“No Room at the Inn” because AP changed her plans. Now what? (Poll)

by cv harquail on August 22, 2009

200908221436.jpgMy 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.

200908221436.jpg

[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:

  1. Her change in plans (i.e., not taking vacation) is what is causing the problem.
  2. You made many plans in advance to accommodate her.
  3. Her lack of planning does not constitute an emergency that you have to fix.
  4. You are not responsible for housing her while she is on vacation.

200908221437.jpgOther 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?

Options

  • 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 endgame200908221440.jpg

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…

What would you do?

View Results

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{ 84 comments }

Anna August 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

I don’t have good advice on the situation itself, but I disagree with your reasoning of not rematching because it will be hard for your au pair to find another family. If otherwise you want to do it – you and your kids’ needs have to come first.
I have rematched with 4 months left for the au pair, even less… but my situation was a crisis. Guess what, the au pair found another family.

HM in WI August 22, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Is your au pair only taking 10 days? By the sound of your message it seems like she may be taking longer – you said that the two sets of grandparents will be at your home for almost a month.

In regards to the options you currently have, I would definitely sit down and talk to your AP about the fact that the grandparents are only coming because she wanted to take her vacation. You had to make plans for childcare. AP needs to figure out what she is going to do during her time off. DO NOT pay for any of her hotel/travel!!!! She will only take advantage of you in the remainder of her year.

amanda August 23, 2009 at 5:38 am

defo time for a 1:1, if no joy – rematch. not AP’s job to “rule the roost”
this was all organised for her – sounds like you need her to go on vacation for your own sanity!

Marina August 23, 2009 at 7:56 am

I would not go out of my way to find a solution to please the AP. It is another example of what appears to be a spoiled young girl expecting the family to stand on their heads to accommodate her.

The family has been upfront for months about the need to bring in the grandparents and the need to have them stay in her room. She has had plenty of time to save for a hostel or to make alternate arrangements herself. The AP is not a kid but supposedly a responsible adult and now she has to act as one.

NewHM August 23, 2009 at 8:47 am

I’m a soon-to-be first time HM, starting in a few weeks, so of course i haven’t been in this sort of position like this before.

I can’t help but throw some slack to the AP in this situation. Sure, she wanted to go on vacation. She really ought to be able to change her mind – but that’s been difficult if there have been repeated conversations during the months leading up to the week she initially planned. Now she doesn’t even have a place to sleep, because her host family didn’t just get grandparent coverage for the vacation time period, host family double-booked grandparents, and allocated AP’s room to them. AP now has the threat of a rematch if she doesn’t do the right thing and get out.

I’m not saying I think you have an obligation to pay for a hotel room for anyone, but your AP is in a bind in part because of decisions you made. Obviously you needed to arrange childcare, but you didn’t need double-booking to cover it. Would it be at all possible to have only one set of grandparents come over, and ask the other set to come another time, or rearrange this slightly such that the overlap doesn’t happen? I think the au pair swap idea is a good one too.

AP is supposed to be an adult now, but how mature/assertive/worldly were all of us at 19 and 20? No one is looking out for her except her. If she’s looking for your help, i’m guessing its because she’s out of ideas. Can you help her get out of the lurch she’s in?

Darthastewart August 23, 2009 at 10:43 am

I would check with the agency on this one to see what their policy is.

IMO, she should take her vacation when she scheduled it. You’ve stood on your head making plans to accomodate her, and her request for vacation.

I’ve honestly never had an au-pair do this to me in the 11+ years we’ve had au-pairs.

Hula Gal August 23, 2009 at 11:20 am

This is a difficult situation and I think the host family made a few errors that we could all learn from. First, your au pair should have had firm plans before you scheduled your parents to come (plane ticket purchased or something), and I don’t think it was appropriate to house your parents in her room regardless of whether she said it was ok. But, getting to the ideas on what to do now. Your au pair needs to take her vacation as she committed to, end of story. If she chooses not to go anywhere than she will have to free up her room however that happens and she still needs to be charged for her vacation time. You need to sit down and have a point by point discussion about what her options are and let her decide what she wants to do (plan a real vacation, go to a friends house for her vacation or stay at home for her vacation but in a different part of the house). Do you see a theme here? She needs to take her vacation regardless of how it happens. The one thing my husband and I have really tried to drive home to our au pairs is that when they are sick or take vacation we are inconvenienced – not to say that they cannot do it, of course they can, but they need to understand what it means when they take vacation. We have to arrange for alternate childcare which costs money (even paying for our parents travel = $$). So once they have pulled the trigger and announced that they are taking vacation, they cannot change their minds, unless the alternate arrangements can be changed without any hardship or expense on my part. But you need to discuss these issues with her clearly and list her options. You might find that when she realizes that she might get stuck sleeping on the floor in the living room for a week on her vacation she’ll find something else to do really quick. Good luck!

another thought August 23, 2009 at 11:34 am

How about moving the children to your room and asking the AuPair or Grandparents to stay in the children’s room? Uncomfortable for a while but probably doable. The AuPair would still take her vacation (i.e. not have to work and it counts as her vacation time) but would still have a place to stay.

NewAP Mom August 23, 2009 at 11:59 am

Thank you for posting this CV, and to everyone who’s given input. I really appreciate this website.

Some clarifications…

Regarding rematching, we’ve thought about this a lot. What it boils down to is that she’s good with the kids, and works hard to do what I ask. She drives me crazy on a personal level, but when we selected her I didn’t know to screen for personal fit, or how to do it. Thanks to this website I’ve since learned both. We’ve hired our next au pair, who sounds like she’ll be a great childcare and personal fit, to start at the end of the current AP’s year, so now we’re just waiting it out. Now that I’ve learned my lesson though, I have no qualms about rematching early on if things aren’t going right. I just think in this case that I helped create this situation and it wouldn’t be fair to rematch because of mistakes that I, in part, made.

Regarding the vacation, our AP is taking two weeks, all at once. We told her that we’d need her room during vacation to house our parents at the initial intro meeting with our LCC. I hadn’t thought about this being inappropriate. I just assumed that she’d actually want to travel during her vacation. However I’ll try to think of other arrangements to make for next time.

We have 1-year-old twin boys who are a handful, so it would be too much to ask one set of grandparents to take full responsibility for them for 2 weeks straight. That’s why we’re overlapping. The one set of grandparents is staying for 3 weeks because they’re coming from another country and it takes them 2 days to get here; it’s not a trip where they’d want to stay for a week and then head home.

And finally, the kids still sleep in cribs in a shared room, and there’s not really enough room in there to put down camping mattresses. We could have someone sleep in the den in a pinch, though.

NewHM, I’m sorry to single you out but I want to make one point. I think one of my mistakes here was not interviewing for maturity, and then going out of my way to help her out too much since she got here. I think that’s partly why this has become an issue. She’s just expecting me to get her out of it, because I have all along, and in this particular case, I’m stuck. So something’s going to have to give.

Another thing I learned is that I think I’m going to write into the handbook that the AP has to take 1 week of vacation in the first six months, and 1 in the second six months. That would make the logistics easier. Also, on another note that isn’t related to this thread, our AP has complained about being exhausted lately and she and I both think that’s largely because she hasn’t taken any time off in 8 months.

