One Slight After Another: Can this au pair relationship be saved?

by cv harquail on September 29, 2014

It’s interesting to get emails from host parents — and au pairs– where it seems that the very act of writing to us is helping them gain some clarity about how untenable their situation actually is.

il_570xN.609913982_ihwvThis seems especially true when there isn’t one prominent issue but instead several smaller ones that, when all pulled together, seems to demonstrate that this relationship cannot be saved.

As I read through this host mom’s email, below, it became easier and easier to imagine recommending that she move to rematch. After all, this host mom had a good experience with their former au pair and knows what kinds of challenges are reasonable.

And then there was one statement in her email that stopped me cold. (I put it in bold for you.)

Apart from all the other concerns this single statement said to me:

Not an au pair you want in your life.

What do you think?

What should this host mom do next?  

Dear AuPairMom–

Our first AuPair was great, not perfect, but we had a wonderful loving relationship with her and became very close.She was also an integral part of interviewing for our next AuPair.

We Should Be Grateful?**
We matched with our 2nd AuPair several months before she came. She made it quite clear to us that she had many other offers but she was “picking” us, as in, we should be so grateful. We thought it was a little strange how she emphasized it so many times but let it go.

“Snotty” and Dissatisfied
Fast forward….. since joining our family, our AuPair has made several snotty comments to me that were derogatory about our house not being perfect, about our routine, being organized, etc.

She is never home when we spend hours cleaning (she thinks it magically happens?) and is constantly complaining about his or that but always ends it with “but it’s okay”. She doesn’t get that we each work 70+ hours per week and recently moved, and finding time to create the perfect home isn’t easy. But don’t get me wrong, we live in a beautiful, well-kept home and a very desirable neighborhood.

Negative Perspectives on Her Blog
We knew she was writing a blog to chronicle her adventure here in the US. We were okay with it and set a few ground rules.
Today, she posted her most recent blog (during work hours) and it was totally different.

I was fully aware that sometimes she said things that well, were a bit rude about us, and it’s always bothered me but I tried not to be overly sensitive.

Her latest entry complains about pretty much everything. She goes on and on about all the things she doesn’t have, like her own bathroom (she shares with the kids, who really only use it to brush their teeth), her own kitchen and apartment (really?), how the kids and dog are noisy, and how we don’t have the nicest or biggest house (3200sf). But then says, she’s glad she chose our family. She doesn’t say why, and maybe she’s trying to actually say something nice, but it comes across very rude and materialistic. It’s all complaints.

Au Pair’s Situation Is Actually Fine
She has her own car to use whenever she’d like, she never works evenings or weekends and has so many amenities and access to so much that other Aupairs don’t have. Sure, there are those that live with wealthy families, but I can’t imagine they are the majority.

Now, at first I thought, okay she’s just spoiled and immature, and being materialistic for no reason. I know she comes from a blue-collar family in her country so it’s not like she’s slumming it her in the US. But, after reading it a few times, and talking with our former AuPair to get her take on it (she could better translate than Google, and also has a better perspective of someone that age) I’m just hurt and very angry.

Not Doing The Job Well
We’ve also noticed performance and attitude issues that we were already planning to address before this latest blog post. Such as, not bathing the children or changing their clothes, she’s very demanding with us and scoffs at us and whines constantly. Now, we’re a very silly fun-loving family, so this just doesn’t “fit” in our family culture.

Money Issues
We’ve had issues with her bank not accepting direct-deposit, and she refuses to take her checks to the bank. She also never signs them so I can’t even take them to the bank and deposit them for her. Yet, she complains to us and her friends that we never pay her or that she has no money.

She also tells us we need to pay for all her gas despite us making it very clear, in interviews and in writing before matching that if she’s driving the car for personal use, it’s on her dime. And, because she’s one of the only AuPairs with her own car she’s driving a lot.

Am I off base to feel totally irritated?

I’ve already been on edge from some of her comments and attitude to me which she does not do with my husband.

She’s very giggly around my husband and more snotty around me. I chalked it up to her family dynamic, in which she described not having the best relationship with her mother but being very close to her father but I’m not sure.

Now with this latest post on her blog, I feel like she’s not here to be part of our family, and am feeling a bit betrayed, if that’s even the right word.

LCC says our AuPair speaks very highly of our family but that’s not how she acts or speaks of us on her blog.

Advice? I just don’t know how to get past some of these issues!!

 

[note: ** I put these headings in to help organize this long email ~cv ]

Image: You Got This, poster by Valerie McKeehan, available for purchase on Etsy.  You know that somedays, you need a reminder.

{ 55 comments }

Should be working September 29, 2014 at 10:54 am

I must have missed the part about why this family has kept the au pair (or even held onto the match once the “you should be grateful I picked you” comments began. She is bratty, rude, entitled and shows poor judgment.

NoVA Twin Mom September 29, 2014 at 11:44 am

Start getting a receipt when you pay her. In fact, if you can manage to get her to sign something that says you’ve already given her checks worth $____, do so now. That way when you go to rematch (as I have no doubt you will be doing soon) her pay won’t be in contention. (Though I guess you could use the money represented by the uncashed checks to pay her if it does…)

Can you ask the LCC to give her a crash course in what to do with a check? Maybe she isn’t familiar with how to deposit one? I’m being serious – even Western Europe’s banking systems are very different from ours, she might not realize that in order to “get money” out of that piece of paper she needs to bring it to a bank. Especially if she’s claiming that you’re not paying her. At this point I wouldn’t do the education myself, I’d ask the LCC to do it. Also, have her cover how to deposit using an ATM – depending on what kind of account she has she might get charged for using a teller for a transaction.

