Open Thread: A Break

by cv harquail on May 1, 2015

Hi All-  Much excitement here at AuPairMom Headquarters this week. I fractured my scapula and two ribs on Sunday, by falling off a horse that spooked and started galloping towards the woods. My helmet and safety vest protected most of me, but the fractures, bruises, and etc. have taken a toll on both my ego and my energy.

IMG_1937Turns out, even if you’ve got all this ‘free time’ while resting in bed, and technology that makes it easy to dictate instead of type, it’s still hard to get out a complete thought whilst on paid meds and all. Therefore,

I’m officially declaring last week a ‘spring break’ and this coming week an open thread.

Please be especially nice to each other, since I won’t be monitoring comments too closely. Stay tuned for the return to our regular programming.




4th time lucky!? April 27, 2015 at 6:30 am

sorry for hijacking: some quick and urgent advice needed. We met latest aupair candidate in person and spent a few hours together. Great opportunity to chat and see interaction with our children first hand (warm and trying but not necessarily natural). I felt good about her up to now and not worried how things might be because we would only need her for 3 or 4 months (not in US!).
Here the facts, pros and cons in no particular order:The AP doesn’t have much childcare experience but seems keen to connect, warm, friendly and eager to learn, she is late 20s and noticeably more mature than other, younger candidates we interviewed, she’s been in the country for 2 months and should be over homesickness/ culture shock by now, she’s lived away from home/mum but with other people for many years; her background (work) is technical. She made the effort to come and see us and spend a good few hours with us. She instantely gave a bit of a hand with the kids (help put shoes on when going out, etc).

BUT: she smirked (saying ‘oh that’s so cute’) at my 5 year old’s pronounciation of some words in his second language and insisted my 4 year old should stick to the rules of a board game in quite a pertinent way [fyi, he wasn’t cheating to win] – both rubbed me up the wrong way. [it’s not that we teach our kids to totally disregard rules of games or let them win all the time but it certainly depends on the type of infringement – and maybe everyone just adopts the ‘new rule’].

I probably already made my decision but I need some feedback: am I being too harsh/ premature? it’s only for a few months after all… and I am instantly doubting myself and my parenting: should I do a better job teaching my kids how to properly play games?

Anon May 3, 2015 at 9:30 am

She was probably trying to be overly eager in letting you know she would stay on top of things, maybe not necessarily to reprimand kids over a game, but only 3 hours isn’t time to determine a lot of things, if it’s only for 3-4 months I’d go with your decision to have her, because her other qualities should overcome in other irritations, and you can let her know you aren’t too hard on kids in “play” as long as it doesn’t result in fighting or anyone getting hurt. My sister inlaw comes over and gets her panties more in a wad over things I don’t worry about simply because it’s not her house I think and she tries hard to make sure kids aren’t doing anything wrong in her care. Jen

AuPair Paris May 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Well… As long as it’s an open thread, I have been wondering how HPs feel about staying in touch with former au pairs. Is it more of a duty than a pleasure? How do the kids feel about it after a little time has passed? Have you ever been to visit former au pairs, or had them come back to visit you?

I’ve been on holiday away from mine for two weeks now, and I miss them so much – I am trying not to remind myself that I only have three months before I go for good, but… :(

Mimi May 1, 2015 at 6:37 pm

We have had APs for 7 years now and we keep in touch with all our APs like we do with family we don’t see often and it’s not a duty for us. My children like to make pictures and cards at random times that we will photograph and send to them and we remember them on their birthdays and at Christmas with cards. My children still talk about all our APs, even years later when they see or do something that makes them think of that particular AP. They have all returned to visit us and as two are now married and living in the US, we see them several times a year on social occasions. We all keep in touch on Facebook and we will Skype with them at least twice a year at both our request and theirs.

What is new for me is that our recent rematch APs have both reached out with comments and questions about how the children are doing and missing them. I’ve responded and they are both still friends on FB, but I’m having mixed feelings about staying in touch for a variety of reasons. While we parted on fairly good terms, there are things that have come to light after the fact that would have made parting very different had we known about them at the time. Some of it I can chalk up to youthful indiscretion and immaturity, but I’m inclined to let these relationships fade.

Host Mom X May 4, 2015 at 10:59 am

We have the same relationships with past APs that you describe, Mimi. We started to feel bad about transitioning from gifts to just cards at holidays and birthdays, but given the variety of world-wide locations in which our APs live, sending gifts (and even actual mail-cards!) gets logistically complex and expensive, especially as our number of past APs grows and they are in a variety of locations, some of which mail takes quite long to get to! But we try to Skype a couple times a year, and our kids like to send little video messages, sing happy birthday, etc. It is especially important for us to keep this up with our first AP who was with our older kids when they were babies and preschoolers, because they really don’t have a memory of that time anymore, and we desperately want them to remember this wonderful young woman who played such an important role in their lives. Our APs have come back to visit and stay with us, and one has family nearby and still lives in the U.S. – so we see her more often, and still send physical gifts.

So to AuPairParis – it s DEFINITELY a pleasure, not a duty. Our au pairs hold such a special place in our lives and the lives of our kids. Each one added so much to our family, and we do not want our kids to forget them, and we want these young people to know always how much they meant to us.

I think a hard thing for an AP might be a visit a year or two later with kids who were too young to remember them for long. That’s why we try to keep the memory alive with pictures, Skype, etc., even if one or two of the children may not have actual, active memories of that AP. Our last AP – who cared for our youngest from 4 months to a year and for months – recently came back to visit. Because it was only a few months later, the baby still remembered her a bit, but we all felt kind of teary-eyed realizing what we all intellectually knew would be true – that our baby will not have an active memory of this wonderful young woman who helped bring her from infanthood to toddlerhood.

Mimi – we’ve had three rematches, and what is interesting to us is that even though we don’t keep in touch, our kids still recite the rematch APs (even the one who was only with us for three weeks!) as part of their “history” – they like to recite the names of all our APs, and they always include the rematch APs’ names in the list. They don’t really remember our two first rematches, though, since they were so small when the rematches happened. The first we certainly would not have tried to keep in touch with since we parted on bad terms. The second – we hadn’t really invested anything into the relationship, so there wasn’t much to “keep in touch” about. Our last rematch AP said she wanted to keep in touch, and cried about missing the kids when she left, but she hasn’t reached out yet. We haven’t either – and strangely, our kids haven’t asked, which we thought they would. We wouldn’t rebuff her if she reached out, and if our kids asked we’d try to set up a Skype – but we are sort of relieved that it hasn’t happened yet. I think the same as you – we didn’t part on bad terms at all, but the more we see the difference with our new AP out of rematch, and realize by comparison how bad it was, we just aren’t interested in putting any effort into that relationship. (I don’t think there was any indiscretion or deceit at issue, but the issues that led to the rematch, in hindsight, just make me more annoyed now thinking back about them.)

DC Metro Mom May 1, 2015 at 6:54 pm

1st, CV, I hope that you feel better, soon.

We are still very close with our AP. We still Skype, we send videos of recitals…Our daughter always wants to talk to her on big events, like holidays and first day of school.

If I could only explain to my preschooler that driving to South Africa would be far more difficult than she thinks. :)

Host Mom in the City May 2, 2015 at 6:26 am

Oh no, CV! I’m so sorry. Hope you are feeling better soon :(

In the topic of staying in touch, we also love staying in touch with our former great au pairs. We send packages for their birthdays, stay friends on Facebook and welcome them to come back to visit. Our au pairs reach out frequently and one has come back to visit the us and stayed with us. We have had two au pairs who were not great – one that we should have rematched with who repeatedly lied and was terrible with the kids and one who decided au pairing wasn’t for her and left after six weeks. Those two I do not keep in touch with.

DC Metro Mom May 2, 2015 at 6:57 am

Yes, we stay in touch with rock star…the one who was not a good fit for us, and had honesty problems, no.

American Host Mom in Europe May 2, 2015 at 7:14 am

We’ve had 12 APs, and are in touch with all but 2 of them (one left early on less than good terms, and one we were fine with, but she rejected all communications after leaving – she’d crashed my car shortly before her time was up, and I think felt quite bad and wanted to put us behind her). Our longest AP (14 months) who I was also probably closest to has been back to visit us several times, including last week (and she was here 4-5 years ago!), and a few others have been to visit. We send a calendar with family pictures every year at Christmas to all of them (which they say they love having!), and I keep up with most on FB. Some make more of an effort, and we keep up with them more than others.

Returning HM May 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

CV- hope you feel better and are up and about soon!

About keeping in touch: We laugh because the stretch between Feb 4 and May 21 (soon to be June 1, with our new AP) is brutal for us, because in this stretch we have seven AP birthdays! So that means 7 packages to mail off to Europe with seven presents and all the accompanying cards to make. Our APs know me well enough to know that I am ALWAYS late with mailing things, and they are generous enough to say that this is fun for them because it extends their birthday celebrations. But we love celebrating them — and in turn, they send birthday cards and gifts to the children, so on the children’s birthdays, the mail is always full of cards and sweets from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland :-)

In addition to the birthdays and also Christmas/Hanukkah cards we send, we keep in Facebook touch with all of them and also skype frequently with five of them. We love keeping in touch with our previous APs, love when they come back to visit (as three so far have), and can’t wait til we can swing a visit to Europe, especially since now one of our favorite Brazilian APs has also moved to Germany (married a German guy she met during her year with us back in 2009!), so we will have nearly all of them located within three adjacent countries!

I think it’s wonderful that you miss and are planning to stay in touch with your family. It shows that your involvement has been more than just about employment and that you have truly invested yourself in the relationship. What more could your host family want?

WestMom May 2, 2015 at 12:52 pm

We have had 6 past APs and keep in touch with most of them, though at different levels of intimacy. APs 1 and 2 are like extended family to us. If we travel to her country, they will meet us and tag along for part of our vacation. They both have come back to visit twice. We were never very close to AP3. She was more private and did not really need that ‘family feel’ when she was with us. We are still in touch, but our contacts are less frequent. AP4 is coming back to live in the area, so we will be thrilled to rekindle a relationship with her. We were close to AP5, but sadly, she is not very active on social media, which makes it more difficult to stay in touch… But she will always be welcome in our home… We had one rematch, and no we are not in touch.

Does it feel like work? No, not really, although I am not a big ‘birthday’ person. The more APs we have, the more birthdays I have to remember, and since I am horrible at remembering birthdays, that part feels a little bit like work to me. What might also feel like work is maintaining contact with APs relatives. We invested in our relationship with AP1s family, but I quickly realized that we would never be able to maintain close relationships with every APs relatives (and honestly I can’t have an open house policy for all relatives at perpetuity, or send christmas gifts to everyone!). We purposely have maintained a lower profile with subsequent APs relatives.