DC Mom August 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm

I think Another Thought is onto an important point – I would make sure AP knows that even if she is not going away, she will not be working that week, as you both agreed that would be her vacation week and have made other childcare plans. Regardless of what you do with sleeping arrangements, you do’t want her coming back in a few weeks asking for a new week of vacation b/c she couldn’t get her act together in a timely fashion.

DC Mom August 23, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Seeing New AP Mom’s update, I would add this suggestion: for families who do not take your AP on vacation with you, put in your handbook she must overlap one of her weeks with yours. We did this with great success – when we traveled this year for Spring Break, AP traveled home. This way we only had one week for which we needed to find alternative care instead of two.

Calif Mom August 23, 2009 at 12:11 pm

This IS going to be her vacation time off, because you have ALL agreed earlier and made arrangements. A private phone call from you to the counselor might help. You want the counselor to call and ask her what her vacation plans are, pointedly prod her to make some, explaining that she committed to it and the host family is being extremely fair. She needs to get on it!

I don’t have a strong opinion about rematch on this one. I agree that it sounds kind of harsh to hold rematch over her head if she doesn’t get out of the house for her vacation. OTOH, you don’t sound happy in general, and she definitely sounds like a non-starter.

My bet is that your post asking for feedback came because this specific situation is something like the last straw for you, rather than a simple problem of figuring out logistics for her vacation and trying to do what’s right/fair/legally required.

Would you start looking for a rematch replacement while the grandparents are here? That might work out well, since you already have backup childcare in place. Rematches can go quickly when you finally pull the plug. It wouldn’t be a hard time for her to find a family; if she wants to extend a year it would make her an attractive candidate. And the agency can get the paperwork to happen if they really want to. A motivated counselor who doesn’t want an AP living in her house for an extended period can work wonders with the paperwork.

If you decide that’s just too much stress (I think I might implode if facing two sets of grandparents, a non-starter AP going into rematch, looking at candidates– all in a 3 bedroom home for a month!) I do like the suggestion of putting a set of grandparents into the kids’ bedroom. We’ve done that before. Depending on ages of kids, you can set up the portacrib, put cushions on your bedroom floor or whatever and have an adults sleep in kids’ beds. I even too the top bunk once! kinda fun, actually :-)

good luck!!!!

Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 12:30 pm

This is a new one for me…
I think rematch is a pretty harsh idea as is the idea of having her sleep on the floor. Most likely this girl spend all of her money,
but maybe a friend ratted out on her and isn’t going to be available to go on vacation. That happens.
I would , however, maintain that this is her vacation time and it is not changeable
You sound like a really nice person. I am thinking, though, that if this were your own daughter or niece you would probably have offered your parents her room but you would not be so ansy to
” get her out of the house “.
I have never had an aupair who took vacation but hung out at home. I can imagine it would be a crazy maker.

an au pair August 23, 2009 at 12:39 pm

This is a really difficult situation. Since she had a hard time making friends in the first place, I really feel sorry for the au pair in some ways. Assuming she isn’t vacationing to her own country, I am guessing she probably wanted to travel with an au pair friend, and maybe that part isn’t working out. Personally, I wouldn’t want to take a vacation on my own if I couldn’t work it out for a friend to go with me- if nobody goes with her she will be stuck paying for every hotel room on her own for 2 weeks (that’s alot of money, even if she stays at hostels), and it probably won’t be much fun at all. Basically she will be forced to spend tons of money to be miserable for a few weeks. I agree that it would have been much better if she took a week towards the beginning of the year and a week at the end, so that’s a good thing to know for next time. I think the harshest thing that you can do is have her sleep on the floor in the babies room or something, but it’s not fair to MAKE her take a vacation even though this is obviously her fault. I do agree that she needs to be off for the week even if she stays at home so she doesn’t try to take another vacation later on…

NoVA Host Mom August 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I agree with folks about going ahead into rematch. Frankly, it is not your responsibility for her to find a new HF. It is hers to put in the effort to make the existing one work (providing you were already doing your share to meet halfway, and just from the planning of her “vacation”, I am guessing you are way past that halfway mark). Start the process now. Just like when couples stay together for the sake of the kids, it always is a disaster for everyone – especially the kids. You don’t think they know about the tension and conflicts? Oh, boy, they do.

With regards to the vacation issue (aside from the rematch thing), I agree with CV that you are not to provide a hotel room for her or even buy an aerobed for her to use. Seriously.Make it very clear to her that her departure time from the house for her vacation is X on the previously agreed upon date, and that her return time is Y on the other agreed date.

Tell her you want a basic itinerary for her in case of emergencies (I personally make sure to have this for my parents, my brother and his family, my husband – it’s just basic safety and common sense if there is an emergency on either end of the trip), and that you need the written itinerary (cities, hotels, airline or train reservation info) no later than 3 days prior to her departure.

You are not her travel agent and are not responsible for making her trip plans. Don’t even think about it just to get her out of the house. Stop trying to put her first, and think of your family. She is hired to work for you and for the benefit of the family. The AP exchange/family interaction thing is an aspect of it, but not entirely on your shoulders. Put the workload of her vacation on her, and leave it there. If she has no where to go, that is her problem and she should borrow a sleeping bag from a friend to camp of the floor in the kids’ room or play room.

Busy Mom August 23, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Building upon what DC Mom said, we ask our au pairs to take ALL their vacation when we take our vacations. To compensate for the fact that this vacation is not fully “mutually agreed upon,” as the agencies suggest, we give more than two weeks of vacation, all during summer & school holidays. We do not travel with our au pair and mention both this and the coinciding vacation dates in our family letter and our handbook. It’s not possible for us to accomodate a full week off when school is in session, because we don’t have back-up care. Even though our kids are older, it’s just too exhausting for our older parents to manage the very full and very busy schedule for a full week.

I’m really curious as to what others do. My friends with au pairs have the same arrangement we do and I assumed that it was relatively common, but I get the sense on this blog that everyone else is much more accomodating about vacation schedules.

We did run into a hiccup with our first au pair and, in the process, learned a valuable lesson that “I don’t have any questions” about the family letter does not equate to fully understanding what that letter says. She asked for a particular week off and I had to remind her of our arrangement and remind her that we’d discussed it when we reviewed the handbook. She was unpleasant to me for two weeks… This time around, I was extremely explicit during the interview process and even emailed the known schedule of vacation dates so there would be no misunderstandings.

Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 8:26 pm

As far as ” mutually agreed upon ” vacation time, my husband is a tax accountant and I cannot possibly ever give an aupair off between January and April. Ever. It is just not possible.
This was a problem when an aupair wanted to go on an one of those aupair tours during spring break because it was off season and cheap.
I think simultaneous vacations are a great idea. I think that aupairs should be very accomodating about the fact that many families do not have a great deal of choice about when they take their vacations and I do not think it is nice for a family to say
Your plans changed ? Well, you have to leave this house anyway
because we have no room and really, we were looking forward to a break from you.
I do not think you should give her any money toward this vacation.