Finally – and I know this one is hard – stop reading her blog. Some of our au pairs have had blogs and all have had Facebook. I friend them on Facebook (all have wanted to “friend” me during the matching process so they can see what our family is like; no one has “unfriended” me after arriving, though I’m aware they could be filtering what I see). But I don’t read their blogs, as I figure they need somewhere to vent. In fact, I’d also have the LCC run interference on getting the blog password protected. You won’t be able to read it – but random people googling and future au pairs won’t be able to without getting the password either.

Finally – and I am completely with you that this is not acceptable anymore, and I don’t know of a language off the top of my head for which this is the case – is it possible that this strange “dissing everything about a location but then saying it’s OK” pattern is somehow a direct translation from her home language that sounds much worse in English than she means it to be? Like how it’s more acceptable in German (and maybe Spanish) to distinguish one person from the one next to them by saying “the fat one” but in the US we’d find every other distinguishing characteristic we could see before going to “fat” and even then would use a different word, because calling someone “fat” (even not to their face) is rude? So a new speaker of English whose native language is German might directly translate what they’d normally say, not knowing how rude/hurtful the description could be to an American ear? At least that would explain why she seems to be complaining all the time but tells the LCC everything is OK.

In any case, unless she can magically transform her personality, I think you’re headed toward rematch. I’m guessing you’ll have to have a “one more chance” period, and you can give it a try. But definitely start documenting how you’ve been paying her. And/or begin paying her with cash (YES, annoying) but still get the receipts.

NoVA Twin Mom September 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I just want to clarify – I am 100% with you that this situation isn’t working out. I reread what I posted and it sounds like I’m “siding” with the au pair. No, this situation isn’t going to work. But I want you to do a few things to “protect yourself” while headed to rematch because there are some accusations she can make in rematch that you don’t want to have to deal with – first and foremost being that you haven’t been paying her. You need to be able to make clear that she has been paid by check and hasn’t been taking the steps necessary to be able to use that money, even though she seems to have a bank account. Straightening out language misunderstandings might also make the “one more chance” period more tolerable.

WarmStateMomma September 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Checks and banking are way different here from my AP’s home country. We help her open a bank account at our bank (no monthly fees) and then we set up the account for automatic transfers. We don’t ask whether she’d prefer a different method because we aren’t willing to bother with anything else.

I probably would have ignored the pre-arrival comments as mistranslations of shaky English, but I’d be ready to say goodbye after all the other behavior the OP described.

Being blunt/open about materialism is part of the culture in some countries and depending on where your AP is from, she may not know that we feel differently in the US. Our AP has mentioned other au pairs living in huge/amazing houses, which I don’t love hearing, but she’s also told me her bedroom here is larger than her last apartment at home. (We moved from a 3300 sf house to a 4000 sf house this summer, so it’s not like conditions are rough for her.)

Giggly with HD and snotty with HM = manipulative. Possibly more of a cultural thing than her personality, but still manipulative.

I don’t friend our APs on FB, but they don’t use the privacy settings and I occasionally check to see what they post. So far, it’s all been good but they probably are more active on the social networking sites from their home country.

It’s only going to build resentment to continue to hear these comments from the AP. I hope the kids aren’t old enough to pick up on them. It sounds like time to cut this princess loose so she can find that ultra wealthy family she feels entitled to be with.

Old China Hand September 29, 2014 at 8:15 pm

I need a better way to pay our AP – checks were never deposited and a pain in the neck to document for my FSA childcare. What banks will let you direct deposit into someone’s account? I can’t figure out how to do it with my bank and will open another account if I need to to make it work. Thanks!

Dorsi September 29, 2014 at 8:35 pm

I use CapitolOne360 (used to be ING Direct). It is a mostly online account and easy to link to your regular checking account. You can send anyone money for free (for you and them) with the last 4 digits of their account. They get an email, go to a secure site and then enter their full account number and routing number — usually I have to walk them through it once or twice. We have been doing this for six years. I can see in my bank statement if they have received the money. It is so easy that I will send the AP $5 this way if I need to reimburse her for something – much faster than trying to remember to do it in person. Also easy to resend emails, or cancel payments.

hOstCDmom September 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm

USAA lets you auto, recurring, or one off direct deposit into an account with any bank (doesn’t have to be USAA), but you do need the bank account number of the destination account. I tell the APs they must open a bank account the first weekend in order for them to get paid. (I take them to bank on the Friday after they arrive and we get a no fee checking & savings set up at a local branch of one of the major banks in the US that have ATMS everywhere). Then they give me the account number and I set up the weekly direct deposit for $195.75/week. I set the transfer to happen every Thursday, on which day it is initiated, and the money lands in her account in the early morning hours of Friday AM every week. Since I’m not the owner of AP’s account I can only transfer money from USAA *into* her account, not out of it. The accounts aren’t “linked” or anything. It works great and I have a printable electronic record of every transfer.