I also very much appreciate Facebook, Instagram and Viber. Those are great tool to keep in touch spontaneously with our APs. We rarely ‘plan’ a Skype call, but I might have a quick chat while commuting home on the train, which is great.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 3, 2015 at 7:44 pm

I’ve hosted 10 APs – the 11th is currently living with our family – and when a relationship has worked well, the AP is always always always welcomed back into our home. AP #2 has returned three times, and with our permission brought a friend along on one visit. AP #4 has returned with her husband. We encourage all of them to return for important family celebrations, although few are able to come. We were invited to AP #4’s wedding and had the money set aside, but then our van broke down, so sadly the money went to a partial replacement of the van instead.

I refuse to FB friend APs while they live under my roof, but sometimes we “friend” each other during their travel month. It’s been a great way to stay connected easily – especially since their email addresses tend to change frequently.

WarmStateMomma May 4, 2015 at 2:21 pm

I keep in loose touch with AP#1 – email and kid pix a few times a year. We Skype and email often with beloved AP#2. Both loved my daughter but only AP#2 built a close relationship with us. AP#2 also sets up Skype dates with current AP to see our kids – which works for me because I don’t have to juggle the timing. My daughter doesn’t remember AP#1 (she was 3mo when she arrived) but tells me that she loves AP#2. It made my daughter sad at first to Skype with AP#2 but now she enjoys it like she enjoys calling the grandparents. HD and I encourage the connection because they love each other and you can’t help but want your kids to feel loved by good people. Just yesterday my daughter told me that AP#2’s favorite thing to do was to laugh with her.

We hosted two foreign exchange students before we had kids. They both came back to visit (one came twice!) and we very much hope to visit them both in their home countries one day. One messaged me today to see how we were doing after he saw some of the scary reports in the news. I still email with their parents sometimes. One sent me a mother’s day card and both sent gifts when my kids were born. Those kids were so integrated into our family that our relatives ask about them often and keep up with them on Facebook.

AuPair Paris May 1, 2015 at 5:30 pm

P.S. CV I hope you feel better soon and have plenty of free time to rest and heal!

spanishaupair May 1, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Im not a HP but i have gone to visit one pf my HF after a year i left and planning to go back this year for a quick visit. I guess they are happy with that as they asked me to go again to visit them ;) They are in Europe so obviouslly cheaper to go to visit them

But also think that depends on relationship with them with the family mentioned above i have a really close relationship with all of them so we keep in touch even if i was there for 3 months 4 years ago. But with the family i spent two years i had more kind of professional relationship and is harder to keep in touch with them even i left last august, i text my HM here and them and sometimes see kids because they ask current aupair to talk with me ;)

P.S CV i hope you recover soon

WCO HD May 1, 2015 at 6:46 pm

While I can not speak to keeping in contact with former APs because we are still awaiting the arrival of our first one, we do however have experience with foreign exchange students. We hosted a wonderful young lady from Germany last year and we still keep in regular contact with her both on facebook and skype. She is visiting us this summer for nearly a month and we have plans to travel to Germany next summer for her high school graduation. She is definitely family to us now. We definitely hope to have similar relationships with future APs!

DC Metro Mom May 1, 2015 at 7:09 pm

Please forgive me in advance, as I am sure that this has been discussed previously, at some point. I am not injured, just sleep deprived right now…

With the recent events of this week, my husband and I have been considering revising our handbook, adding a section for terrorism/protests/etc. We don’t want to scare the beast out of APs (or scare off prospective ones, as we send the handbook during matching), but we do want them to be prepared for the possibility of terror, etc.

1. How much detail do those of you who address this go into? We have an action plan with numbers, procedures on the refrigerator, but we are aware that a person is not always so fortunate as to be at home when something happens. I know people that walked to home/hospitals on 9/11.

2. What type of things do you address? For natural disasters, we are fairly detailed. As in, “during tornado weather, and we will inform you of the times, always keep tennis shoes for you and Child X by the basement door if during the day and by your bed at night. If there is a tornado, we will go to the basement, but there will be debris afterward that may injure your feet.” What instructions/issues do you make sure to include in this section?

3. Do you have any kind of conversation/script of what to tell the children? Not necessarily about the incident (I feel like that is my job, if possible), but if parents are late, unaccounted for, etc. I have found that kids are more intuitive than we give them credit for.

4. Maybe a “reading the tea leaves” question, but can you think of a good question to test for ability to handle high stress, think on your feet situations? I know that not everyone has been in such a situation (thank goodness), but I do think that there are people who can demonstrate the ability to get down to business and make sure everything is taken care of, etc.

Again, I am so sorry (a) if this has touched any nerves or (b) this has been addressed before and I haven’t really seen it.


German Au-Pair May 1, 2015 at 7:54 pm

As an AP I was informed about what to do when on tornado watch and that’s basically it. I would liked more detail for other kinds of problems but it’s impossible to cover everything that could possibly happen. Sometimes you just have to make judgement call.
I’m not a big fan of the “what would you do if…” questions that some HP ask (and that the interviewer sometimes asks when you apply) because what you would do would depend on so many different things. On your relationship with the parents and the children, on what you may have overheard in a conversation before if it hasn’t been explicitely told, on the character of children and parents and on the specifics of the situation at hand.

My girl once got lost after school. We had agreed on a time to pick her up between her school and her brother’s school (that were connected via a parking lot mind you) and she just didn’t show. This would have been less of a big deal in Germany but I know that this is terrible in the US. Had someone asked me what I would do in such a situation, I would have said that I would alert the parents and the police right away.
In that situation however, I knew that the neighborhood was incredibly safe, that she was really reasonable and in no danger of simply running off and getting lost and way too smart and mature to get into anyone’s car (plus again, that neighborhood was SO safe). I knew that the parents were busy at work, too far away to actually do anything so I decided to handle it myself. I got in touch with boths schools, in between had to juggle picking up my boy and then keep looking for her. The headmaster asked me to call my host mom and I told him that there was no way I was going to call her and say “BTW, not that you can do anything about it now, but your friggin child is lost”. I ended up being followed home by the police, looked for her there and once the police had alerted the entire district’s force we decided to call my HM (who of course couldn’t do anything either). We found her 5 minutes later, sitting at the same aprking lot that we had searched three times (she went to the football stadium’s bathroom in between where she couldn’t hear either school calling out for her…seriously?!) and was so relaxed and had simply waited.
I had made the call not to worry my HM too soon as I was SURE there had to be a reasonable explantion for this and she was actually happy that I had taken on most of the burden of being worried. This is not how I would have handled things in my head and this may not have been how I would have handled it with different HP, a younger/less reasonable child and a potentially less safe neighborhood. So I really hate those “what if”-questions. Plus, when a REAL crisis arises, you never really know what you would do. When it comes to medical crisis, 911 is always a good call, but if you want something specific done, you need to say so. I would not know what to do in case of an earthquake and couldn’t think of what I might do. I guess I would just do what seems most reasonable in that situation.

My HP HAVE asked me what I HAVE done in specific situations that have arisen which is something you can actually answer. So you could maybe ask “Has there ever been a situation in which you had to make a quick judgment call?” and them have them describe (via email…this is a tough one!)

Seattle Mom May 4, 2015 at 12:25 pm

I agree with all that you say, but I think that the “what would you do” questions are useful not for the exact answers people give but to see their thought process. I can weed out people incapable of thought that way. You sound really smart, but there are plenty of AP applicants who just don’t even know where to begin to think about these things.

Host Mom X May 4, 2015 at 2:01 pm

We generally have switched over to the “tell us about the most difficult/scary situation you experienced while taking care of children, and how you handled it” example (or something similar that doesn’t focus on children, if they haven’t had such an experience with children), rather than the hypothetical, since I’d rather hear a real, concrete story. However, I do agree with you, Seattle Mom, that the hypothetical questions still do have their value because some AP candidates literally cannot come up with anything at all – and there is value in seeing where their thought process takes them, even if it isn’t the “right” answer or what they’d actually do in the moment. Also – I like candidates who would answer the hypothetical question with something like “well, I’m not exactly sure what steps I’d take in that particular situation, but let me tell you about something kind of similar that happened to me, and how I handled it.”

AlwaysHopeful HM May 1, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Oh boy. This question makes me realize I really need to tackle some of these things. I’ve never told an AP 1) where we keep our shelter-in-place supplies (in fact, what DID I do with those?), 2) who our emergency check-in person is in case of natural disaster/ terrorist attack, etc. 3) what to do in a natural disaster (tornado, go to basement, away from windows or doors; hurricane or flood, head upstairs to highest level, away from windows or doors– we don’t have any tall trees that might crash down; earthquake, get under sturdy object or in door frame, etc.). I’m going to add that to my already overly-long handbook. It shouldn’t be too scary if it’s pitched as unlikely to occur, but here’s the info just in case. Kind of like what to do if there’s a fire or gas leak (both of those I do currently include). I don’t think I would add child script, but maybe talk to the AP generally about the need to be honest, but protective with my son. He doesn’t need to know everything, so distract if possible, but don’t pretend nothing is wrong when it is obvious that something is.

I don’t have any great ideas for questions, but I agree with German AuPair that couching it in terms of what they HAVE done is better than a what if.

UKAu Pair May 2, 2015 at 5:48 am

Are floods/hurricanes/tornadoes/earthquakes that common in America?

If I saw anything in a handbook about them I’d definitely ask questions- they’re not things we’re used to in Britain (although flooding is unfortunately becoming more common), and I’d want to make sure that I understood your expectations, and whether there were times in the year when I’d need to be more prepared.

Is it true that American schools have earthquake and tornado drills? We have a fire drill once a term and that’s about it- we’re not particularly at risk for other natural disasters!

By all means put it in there if it’s something that you’d expect any American adult to be prepared for/have the common sense to deal with, but be prepared for lots of questions, especially from curious European APs who will never have come across anything like this before! And also be aware that if you’re asking ‘think on your feet’ questions that they’ll be unlikely to have ever dealt with earthquakes or tornadoes, so their responses are likely to be different (equally, if the AP comes from somewhere where earthquakes are a common occurrence I suppose she might not necessarily consider them a ‘think on your feet’ situation).

DC Metro Mom May 2, 2015 at 6:55 am

Depending upon the area, tornados can be fairly common in certain parts of the year, and can be quite deadly in tornado ally. Although they are less common where we are now, they do happen. I lived in Arkansas growing up, which is part of “tornado alley,” as are parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri. Parts of the East Coast and Gulf states (Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida) do have tropical storms and hurricanes, although the destructive ones are less common, I think, than the deadly tornados (correct me if I am wrong to all of those who live in Hurricane prone areas).

Is violence or terrorism something that happens every day? No, but in DC, I do think about it.

Actually, questions would make me feel better. I want them thinking ahead. I also, obviously, don’t anticipate that they have dealt with these specific instances. However, I do think that there is some carry over in how you handle stressful situations…for example, I tend to stay calm in a crisis until everything is safe, situated, and under control. Then, I go in a room by myself and cry when the moment wears off. Some people are just the opposite.