Hula Gal August 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm

My husband works from home and we have asked our parents (and flown in his mother from the UK) to provide backup care. Between those options we have been able to cover sick days and vacation. So far we have not had an au pair go on a one week vacation. We require that they give us 6 weeks notice. We do not require that they take their vacations when we do because although it would be nice it didn’t seem fair because sometimes their travel companions may not be available during those dates. But I understand why others do it that way because your backup care situation isn’t as solid. If you are very explicit and clear in the matching process and in the handbook than I think that is ok. We also give them extra vacation if we travel and do not ask them to join us on the vacation.

Hula Gal August 23, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I’m wondering what the au pairs thoughts are on their host parents asking them if they would mind if someone stays in their room while they are on vacation? I understand the parents point of view, that it is their home and they are entitled to use it how they see fit but on the other hand it seems like a violation of the au pair’s privacy because her stuff is in there etc.

Calif Mom August 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Our extremely gracious APs have offered their room when out of town relatives were coming of their own volition; they also arranged to sleep over at friends’ places. The less extroverted ones have not offered to give up their room, and I have not asked. Relatives get the air mattress in the living room during such times. It is what it is.

Luckily, my hub gets extremely generous time off. Due to a career change on my part, I had to start over, earning only two weeks per year starting a year ago. It sucks. My hub ends up doing a lot of vacation coverage.

With young kids, we pretty much imported relatives and crossed our fingers when Dad couldn’t cover.

With school-age kids, I think we will be very grateful for spring break camps this year. This string reminds me to ask AP what her plans are for next year, since she cannot travel back home for her 2 weeks as she did this year, due to visa restrictions in the extension year… Be mindful of those! (We were able to cover her two weeks — barely — because I was not working 5 days a week, and hub covered the days I was working.)

Someone said they did not think people made restrictions on vacation time — I don’t think that’s true at all. I think there are many many families who are very strict about when APs can take vacations, and they plan it out well in advance.

I have heard many rumblings from APs about families that go to Florida in Dec/Jan but don’t take AP with them. Since travel is such a big pitch to these young women to join the program, I do not blame them. I do think it is host families responsibility to be extremely clear, early and often, about vacation schedules if you know ahead of time what your parameters and timing will be (ie, you’re not coming with us, here are the dates). I also think LCCs should work hard at making sure APs are taken care of during big-travel holidays.

Elle Au PAir August 24, 2009 at 8:35 am

if she said she was going to travel and you already invited the grandparents she will have to go an travel and that’s it. If she is not traveling anymore you wouldnt have to call teh grtandparents anymore. If for any reason they are coming anyway you talk to the au pair and manage how you guys can solve the bedroom problem. Conversation is the key.

About her “not having many friends and not interested in knowing the country she is in”. I don’t think that is much a problem of the host family. If she is the kind of girl that stays home and if she is happy with it thats fine. I don’t see how it’s a problem. Same way you wouldn’t be happy if she judge something in your life that she doesnt agree with. I have many friends here bit sometimes I just feel like staying at homne on saturdays…not foten but sometimes I do and just watch movies with my hostparents and that’s fine cause I also get to spend time with them and with the children or just relax and stay in my room doing my stuff. Other tiomes I go out on friday and just get back home on Sunday.

About her not being a good au pair…my advice is rematch! If you can sstand her for more 4 months it might mean she is not that bad and you guys can work things out through conversation and make the last 4 months way better to live with each other.

A August 24, 2009 at 10:39 am

I think AP should be able to take her vacation in her room, regardless of what the plans were. There could be lots of reasons why she decided to not buy a ticket and go somewhere. Maybe she had a falling out with a friend, maybe she’s too tired from being in a foreign country for 8 months to feel like doing more traveling, who knows. I think she should be held to her vacation days but not to giving up her room.
I really agree with NewHM–you just have to see this from the perspective of a young woman in a foreign country. She will have no feeling of security if she doesn’t feel like her room is hers when she needs it.
If the host parents get a hotel for anyone, it should be for the grandparents.

Chicago Mom August 24, 2009 at 10:57 am

Hi,
We did the “1 week in the 1st half of the year, 1 week in the 2nd half of the year” pitch in our guideline/manual which our au pair had before coming to the USA. We talked about it every few weeks – “When do you think you will want to take your vacation?” and our homesick au pair talked only about wanting 2 full weeks to go home. We said we couldn’t do that given the ramifications on our own work schedules. The other kicker is that she has been sending all the money home, and finding the USA very expensive. I think it is an au pair’s right to take a vacation from the kids but stay at the house if they would like, so maybe this is where the whole problem started in your situation. I wouldn’t have tied up her room with relatives because plans can change, you know? But I agree with the others that as soon as she said she’d be traveling, that gave you the go ahead to make an arrangement with your families for coverage. Maybe I am too accommodating, but I’d just try to help everyone be in the house together somehow. I’m in economy mode these days so I can understand the au pair’s perspective and also my own. In our case, we would have found some local care (not relatives who’d need to stay at our home) because we don’t really have that family option.

In any case, good luck. It’s a hard situation.

We ended up basically pushing a 1-week vacation onto our au pair’s plate as it it was the last week of the 1st 6 months. She figured it out and found a place to go visit – but I did tell her that she could have a staycation at our home if she preferred. I just needed her to take the week off so we could get it over with and move on. She is hopefully going to take the 2nd week before the school year starts (but she has 2 weeks to do that so I am not holding my breath).

I like Busy Mom’s comments and think that in the future we’ll consider something more interesting like having the au pair vacation during certain dates (summer vacation, kids’ spring break, etc) if at all possible.

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 11:30 am

My handbook clearly states our vacation weeks because we do not have any flexibility. During the interview process, I make sure that dates are known and that they are acceptable. If not, I look for another au pair. My last au pair indicated that friends and family were coming to visit and that they would be staying at a hotel and renting a car. This sounded fine. I kept asking if she had hotel reservations, car was set, etc. It turns out they spent the week a my house over Christmas!!! I was running them around, cooking, cleaning, etc. Not much of a vacation for me. Au pairs can not rent cars in my state unless they are over 25 years old. The next weeks vacation again she had everything all set, then she changed her plans about three times and ended up with nothing to do. She wanted to stay at my house. We thought everything was set and made plans to go away for the week. I was very uncomfortable due previous issues, but had no choice. We needed the car, so she was on her own for transportation. I can’t tell you how many times we talked about what she was doing, etc. The au pair must take responsbilility for her vacation. You are not a travel agent nor are you responsible for funding the vacation. I also make it extremely clear that we do not take our au pair on vacation with us. I consider our vacation personal family time and with both parents working – quality time with our kids.

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Yikes, this is a tough situation. I can’t imagine that things will get better if your AP has a staycation in the full house or if you push her out the door for her vacation. (I would let her keep her room and get an air mattress. FWIW) I would call the LCC for help on the vacation, but if you want to consider rematch you’ll have to be firm. (You do have chilcare covered!) We held onto our first AP even though at month 7 we were starting to go batty. We had good child care and didn’t know any better as first time HF. (We also felt responsible for “choosing” her in the first place and were terrified of rematch AP’s.) Our LCC pushed back when I spoke with her so I figured anyone was going to drive us crazy living in our house that long. However, when the new AP arrived she was such a breath of fresh air and we didn’t have problems later in the year.