ReturnAupair September 30, 2014 at 4:28 am

My hostfamily and I used Bank of America. They Transfered the money to my account every week.

In your case, i would aks her for the checks back and give it to her cash, In case of a rematch she will tell you did not pay her and the agancy might not be happy about that. And then let her sign the Amount and writhe the dates to it.

hOstCDmom September 30, 2014 at 8:01 am

Oh – more re USAA, I do all of this online or with the phone APP. Very easy, and even easy to reimburse the $5 here and there too! I like it bc it is automatic re weekly stipend and I can never forget or be late! (I would guess many other banks have the same arrangement, or a version thereof.)

WarmStateMomma September 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

We use BBVA Compass, which you probably don’t have in your area OCH. We can set up automatic payments to go by check or electronic transfer. Either way, there is a record. I actually hate the hassle of stopping by the ATM the first few weeks before the AP has a SSN and can open a bank account. HD doesn’t share my urgency for making timely payments but paying the AP late makes it harder for me to reinforce our expectations without feeling like a hypocrite. Automatic transfers also eliminate the awkward hand off of money to someone who is new in your home.

There are probably easier ways to do these transfers with an app, but this system works well for us and it’s how we pay our other recurring bills.

OpinionatedHM September 30, 2014 at 8:12 am

Wells Fargo also offers automatic funds transfers or you can do them manually online.

NoVA Twin Mom September 30, 2014 at 8:44 am

We use USAA as well, but the service isn’t labeled as “direct deposit” – it’s either under their bill paying service or handled as a recurring transfer between accounts that you load into your profile. I think my agency’s credit union has the same service.

We too set up a bank account on the first weekend (or even day) our au pair is with us, telling them we need the numbers to be able to transfer funds to their accounts. Since most of our au pairs have been from Western Europe (where this is very much the model they’re used to) it works out great.

It sometimes takes a week to set up the payment schedule in the beginning. For that single week we pay in cash and make her sign a receipt.

hOstCDmom September 30, 2014 at 9:32 am

Agree – it is under the “transfers” tab/section when doing it online/through APP.

exAuPair October 1, 2014 at 10:14 am

When in the US, one of my friends hardly ever deposited her checks because… she used her undeposited checks as a way of saving money! If she didn’t deposit/cash them, she couldn’t spend it and she could just tell people that she didn’t have money so couldn’t do x.

What she didn’t realise was that if she didn’t deposit the check, the money wasn’t taken out of her host parent’s account. She thought the checks worked pretty much like a gift card – that the family had “paid” for the check and that the bank had already taken the money out of her family’s account. Guess what her host parents said when she went to the bank to deposit 15 weeks worth of checks at once. While they had noticed that she wasn’t cashing them regularly, host mom never noticed she wasn’t depositing at all (host mom was going through a divorce, worked full time and probably had other things on her mind). Host mom decided to pay her in cash after that.

hOstCDmom September 29, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Tell her you will ONLY pay her by direct deposit. And save the electronic receipt for such deposits. Employees don’t necessarily get to choose how to be paid; many employers ONLY offer direct deposit.

hOstCDmom September 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Oh, and of course, REMATCH!! I read nothing worth saving in what you wrote. I think many of us on this blog have gone into rematch with APs with only 1/2 or 1/3 of the issues you enumerated!

Even if you take a so-so in country/in rematch AP you will end up with an AP twice as good as what you have now! (not saying in country/rematch APs are all so-so, some are rock stars! but one is sometimes limited by who is in the pool at the moment) But seriously, you can find someone ASAP who will do the job, deposit her cheques; be polite; not argue about paying for her free time gas; and not publicly disrespect your family on her blog…!! And perhaps even much better than the floor I just outlined!

Seattle Mom September 30, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Not to mention change the kids’ clothes!

Sheesh! that alone would be enough for me to want to rematch…

NBHostMom September 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm

If it wasn’t for the childcare issues, I’d say serious attitude reset conversation with the LCC involved, but you said she’s “not bathing the children or changing their clothes” … this is her not doing her job. I’m guessing this has happened multiple times even after been spoken to about it, if this is the case, rematch.

My personal barometer is I can ignore a lot if the kids are being taken care of well, if I’m annoyed about the smaller things (not that your issues are small, there’s a lot on that list that I’d be seriously addressing) it’s because I’m not happy with her job overall. If everything is great with the kids, but rocky with me, I can put on the blinders and ignore a lot.

I’d also tell her to gather her checks, drive her to the bank and watch her deposit them. You don’t want have to deal with “they didn’t pay me nonsense”

HRHM September 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I second the “gather her checks” although I would take her to the nearest ATM that accepts deposits, and have her do it there. Chances are, she is refusing because she doesn’t know how and is scared to ask you or the bank people for help. Force her to do it (don’t do it for her, just be there to instruct her). Once that’s done, get a signed receipt for each week’s check until she leaves in rematch. Then, if she fails to deposit them, it’s her issue, not yours.

NoVA Twin Mom September 30, 2014 at 8:40 am

We did sometimes have an issue with clothes not being changed as often as I’d like. I’ll offer a suggestion for that issue alone in case anyone else is having a problem with that, though I agree in this case it’s a sign of another problem.