My natural disaster area in my handbook is very specific. Part of that is my management style. Part of that is that I do want people to feel prepared, to have had some knowledge in the back of their mind. However, with man made safety issues/disasters, it is just more complicated, so I was hoping that someone else had some experience or ideas.

In general, I think that if you have concrete information, without being over the top, people are less frightened and more empowered. But, it can be a fine line between being empowering and terrifying.

UKAu Pair May 2, 2015 at 7:19 am

I had no idea they were such a big problem. Growing up watching The Wizard of Oz, I knew that Kansas, at least, was relatively prone to them, but I can’t imagine living in anywhere where it was normal for people to plan for them… are all tornadoes big enough to destroy houses and carry off cars, or do smaller ones occur too? Thank you for the reply, you’ve really piqued my interest!

Violence or terrorism I can understand more- I don’t live near London, but I come from a military family and we’re aware of the risks, although we don’t have any emergency plans in place. I can imagine that with small children you’d be more wary. I would suggest approaching this the same way as a natural disaster: emergency phone numbers, emergency protocol and a safe place to go.

I think your approach and the way you seem to explain things (specific, concrete information) would make me, as an au pair without any experience of natural disasters, feel reassured and that I was able to approach you with any questions or fears I may have. It would also probably lead to conversations about US-specific natural disasters, ways of dealing with the weather/terrorism etc, which I would find interesting (and is, after all, part of the cultural exchange). I’d certainly rather have all the information from the start than find myself thrust into an emergency situation without any idea what the HP expect or where the safest place to go would be.

DC Metro Mom May 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Well, we don’t have any wicked witches or flying monkeys, that I have seen, anyway! :)

There have been several tornados in my home state that have leveled entire towns. But, they are predictably unpredictable. There are some that do minor damage, some that level entire towns. You can have one house destroyed, a nearby neighborhood with minimal damage. It just depends upon the strength of the storm and tornado. I am no expert, this is just my experience. Where I have seen people get into trouble is being unprepared. My rule in my house is when you know there is a warning, get ready to go into the basement. Nobody leaves the house until it expires. If I say go to the basement, go. Do not watch the tornado (yes, I know people who have done that). As I said, the debris can be really injurious.

My family on the coast has the rule when they call for a hurricane evacuation, you evacuate.

We also have a supply box with water and non perishable food, in case of water main break or lengthy power outage (Hello, snowmageddon)…

Thank you for the input on my nature. I sometimes worry that it is too business like.

Yes, West Mom, I do send the handbook when interviewing. That was part of my fear in covering terrorism, that it would scare people from coming to our home. However, I do want to be realistic that it can happen. Maybe redact some information in the interview process??

German Au-Pair May 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

I also was on the East Coast when hurricane Sandy hit.
I stayed with an AP friend’s HF in a small suburb between NY and Philly. Their neighborhood was fine except for some broken trees and I thought that maybe they had exaggerated. Then my friend drove me to the airport and we passed by streets that were completely covered in giant trees, police everywhere. Overflowing sewers, not power nearly everywhere, most shops closed. We passed by impossibly long lines of people waiting at gas stations in the dark to get some gas to heat their places. When I looked out of the airplane window I was a bit confused because I was sure I ahd seen the NYC skyline on my first flight from orientation and now alll I saw was darkness. And then it hit me: you COULD see the skyline, except it was completely dark. It was so scary and interesting at the same time.

But in the US, even smaller natural disasters can be pretty annoying. All the power lines are above ground and even a normal storm can kill some trees and there goes your power.
Plus I feel like weather is changing much more rapitly than I am used from home. I once attended a a football game and it had look like rain…but suddenly a stronger wind came up and I heard people screaming. At first I thought there was a shooting because people on the bleechers started screaming and running for no apparent reason. 2 Seconds later I was DRENTCHED to my underwear and by the time we reached our car, there were literally trash cans rolling around on the parking lot. It felt like one of those movies. When we drove home, many parts of the city were out of power because trees had crashed into power lines. Right in front of us a school bus full of people had to navigate under a power line that was hanging on the wet street, giving up sparks -like in one of those movies. I swear I am not making this up.
For a European that sounds pretty damn scary but what really struck me was the routine with which people dealt with it. Traffic worked just fine even without light at the huge crossroads. Everyone was civil and helpful and when we got home we changed our clothes, dried our hair and went for dinner. It feels like people have adjusted to the problems and deal with accordingly.
I don’t think that the people in those areas realize how special this seems for most Europeans.

UKAu Pair May 4, 2015 at 10:31 am

It sounds silly but tornadoes were just as incredible to me as wicked witches or flying monkeys! The worst weather we’d had here until last winter’s floods was a tiny earthquake that knocked over some garden gnomes and it was front-page news for weeks.

Clear rules and instructions would be reassuring for me. As German AP says, European weather is so different that I wouldn’t know to go down to the cellar during a tornado unless I had been told. I don’t think that being business-like is an issue, and personally it would be preferable.

I’d probably leave in the stuff about natural disasters but take out the mention of terrorism. In most of the world having a plan in case of terrorism is definitely not normal, and you don’t want to spook anyone over a (hopefully) unlikely event. I’d put in a line along the lines of ‘when you arrive we will go over our emergency protocols covered in this handbook, as well as making sure that you are aware of what to do in the event of other unlikely situations such as a gas leak, flood or terrorist attack’.

WarmStateMomma May 5, 2015 at 3:00 pm

@UK AuPair:

It’s interesting how our countries have traded positions on terrorism. When I traveled to London as a high school student (pre-9/11), they checked our bags before letting us enter some important site. We thought it was so crazy and were scolded not to make any more jokes about this bizarre procedure because the Brits were “sensitive” about it. We never could have predicted the fear that would take over the US or that it would last so long….

German Au-Pair May 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm

I’d say I witnessed about 20 tornado warnings. Some more urgent than others (there are different levels). And I have spent many many hours in the tornado shelter room.
I wish I had been more prepared though. Once I watched TV at night and I knew we were on tornado watch but did not expect THE most scary noise screetching at me from the television once we changed to tornado warning. SO scary.
The thing is, us Europeans tend to find the whole “hide in the basement”-thing quite exagerrated and especially so after we’ve done that 5 times and NOTHING happened. A tornado warning is issued when the storms that COULD produce tornados reach your are and even IF they produce tornados, that doesn’t mean you actually get those things that touch down. So you get bored and annoyed after a while and tend to go “Ugh, those Americans.” Except sometimes you see what such a tornado can do. How it can level a city (American wooden houses -not that sturdy.) In my area, out of the about 20 tornado warnings I witnessed, only two or three actually ended up being scary. But when they do…one touched down ON the intersate and it was SO scary to think you’re driving and you see that thing and you simply have no idea if it has the strength to simply get rid of you.
So even though hiding in the basement in the middle of the night WAs really annoying, eventually I had to agree with my HM’s philosphy of not messing with mother nature. Some I knew had grandparents in a small town next to a lake and apparently it’s said that tornados very rarely cross bigger waters so they felt pretty safe until one day their entire house was leveled.
Plus during my stay the whole tornado-drama happene din Missouri (it was Missouri, right?) and when you see those pictures and think that this COULD have been you…
Americans and weather is so hard to understand for Europeans.

WarmStateMomma May 4, 2015 at 10:46 am

It’s pretty easy to outrun a hurricane in most parts of the US and it’s actually pretty rare that you’d need to do so if you don’t live within a couple of miles of the ocean. I lived there in Florida for close to 30 years and the only times I ever felt endangered were when the hurricanes spawned tornadoes. One time, my family sat in my parents’ closet for a few hours because a passing hurricane caused a series of tornadoes to rip through town. Homes in Florida don’t have basements and many homes have no rooms without a window or skylight (this is not unusual in parts of Tornado Alley, either).

My handbook just tells the AP to get herself and kids out of the house in the event of a fire and the dogs will follow. I tell her that we will pay for any and all property lost – even a new passport – and that she should just worry about safety. We keep emergency contacts lists in the house and in each car. I suppose we should tell our AP about tornadoes but other disasters aren’t really on my radar.

UKAu Pair May 4, 2015 at 10:51 am

Sorry if this is a silly question but why would you need a windowless room in the event of a tornado?
If you have neither a cellar nor a windowless room what would you do if a tornado were to happen?

A couple of tiles fell off our roof in high winds last year… it was the talk of the road for weeks.

My dad went on a fire safety course when I was about 6 and came home and immediately started organising fire escape routes. Scared me half to death, and after that it was never mentioned again. I think we’re all too heavy now to jump down onto the bay window, which was the original plan, so we have no emergency protocol at all.

WarmStateMomma May 4, 2015 at 11:16 am

If the wind tosses an object into your window and breaks the glass, the wind enters the room and can cause the destruction that everyone fears during a tornado. For the same reason, we bring large objects into the garage or house before a hurricane arrives so they don’t become missiles that fly into our home or a neighbor’s home.

UKAu Pair May 4, 2015 at 11:34 am

Oh crikey. That sounds terrifying! Is there any danger of the wind breaking the glass, or is it more being concerned about objects being blown around outside hitting it?

How much warning do you usually have before a hurricane? Would you bring in really big things like swings and sandpits as well?

NoVA Twin Mom May 4, 2015 at 11:53 am

You usually have at least a few days’ notice that a hurricane is headed in your general direction, maybe one day’s notice that it’s headed straight for you if it changes direction at the last minute. For example, Hurricane Sandy that some people have mentioned was supposed to hit the Washington DC area, so we prepared by moving everything that could become a projectile inside our garage (or just inside the house if you didn’t have a garage) and parking our car inside the garage, filling the car’s tank with gas, and getting cash from the ATM, maybe getting extra ice for the freezer (to make it into a giant cooler if the electricity went out for a longer period of time). At the last minute the storm changed direction and hit the New York area instead, but they had about 24 hours notice that would happen. If the storm had been much larger or if we had lived closer to the ocean, we might have been warned to evacuate instead, and usually people are given enough notice that they are able to do so ahead of the storm.

If you don’t have a cellar or a windowless room, you might go into a closet, a bathroom, a bathtub with a mattress pulled on top of you, or in some parts of the country where tornadoes are very common, a specially built storm shelter/room. Basically, you want to get as low in your house as you can and as close to the center of the house as you can. Sometimes there will be a crawlspace/storage room under a staircase that really isn’t a room but can be used for this kind of purpose. It’s not pleasant, but it’s really only for an hour or so at a time.

As scary as these things sound when they’re all compiled together like this, they really don’t happen often. And for people from “tornado alley,” the idea of living in London, where terrorists set off bombs in the subway, would be just as terrifying as a tornado is to you :)

WarmStateMomma May 4, 2015 at 11:55 am

I’ve never heard of wind alone breaking the glass but I suppose it’s possible. They track hurricanes for weeks actually, but you have really only a few days notice that a storm will hit a specific area. Florida has so many highways criss-crossing the state and so many hotels everywhere that you really just have to drive 2-3 hours to be out of the worst part of the storm path. I’ve never had to evacuate but it can be necessary based on where you live and how severe the storm is.