AuPair-Diana August 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Is it the agency’s rule that Au Pair can’t stay in her room during vacation? Pure AuPair !!! Maybe she want to save money. Why nobody mind that she earn less than 199% a week!!!! AuPair is a U. S government designated exchane program and I don’t belive that host family can force her to go outside! I suggest her to go to the local coordinator. It is not a reason to fire AuPair!!! Pure AuPair!!!!

E2 August 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm

We have our parents take our room when they visit, and we sleep on the fold-out couch. I wouldn’t ask the au pair to share her room even if she was going to be out of town…it is her room for the year. I also don’t offer our room to her if she has friends stay over when we are out of town.

7th time HM August 24, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Vacation and visitors are a very common problem. I agree with comments about communication and conversation. The uncertainty is clearly what is causing most of the stress. If you just knew when people were coming and going you could finalize all plans and would not be still guessing at who is sleeping where for these 2 weeks.

I would suggest writing it down too. Write it on the calendar, and clearly mark nights that both the HF and AP have agreed that she will be home or away, so that you can be sure of alternative arrangements etc. The plan has to happen well in advance an everyone has to agree to stick to it. I had a problem recently where the AP asked if a friend could stay a weekend, and then she stayed nearly 1 week, and when her parents came we had a full discussion on how that wouldn’t happen again, but it did. The AP in these situations is putting everyone, HF, alternative childcare, visitors and themselves in a very bad situation by not being open and firm with plans. I understand that plans change, we ask our AP to be flexible and we try to do the same, but a week long vacation takes a lot of advance planning when dealing with the schedules of growing children and dual working parents. If she agreed that she was going away on vacation that week, she may have to stick to it, even if its a nearby hotel or hostel. It sounds like everyone here would benefit from the time apart.

I am not worried about people sleeping on floors and couches, I don’t believe that is the root of the problem here.

CoCa August 24, 2009 at 3:43 pm

AuPair-Diana: I know this may sound picky and a bit off-topic, but when you factor in room and board, educational costs, car insurance and other car-related costs and so on depending on the particular family, you will find that an au pair earns a lot more than $199/week. Also, these additional costs are tax free.
(Note: Au Pairs earn on average $12-16/hr, depending on the # of hours they work per week. See: Au Pairs: Still low cost childcare? )

No, I am not claiming that at 45 hours a week, au-pairing is a well-paid job. But I think it’s misleading to claim that au pairs “earn” just $199/week. I realize that for a young person who has come straight from their parents’ home, it may SEEM like that’s how it is, but wait until you set up home by yourself and have to pay all those costs out of your after-tax income ;-)

As I say, sorry to be picky, and what I have said here doesn’t negate your initial point which is that the au pair is entitled to stay at home during her time off. I agree with that in principle, but I think the problem here is the lack of planning and communication.

Ana P. August 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

The au pair might win more than 199,00 but the point is: it’s a lot less than host families would pay for a baby sitter in USA or a day care. LOOOT less. So my advice is this: Treat your au pair how you would like your own children to be treated if they were in a exchange student program in other country. Do not do to other people what you dont want them to do to you !

Also talking to each other makes things easy and communicate solve problems.

Anna August 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Ana P., and most au pairs would earn a LOOOOT less in their home country for doing the same job. So there. Its a win-win, but not only for the family, for the au pair too, otherwise they wouldn’t come.

(Note: an au pair earns around $12/hr total for a 45 hr week. see Au Pairs: Still low cost childcare? )

And the point here is not who gets which room I think, but that the au pair let a family down. Her vacation involved changing plans and spending money of at least 6 people (parents, and two sets of grandparents who are flying over), and she let them all down with no time left to change things into yet another accomodation for her.
And I personally would not use au pair’s room to put my guests in, but when you are talking about elderly grandparents and asking THEM to sleep on the floor (would they even be able to get up from the floor?), this is getting to be too much.

Anonymous August 24, 2009 at 7:21 pm

How would anyone like it if their own daughter were told that she had to leave the house for two weeks just because her vacation plans did not work out ? Not very much. It is true that she committed to taking a vacation but the adults committed to having an adopted daughter for a year.

CV August 24, 2009 at 7:45 pm

One of the other issues that just popped up to me, when it was asked whether we’d feel the same way if this was our daughter….

In my family, grandparents’ needs trump kids’ needs… we move one daughter into the other’s room when Grandma comes, so that Grandma has some privacy and a nice bed. Uncle Brian can sleep on the fold out couch in the playroom, but it would be disrespectful to put Grandma there (you have to see the playroom, YMMV).

An au pair that was tuned in to the family not only might have avoided this situation in the first place, but also might have offered to be ‘put out’ a little herself, recognizing the importance of Grandparents as elders.

just another perspective…

Hula Gal August 24, 2009 at 9:16 pm

I can’t help but insert myself into the fray here a little bit even though it might encourage some of the off topic issues coming up in this thread, but I can’t help myself. Every au pair that is reading this needs to understand one thing – we pay between $16,000 to $18,000 per year give or take to participate in the au pair program. Some of that money goes to the au pair, some of it goes to the agency. We also spend money on the extra expense of food and other increases in household bills that occur when there is one more person in the house. So this is not cheap childcare. You may not be getting all of that money but you signed up for this program knowing how much you would make. The argument that you are not paid well does not win any points with me and maybe other host families too. You do not have living expenses like daycare workers and nannies. If you are thoughtful about how you spend your money you should have enough to do what you want to do while you are here, whatever that may be. But comparing your salary to a nanny or a daycare center is not comparing apples to apples.

NewAP Mom August 24, 2009 at 11:20 pm

This is also rather off-topic but I definitely treat my au pair like I’d want my own child to be treated in a similar situation. I give her a lot of freedom to make her own choices. I also try to hold her responsible for the consequences of those choices. This is the real world and that’s what happens, and if she doesn’t learn that lesson from me, she’ll learn it somewhere, and maybe (probably) from someone less fair. And honestly, being “forced” to travel shouldn’t be so much of a hardship, especially for someone who signed up for being an au pair in a foreign country. I did a lot of solo international travel when I was her age and although it was hard, I have wonderful memories of it.

I talked to her again tonight and we may have made some headway. I’ll come back and update this post to let you all know what happens. Thank you so much to everyone for your points of view. As usual, I’ve learned a lot from all of you.

CoCa August 25, 2009 at 10:20 am

Ana P: The au pair program is, in our case at least, quite a bit more expensive than both babysitters and daycare. The only thing I can think of that it would be cheaper than, although not necessarily “a lot”, is a full-time, qualified nanny.

Anonymous: I definitely haven’t committed to having an adopted daughter for a year. I think this comparison is misleading and I dare say it is usually made whenever an au pair feels hard done to in some way.

To treat the au pair with respect, yes. To treat her as a full member of the family, yes. To treat her the way you would like one of your children to be treated in a similar situation, yes. But a daughter she is not (in my case at least) and I do think this works both ways.

Jennifer August 25, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Sorry, folks, in the adult world , we call it a “a deal’s a deal”. It was discussed well in advance and agreed upon what would need to happen to accommodate the AP’s vacation. Whether it’s fair or not for someone else to stay in the AP’s room in her absence is not the point. She agreed to the arrangement. Now it is her responsibility to make good on the deal.

