My au pair’s vacation is coming up. To cover for her, we’re having both sets of grandparents come stay over. They’ll be here for a month, but will overlap for a little over a week. The overlap will occur while the AP is on vacation.
We have a smallish house – 3 bedrooms. Our “guest bed” is a futon on the living room. So when the two sets of grandparents overlap, one set of grandparents will have to sleep on the au pair’s bed, because the other set will be sleeping on the futon..
We told the au pair this several months ago, and she was fine with it. We’ve had the conversation many times, so I know she’s heard me. However, as her vacation gets closer, she is seeming less and less likely to actually buy plane tickets or go anywhere.
What are our options?
Am I obligated to get a hotel room for one of our parents or for her? She was hinting about how expensive hotel rooms are. Last Christmas I gave her a travel book to a place she said she wanted to visit, and I told her that book was chock full of inexpensive hostels, etc.
I think she might be vying for me to pay for her hotel on her vacation, since we need her room.
[cv note: Keep in mind, the only reason that the grandparents are there in an overlapping situation was to make it possible for the family to have childcare during the au pair’s vacation. In effect, the grandparents are making it possible for the au pair to have the vacation time when the au pair wanted it.]
What’s reasonable here?
However, she is not a great au pair and hasn’t really “earned” this much generosity. I know it’s her room and I can’t kick her out. I just think that it is a reasonable request to use her room while she was supposed to be ‘gone’ . These plans were made months ago. We went round and round for months with her changing her mind about when she wanted to go on vacation. Finally we gave her a deadline to decide, because the grandparents had to be able to plan when they were coming.
I think that, now, she’s just playing me. What are my obligations here?
At this point we’d rematch but we can’t do it in a way that would give her a fair chance at finding another family, and we only have 4 months left with her, so we’re sticking it out. She is a total homebody and is just now starting to make friends, but still rarely goes anywhere. She spends most of the time in her room watching TV or surfing the web and has seemingly no interest in seeing anything of the country she came to.
What do you and readers think I should/can do about this?
Thanks, New AP Mom
Some advice and a poll! Click here….
New AP Mom–
As I read this situation, I think that you have the causality wrong. Yes, you need her room. But, you only need her room b/c you wanted to make her vacation possible. To make her vacation possible, you needed to have grandparents come and stay.
The way I see it:
- Her change in plans (i.e., not taking vacation) is what is causing the problem.
- You made many plans in advance to accommodate her.
- Her lack of planning does not constitute an emergency that you have to fix.
- You are not responsible for housing her while she is on vacation.
Other things to keep in mind:
It’s not only the bedroom situation that’s a problem, but the bedroom itself…. She can’t expect to have the use of her room really at all, if the grandparents need a place for their luggage, a place to change, etc. etc.
What the heck is your AP going to do in a little house, with no work to keep her occupied, and the house stuffed with 6 other adults and (is it two?) kids?
- Have the au pair sleep in a kid’s bed, and have the kid(s) sleep on the floor in the parents’ room.
- Have the au pair sleep on an aerobed thingy in the kids play area (if you have one).
- Ask the AP to go take her vacation, or to sleep elsewhere (e.g., at a friend’s) for the 6 or so days of the overlap.
- Make a reservation in her name at a youth hostel in a city near you, one that can be reached by bus for less than $100 round trip. Only make the reservation– don’t pay for it. (Only do this if you can easily cancel the reservations.) Announce to her that you did this to help her out, and that the rest is up to her.
- Suggest that she find an au pair friend and do a swap– one week visiting her, one week visiting at your house.
Do Not pay for her to stay in a hotel.
Imho, this would just be teaching her that she can take advantage of other people in general and of you in particular. If it ends up that anyone stays in a hotel, it should be you or a grandparent…. but I think that this is a super-last resort.
The second to last resort? You and DPartner sleep on an aerobed in the kids’ room, whilst your parent stays in your room.
Keep an eye on the endgame
Since you are drawing to the close of a not great relationship, you are unlikely to get anything good out of being overly generous to your au pair. THere is pretty much nothing you can do to resolve this in a way that makes your au pair “happy” other than to pay for her hotel. But don’t do that! Instead, recognize that you’re going to need to have another direct and totally candid conversation with her, outlining her options of (1) going away for a week and paying for her vacation herself, (2) staying in a hotel nearby on a “staycation” for a week, paying for it by herself, or (3) finding herself another place to be during the two grandparents’ overlap.
Do you notice how the word “herself” crops up in all three suggestions?
Unless your au pair steps up and responds well to the request (okay, direction) that she take responsibility for her own vacation and her own choices, no other option will strengthen your host family-au pair relationship. So, in this kind of situation, your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) is to not let yourself get played.
Let’s take a poll on this one, and then have everyone chime in with their advice…