We put flower pots in the garage and throw lounge chairs into the pool. I wouldn’t bother with a swing set or sand box but maybe I would be more cautious in a coastal area with a category 5 storm. Hurricanes lose power quickly as they travel over land and I lived in the middle of the state for the worst storms. We had to board our windows one unusual year that storm after storm hit Florida. The power companies stopped reconnecting power because other storms were on the horizon.

UKAu Pair May 4, 2015 at 12:07 pm

Thank you so much everyone for your replies. I’m fascinated that being prepared for something like this is normal for some of you.

NoVA Twin Mom, are bathrooms in America usually downstairs? In England you might have a loo (with no bath/shower) downstairs, but the actual bathroom itself is usually upstairs with the bedrooms, and usually on an exterior wall (because it makes plumbing easier). Hiding in a bath sounds sensible but it’s neither low nor in the middle of the house for most people over here! (Probably because we don’t need to worry about hurricanes when we build our houses). English houses are also built out of brick, whereas I think in the US they tend to be wooden?

I agree that you tend to adapt to whatever is normal for you- in London, for example, bins are really rare because of the risk of terrorists hiding bombs in them- this is a hangover from the Northern Irish Troubles and the IRA, but with the current situation people are still cautious- so you have a carry your rubbish around with you. It’s a complete nuisance and would probably seem really odd to someone from rural America!

NoVA Twin Mom May 4, 2015 at 12:22 pm

I guess I’m thinking of the “loo” I hid in during a tornado on the first floor of my old townhouse (five or six houses “stuck” together side by side) then, not a bathroom :). With my very confused cat, I might add. Since I was home, I was able to get the cat into the “safe room” with me. But she’ll go places with me that she won’t go with others.

But in the midwest, there are often ranch houses, which are all on one level, so then your bathroom (and everything else) is on the lowest (and only) floor. Whether or not it has a window – or if it’s the smallest window in the house – may be subject to chance.

German Au-Pair May 4, 2015 at 6:21 pm

With tornadoes you usually have a 15 minute warning (but you’re on tornado watch a good while before that) and even then it doesn’t actually mean a tornado is going to appear. So it really is boring most of the time.
What almost made my heart stop was my very first tornado warning. I was at the local college and had had NO idea that you keep track of the weather like that (checking our app for unsual weather is a normal habit over there) so I had no clue we were even on a tornado watch.So suddenly there’s a voice over teh speaker that says “ATTENTION. A dangerous situation has been reported in the building.” For a quick second I was sure I was gonna die in a shooting in like my second week of college but then the voice told us to leave the class room and everyone rolled their eyes and we hid in a teacher’s office. SO scary.

I will say though, that while I now understand tornado precautions, I still think that maybe the USA tends to exaggerate a teeny tiny bit when it comes to weather. You wouldn’t believe the amount of warnings, advisories, watches and whatnot you get in your weather app. Color coded of course…and mind you, in the Southern states that do get snow, 2mm of snow call for a asnow advisory. One afternoon we got a tiny bit of snow and it was already gone when the calls came in informing us of all schools being closed. Madness.

Seattle Mom May 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Tornadoes are more common in landlocked areas, which would explain why you don’t have them in the UK. Though they have happened in some coastal states it is considered an anomaly when it does, and they don’t usually have the land mass needed to really generate speed & power and be extremely destructive (but respect even the small tornadoes- they can kill you).

I’ve never lived anywhere with real tornado danger, though there was one that came close to my parents’ house in upstate NY. That was a strange one!

We worry more about earthquakes here on the west coast. We don’t have a specific plan in place, because my feeling is that you can’t really know what is going to happen. But I do talk to the APs about what you are supposed to do if there is an earthquake (take shelter under furniture and wait for the shaking to stop, and if you’re outside get as far away from buildings as possible). I think I could put a note about it in the handbook, so they could read it at their leisure- that would be a good idea.

My current au pair lived through the last big earthquake in Japan.. she knows what to do, but you can imagine it’s not something she wants to experience again.

WarmStateMomma May 4, 2015 at 12:59 pm

I googled this just now since I live in Tornado Alley. Florida actually ranked #3 in the country (on NOAA’s site) for total number of tornadoes and #1 for number of tornadoes per 10,000 square miles. For context, it’s 9.59 per 10,000 sq miles in Florida and only 5.23 in TX.

Seattle Mom May 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Wow- I didn’t realize that Florida was at high risk for tornadoes!

WestMom May 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm

I have a single line in our handbook that we will discuss what to do in case of a natural disaster. But to be honest, we have not discussed it in detail with the last 2 APs. We keep an emergency plan inside our emergency supply box (food, blankets, med, money, etc.). On top of the box I taped all the emergency numbers, and two meeting points outside our state in case we need to evacuate. I should really tell our current AP about the box!

Do you share your handbook when matching? If so, I would suggest you make mention of an emergency plan, but that should be something you discuss in person after she arrives. It might be alarming for a new candidate to hear about the possibility of terrorism or terrible natural disaster. And I would probably keep the plan in a separate document where anyone in the family can access it.

German Au-Pair May 2, 2015 at 9:14 pm

Oh what’s crucial I think (and I really do need to check how I would even handle that at home…) who to call when you have one of those small disasters like a water break or gas leak. I would so not know what to do. I once was alone over the weekend and panicked because I THOUGHT I might be smelling gas. Drove my HP nuts but I really had no idea what to do except call them.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 3, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Over the years, APs have experienced 9/11 and it’s aftermath, hurricanes (including a nasty bout of stomach flu that we all had during an extended power outage – yuck!), snowstorms (no big deal in some parts of the country, but in my city – absolutely paralyzing), a school emergency that required immediate pick-up, and a derecho.

Each AP is issued a flashlight (I check and make sure it works before she arrives), and she has an oldfashioned land-line phone that will work for 12 hours after the power goes out.

We offer minimal instructions in our handbook, because each weather or human event is so different – and because while they do happen, they are rare. We do talk explicitly as each event happens – or is about to happen.

Of bigger concern to me, as the parent of a medically fragile teenager, is that the AP know and understand the protocol for the care of my child when she falls ill. (Also, how to care for her on hot summer days when the power does go out.)

JJ Host Mom May 3, 2015 at 8:31 pm

We have a one-page excerpt that goes on the fridge at all times. It has all emergency numbers (doctor, dentist, ER, etc on it.)

We’re in earthquake country and do go over earthquake protocol. Generally that is just about where to stand in case of an earthquake (in a doorframe.)

We make sure that the au pair has my and HD’s number programmed into her phone as ICE (in case of emergency) numbers.

During orientation we show the au pair the gas shutoff, the circuit box and how to throw a switch, the water shutoff, both main and for each sink and toilet, and the fire alarms, especially the fire alarm batteries. Nobody has probably ever retained this info but if something were to happen it would be easier to walk her through it over the phone if she’s seen it before.

The emergency page includes the locations of the first aid kit, the earthquake emergency kit, flashlights and candles, and the fire extinguisher.

It says (and we talk about) that in case of an emergency she should stay at home with the kids, or, if they get evacuated, take them with her to a safe location and let us know where they’re going.

NoVA Twin Mom May 3, 2015 at 10:28 pm

We’re also in the DC area, and while this isn’t something in our handbook, it’s something I cover verbally on the first day. Now that I’m typing it out, though, I’m realizing I should copy and paste it into a page to leave in the au pair room for future reference, not even necessarily to be in the handbook (which I’m pretty sure gets buried after the first week). Here’s the highlights:

We have weather warnings by county here. When a weather warning comes over the radio or TV, you need to know that we’re in ___ county, but we’re only five minutes from ___ county so you should listen to what they’re saying about both. Be warned, though, (as most of our au pairs are from Sweden) that especially with winter storms, they’re going to make it sound like the world is ending. You’ll get used to the forecasts after a while. If you hear about a tornado WARNING take the kids and go into the laundry room because it’s the only room in the basement without windows. Tornado watches just mean the conditions are right for a tornado, not that one is anywhere near us. With both weather warnings and house fires, worry only about you and the kids (or other humans). Let the cat fend for herself – she gets scared and hides, and I don’t want you to spend time looking for her and not getting to a safe place.

You have heard about 9/11. One of the airplanes crashed into the Pentagon, which is very near where I work. If anything like that happens again, it will take me a LONG time to get home. It even took me a long time to get home the day we had an earthquake a few years ago because we don’t usually get earthquakes here. HD works much closer to home, so he’ll probably be able to get home much faster than I will. Our family plan for if anything like 9/11 happens again – or even if there’s another earthquake – is that everyone gets home anyway they can, and the first people home stay there until the others can make contact (we live 20 miles outside DC so chances are our house will be outside the “danger zone”, although my workplace will probably be inside it). The strange thing is that sometimes it’s easier to call areas of the country that are further away than another person inside the same city, so we will all call HM’s parents to relay messages if we can’t get a hold of each other. It’s also sometimes easier to text than to call, so if you can’t call, try texting. If you can’t text, try facebook.

There is a good chance HM will have to walk partway home from work on a day such as this, and that is also part of our plan. Your main job on a workday that something like 9/11 happens will be to find our girls and get them home, then keep them distracted in any way you can. Movies, Roku, snacks, playing outside if it seems like a good idea, keeping them away from news reports please. If you want to see what is going on, please check internet sources on your phone. Our LCC will do her best to keep you informed as well. One of the reasons we keep to our hour limit as strictly as we do normally is that on a day like this, we might go over our hours – know that we will do our best to make it up to you later, and that chances are whatever activity you had planned for the evening will, unfortunately, be cancelled due to the event that is delaying us.

Basically, we have faith that our au pair will rise to the occasion, because we’re not really sure what else TO do. I think that by at least addressing it early, we plant the idea that we know that this kind of thing CAN happen, but that we’re calm about it and they can be too. The earthquake example did happen while we had an au pair, which makes it a “well, if AP#1 could handle it, I can too” kind of story in my mind :)

exaupair May 4, 2015 at 7:28 am

Sorry for not getting the overall image of hypothetical natural disaster but I couldn’t help but notice…
With all respect, how can you suggest your AP to leave your cat behind. It is a living creature FFS.
We do not get tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes and the like over here so maybe I’m not aware how safe and easy they are to handle for cats and dogs, but if you want your kids and the sitter to get to a safe place, then why not animals you are also responsible for after all.
Advising the AP to let the animal fend for herself, makes me sick.
Flame on.

SwissAuPair May 4, 2015 at 7:51 am

The AP is responsible for the children and their safety and the AP should always stay with the children. Is it reasonable to ask the children to look for a cat in a burning house and probably all gonna die?