I think sometimes the au pairs are overwhelmed at the sheer volume of clothing to choose from. They don’t want to put the “wrong” thing on the child and get into trouble. So I reduced the number of choices.

I have twin preschoolers, so their clothes are still relatively small. I got a set of drawers (I think meant for storing scrapbooking supplies) with 10 drawers – two columns of five drawers. Every Sunday I put together five outfits for each girl. This time of year I put in both a pair of shorts and a pair of pants in the drawer. Ideally, all my au pair has to do is pull out an outfit and put it on a child. She can also make the call (three hours after I leave for the day) if they should wear shorts or pants. Now that my girls have some opinion about what they wear each day, they’ve taken to choosing an outfit from any drawer rather than going down the line Monday to Friday, and sometimes even mixing and matching. Basically, it gives her a number of “acceptable” options to choose from.

As the year goes on, sometimes the au pair takes more “liberty” in choosing outfits, which I think is great. And sometimes my girls go digging through their dressers on their own and make their own outfits – and my rules are that as long as everything is (relatively) clean and everything is covered that should be covered, that’s fine. I do make a point to tell our au pair specifically if I really want them to wear a specific outfit on a given day – i.e. school picture day, first day of school, maybe a during-the-school-day program.

Again, maybe a short term solution for this situation but future searchers might find it useful. :)

DowntownMom September 30, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I love your idea!!! We have come home to kids in fleece-lined jeans, when it was in the 90s…

Taking a Computer Lunch October 1, 2014 at 7:00 am

We have the opposite issue – coming home to a child in a tank top who is obviously blue with cold! While I don’t organize the drawers in this way, I do have seasonal bins, and when it’s time for me to hide seasonally inappropriate clothing – I do!

SKNY October 1, 2014 at 7:46 pm

We have this going on now. Au pair is from a very tropical area, where temperature on winter is above 90 degrees. She is freezing on our low 70s. As a result I have gotten the baby on a fleece warm jammies while it is 75 out. I cant even imagine what will happen when we go down under 0

Taking a Computer Lunch October 1, 2014 at 8:23 pm

Buy her silk longjohns now and make sure she knows how to wash them by hand! It will help her survive when the high temp hits 65! I had an AP from Recife who swore her city had four seasons until she survived our temperate winter (usually highs in the 40s lows in the 20s). Afterwards, she said, “I’ve changed my mind – my city has summer all the time!” It’s all in what you know!

old au pair mom September 29, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Everyone hates snotty. It is so wearing, you just don’t need that nonsense. We have had wonderful au pairs, our previous one help move us from a large home, to a small for us rental home (She had to use the downstairs guest bathroom) to a really large home(all in a 5 month period) and she swept and clean and decorated right along with me.
Have a reset meeting today and email the LCC with a synopsis, it will make the time period before rematch quicker! I love that term Reset meeting and learned it from this site. Tell her deposit the checks or give them back (she must have them and this will bring action!) then bite the bullet go to the bank yourself, get the cash and make her sign a receipt. Also state that if she doesn’t start being a good housemate -I love this too from this site, APs are also housemates and that requires good manners— she can pick a new family on which to bestow her charms. Lastly, tell her what time the kids are to be bathed. When their hands are to be washed, hair done, etc (put it in writing such a pain, I know)
I would also insist that she only drive one other au pair at a time starting today. If you enter rematch, it is okay to say she can only use the car to go to school and to the store, if necessary, but no friends in the car. The potential for accidents is high and the financial liability higher. (put this in your AP handbook) It is not your responsibility to provide transport for other families APs nor are you responsible for providing your AP with the means to drive everyone around. She might be collecting gas money from them and then from you too. very best of luck, there are super au pairs out there, this one sounds difficult and frankly life is too short

ILHostMom September 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Oh my, sounds like we have shared the same terrible Au Pair! However, she was our first Au Pair so we didn’t have a good experience to compare to and didn’t know better. Our first Au Pair complained constantly, even about small personal details such as why do I eat breakfast in my robe instead of getting dressed to come eat. Well, because I like to eat in my bathrobe and that’s not your concern and don’t be so judgmental!!! Same dynamic with my husband too. Apparently I was evil, but my husband was just fine. Even though he is way more direct and a bit of a hard ass. The community counselor said after the fact that there may have been some jealousy issues. Our Au Pair also had a very blue collar background. You will have a ton of people chime in to say you need to rematch, but take my advice, do it sooner rather than later. The very bad outcome from the first Au Pair has been long lasting. We were new in the neighborhood and she bad-mouthed us to our neighbors and on her blog and ruined several relationships. Also, she constantly questioned how/why/what I did and how we ran our lives, and it started to make me really question myself. Sounds crazy, but she had a strong personality and I’m a softie, so after hearing the negativity constantly, it started to sink in. My husband has made it a point to stress to new Au Pairs that they answer to me and he is only on the sidelines (he is often gone) and that a good host mom relationship is a non-negotiable.

MultitaskingMama October 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Thank you for this! I’m so glad I’m not the only one that has come across an AuPair like this. I think your husband’s approach could be very beneficial in our situation. We’ve decided to try and reset for now, but with some very stern conversations.