Although I am a run of the mill Heinz 57 American, I too was raised that the needs of elders in the family trump whatever inconvenience meeting those needs may entail. Furthermore, it is not completely a pleasure trip that brings a set of grandparents to come FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY.

I cringe at the idea of older folks who are traveling to make this AP’s vacation possible are forced into a very uncomfortable sleeping arrangement because she couldn’t get her act together.

Frankly, if I had an AP who backed out on vacation plans and forced grandparents to suffer because of it, I would be so livid that I would have to rematch.

Of course, the HF can avoid that by simply sticking to your guns, and telling her she is taking her vacation come hell or high water. Whenever there is travel by plane, (and international travel , at that) plans can’t change just because the AP changes her mind.

Treat her as an adult and make her responsible for her choices. Just make sure that one of those choices is NOT staying at home for her vacation.

Good luck!

A August 25, 2009 at 2:18 pm

But, it’s not the au pair’s fault that the host family decided to fly grandparents in for backup childcare. The host family knows that an au pair gets 10 days vacation. The host family also knows that as part of the au pair program, an au pair gets a room of her very own and that this is NOT dependent on whether it’s convenient for the host family!!!

Busy Mom August 25, 2009 at 5:23 pm

A, In this case, the au pair IS the reason the grandparents are flying in to provide back-up care and this was explained to her. It is exceptionally difficult to find qualified back-up care who can step in and take over in a pinch or for a vacation.

This discussion reinforces the difficulty in achieving that idealized “member of the family” arrangement. My kids each have a room of their own, but since they are “members of the family,” I would expect them to sleep on the floor and switch rooms to accomodate older relatives and/or DH & I would sleep on an air mattress. Why should the au pair be different? Is it simply that au pairs like to be “part of the family” and like to be treated as a daughter only when it suits them but as an employee when it inconveniences them?

I’ve been mulling over the disconnect betweeen the way in which the agencies advertise themselves to host families (flexible, affordable, reliable childcare with the unique benefit of gaining exposure to another culture) and to au pairs (be a big sister, see the US, experience the American way of life…and…take care of kids 45 hours a week). Seems to be at the heart of many of our discussions.

In pointed response to previous comments, I did not agree to adopt a daughter for a year, nor was I asked to. I would expect my own daughter to VOLUNTEER to give up her room in similar circumstances. Scratch that. My daughter would fulfill the original commitment.

Anyway, in this specific case, while I don’t think the au pair should be forced to travel, she should live with the consequences of her commitment and sleep on the couch herself.

New AP Mom, if your main concern about rematching is being fair to your au pair (i.e., that the au pair won’t find a placement with 4 months left), I personally wouldn’t let that worry you. You need to do what is best for your family. An au pair in our cluster found a placement with 3 months left. According to my LCC, the recesssion is making it difficult for au pairs to rematch, but not impossible. Many APs in our cluster have lost their jobs b/c the host parents lost theirs.

Let us know how things work out.

For me, the relationship with my au pair was strained after we had the misunderstanding about when she could take her vacation (see previous post). Her complaints about me in her blog (which she gave me the password to, but which I should have avoided reading becasuse it just made me mad) were downright nasty. I hope that your situation turns out better.

West Coast Mom August 25, 2009 at 7:28 pm

A surprisingly controversial topic. As a first time HM, this is what we have agreed with our AP, who arrived two weeks ago:

She will plan half of her vacation days to coincide with a family vacation in February, and she will take the remaining 5 days when she chooses, but will give us as much notice as possible. We also agreed, should she decide to take a few days here and there, rather than the entire 5 days, that we would treat each vacation day as 9 hours of the applicable week’s 45 hours.

I see now that we should have agreed all this before she arrived, but we have been lucky so far that our AP has been reasonable and fair.

We also had a potential situation (it fell through) that might have required the AP to give up her room to accommodate a grandparent visit, and all within her second week here! I thought we should put Grands in the kid’s room and that we should not ask AP to give up her space. My husband felt, strongly, that we should inconvenience AP and not the grands. When we discussed with AP, she was – again – very flexible and reasonable, and perfectly willing to sleep in one of our boy’s rooms.

Thx to all for this informative discussion.

MalvernMom August 25, 2009 at 8:36 pm

If you have already chosen your new aupair, is there any way to just “rematch” with her? As if you were rematching out of country? You and your family might be much happier to just get an early start with the new aupair rather than waiting out the current one’s time.

Also any aupair not willing to respect her agreement with the host family and because of this inconvenience the Grandparents IMHO is not behaving like a member of the family, but as someone selfish and uncaring of the needs of others around her. Because of this, I think it is unfair to expect the HF to make every effort to accomodate her and treat her like a member of the family or be expected to do so. I do think this shows evidence of a deeper issue of respect or lack thereof. How can it be said that she is good with the children when she is willing to set such a poor example? I realize they are 1 year old twins, but that shows a lack of maturity that may show in many other ways and when the HP are not home. I would worry about what decisions she makes during the day if she shows such a selfish streak now. What if she wanted to talk on the phone when a baby is crying or needs to be changed? This to me is evidence of a much bigger issue and one that may have more depth than you realize.

I see I may seem a bit paranoid, but we are talking about your children and I would be unwilling to take the chance. I would really talk to her and see if I could get to the root of the problem, but I would also vote for rematch in the interest of family sanity. What will she do next? Or what about the time when she has only a month left and may not feel like working? That was a scary thread and she seems like just the type to do this to you. Just my opinion.

s

Host dad in NJ August 26, 2009 at 8:45 am

Yes ladies – Dad’s read this site too – and as this is my first comment, let me first say thank you for all the ideas this site gave us – We are in our 3rd month with our first Au Pair after having a daughter in April, and things have been great.

Regarding this topic – many of you seem quite harsh on this issue. Have none of you had to change or cancel plans ever before? Do none of us remember how immature we were at 18 – 22 (as another poster said)?

I feel for the family here but do agree that a few mistakes were made, the first being the idea of using the Au-pairs room in the first place. yes you discussed it with her upon initial interviews – but to you not realize many of these Au pair are so excited to just have this opportunity they would say yes to many things upon first blush, just to try and win the host parent over. I am not saying this is right, but again, they are young girls, and many come from cultures where they respect their e;ders (I hate being an elder at 30) tremendously.

I actually think much of the fault here lies with your agency or counseler if they were aware you intended on using the Au pairs room and signed off on it. Would you let one of the Au-Pairs friends sleep in your bed if you were away for the weekend – I doubt it. For this to work, I really think a partnership need to be formed and the same boundreis that you expect the Au pair to meet, you should do the same.

Also, be careful with forcing them to schedule vacations a week at a time. As your own parents (or in-laws) travel for two days to visit you, many Au pairs who wish to visit home during their vacation time would really require the full two weeks at once to enjoy themselves. One week a time is possible, but again, be careful if an Au pair from say, Thailand says, yes yes yes to this stipulation during an initial interview, and four months later approaches you with a change of heart.