Of course if the cat (or any other animal) is easy to chatch, the AP should save the animal as well. But not put herself in a dangerous situation to save a cat! I think she wrote it in the handbook that the AP knows it is okay to get herself out of the danger-zone with all the people and that she should not risk her life to save the cat.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 4, 2015 at 8:43 am

No flame, but I think it is because it is hypothetical for you that it is difficult to understand. Having at this point lived through hurricanes, tropical storms, house fires and Sept. 11 (yes, I was one of this people who walked for miles), and having seen the stories of, for example, killer tornadoes and Hurricane Katrina, I know that you may have little to no time to make decisions that could make the difference between everyone perishing and some surviving. The best way to ensure survival is to have a plan in place in advance, so no decision time need be wasted. It feels ruthless, but you have to decide your order of priority at a time when the adrenaline is not racing through your body. My crude order of priority is: 1) my child, 2) whoever is caring for my child, 3) everyone else.

Also, one sad fact that we know is that there are very few shelters that allow pets. So, if we were forced to evacuate to a shelter, we likely would need to leave our dog behind, no matter how devastating that may be.

Returning HM May 4, 2015 at 10:52 am

No flame here. DH and I agreed in watching the Katrina footage that we would have been the people standing on their roof with their dogs, while the flood waters rose, because there is no way we could leave our pets.

BUT this doesn’t mean that I would ask the AP to risk himself or my children to save my animals. Our handbook clearly states, and I reiterate in training, that AP’s job is to get the children and himself out. If he can save the animals without risking himself or the children, he should do so, but he should not feel that he must risk his life to save my 14 year old dog. If I choose to do this, it is my business and problem (and has potential ramifications for my children, I know), but it’s not something I could ask of another human being.

NoVA Twin Mom May 4, 2015 at 11:36 am

This instruction is a direct result of the first au pair asking me what she should do about the cat in case of an emergency. Our cat is VERY skittish about strange noises and people. Even an electrician being in the house will cause her to hide for hours – and even I don’t know where she hides. If there were a natural disaster causing damage to the house, or firemen to come in, I have NO IDEA where she would go, but I *do* know that it wouldn’t be anywhere we would expect or anywhere easy to find. I want the au pair and the kids OUT, or into the safe room. I don’t want them looking for the cat. My exact, original, words were to “let the firemen handle the cat” so that she wouldn’t react the way you are.

In reality, I *don’t* want to leave the cat behind, and would make a concerted effort to find the cat – once everyone else is out, the emergency has passed, and it’s safe to look for the cat. But what I’m trying to do is give the au pair “permission” to just deal with the humans “in the heat of the moment.” Once things have calmed down, the cat will come out of her hidey hole, she’s been microchipped and our contact information (and backup contact information) is up to date, so when she’s found, we’ll be contacted and reunited. But I don’t want the au pair to feel like she can’t leave a flaming house because she hasn’t found the cat. If you see the cat – yes, grab her and get out. If you don’t, get out and find her later.

Dorsi May 4, 2015 at 3:16 pm

We had a tragic house fire in our area a few years ago where a child went in to get the dog, Dad followed to get the child. Dad, child, dog all burned to death while Mom and other child waited outside. Having a clear understanding that no one should risk their life for a pet is a good idea to lay out in advance (including that children should not risk life for pet).

TexasHM May 4, 2015 at 9:51 am

Quick sidenote on this safety topic. We have a lengthy section in our handbook but this is part that is taken out of the summary handbook that we send during interviewing because it is something that we think needs to be put into perspective and sounds sensational when reading pages of possible disaster scenarios.

Also, information and knowledge on these topics varies and I noticed that our advice differs from some of the above HMs as well! For example, I had read a few years ago that during earthquakes you should not go to the doorway anymore and the agencies have been teaching Drop/Cover/Hold and so that is what is in our handbook.

As someone that has lived in tornado alley my entire life, I have never seen, been in or had damage from a tornado (knock on wood). Hurricanes do 10 times the amount of damage per year than tornados. As said, tornados are unpredictable but you don’t want to be the person that underestimated one. Generally speaking hurricanes do a lot more damage to a much larger area (some are miles and miles across) and a tornado does severe damage to a small area. The problem is many people that don’t know think that all tornados are alike and think they are all F5 (highest/strongest type of tornado) so they see the damage from Joplin and think that is what is coming – a finger of God as they are called for good reason and extremely rare.

Moral of the story? We have a conversation, explain all these things and answer their questions. We also make sure to point out while in 5 years of hosting all APs have taken cover but we have never had any damage. We also show a weather service map that shows that in the last 60+ years there hasn’t been a tornado that has hit our area (as far back as recorded). Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, just that even in tornado alley it’s possible to live for 30+ years and never meet one. You are – no joke – 6 times more likely to die slipping and falling in your bathtub than you are in a tornado. But here is another fact – your odds of survival should you be in the path of a tornado are absolutely directly related to your preparedness. A lot of people survived an F5 tornado in wood frame houses in Joplin. How?!?! They knew exactly what to do to increase their odds. As someone who drove through about 6 months after it hit Joplin and had friends there it was amazing to see the debris strewn for miles with bathtubs, interior closet frames and bathroom frames still standing when literally no other part of the home remained. I have never seen destruction like that and yet, A LOT of people survived in bathrooms, commercial freezers, closets and giant big box stores! Educate the APs and answer their questions but also make sure you give them odds so you don’t drive them away or keep them up at night! :)

JJ Host Mom May 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Thanks for the drop/cover/hold info. Hadn’t realized that the recommendation had changed!

DC Metro Mom May 4, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I really like that…mind if I plagiarize??

TexasHM May 4, 2015 at 11:21 pm

Of course! Copy away most of my handbook came from this site anyway! :) Also, if you do a quick google on most of these topics (flooding, tornados, earthquakes) there is some great summary information that I copied and pasted into our hanbdbook.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 1, 2015 at 10:15 pm

CV, I’m not even sure what a scapula is, but a broken one sounds painful! Feel better!!

American Host Mom in Europe May 2, 2015 at 7:24 am

Oh dear, best of luck with your recovery, CV!

Peachtree Mom May 2, 2015 at 8:47 am

Wow CV, how frightening. Sounds like a real bad fall. I have not experienced a real runaway yet….real scary. Get better soon.

Nina May 2, 2015 at 11:44 am

Au Pair Mom: I wish you a speedy recovery!

For others, another REMATCH question: I am in a situation where I know we should go into Rematch but I can’t pull the plug, as my son enjoys this au pair more than anyone else in 7 years of being a HF. So I need to hear other people’s perspective.

Sorry this is so long.

Right now we have our first male au pair. He came 6 weeks ago and so much has happened and right now we are totally torn whether to go into rematch or not.

We have 2 energetic boys, whose fights and behaviours are not always the best. One is very competitive and the other one struggles with school work (slow to learn how to read and thus doesn’t like school).
We could immediately see that this au pair is a natural when talking to kids and playing with them. The silly boys jokes that the girl au pairs couldn’t really handle didn’t bother him but he knew when to say it’s too much and the boys listen to him. I had high hopes from the beginning.
My husband didn’t like his energy even when skyped as the au pair seemed a bit hyper and in a too good of a mood.

As usual I took my time to train him and talk to him about everything every night for about 3 weeks. Mistakes were made, but I felt that is part of the training.

Then spring break came and I started doubting his judgment:

One of the biggest topic of training was that our boys who are 7 and 9 are not allowed to cross the street by themselves. I don’t even know how many times I said that, it’s in the HH rules, everyewhere.
Then one evening while we were talking about something and I mentioned the crossing the street again the au pair tells me he lets the older one get the ball from the street when they played baseball in the driveway. Red Red Flag!

Immediately a day or two after: I see my younger having burns on his arm: the au pair brought the huge hot pan from the oven on the table to serve the chicken!
He would forget things that I wrote for him in notes, told him few times and even texted him to remind him.
When they went to friends house who have a trampoline: I told him the trampoline makes me nervous, make sure they are safe and watch them all the time. He ended up joining them, but jumping so hard kids couldn’t control their movements; my older one fell weird on his knees and he was limping for more than a day.

He has send playdates home without asking me if they would argue. I Our au pairs usually work 30-35 hours: if I asked him to add 10 min to lunch time so he can wash the pans or pots, he said no I’ll do it in the evening and then nothing. Whatever I would suggest he had an opposite suggestion.

And finally I told him that the kids don’t have to play sports all the time as they are very competitive with each other, but if they play the same sport to put them on the same team. After the school one day they played soccer on different teams. Younger one pushed the older one and he broke 3 bones incliding a growth plate. I know it can happen anytime to anyone. But the fact that it happened while not even checking if its ok to have them on separate teams, makes me very concerned.

Any time we give him feedback he is very receptive, but nothing happens. So we ended up having a serious talk followed by mediation and he is really now trying hard: doing extra things in the house that I don’t care much about it. At the mediation I restarted that if we say to him that lets kids are not allowed to cross the street, he needs to follow the rule even if we don’t do the same. He has been trying to implement other things with kids, like arts and crafts… Still very nice to kids, very patient, needs to work on setting limits to kids etc, but that is ok. However, I didn’t allow them to go to playground again or to play any sports since the broken arm. Few days ago after work I kicked the soccer ball to my son with broken arm. The next day he texted me while I was driving home if they can do the same. I didn’t answer but came home after 20 min and he decided to let my son with broken arm kick the ball and throw baseball.

Can I trust him? Can I believe that once my son’s cast is off the kids will be safe with him? I don’t know. I’m nervous of something else happening. Can someone without a common sense somehow find a common sense?. I feel no, but then it’s so hard going into rematch when the relationship with kids is one of the best.

I just need a perspective of another Host Mom.


AuPair Paris May 2, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Not a host-Mum, but as an au pair – this au pair’s style wouldn’t be mine, but it doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds like a lot of the things you are worried about might also be *why* your boys love the AP – more independence/a little more rough-housing. Presumably, your boys fighting wouldn’t end up with several broken bones normally?! I don’t think an AP can be expected to avoid fights between the HK… (Deal with them, yes. Not wind things up, yes…) My approach is the the kids I look after need to learn to disagree with one another civilly, resolve their arguments peaceably and all that stuff that’s easier in theory than practice – but yeah, I don’t run around like crazy avoiding all disputes.

I guess I could understand the latter if you know… Very violent disputes *were* a part of the norm, and were something that were being dealt with by the family and/or a therapist, *and* I had been told up-front that it was a problem. But if the broken bones were a one-off “oops, this is why we always tell you not to fight!” situation, then I don’t think it’s the AP’s fault for letting the boys oppose each other in a sports team. (Rather it’s the boys’ fault for fighting so violently! Bet they won’t be doing that again in a hurry! :P )

As for the whole “sending a playdate home because of arguments” – for all the others, I do understand that your rules are your rules. I understand wanting to impress that on an AP. But the AP needs authority too – and if he can’t follow through with his warnings, he won’t have any… I think that’s an important right to have as an AP.