Evelina September 29, 2014 at 3:16 pm

As a previous au pair I believe many new au pairs think that the au pair life is very luxurius. You get to live in a mansion, drive your own car and have other people take care of you – but that’s not how it works at all and everyone going to the US needs to know this.
the au pair job is about give and take, most of the host families are average Americans with an average sized house and an average income who need help taking care of their kids during workdays. You might not get to live in a fancy house, have help around you or drive your own car but you do get to experience the American culture, maybe travel a bit and get to know people from all over the world.
au pairs need to be more grateful and understanding of the host families situations since they’re all just regular people with who need help with childcare :)

being an au pair can be amazing, if you learn to appreciate the little things and stop being materialistic!

WestMom September 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I am so annoyed just reading your post. I would not be able to tolerate the attitude. I would probably give it one final shot (reset) addressing all the issues you listed above. Attitude-wise, I would politely ‘apologize’ for not being able to provide all the luxuries she wishes she could have, but it is what it is, and if she wants to stay, she must stop complaining immediately or start looking for a new family. Her behavior is hurtful, and you don’t need to tolerate it in your own home.

I would also make a list of all the things that you want to clarify: Care for the children (incl. bath and dress), how she will be paid, and your car policy. She might want to bring a few other gripes to the table and you can compromise where it makes sense (like paying cash if that’s ok with you), but take time discuss everything on the table in a decisive way.

Lastly, I am very clear with AP that I don’t want to find any irreverent comments online about my family. This could hinder my ability to find our next AP. If AP has a problem with our family, it should be addressed in person (can you imagine if you posted nasty things about your boss on Facebook?). Of course some APs do it, which I find incredibly immature. Now that you know the comments are there, it’s impossible for you not to look. But I would definitely tell her that I find this hurtful and that I expect the negative comments to stop. Re-iterate that despite your relationship not being perfect right now, you would never put negative comments about her online and you expect the same respect. That alone would be enough of a reason for me to rematch.

I’ll end on a comment from my LCC, when I asked her how APs feel when they realize APs around them have a bigger house, better car, less hours, and a more vacation. She said ‘The ones who complain will never be happy no matter what they have’…

HRHM September 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm

In retrospect, it’s apparent that her comment about “picking” you and how you should be grateful should have been a hard stop to a match. I’ve been at this a fairly long time and unless she’s Mary Poppins, that is just not so. These are generally lovely young women looking for a fun gap year. They are not professional child carers and household managers. So if any one of the candidates presents themselves as God’s greatest gift, they better have the resume (and post-arrival performance) to back it up! You don’t mention her prior experience but obviously her performance trumps all. Rematch now, you deserve better (and she needs a wake up call)

Anonymous in CA September 29, 2014 at 4:29 pm

When I read this post, the first thing I thought of is how children need to know who’s in charge (parents are) and they need to know what the boundaries are so that they can test those boundaries (and be met with loving firmness so that they stay within the boundaries). Then I wondered what ‘boundaries’ there are for us as adults and it occurred to me that we have all sorts of societal norms that represent the boundaries within which we all agree, more or less, to live. As we get older, these become the unspoken rules, like, ‘send thank you notes,’ or ‘say please,’ or ‘offer to share with those around you,’ or ‘give up your seat to an elderly person.’ These certainly vary by culture. But I have to believe that a few core ones really don’t vary that much by culture. The ones that are basic decency toward one another.

So, what struck me is that this AP doesn’t know the core boundaries or the basics of being a person who lives within a societal structure of common decency. She’s not just pushing on the boundaries like a child would, she simply doesn’t realize the boundaries exist. And you can’t fix or train that – you might try, but really, you already have children and invited an AP into your life so that you would have help, not another child. She needs firm boundaries and needs to know her behavior is not acceptable; she needs to know the host parents really are in charge when it comes to childcare and modeling appropriate behavior for the children. But we expect APs, who are adults, will already understand basic social norms. I don’t think the relationship can be saved.

As to the stipend – I always use paper checks (can’t for the life of me figure out direct deposit) and I have AP initial that she received the check – I need this for my Section 125 plan and it’s a little CYA for me. You should not take the checks to the bank for her; she’s an adult. She might need to be made aware that she needs to take the checks to the bank, but it’s HER responsibility. Not yours. The sooner she starts taking responsibility for herself and her actions, the better everyone will be.

Returning HM September 29, 2014 at 4:34 pm

I agree with all of this. There is much that isn’t easy to fix here at all. OTOH, the bank thing is: OP, if your AP has a smartphone, download the bank app onto her phone, and she can deposit right there in your kitchen. Our AP deposits within minutes of my writing him a paper check. I get the “evidence” of him signing the check (and I get an electronic copy of this in my account), and he gets his money immediately. It works perfectly and took just downloading the free (BoA) app. I walked him through doing this the first time and didn’t suppose he knew how, so that there could be no embarrassment (a few of our APs had never seen paper checks before so it is helpful to walk them through this).

MultitaskingMama October 8, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Thank you – I think you nailed the issues.
It’s become even more apparent since sending in my situation that your take on her is exactly right. At first, we chalked it up to cultural differences but as the days have gone on we’ve realized that isn’t the case.
We’re prepping for a very serious reset, and if that doesn’t work then rematch.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 29, 2014 at 7:47 pm

My first thought is that so much here is based on uneven English and different banking practices. Au pairs, when initially conversing, don’t understand the nuances of American English and often unwittingly say things that hurt our feelings, upset us, are culturally inappropriate. They may also, in speaking their minds, contradict the very values of the program (AP #7 said “I didn’t come here to be a housemaid.” She also called a Hispanic man “black” to his face. In the first case, she was rude but speaking her mind and I had the LCC explain to her that the few tasks I had assigned were in line with the program. In the second case she pissed the guy off.)