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 11:04 am

I feel your pain. My au pair already has had at least one month of vacation time. Every week she needs a day off for something. A friend is in town, tickets to a concert, something better to do, etc. We went through a similiar experience with her “scheduled” vacation. She had plans, claimed to have tickets, etc. etc. and then didn’t want to go. We made plans around her plans, and it would have cost a fortunate to change them. I learned my lesson. Be firm and make it clear that once you have made an agreement, it is final. I have tried to get my au pair to pay back some of the extra time that she took off with pay. She is adamant that she will only work 45 hours per week and actually left my kids when I got home late from work with a neighbor because she had plans. I was one hour late due to train problems and had called her as soon as I knew of the delay. Everything seems very one sided and I don’t think I will use this program again. It is very expensive with the car, food, school, supplementary daycare, etc. It has greatly increased my stress level and no one seems happy. From reading others comments, it sounds like very few AP are really good. The program is not sold properly to AP’s. They are here to work. Yes – work. It is not a paid one year vacation.

Calif Mom August 26, 2009 at 11:30 am

Agree that it’s really important to distinguish “exchange students” and “daughters” from the au pair role.

Exchange students are traveling for schooling and seeing the world from a different cultural filter.

Princesses become APs expecting to become a surrogate daughter and have the world continue to revolve around them, albeit from a different cultural axis.

APs are not adoptive daughters.

The agencies pitch these girls hard on the travel opportunities, which I think is perhaps the biggest disservice they do to them.

Now, OTOH, we just offered our AP a chance to come with us to fancy hotel in an exciting city, and she declined because she has made other plans in town with friends. We are disappointed, b/c we have been wanting to bring her along and show her this town…

You never know how travel is going to work out. Fraught with peril. In issues management, the most important thing is to share what you know as soon as you know it, and keep sharing information, even when it’s incomplete. Same goes with AP communications.

Once a schedule is written in stone, escalate how you communicate it, and outline what will happen downstream (and I don’t mean punitively, here, just to explain) if things don’t go as planned. Tell her that Grandma WILL be using her room (if that’s your decision).

Can LCC take in the ‘staycationing’ au pair for a week? Seems like counselor should be a resource here.

Agree you all need a break from each other!

Calif Mom August 26, 2009 at 11:34 am

Anonymous who thinks there are no good au pairs–

NOT SO! There are loads of great au pairs. When you hit the right personality to fit into your family, there is nothing better. They add so much to your family’s life, much more than just checking childcare off of your list. A good match is a very rewarding experience. It’s also work; kind of like marriage, only without the ’til death do us part’ and a little lower stakes. :-)

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 1:09 pm

I agree with the host dad who said that many people on this blog sound harsh. Suppose this girl has nowhere to go on vacation for any number of reasons which are not due to a defect in character ? Suppose a friend of hers stood her up for a boyfriend ?
Suppose a friend she planned to travel with lost her postion due to a family losing their job/jobs ?
She is not a dayworker or a nanny. A home is part of the deal. She cannot sleep on the street.

Darthastewart August 26, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I don’t think anyone is suggesting putting the AP on the street here. I do think that in light of the fact that there were other arrangements based on her plans that she either needs to follow through, or offer to sleep on the couch for the duration.

I agree with the PP that the expectation is not set correctly many times with the agency- they tout it as a travel/cultural experience, and being treated like a member of the family, but downplay the childcare aspects of the program. Whereas to HF’s they play up the childcare aspects. The two sides are coming in with different goals.

I think it’s time to sit down with the au-pair and have her draw up a gameplan for how the situation is going to work.

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I had an aupair once who told me that every Wednesday her first host mother would start saying ” Do you have plans for the weekend “. It was perfectly clear to this aupair that her host mother wanted her to disappear on the weekends. It was very hurtful to this girl because she was not a big partier although she had no trouble making friends. Eventually, she rematched and did very well.
Think a little about this … it requires at least two adults to take care of these two children but the aupair does it all alone everyday.

anonymous August 26, 2009 at 3:48 pm

“Au Pair is not an adoptive daughters”.

No we are not. But part of the program rules and MERCHANDISING is: “be part of an american family”. Also APIA is an EXCHANGE program.

if you have a child you would like her to be treated well in some other family’s house. It’s in another country or not. Going to another country and living there is a great and really dificult experience.

I agree that tehre are some “princess”out there who go to USA to be an au pair, but I also think that if you are in this program you should know that the au pair is like a member of your family and should be treated like it.

ana P August 26, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Anna,

note for you: au apirs come to USA because they WANT and not because they need. To get a visa you need to have money and if you earn a looot less like you said in your home country you wouldnt be able to get a Visa. I dont know what the agency tell host families but no one who earns less than 500 in a third world country could get a visa to come to USA.

Also I agree with host DAD and with you when you say it;’s not about money but about the situation here. I still believe that talking to the au pair about the room would be the best solution adn would make everybody comfortable. Most of the problems between au apir and host families is lack of conversation.

___

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Has anybody out there had an opportunity to speak with their LCC about this situation. It cannot be that unique. As the man in NJ said, people change plans all the time. An aupair or a foreign exchange student is someone living far away from home and has given up her entire support network to be here. It doesn’t sound like this aupair is so bad. I think the host mom said she is good with the kids. If you leave everything behind and then your room disappears in the mist, what emotional security do you have at all ?
A deal is a deal applies to families, too. My contract does not say ” provide a room for the aupair unless you have guests “. This seems to me like the sort of thing that gets written up in magazines and newspapers showing just how heartless American families can be.

CoCa August 26, 2009 at 6:28 pm

I agree with everyone who has been saying that there is a disconnect between the message agencies are giving to au pairs, and the one they are giving to families. Our first au pair arrives in a week, and even though we have chosen carefully and she seems like a great match for us, my biggest worry at this point is whether she is going to be prepared for what this job REALLY is, as opposed to what the glossy brochure makes it LOOK like.

I don’t think anyone is arguing against the statement that au pairs should be “a part of the family” – it’s just that there are many different interpretations of what that means.

Normally, you would not employ members of your actual family to look after your kids for a charge, nor would you expect to say goodbye to them after a year, perhaps never to see them again. So right there you have two major differences. Another big one I can think of is this: If my au pair really WAS my daughter, I would be interfering a lot more in her personal business. ;-)

Au pairs and families are all different with regards to how “up close and personal” they want to get, and as we have seen in many comments on this site, when there is a gap in expectations, problems arise.

Anna August 26, 2009 at 7:29 pm

Ana P.,

I’ve had two au pairs, who were college graduates in their home countries, and earned less than the au pair stipend was here (which is currently about $800 a month, not $500). It depends on the country and on the profession.