AlwaysHopefulHM May 2, 2015 at 2:18 pm

Hmm, this is a tough one, Nina. In my mind, the two most important things in an au pair match are the relationship with the kids and being able to trust that your kids are safe. You have a lot of one and not as much of the other. From what you’ve written, I don’t get the sense that your boys are UNsafe, just perhaps being placed in situations a bit more risky that what makes you feel comfortable.

The issue here seems to be more that your au pair only pays lip service to your specific instructions, and/or substitutes his own judgment when you’ve given clear guidance to the contrary. Since you mentioned that he usually comes up with his own, opposite suggestions, maybe you can partner with him in working through the issue. Let him know that you appreciate all the extra effort he has made and the great relationship he has with the boys, but that the concern remains that he has been unable or unwilling to follow the particular rules you set out. Let him know (maybe by category) which are most critical, and ask him what he thinks would best help him be able to stick to the rules. Also, maybe there are rules he disagrees with, or sees differently. Ask him about that and see if maybe there’s room to be flexible (such as doing the dishes at a different time– as long as he actually ends up doing them!).

From your description of his relationship with your boys, it sounds like it’s worth the effort to figure out if there’s a way to make this work. On the other hand, if after all efforts, you still feel uncomfortable with the level of safety he is able to guarantee, you should rematch. I just have to tell you, as a family that ended up having to rematch with an au pair who really “got” my son and brought smiles to all of our faces every day, recovery from the departure is slow and painful, so just be ready for that!

Nina May 2, 2015 at 10:10 pm

Thanks so much for your comment! That worries me the most:breaking their hearts:(

Nina May 2, 2015 at 11:39 pm

AlwaysHopefulHM: your comment is right on. So now if I added that he also drinks a lot of alcohol, what would you think? So few times during the week at night, but mostly on weekends he drinks a six pack or a bottle of wine in his room, then goes out and sometimes drinks even more. Sometimes I don’t care about it, but then Im not sure, since I wonder if he has an issue with alcohol?

AlwaysHopeful HM May 3, 2015 at 12:45 am

I guess I would start by saying that every family is different, and what is absolutely okay for one family is absolutely not okay for another– and that’s fine! Also, every person is different, and it’s hard to know what effect all of that drinking is having on his body. For me, heavy drinking would not be a problem if it didn’t interfere with the au pair’s ability to do his job well (be alert, cheerful, engaged, etc.). I probably drank that much and that frequently for four years in college, graduated with honors, then simply stopped doing that with no problem (because college was over– time for real life). However, heavy drinking at home, where the kids are, would be something I would not allow. Kids notice things, even if it’s just the smell of old beer the next day in his room– and I would worry about the example he’s setting. I am assuming that when he goes out, he is not driving, and not riding with someone who’s had as much as he has to drink. Either of those would also be a big problem for me. Finally, I would find the desire to frequently drink a 6 pack or bottle of wine alone in his room a bit… odd.

So I would say, if you’re worried about whether he has an issue with alcohol, I’m not sure you can know that (or fix it if he does). But if your question is whether YOU have an issue with his alcohol consumption, it sounds like you do, but perhaps are second guessing yourself? I think you should go with wherever your gut is on that.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 3, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Child #2 is a risk-taker, and my risk-averse DH has always stopped him from doing dangerous things, while my parenting style has always been, “He’s going to do it anyway, it’s easier to get him to an ER quickly if I see it.” (And we’ve been.)

My attitude toward APs has always been, “You are an adult in my house.” (I suffer from a lack of ‘in loco parentis spirit’.) IMO, some of the women I have hosted have consumed too much alcohol (although most have actually been tee-totalers) or stayed out too late (although, again, over half have been home and in bed at a reasonable time). However, as long as DH and I don’t have to pry them out of bed or stay home from work so they can “recover,” then I’m fine with what they do on their free time. Now, if spending their free time included drinking and driving my car – then I would have a problem.

In addition, with child #2 (because child #1 can do nothing without full assistance), we have always given the incoming AP a list of things he may do, and inform her when his boundaries and permissions from us have increased. Nevertheless, we always gave our APs permission to decrease those boundaries and permissions if she didn’t feel comfortable with them – and he know that when the AP was in charge he had to follow her rules. He’s now a high school student, so really, the only thing we ask of the AP is that when he’s home and we go out late, that she makes sure he does his chores (because, frankly, we’re too tired to stay out past his bedtime!).

So, is your AP ignoring your rules, because they seem philosophically wrong to him? If he gives your son permission to retrieve a ball from the road because he is with him and watching, then it seems to me that your AP is taking full responsibility for your son’s care and it is incumbent on you to let him know that he may only go across the road when an adult is around to make sure he’s safe. But then you also need to make it clear to your AP that you’re giving in because you trust him to keep your son safe and make it clear to the boys that if he’s not outside with them that they may not go into the road at all.

This goes back to the differences in child-rearing. I’ve always been the parent that pushed child #2 to take responsibility for his actions. When he was 2 his sister received her first wheelchair, and he was forced to leave the stroller behind. I praised him for stopping at the curbs and told him how much I trusted him to go ahead because he always waited – reinforcing his safe behavior – because I had to. As a result, I’ve always been the parent who let my kid be independent long before his friend, partially out of necessity and partially because I could see him rise to the occasion of increased responsibility and independence.

Long way of saying – let your AP have increased independence but make him understand that his choices come with full responsibility for keeping your boys safe.

Nina May 3, 2015 at 11:29 pm

With the rules, it almost feels that he has a bit of an oppositional personality: if he says ok to a rule, he’ll break it OR he’ll ask me to do things differently.
I feel he just doesn’t remember or get it: He forgets things even though its written down, I told him, and texted him to do…
He told me that he has issues remembering things in school as well.

Alcohol: I find it weird to buy a 6 pack and drink it by yourself in your room. If there was not other issues, I would be ok with it.

When I speak to other parents who see him pick up the kids from school and interact with them , they all say he is really nice with the kids, which I know as well.

This would not be our first rematch, but if we do it, it would be the hardest one.

I want him to convince me that I can trust me and then I can relax the rules…

SwissAuPair May 4, 2015 at 3:56 am

What country or what part of the world is he from? I have lived in eastern europe for a while and to drink Alcohol, specially in the rural area, is a everyday “task”. Wherever you go they say “let’s have some homemade liquor!”, no matter what time it is. In summer they often drink homemade wine mixed with water, sprite or coke all day long.

Seattle Mom May 4, 2015 at 12:55 pm

It sounds like you have a few different related issues going on here.

1. Drinking. Is he driving after drinking? If he were, that would be a deal-breaker. Otherwise, if he’s getting up ready to work in the morning, and not puking in the house, that would be enough for me. I agree that drinking a 6 pack alone and then going out and drinking more sounds like a dysfunctional behavior, but if he’s managing it ok then it wouldn’t be a big problem for me.. but definitely not ideal and I wouldn’t want him wobbling around the house in front of the kids drunk. YMMV.

2. Risk-taking. He sounds kind of like my DH, who lets our kids run around the neighborhood with no shoes on, crossing the streets and doing all kinds of shenanigans. It goes against my nature but even I have to admit that at 4 & 6 years old they are amazingly independent and they know how to assess risks and know their limits- if something really is likely to kill them they won’t do it, and if I ban something and say it’s because they could die they listen. I’m like TACL on this one.

But you sound incompatible on this one, and it’s not like one of you is right or wrong- you are the parent, and you get to decide. If you see where he is coming from and understand why he is fundamentally different then you might be able to flex a little, or explain things in a way that he gets that you respect him, but you still want things done your way. I don’t know if this is possible.

3. Forgetting/ignoring rules. This would bother me too. It depends on the rule though, and how much I like the AP. I had an awesome AP who could not take direction. But I realized quickly that her way was great, the kids were safe with her, and she was very responsible. She just wasn’t going to bathe them when I thought they should be bathed, she was going to keep them out later in the day then I thought appropriate. I also really liked her, so I let it go. My last AP didn’t get away with that, because she was a ding bat.

Anna May 4, 2015 at 1:26 pm


as a mother of a son with ADHD, it sounds like your au pair has some sort of an ADHD or related learning disability. I think he sincerely may have trouble remembering your rules, or remembering them in the moment. This may be exacerbated and/or masked by his use of alcohol. I think he wants to please you, but when push comes to shove, all flies out the window, and it is not malicious, he just cannot because of cognitive/attention/impulsivity issues.

So I think the bottom line you should think if you are OK with him if he continues to behave as he is; basically assume that he is unable to learn your rules and follow them all the time. Is he able to keep your kids safe? From the trampoline jumping incident, it sounds to me that he gets carried away in the excitement of the moment and loses control/forgets the rules. He may be unable to stop and rationally decide before acting impulsively.

If this was an au pair with milder personality and missteps did not carry such consequences, that may be something you could live with. But it sounds that he is very physically active with your boys and the activities carry significant risk of injuries…. From the information you gave us, I would assume he is unable to change his behavior, and I would rematch before something more serious happens to your boys. Personally, I am terrified of head injury (my MIL suffered one three years ago and now need care around the clock)…. I would rematch ASAP.

Seattle Mom May 4, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Yes, the trampoline jumping, I forgot about that in the heat of my response… he’s not just letting the kids do their thing and take (learn from) risks, he is escalating the risks with his own behavior. I would find that disturbing.

I’m not a psychologist but the combination of the drinking, the high level of risk-taking behavior, the forgetfulness (or just not following directions).. could all add up to something not quite reliable/dependable enough.

But I still think it comes down to individual risk tolerance.

I suspect that my AP is slightly ADD.. just based on little things she does (and that she lost her passport). But she’s extremely careful to cover her tracks, and clearly works hard to do everything we want from her. So it’s different- she’s ADD but not seeking risky behavior. The combination is tough as a childcare provider. My husband is risky but not ADD- he’s aware of everything he’s doing and he’s got his act together, though he does things I wouldn’t do :). I’m also ADD (undiagnosed, but it’s clear), and not really risky (though I am not even remotely overprotective).

Nina May 4, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Anna and Seattle Mom: I agree with you, seems he might have a learning or some other issue, which makes me want to help him. But I guess it’s probably not something I can help with and putting my kids first, we’ll probably have to go into rematch.

And yes it is always a combination of things, it’s the safety thing that tips the situation to rematch.