Banking differences are huge. AP #10 said she couldn’t buy concert tickets because our printer didn’t come with a little machine that could read her bank card. Some people may have them here, I don’t. We explained that she could either a) enter her bank card into the system or b) ask us to use our credit card and reimburse us with cash. She didn’t know. We couldn’t hold it against her. (We’ve always paid our au pairs in cash and let them decide what to do with the money.)

Nevertheless, if at this point you’re constantly holding a grudge against her – then go into rematch. You have to decide whether it is worth your energy to rescue the relationship or not. If you decide it is, then decide what your bargaining “musts” are. If it’s not, then it’s not. Either way, ask your LCC to be present at the meeting.

Dorsi September 30, 2014 at 2:30 am

One common thing I see come up on here is the idea that “I don’t know why the AP is unhappy with her situation/complains about the terrible conditions, because we are nice to her and give her the following perks.”

Complaining about the terrible conditions that they must endure (unless you are locking her in the basement and not giving food), is a sign of a terrible AP. Sharing a bathroom, not having a kitchen or private access, not having exclusive car use are all part of the deal. While I advocate being explicit and honest during matching, I never feel bad that my AP has to deal with all of the above. Of 7 APs that we have had, only one complained openly about the living situation (and a few have had some pretty rough situations – small houses, moves during their year with us). Probably 7 complained about the situation at some point, but 6 never in a way that we heard about.

What I am trying to say is that when an AP is complaining about her living situation, the problem is most likely with her and not with the living situation.

TexasHM September 30, 2014 at 10:52 am

I couldn’t agree more with all of this with one exception – PLEASE don’t pay her in cash. I have seen this backfire when AP gets puts into rematch and claims HF never paid her because there is no paper trail. Not your problem if she doesn’t deposit them and I wouldn’t take her to the bank or help unless she asks – nicely. ;) When LC says show the proof you have a record of written checks and check numbers.
We use Chase Quickpay – its awesome and you can transfer money back and forth even with different banks! My dad sends me money from his bank every month for our family cell phone plan, we pay our au pair, she pays us back for random tickets or a skirt she put on our card at Costco, etc. I have also paid pool guys, landscaper and our friend that cleans our house (they all have different banks). I don’t see their account numbers or anything, its all secure, just set yourself up and enter their email and it will send them a link to enter their info securely and link them together. Piece of cake!
Back to the OP – I feel for you. Whether you read the blog or not, its clear this AP is not making your life easier and/or house happier. Any one of the things you mentioned would have been enough for me to have a reset conversation. I will tolerate a lot of things but I will not tolerate hurtful behavior. Not in my kids, not in my AP. Treat others as you would like to be treated and be gracious and we will never have an issue. Life is too short for a mediocre AP. Or in this case, an immature entitled bratty one. I might make that into a bumper sticker.
Best of luck to you!!

hOstCDmom September 30, 2014 at 11:26 am

completely agree; cash = bad, may come back to bite you.

happyhostmom September 30, 2014 at 12:28 pm

You had me at “doesn’t bathe my kids or change their clothes” as well as the fact that she posts your personal information (or at least her view of it on the internet). Those facts separately would be enough for me to want to rematch. She sounds like a dishonest diva who does not want to be part of your family, or on par with your family (as in the true French translation of the word au pair). In my family, I feel like we are all partners together. It sounds like you want this for your family too. You and your children deserve much better. Good luck.

happyhostmom September 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm

One more thing, on the payment front, if you cannot figure out the electronic tranfer, then I would cancel all the checks you previously wrote her, or have them give them back to you, then write a check for all monies owed, take a picture of it and document in a email to her (with a copy of the check) that she refuses to take it to the bank. Sadly with the money you need to document everything.

Angie host mom September 30, 2014 at 2:42 pm

All right! Another chance to try out my “Fix it, Let it Go, Or Rematch” theory of au pair parent survival!!

1. Whining about her life on the blog. Well, I’m quite glad my au pairs haven’t heard the whines I have occasionally made about them to my friends in private. A blog is different if it is public vs private, and any new au pairs you interview will find this blog. I’d call her on this one, I think it needs to be fixed. Sit her down and say you read her blog and saw that she is unhappy with her current situation and ask her if she wants to try to find a new family. Tell her you are concerned that when you start looking for a new AP at the end of her time, her blog will make you look like your house is not a happy place. Also, future employers seeing the blog will think she has a negative attitude. I expect this would be a tough conversation, but if you don’t fix this, you are going to have a negative blog going on about you all year driving you crazy. She’s either really unhappy, in which case good luck with her next HF, or she’s trying to get attention on her blog – which you can fix by letting her know the implications.

Money issues: Easy fix, pay her in cash and have her sign a log book after payment. Don’t spend another moment of your time dealing with her whining or Direct Deposit or checks that she doesn’t cash. If she doesn’t want cash tell her she can deposit it in the bank herself.