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 9:56 pm

Calif Mom

Unfortunately, I have had bad experiences with 4 au pair princesses. When they left, the next family called and told me that they didn’t believe what I told them…….and guess what……..the same thing or worst happened to them. One decided to get another job to earn more money while she was here because we didn’t pay her enough!!! She was arrested for prostitution!!! All said they could cook and none did. One wouldn’t even cut up fruit for my kids. She told me that is what mother’s are for. Dropping my kids off at a neighbors house because I was an hour late from work is not acceptable. She only had to work three 10 hour days that week. So the extra hour was a 31 hour work week. Yes – I know she isn’t suppose to work more than 10 hours a day…….but if she was a “member of the family” she would have understood. It is the only time it happened. She had four weeks of vacation. Hitting my children is also unacceptable and clearly stated in my handbook. I am tired of trying to please these girls. I don’t know why I am not finding a “good” au pair. I even asked the LCC to help and she thought they were good choices. Au Pairs seem to develop clicks of girls from their country, compare notes, complain, and develop a plan to make their host families give them more. Rematching is very exhausting and you are without childcare. It is also very hard on the kids. Once OK, but 4 times is crazy. No one has a good answer why this isn’t working and the agency has been very involved…..and when they don’t work out they just try to place them with another family. I have had domestic nanny’s that were wonderful and come back to visit every year. They knew it was a job, not a vacation. I swtiched to an au pair hoping that my kid a could learn about a different country and get exposure to a foreign language, but that is not what they have experienced.

Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 10:01 pm

I think a room to sleep in is a pretty basic thing and that is why it is required by the government that the aupair must have her own room. They have very specific requirements as to how big the rooom must be, how big the windows must be and how the entrances are arranged. I do not think that an aupair must have her own bathroom but she does have a right to her own room.
She needs someplace to store her belongings and change her clothes. Surely, in this situation, she will have no privacy when she is in the house. How will she be able to change her clothes without a room of her own ? It won’t be much of a vacation if she can’t sit by herself behind a closed door and speak on the phone or read a book. She will have to be on her feet , fully dressed and fully active every minute. And she certainly won’t be able to take a nap or even sleep in if she is in the middle of a common area all the time.

Anonymous August 27, 2009 at 8:58 am

I never heard of specific room requirements. My coordinator visited and approved the room. Please let me know where to find this information.

Teddy August 27, 2009 at 9:32 am

Reg states “(6) Place the au pair with a family who cannot provide the au pair with a suitable private bedroom; and

There is no definition of the word suitable.

I am also interested in where these specific requirements are stated. There are many pictures of au pair rooms on the Internet. Many au pairs have rooms in the basement of the house.

Anonymous August 27, 2009 at 9:34 am

News to me too. My au pair has a room in our basement with no windows. She is our 6th au pair. Agency has approved room. Au pairs seems to like it. No complaints. Is this something new?

PA au pair mom August 27, 2009 at 9:49 am

Our agency specifies that the room must be private for the au pair and that the host family may not use the room for storage.

The room must have a bed and a closet and dresser.

Beyond that I don’t think there are any exact stipulations.

CV August 27, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Re: the room, one thing that I personally think is important is having a window that was big enough that she could climb out of it in case of a fire. When we renovated our garden level/basement in our first house, we were required to enlarge the window in order for it to be approved as a bedroom– but I don’t know if it was our LCC, our contractor, or the building inspector who told us this.

In any case, it made me aware of not only the sunshine value of a window, but also the safety issues of a window.

Also, we made sure that a person could climb (up) out of the windows in this room, just in case. My DH actually demonstrated this to our first AP.

Host Mom VA August 27, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I have had 4 Au Pairs with 2 agencies over 3 yrs and never heard of specific room sizes etc. I beleive it has to lock and a couple of other things.
Our Au Pairs rooms have always been in the basement. Here in our rental on the East Coast this room has a tiny window and no closet so it was classed as an office but it has an adjoining closet and a bathroom across the hall (and is pretty big) and the LCC stated it was fine.
We just a got a portable hanging rack from Target so she could hang up her clothes in her room ($10) and it has worked just fine.

Host Mom VA August 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm

In response to CV’s comment above she has 2 ways out of the basement and we gave her a fire extinguisher for her room.

Anonymous August 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm

When we had some renovations done , our aupair was not happy with her temporary quarters and complained to the LCC. The LCC asked the agency to send me ( and her ) a copy of the exact requirements since we both thought the temporary room was fine. It was fine but the state department did have some very specific rules. It could be that a lot of agencies are a little lax on this and if no one complains , nothing bad happens. But I always like to plan for the unexspected situation where people hit the books to find an exception. That aupair ended up dropping out and going home. She made such a big fuss about the room but then, she didn’t like any of the people she met in rematch ( although a bunch of them wanted her ). She said she had heard too many terrible stories from her friends .

My 2 cents August 27, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Expecting your AP to act, and you to treat her, like your daughter is reasonable. I would have my own daughter out of her bed for the grandparents, and so I vote that no, you cannot force her to leave, but yes, AP should give up her room for the grandparents. I don’t care where AP is from, culturally it’s never acceptable for them to be assigned the floor over a young person. I think any AP’s parents would be horrified if their daughter demanded to stay in her room after she said she was going on vacation, the host parents call in the back-ups around her plans, and then her plans change so she wants “seat backs.” Wouldn’t you be horrified if your daughter did this at someone else’s home??

Seriously, AP’s privacy? She’s guaranteed her room 24/7, 365 days a year? She wont’ have anywhere to change? Puhhhlease. She can have full use of her room anytime other than when the grandparents are sleeping. If she wants to play on her laptop in privacy, she can go to a cafe or just work it out like any other adult. This is not that big of an inconvenience for her. She created her own inconvenience if she stays.

Also, at some point in this thread the connotation developed that an AP is an equal to the host parents. She is not, just as she is not her own parents’ equal back home, and just as my daughter is not my equal. So no, the argument that an AP necessarily should have use of her host parents bed while they are away if you expect to use her room when she’s away (or supposed to be) proves nothing. And yes, it is a double standard just like the curfews, car restrictions, and all the rest.

Daniele August 27, 2009 at 6:20 pm

I keep reading this posts here and it gives me the impression that it’s a war between ap and hf. Jesus, it’s just a room. All you need to do is talk. If it was me and my plans to travel went wrong I wouldn’t be upset to give my room to elderly people to sleep. if it was in my parent’s house I would give my room for the grandparents and sleep on the couch. All the family has to do is talk to the au pair. I don’t think it’ s big of a deal. Poor au pair who had her plans canceled and poor host family who had already invited the grandparents. Things like this happens and like any other person, any other member of the family who lives under the same roof the au pair will understand the situation as i hope the host family understands her situation too. if you live together you have to manage to have a pleasant and good environment.

CV August 27, 2009 at 8:29 pm

(Hi D– you’re right, they do need to talk, and I hope we’ll hear how it ends up. Keep in mind that the AP just never made plans, she didn’t have them ‘canceled’. It sounds like it was willful, not accidental. And yes, we remember we only hear one side of the story…. cv)

Anonymous August 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I have a question. Suppose this aupair had never planned to go ” away ” . What would the host parents have done for childcare ? And where would everyone have slept ? Or is it understood that the aupair has to leave the house for her vacation.

an au pair August 28, 2009 at 12:32 pm

good point anonymous (the anonymous above this, not the one farther up the page)! I seriously doubt there is any rule that the aupair has to leave for her vacation, so if she had just not planned on leaving in the first place, with the host parents’ knowledge, they could be in this same situation (the parents probably would have made sure there was no overlap between the sets of grandparents in that case though)…

Anonymous August 28, 2009 at 12:58 pm

I recently read an article in the New York Times that due to the economy, many American families are staying home and going on daytrips for their vacation. So let’s not be hypocritical and make this girl sound like a parasite simply because she chose not to go away or failed to make plans.
It is true that adults have privileges that younger people do not and it is also the fact that with those privileges come responsibilies. In the end, our children are our responsibilty and so are the car payments, etc. An aupair agency agreement makes it pretty clear that the use of the car is discretional and her room , a nice room is an enttitlement. It is part of the deal.
Some of those basement rooms are very nice and some are just not so nice. For instance, if the kids can run in and out of the basement playroom all day and the host parents do laundry down there all night, it doesn’t really matter if the room is the whole downstairs. It has no privacy.