SKNY May 2, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Mmmm it is hard. Your rules are your rules.
As a physical therapist I see no problems in kicking a ball with casted arm.
Being competitive and having to be on same team also feels excessive (vs teaching them sportsmanship. Yes, it is hard, but better on the long run.)
To have An injury while playing sports is also not lack of common sense (happens all the time – physical therapist here).
I guess in the end, your rules Are to be followed. Period.
But I don’t feel a lot of it was that bad

5kids=aupair May 2, 2015 at 2:03 pm

You don’t let your 7 & 9 year olds go into the street to get a ball? That to me was the red, red flag – that you’re overprotective. Maybe the au pair can’t live with so many restrictive rules. But, either way, he doesn’t respect your rules, so he doesn’t follow them. Our only male au pair was a disaster. I would say rematch, but you might also want to relax on your rules.

Dorsi May 2, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I would agree. We are only seeing a small slice of your parenting, so please don’t take this as harsh judgment. Also, the fact that you have had no problems with the first 6 APs may mean that this one really is different. But, I hear a the AP doing a lot of things that seem within the range of normal and responsible caregiving. They are different than what you do (except sometimes they aren’t — like kicking the soccer ball). But they are not fundamentally irresponsible.

You may want to ask him why he is doing things differently than instructed — does he not understand? does he not agree? Does he forget? Put it on him to explain himself.

I do think that one child pushing another during sports is a bad behavior that cannot be pinned on the AP.

I think you need to imagine what might happen if this AP stayed the rest of the year — it seems like your boys are active and happy. Imagine replacing him with someone less happy and less in tune with their needs — would that be what’s best for you and your children? If so, pull the plug sooner rather than later.

Nina May 2, 2015 at 9:27 pm

You are right: I thought I added that we have different rules on few things of us versus au pairs and going on the street is one thing. We live in suburbs but very close to a highway and people just drive crazy here sometimes. So while I am fine with my husband and me letting them cross while we watch, I am not with au pairs.
And maybe we have weird rules…Still not sure.

Peachtree Mom May 3, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Those are not weird rules. We do everything in our power to keep our children safe. There are no “do-overs” when some one gets hurt even if it happens during the best of intentions. Those are your children, you know them better and the situations they are in better than anyone. My daughter is 7yo and still sits in a Britex, 6 point restraint carseat.

NewbieHM May 3, 2015 at 9:49 pm

I agree with Peachtree Mom.

Host Mom X May 4, 2015 at 11:55 am

As does ours, Peachtree mom! She is tiny! We’ve reluctantly started to let her ride in others’ cars with boosters, but it makes us so nervous. One thing that bugs me the most about our driving culture in the U.S. is that putting your child in a car every day is THE MOST DANGEROUS THING YOU COULD DO WITH YOUR CHILD, given the frequency of car accidents versus other much less common ways your child could end up severely hurt or killed. Yet no one thinks about it that way. Parents freak out about an amazing number of things, yet put their children in cars every single day without a thought. I know for most people there’s no other way to get places, but if there isn’t – why NOT put them in the safest car seat available until they truly no longer fit in there?

And I’m not sure that allowing 7 year olds to go after balls in the street is a great idea. We still say no. We live in a city, there is traffic, and while my 7 year old is responsible and knows to follow rules, look both ways, and use good judgment, her 7 year old best bud is the opposite and would run after a ball without thinking or looking. (As is my 5 year old, and they’re all always playing together.) I’d rather just have a blanket rule for all the kids until I’m sure they can all act responsibly together! Each kid and situation is different, and Nina – you know your kids better than your AP does, even if he is terrific with them in terms of bonding, playing, etc.

Because it’s hard to know how a situation really feels unless you’re in it, I’m not sure what to say, Nina. To me, everything you’ve said, added up together, makes it sound like this situation is objectively un-tenable. I agree that kids (especially active, sporty kids) get hurt, and you can’t blame an AP for accidents that likely would have happened anyway. But yet – it sounds like you gave him specific instructions geared toward avoiding some accidents, like putting your kids on the same team, which he didn’t follow. Had he not been there – maybe it would have happened on someone else’s watch. But he WAS there, and should have known better based on your instructions. Now, some of the behavior (sorry for sex-stereotyping!) sounds a lot like typical young-guy-who’s-never-done-household-chores-before/had-to-remember-household-chores-type-stuff behavior. Which for me might be an acceptable trade off based on his connection with your kids if I saw him truly trying to improve (which it sounds like he is after the mediation). Then again, it depends what you need out of an AP; if we had an AP who just couldn’t get the kids’ laundry done or lunches packed appropriately, that would be taking away one of the big reasons why we have an AP over, e.g., after-care and daycare.

And the drinking alone in the room thing sounds a bit off to me. Not so much the consumption of alcohol, but the judgment that tells him it’s okay to do that in a host family situation. Most of our APs have been social drinkers, and if they get responsibly drunk out with their friends at the clubs, or have a drink out at a bar after work sometimes, more power to them. One of our APs used to have all her friends come over to get dressed before going out on Friday and Saturday nights, and given the expense of alcohol at the clubs, we’d sometimes donate a bottle of wine to the pre-partying cause (read: I’m not against young people drinking, and in fact will sometimes support the endeavor!). But most of our APs have realized that even if host parents offer a glass of wine or a beer out in the backyard while barbecuing, it’s sort of awkward to drink around your host parents. So most of our APs have declined drinking with us, or if they accept, they have a small glass of wine or a few sips of beer – and that makes sense to me. Our last AP (with whom we recently rematched) used to have a beer or two every night with her dinner or after – without asking (meaning she’d take beers, uninvited, from our supply; not purchase her own, and often drink them alone). And I was put off by that. We didn’t say anything about it (it wasn’t the specific issue that sent us into rematch), but it was just another instance of her attitude/judgment that wasn’t quite the right fit for us. (And we actually do have a line in our handbook that says every food and drink in the home is open to the AP as long as they let us know when they’ve eaten the last of something so we can replace it, except for alcohol. We note that we will invite our over-21 APs to drink with us if we are, e.g., having wine or beer with dinner – but that we do not buy alcohol for APs’ private consumption.) So that was a long-winded way of saying that the drinking a six-pack several nights a week alone in his room thing sounds off to me in a number of ways (and even objectively, accounting for different tolerances, a six-pack is quite a bit for one person for one evening, certainly when alone, i.e. it’s not a social activity).

UKAu Pair May 4, 2015 at 9:07 am

I think this might be where you’re having problems.

Having different rules for the parents and the AP is incredibly unfair on him. I can understand your reasoning for it, but it’s one of the most difficult things to deal with because the children don’t understand it.

I used to au pair for a family with very strict rules about how much the children could have for their snack after school. The problem was, the parents didn’t stick to these rules so the children kicked up a real fuss when I wouldn’t let them have as many biscuits as they wanted. I stuck to it as much as I could, but sometimes I’d give in and let them have an extra one because a) the parents really weren’t helping the situation and b) I didn’t see that it could be that strict a rule if I was the only one enforcing it.

Children don’t always understand (and if they understand then they don’t always respect) that parents and APs sometimes have different rules, and it can be really difficult for an AP- especially one who wants to be liked and popular- to enforce things as rules when the day before the children were with you and there was no problem.

I get the sense that you’ve already made your mind up about this AP, but it doesn’t sound like he’s doing anything dangerous- or, for that matter, anything that you yourself won’t let the children do.

NJ Mama May 4, 2015 at 1:27 pm

UKAu Pair –
I agree that having different rules for APs and HPs can be unfair and annoying when it comes to things like after-school snacks. However, in my case I also had a “one set of rules for APs and one set of rules for HPs” when it came to things like playing in the streets. Oddly, it was my AP who asked to have the different rules. I like to encourage my kids to be independent, and so by around 5 years old they were allowed to walk, take their scooter or ride their bikes around the house. My older one is very cautious by nature, but the younger — I will say that although she is nearly 9, I still sort of hold my breath every time she goes out :). Just two different kids. That said, as I was trying to encourage this independence, my au pair was not comfortable with it. She would rather walk or ride around the block with the kids. And after thinking about it, I thought — that’s actually a good thing. It’s a lot of responsibility to ask of an au pair, and it was something that I kept after she left.

Likewise, I often let my older daughter and a neighborhood kid play in the street behind us. It is typically a quiet street, and again my older daughter is cautious and the neighborhood boy is a year older and his parents are fine with it too. But then one day about two years ago a car turned the corner rather quickly, and the au pair was very upset. So I banned that again for awhile.

Nina – as for the drinking, I wonder if what’s bothering you is the amount of drinking that’s being done alone. It’s one thing to have a beer while watching a sports game. It’s another to polish off a six pack by yourself before going out to drink more. As long as he’s not showing up for work drunk or repeatedly being too hungover to wake up on time for work, I don’t think it’s cause for a rematch. But I can see why you would be concerned. My very first AP ended in rematch, and the thing that pushed me over with her wasn’t the partying in of itself — it was that my then-6 year old had to wake her up in the mornings because she was too hungover to get herself up on time.

UKAu Pair May 4, 2015 at 2:32 pm

NJ Mama-
I can understand having different rules, but I think it’s incumbent upon the parents to explain to the children that the rules are different with the AP (and, if appropriate, why). With safety issues it’s understandable that you might be comfortable doing something but would rather the AP didn’t- the ones who get hurt are going to be your children, after all- but it’s unfair to expect the AP to be the one to explain it to them and, with less immature APs, it could turn into resentment.

NJ Mama May 4, 2015 at 2:43 pm

UK AuPair – Good point! And you are right — as soon as the au pair told me she was uncomfortable letting the kids go around the block or out in the street by themselves, I did explain to them that we did have two sets of rules in that regard. I told them that this was a good thing — that their au pair cares for them so much and wanted to be 100% certain that they were safe in her care, and that is why she had to accompany them. They never gave her a problem. And also I think it reinforced for them that having independence was a big responsibility.

Seattle Mom May 4, 2015 at 3:18 pm

I agree that I allow more risky behavior with my kids than I would want my AP to be, or than I would be with someone else’s kids. It is different when they are your own kids. You should always be more careful with someone else’s kids. Though I don’t believe in total risk elimination. I had an AP who wouldn’t let my kids walk on a ledge- very little likelihood they would fall (it was wide, they were just walking), and if they did fall nothing terrible would happen (it wasn’t that high). But she got this weird joy out of squashing their independence. I told her to let them do more stuff, take more risks, and she couldn’t- she was a control freak. She wouldn’t even let them climb the little tree in our yard, which we ENCOURAGED them to climb. She ended up in rematch mainly for other reasons, but that was part of the picture.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 2, 2015 at 4:40 pm

Long gripe here. Okay, I’m officially at my wit’s end! I’ve now been searching for a month for a replacement for our au pair that we (happily and far too late) sent into rematch. Whyyyyy is it so hard to find someone suitable? Each time I think “maybe this one will work…” I speak with the host parents or the LCC and learn something that makes me want to pull my hair out. The thing is, I really believe in the au pair model. I enjoy the cultural exchange aspect, and having a young adult around to liven up our family; and my son loves having a “new family member” to live with us, and play with and take care of him.

