, and I had been recording a favorite show for her since she first arrived.

So this post could not have been more timely! Thanks!

PA host mom January 11, 2012 at 8:38 am

I’m currently beginning to plan for my next AP and wanted to ask how you explain to AP’s about planning playdates (“now that Toddler2 is having playdates, let’s go over the handbook section on playdates so that you know what to expect and how to organize them.”)? After 4 AP’s I still haven’t been successful in getting them to successfully plan playdates for my children and want that to be a priority next year when child 1 will be in kindergarten all day and child 2 will be home with AP and the baby 2 days a week (only be in pre-school 3 mornings). Although I’ve gone over this in the past, unless the AP has made friends with other AP’s who have small children they don’t plan any playdates. When I’ve tried to urge them to do so I get the response that they can’t as the other children don’t have AP’s and they can’t ask the mothers, I have to. Needless to say, I’m a full-time working mom and don’t always have the time to plan playdates for the kids and AP during the week. How can I help our next AP be successful with this and find a self-starter who won’t ask me on a weekly basis to plan all activities for her and the children (and if I remind her that is part of her job and don’t plan activities, everyone stays home and plays in the house).

Taking a Computer Lunch January 11, 2012 at 10:40 am

I would encourage her to form friendships with other APs who have small children. We actively encouraged our early APs to have friends over, and in fact one AP formed a group who went from house to house, cooking each other and the HK lunch. The kids learned to eat a wide variety of foods as a result. From the time my son was 2-4, most of the kids at his birthday parties were HK of other APs, as well as the APs. I got to know other HP as well in those years.

Our area has a lot of Mommy & Me classes, and once my special needs child went to full-time preschool, I sent my AP and typically developing child to several of those – art, music, sports. She enjoyed the outing and had a chance to meet and talk to moms, nannies & other APs attending the class. She also took that child to story time at a nearby Barnes & Noble where she met other AP friends. If your library has a story time, book that into your AP’s calendar.

In my experience, APs are reluctant to organize play dates in homes where there is a stay-at-home mom. Only 1 AP in 7 has actively assisted my child, now school aged, in inviting friends to hang out (he’s outgrown play dates), although he now has some neighborhood friends who routinely come to our house.

The bottom line – plan a few activities for your AP and encourage her to form friendships with other APs caring for children of similar ages. Chances are the group will start to form their own activities, whether it be a trip to a park, a story time, or what have you.

When you get home each evening, ask several questions. How was her day? How did the kids behave? Where did they go? If they haven’t left the house, then express disappointment and ask her where she might take them tomorrow. If the kids are old enough, ask them at bedtime what they liked best about the day and what was their favorite thing they did with the AP.

MommyMia January 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I agree with TACL, it can be difficult. But it is possible, as a couple of our better APs did manage some playdates with our youngest. Once she started preschool, she had seen her older sibling have friends over/go to friends’ houses, so she wanted to do the same. By that age, moms were OK with drop off/pick up playdates, and we always tried to reciprocate to keep it fair. I don’t work outside the home, but our AP was much more social and closer in age to the other moms, so she easily made friends at dance or gymnastics, and arranged playdates. It was actually to her advantage for the drop off/pick up variety, as she got some free time during her scheduled hours – just had to provide the transportation, so there was an incentive to make them. She learned quickly which moms didn’t want to balance out the playdates, which kids were whiny or wouldn’t listen when asked to put away toys before leaving, etc. and steered toward the kids she enjoyed more and the cool moms she liked to hang out with and do stuff, which was a great relief for me, as I’ve never liked socializing with moms who have nothing in common with me while our kids played – LOL. And, one AP loved, loved, loved kids’ birthday parties, so was always happy to take her to those, even on weekends when she was off – she just wasn’t into the present shopping & wrapping, but I was happy to handle that. A couple of our APs had to learn to supervise without “directing” the playdate, and our close friends had no problem with them even supervising their kids in the swimming pool while playing at our house in the summer. You and she will figure out which friends make the best playdates, and with some guidance, should be able to swing it. Emphasize that the socialization is important for the kids, and she’ll learn more about our culture, seeing different family dynamics and other kids’ unique styles and personalities.

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