Gas – Just, No. Needs to be fixed. Tell her you were clear that she has to pay for gas for personal use. She doesn’t get to change that rule. For a stellar au pair, I pay for their personal gas except for road trips. But I certainly don’t lead with it.

Doesn’t “fit” with family. This one is really a personal call. Is it bad enough that you would rematch over it, she is driving you batty, or is it something you can let go and see the positives in the relationship. We’ve had au pairs that fit in great and some who drive us batty but are great with the kids. Love them all. But we have had to have the attitude needs fixing conversation – and if an AP would not have fixed their attitude, we would have rematched.

Whether or not this is fixable depends on how the AP takes the corrections, I don’t think you can let most of this stuff go.

hOstCDmom September 30, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I agree with all, except as noted before, I am strongly against paying any AP in cash (much less one that is telling folks that she’s not getting paid!). This is WHY we have cheques (commercial paper) in the USA — to document payment of things we need records of having paid! Too many variables if one pays cash. If they sign log they can later say it isn’t their signature. Much better to have 3rd party record of deposit of cheques or electronic record of bank-bank transfer.

Angie host mom September 30, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Agreed that it is better given the situation. But HM should NOT be going to the bank for her au pair to deposit the checks which AP won’t even sign. We’ve paid APs with cash and we’ve paid them with checks. They are always irritated that we don’t just do bank to bank transfers. But the US system is built on checks, they need to get used to it.

hOstCDmom September 30, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Totally agree that HM shouldn’t be going to the bank for her/depositing for her! (Well, I think showing an AP one time how cheques work/how to deposit is a reasonable expectation for a HF). I would write the cheque each week, take a picture of it, and send an email with photo attached to LCC and AP, noting that AP has been paid, but has been declining to deposit her cheques.

We do bank to bank transfers, but I think it is completely reasonable if HFs want to use cheques (I find cheques more work and more annoying than bank to bank bc I have to wait for the AP to deposit, and some would save for months (as a way of “saving”) and it would bug me when I would then have an unexpected $2k withdrawal from my chequing account all at once!). I just think cash is a bad idea in all cases — same reason you don’t pay tradesmen in cash, don’t pay bills in cash — having a record of payment = good! :)

Didis September 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I believe you were nice enough up until now. I am not saying being rude and disrespectful would be better way to go, but remember this is your family, your home and just like every other member of family she needs to respect other members.
You shouldn’t feel bad sticking to your plans and ideas you had from even before matching with her, and she definitely needs to respect you as an employer and a person. and she is lacking both.

I am former au pair, and I am not picking sides, but we all knew what we are getting ourselves into and it is her responsibility to make your life easier (while enjoying au pair year) not other way around.

Good Luck

Kerrigan September 30, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Oh gosh, sounds a little bit like my last Au pair. Bad attitude and overall disrespectful. This isn’t going to change overnight and it’s possible that no matter what you do, it’ll just get worse confronting the issue. After a whole month of pissy attitude towards us, I told her I was sick of it and she had 2 weeks to fix it before I sought a rematch. She already came to us in rematch so the agency told her this was her last chance. What happened? She kept her hatred and disrespectfulness quiet. But of course, it still showed through but I thought I could power through it all, chalked it up to immaturity, insecurity, whatever. I made so many excuses for her. Fast forward to her departure, which was just last week. I lent her my Japanese Rosetta Stone and some other language learning materials, which she trashed and threw in the garbage the day she left. She also left a nice profanity filled note on her wallpapered wall in the room she was staying in. I couldn’t believe this. After all I put up with, I should’ve just sent her home the first time I felt this relationship was off. I truly think a bad attitude and disrespectfulness cannot be saved. If it was your own teenager and you have the rest of your life to work on it, maybe. But this is just an Au pair and life is too short for this aggravation!

HRHM October 3, 2014 at 1:59 pm

CV,

No updates from the OP? I’d love to hear how she’s handling this…

MultitaskingMama October 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions. I had to take a mental break from the situation for a few days to really step back and try and figure this out, and have now gone through all of the comments and suggestions.
There is so much valuable information here to pull from, which is fantastic…so thank you…really.
One thing to clarify – we did set up direct deposit it’s just that for some reason her bank is not allowing the transfers to go through which is what caused us to pay by check so we’d have a paper trail. Our previous AP used the same banks and had no issues with the direct deposit.
During this past week our AP has made several more “jabs” about the house (she also made one or two nice comments too, so it wasn’t all bad), commented on all the things she doesn’t have and how other host families pay for so much more for their AuPairs (laptops, vacations, etc.)
I finally commented back, and instead of snapping just calmly reminded her that she’s far from slumming-it and that there’s a lot to be grateful for. No, we don’t have the million-dollar home with the view, stop talking about it. Look at what you do have, and all the “benefits” you’ve been provided (she’s never worked an evening, weekend, has her own car to use, etc.). We’re extremely low-key, fun, and loving and so are our children. And I left the room and walked away as her mouth hit the floor. Then I practically ignored her for 3 days. It wasn’t out of immaturity, I was testing her reaction. Did she want to try and salvage this “tiff” or would it make it worse? I will say this… she is VERY slowly starting to come around to me. She’s friendlier and seems more sincere and her attitude has improved.
The OTHER issues… (not bathing the kids, leaving them in dirty clothes, not cleaning rooms etc.) has not improved.
My husband and I have decided to have a reset with her. We have no experience with this and are trying to figure out the best approach.
I think for one we need to start with an agenda or calendar or at least “Today’s Objectives Are….” and write them out for her. Maybe that will help with some of the task-related issues. And of course, talk about the attitude, the blog, and the whining.