NewAP Mom August 28, 2009 at 11:21 pm

If the AP had said upfront that she would rather have stayed home, we would have asked her to break her vacation into two disconnected weeks and had only one set of grandparents come at a time. Which, given all of your feedback, is what we’ll do next year , so we bypass this situation entirely.

I agree with all of you who said that communication is key. We are definitely communicating about it. I’ve been clear that we’ll need her bedroom for the grandparents. She’s had many different plans for travel, none of which have so far materialized. Hopefully in the end she’ll find some place that she wants to visit, and if not, it will be a cozy couple of weeks with her sleeping in the den.

This did kind of devolve into host parents v. au pair smackdown and that isn’t at all how the situation is. I’m trying to work with her to figure out a solution that works for all of us, and wanted feedback on how I might handle my side. I think that in this situation, both we as host parents made a mistake (by promising her room to the grandparents) and she as an au pair made a mistake (by not being clear about not necessarily wanting to travel when there was still time to do something about it.)

Anyway, I’ll let you know what happens.

NewAP Mom August 28, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Just wanted to clarify one more thing. She is still acting like, and telling me that, she wants to travel. It’s just that actual plans, plane tickets, hotel reservations etc are not forthcoming. So when I say “not necessarily wanting to travel” that’s only a guess based on what you’ve all said here, and that interpretation of her (in)action.

Anonymous August 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

I am thinking that a major part of all this bruhaha is that the aupair lives in the same place where she works. If any of us told our bosses that we were taking vacation and then changed our minds and stayed home it would be of no concern to anyone but ourselves.
We can all call in sick, too, with no one capable of assessing whether we really need to take a whole day off. An aupair cannot call in sick and then go to the movies ( as I did last week ).
My boss is a great violator of boundaries and calls me on holidays and vacation just to chat or to ask me to ” just this once ” do her a little favor. Last summer I told her I was in Florida and could not possibly stop by the office during vacation . Even with cell phones , an aupair does not have that option.

NewAP Mom August 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Just to set the record straight, I never to ask my au pair to do anything outside of her scheduled working hours. I never go into her room unless she’s there and I knock first, and even then it’s only been a handful of times. If her door is closed I try not to bother her at all unless there’s something urgent I need to ask that absolutely cannot wait until I see her next. There’s been an underlying assumption on this thread (don’t know where it came from) that I don’t respect her boundaries and that’s not the case at all. I’m very careful about that. I just need to know where everyone is sleeping because of the circumstances of this vacation. That’s all this is.

Anonymous August 29, 2009 at 1:17 pm

We are all putting forth ideas based on what we think is right or wrong according to our own value system and experience.
I called my agency and was told that they could not give me an answer to a hypothetical situation. Has anyone inquired of his/her own LCC and gotten a straight answer as to where the agencies would stand on this question. I called the agency because my guess is that different LCCs would have different sympathies and if it never got to the agency , there would be no problem. However, if the aupair or a friend of hers did protest or object, it might go up the agency t/o and the agency might take a different position.

LC September 8, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Here is the bottom line…. Au Pairs earn a vacation during their time as an au pair. 2 weeks for 12 months of work. The time should be worked out with the host family as to when it is most convenient. Let’s face it there really may not be a most convenient time but time does have to be given. However, there is nothing that is stated that an aupair who has EARNED this time must go somewhere. I often take time off work for a STAYCATION. There are no rules that say an au pair must leave the house. This is their home for the year. I would suggest speaking to the au pair about changing her plans to a time that she may want to actually go somewhere or at a minimum explain that the grandparents will need a bed more so than a young adult and since she isn’t going anywhere it would be very helpful if she can be accomodating and share with the kids etc.

SeattleHostMom September 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Hope this all turns out well…

I think this does sound like it’s gotten very dramatic, but I wonder (this happens to me) if NewAPMom is just trying to figure out the right thing to do, and getting stressed about all the “what-ifs”. As a working mom, I try to plan and organize and control everything, and when something isn’t working out according to my plan (for example, the au pair decides not to go out of town on vacation as discussed), I get very anxious.

My $0.02 is that if the au pair agreed that a set of grandparents could sleep in her room while she was on vacation, and then she chooses not to travel, she should find her own place to sleep. (If she chooses to stay, she should be able to use her room during the day). That’s being mature and responsible. But, again, it’s difficult as a HM to ask for that from an au pair, particularly one who isn’t consistently demonstrating responsibility :)

NewAP Mom September 16, 2009 at 11:10 am

So how this turned out…

She finally bought plane tickets to go visit a friend for her whole two weeks of vacation (although not until a few days ago, which is why I didn’t update until now.) So problem solved!

On a semi-related note, she’s been better lately. More attentive with the kids, and even showing some initiative. I wish I could say I’ve been doing something different, because then I’d know what to do differently next time, but I haven’t… no idea what’s changed on her end.

Thank you all again for your advice.

NewAP Mom September 20, 2009 at 11:44 am

So, full disclosure, this story actually wasn’t over yet. Now it is.

We ended up firing our au pair this weekend after she put one of the kids in physical danger for the third time. Yep, it took us that long. But we were lucky – the kids are okay.

It’s a logistical nightmare trying to cobble together childcare. But man, it feels good to be out of that frying pan.

TXMom September 20, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Thanks for the update. Obviously this vacation wasn’t the only issue brewing. HD and I joke that every couple has “their dishwasher,” that one silly issue that is the straw that brakes the camel’s back. (And you find yourself shouting at the top of your lungs about how the silverware should be loaded.) I’ve said it before on other strings, try Care.com We found a part time nanny for rematch times.

NewAP Mom September 20, 2009 at 11:52 pm

You were the one who mentioned care.com! I saw it and wanted to thank the person who mentioned it but haven’t had time to look, so thank you!

Host Mom VA September 21, 2009 at 8:32 am

I also used a part time college student for after school care for my older son earlier this year through Care.com with pretty good results.

Peter Medvin December 18, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Have you ever considered Zoom-Room? It’s the electronic, remote controlled 21st century Murphy bed that turns any living room or home office into the perfect guest room – but no one knows it’s there. Check out http://www.Zoom-Room.com. It would give you space for the au pair and the grandparents!

Euromom December 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Hi there, just checked out the Zoom-Room. Costs start at €3,000.00 – €5,000.00 (not including tax, installation and delivery!). For that kinda money the grandparents could rent a suite in the Hilton!!!

CV December 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Good point. That comment above yours is actually an advert. cv

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