I truly appreciate all of your input and hopefully, we can get this in the right direction. She’s got one shot with me, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll move on. That said, I know a big part of how it turns out depends on how we handle/approach this situation, and that falls on our shoulders. Do I want it to work out? Sort of… because the idea right now of trying to interview, find another AP, train them and put my kids through that is overhwleming, and I do think there could (stressing could) be a decent relationship to be had if we can get through this.
Time to put on my big girl panties and manage this. Why does it seem so scary?!?

happyhostmom October 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Good luck!!! let us know how it goes!

Should be working October 12, 2014 at 2:27 am

This sounds all good. At the very least you are giving yourself good practice on how to manage an AP, how to put a stop to jabs, how to say what you want to say and not hold back while being ‘professional’ about it.

I am always curious to hear about turnaround stories–APs that were not good or even rather bad who DID get turned around and end up as good or great APs. This is not the same as HFs limping along with an ok year with a bad AP, but a real turnaround. Let us know how it goes!

Former NOVA hostmom now in NZ October 11, 2014 at 2:06 am

Rematch Rematch asap!!!

Suggest she Au Pairs in NZ where the average house is probably about 1800-2000 sf, you may get use of an old small car(cars very expensive here) and your average kiwi house is an icebox..:)

Rebekah October 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm

I think it clearly states in Au Pair’s rights that she/he does not have to complete or be asked to complete housework, so as far as this Host Mother, I feel she has some legitimate complaints, but at the same time her expectations as she did say her husband and herself “we each work 70+ hours per week” so I have a feeling this host family may also be overworking the Au Pair of the 45 hours a week, and that is against the U.S. mandated rights of the Au Pair.

PacNWHostMom October 23, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Rebekah,
While I understand your point-of-view, you’re speculating that the AuPair works more than 45 hours and that she’s been asked to complete housework outside the expected duties of an AuPair.
Neither are true. In fact the AuPair has never worked more than 45 hours and it’s well within the guidelines of the program to have an AuPair assist with household tasks related to the children. For example, their laundry, keeping their rooms tidy, providing meals and cleanup.

While it’s mentioned that the Host Parents work 70+ hours per there weren’t specifics provided, and instead you’re assuming the Host Parents are abusing the “mandated rights of the Au Pair” when in fact that isn’t the case at all.

MultitaskingMama January 13, 2015 at 5:59 pm

I wanted to provide y’all with an update on our situation since our “reset”.

First, I’m not going to sugar-coat it. Before we could do our reset meeting things came to a head and it wasn’t pretty. It was a “pack your bags or change your attitude” kind of meeting. And, it had to be done.

With all of the reasons I initially wrote about, and then suddenly new ones concerning her behavior and attitude it pushed us to have a very serious level-setting with our AuPair. We were already planning the whole “reset” conversation, but due to scheduling had to put it off a week. However, with those new issues we had to address them immediately.

With the history and new issues my knee-jerk reaction was to put her on a plane, but my husband is far more patient and less emotional and reminded me how I had previously stated I wanted rematch as a last resort.

First, we contacted our LC and brought her into the loop. Thankfully, we were all on the same page as to what needed to occur.
Second, we sat down our AuPair and brought up the newest issues first. We were careful to select only the main concerns with the older issues as well and not bash her with a laundry list of complaints. It did come to a “do you want to be with our family or not” kind of conversation, to which she passionately replied that she wanted to stay.

Her pleading to stay and be part of our family just didn’t jive with her previous behavior which was tough for me. But she acknowledged it, and we made a plan to work as a group to improve the overall situation.

Had she been indifferent to the conversation and our concerns, I would have moved toward rematch. However, she was mature in her response, passionate in her pleadings and adamant that she wanted to be a part of our family. Her response to the situation was heartfelt and showed a maturity I hadn’t yet seen. That truly is what charted the course for our reset and a big part of why it was successful.

It’s been roughly 3 months, and things are going very well. Her attitude has improved immensely and she’s really bonding with our children. She has taken a more active role in participating and planning their activities and nearly all of the prior concerns are no longer an issue.

It’s a win-win situation for all involved. Sure, it took a lot of work and patience. I think the easiest solution is to jump to rematch. But, I wanted to share with you that there are times when a “reset” can work wonders. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but if you’re willing to put in the work you can definitely salvage the situation and end up with an outstanding AuPair. Cheers to happy endings!

Should be working January 13, 2015 at 8:29 pm

This wins the prize for most mind-blowing turnaround. I wonder what made the difference. She wanted to stay, you told her the biggest thing that needed to change, and she showed maturity and self-reflection and changed them. I am astounded! I wonder where that sudden maturity came from. Good for you for doing it this way and for getting a great result!!

cv harquail January 13, 2015 at 9:59 pm

Wow.
Wow.
as Bingley’s sister says in Pride and Prejudice, “I am all astonishment.”
Like SBW, I wonder what it was that clicked for her– and I’m impressed by your patience AND your teamwork with your DH.
congratulations!

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