Because I wanted to find someone who could start quickly, I have limited the search to in-country. At this point, a month in, I feel like it’s too late to switch to include out of country (with another 6 week wait after finding someone), plus I don’t really see anyone in that pool that motivates me to want to wait that long. I could kick myself for not rematching much, much earlier when maybe the pool would have been more promising.

So, now I’m thinking of finding someone on care dot com to carry us over through the summer, and start fresh with a new au pair at that time. But where to begin? For folks who have used care dot com, have you found it difficult to weed through the applicants? What about background checks, etc.? I’ve never even hired a babysitter, so this is all new to me! Since this person will have their own transportation and won’t live in my home, there are some things I won’t have to worry about, but they still will be IN my home, and still will be transporting my child. Any advice? (please)

Nina May 2, 2015 at 10:28 pm

I used sitter city and in the past when rematching. I posted a job, got a lot of application, then replied, few replied, many didn’t. Scheduled interviews: few appeared, few didn’t..So they weed themselves out. Then checked references etc…Right now is a good time as there is a lot of college students looking for summer work.

Didi May 4, 2015 at 5:57 pm

I’m former au pair and currently nanny here in US. I had profiles at care com and sittercity com . I liked care com more , but sittercitty seemed to have better quality of a service. To make it easy on you and relieve some stress, get a nanny for Summer while maybe browsing for a fitting au pair?

Having a nanny will be better in a way that you have more freedom with your demands and expectations, you know person is experienced and also looking for a job (not like many au pairs that seem to see childcare in their au pair experience as obstacle to fun)
Bad side of it, if you need it only for few months, it is lots of hassle with extra expenses, contract, regulations for only short period of time.

Seattle Mom May 5, 2015 at 6:28 pm

I do think it’s easier to find a short-term care provider on than to find an au pair. First, you can meet the person, so you get a much better sense of their personality and how they interact with your kids. Second, since they won’t live in your home it eliminates a whole bunch of things to screen for (whether they would be a considerate roommate, weekend behavior, etc). Third, all of the candidates are people who (presumably) live in your hometown and do not need to be convinced to live there.

I had one month in between au pairs and ended up filling part of it with a babysitter from I was only offering part-time, temporary work (about 20 hours per week for 3 weeks) and not at top dollar, and I still had about 10 people respond to my ad on within the first 2 days. I am pretty sure that if I were looking for someone more long-term I would have had more bites, and if I were offering more money I definitely would have. And this all happened pretty suddenly, so I was advertising the position about 2 weeks before the start date.

The background check thing is pretty straightforward- it comes with your subscription on ($40/month, remember to manually cancel it once you are done or they will keep charging you every month, as I found out the hard way). You just press a button to get a background check on someone. I think maybe you can only get a limited number, I’m not sure. I waited until I found someone I was ready to hire, and then got the background check. She had already submitted her info to and she just had to accept them sending me the results of the background check, which took maybe one day. It was just the police & credit check.. you would have to check references yourself.

The person I hired turned out to be just so-so. She was very nice and sweet, but definitely not the brightest bulb and had a problem showing up on time. My 4 year old had her wrapped around her finger- she got away with a lot of stuff. And this woman didn’t have any original ideas of what to do with the kids- she didn’t have a lot of experience, which is what you get when the terms of your job aren’t great. But it was only 3 weeks, and my daughter was going through a rough time as it was so I just let it be. I think if I had more time to hire someone I could have gotten someone better. Part of the problem was that I was recovering from pneumonia while I went through this whole hiring process.. that was when my au pair’s arrival was delayed because she lost her passport.. oy vei what a nightmare.

5kids=aupair May 2, 2015 at 5:16 pm

This is crazy but we didn’t contact our current AP’s host family for any insight. I was sick of hearing all the negative from other host families and just went with it and guess what? She won the au pair of the year award this year! After sending home an awful male au pair, I got the best au pair in the world. LOL Anyway, I say that only to let you know there ARE gems in the in-country pool. That being said, my friend just put an add on for a summer nanny and got 43 applicants in the first 2 days. She said they are amazing and she’s having a hard time whittling it down. They are mostly all the university students. I would just ask for a few references. Chances are you’ll get a great local college student and buy you time to find a great overseas AP.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 2, 2015 at 6:33 pm

Wow– 5Kids, that is so brave! I’m so gun-shy after 2 rematches in a row (for completely different reasons). I’m afraid of running into some of the same issues, so I run away if anyone even hints at having had similar problems.

So, I posted my care ad, and I’m keeping fingers crossed. Of course, then I checked my agency’s website and saw that there are 3 new candidates that I haven’t spoken with…

Another question for all– I contacted one au pair who seemed great on paper. She replied that she thought our family looked great, but she had envisioned being with younger children, and she wanted an opportunity to try to match that way first. She also asked me to contact her again if we were both still looking after a week. I just saw that she is still available. Does it make sense to contact her? If she thinks she’s better with a younger kid, does it make sense to try to force a fit? On the other hand, maybe it would be worth at least an interview…? Sorry to use you all as my personal therapist’s couch. I feel so fried, I can’t rely on my own decisions anymore!

DC Metro Mom May 2, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Just my two cents, but it could at least be worth an interview. What a person envisions may not be their truly best fit. She may be more open to a different age group, and even have a better skill set with older kids, you just don’t ever know.

Worst case, it doesn’t seem to work, and you all walk away without “what if.”

We didn’t check on a reference from our rock star AP that we got in rematch, either. We still love her and Skype all the time. Really. She deserved AP of the year. As dumb as this sounds, we only interviewed her on the phone, but by talking to her it just “felt right.”

Of course, we also had an amazing LCC that pre-screened rematch candidates for us, which helped…

German Au-Pair May 2, 2015 at 9:19 pm

I aimed for 5-6 and got pre-teen/teen. Would not have taken a 2 y/o. I think she may prefer a certain age but if she says she’d be open to talk to you again, I would definitely interview her.
If a match seems possible, you may want to discuss indepth what this age group needs (and offers!) from an an AP.
I was afraid to only be a taxi for older kids but the information given to me convinced me that this was not going to be the case. I didn’t want a completely unchallenging experience (like I know my friends with teenagers had) but after I was given more information I liked the idea.
Give her a chance.

Anna May 2, 2015 at 11:50 pm

I also think you should give her a try. When I was matching I aimed for a family with a newborn/baby because I wanted more documented experiance with that age group (I have worked with kids between 6months and 16 years before both in nurseries, pre-school and school). But in the end I knew the right family was more important than my ideal age group and ended up with a toddler and a 5 year old. So give her a chance, if she is a good fit she will look beyond her pre- consieved ideas and grab the chance to go to your family.

Returning HM May 3, 2015 at 1:13 pm

I’ve been hesitating about posting this, because we really like our AP, but I could use some help so have decided to put it out there. I’m wondering how other HFs have dealt with the question of local boyfriends/girlfriends being around a lot. We have had a few boyfriends/girlfriends who came to visit over the years, and we had no problem with the AP/visitors in question sharing the AP’s room, but now we’re facing a new question, and that is about a local girlfriend staying over on weekends.

Backstory is that AP had a female friend come visit back in the fall, things developed, and they ended up in a relationship. They stayed together here for the five days she was visiting then and then another five days about a month ago. Now the girlfriend has extended with a family who lives 10 minutes from us (previously, she was across the country). She and AP are now together much of the time when they are not working (6 hours during the day), and they go out together most nights. We really like her and think she is a nice, sweet person. We have been happy to have her around.

On Fri night AP asked me if she could stay over, and I said yes. DH came home and wasn’t happy about this. He said that now that the girlfriend lives so close, they don’t have to stay over in order to see each other. He said he doesn’t want a sixth person in the house all weekend, and I said, it’s just to sleepover – they will be out all day (as AP always is). I had told AP that I never want to feel awkward about them being here, never want to hear or see anything that I would have to explain to the children or that would cause the children to ask questions, and AP has so far been respectful and totally in line about this. To me, the prohibition against having her sleep over now that she lives here made no sense when we had allowed it in the past.

But the thing is, the previous times the girlfriend has stayed over, she hasn’t lived nearby, so they have gone off sightseeing and DOING things each day. But yesterday, on the other hand, they came out of his room at 10:30, made a big breakfast in our kitchen, went back into his room, and then emerged about 5:00 in the afternoon, to make dinner and then go out and eat on our patio. It was a beautiful day, and I would have liked to be out in my backyard too, at just the time they were eating, but I felt uncomfortable going out there, with them all cuddled up on the loveseat eating their dinner together. For the first time, I felt awkward around them and as though I were intruding.

So now I am kind of in a quandary about what to do. I have NO problem with the girlfriend spending the night – and told DH this – but I really don’t want this relationship taking over our house, which was exactly DH’s fear, but I didn’t see it coming. Now I feel like I have to say something because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable or like a third wheel in my own house and my own space. It was fine when it was a visit, and I was happy to accommodate “young love” for a few days at a time, but not all the time and not every weekend, if this makes sense.

So what have others done when their APs are in a relationship that is local, where neither partner has a place of his or her own? What kinds of rules or expectations do you establish? Any BTDT suggestions or advice? Thanks very much.

Host Mom in the City May 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Ugh ReturningHostMom. I don’t have any specific advice, but just wanted to say – that would be way too much for me to handle too and I’m so sorry you’re in this position. FWIW, we also are totally fine with sleepovers and with boyfriends visiting from afar, but I can totally understand not being comfortable with having your au pair and his girlfriend playing house every weekend in your house. And I imagine it will be every weekend if you don’t set some boundaries. This is particularly hard bc they’re both au pairs so there’s really nowhere else to go.

One of our au pairs had a boyfriend close by, but he had his own apartment. She was out the door every Friday after work through late Sunday night and most evenings too. It was on one hand, nice, because we didn’t have to be quiet in the weekend mornings or any of those other inconveniences about living with someone, but on the other hand, we never saw her for the last six months of her being with us.

I’ll be interested to hear if anyone has any suggestions about handling this or different ways of thinking about it. Hope you figure out a solution that works for everyone.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 3, 2015 at 8:58 pm

My 2 cents – It’s your house, not theirs. You’ve been generous, so on a nice day, tell them you’re taking a break from your household routine and relaxing on a nice spring day. They’ll either go back into his room, or straighten up – because it’s your house, after all. Then, in a quiet moment, when neither the girlfriend nor your kids are around, talk about your boundaries. He’ll accept them, because you’ve been generous.

We’re a pretty relaxed HF, but when AP #4, in her travel month but broke – so she was sleeping on the playroom futon, had a boy over in the afternoon, I walked past on the way to the laundry room and talked to them (I did not interrupt coitus). I made it clear that I wasn’t going to send him packing, but it was my house and I had chores that needed to get done.

I know I’m different from a lot of HMs, but sex is sex. Will I let child #2 have a girlfriend over? You bet! (But if he’s not using a condom – even if they’re using another form of birth control – he’ll be in trouble.)

German Au-Pair May 3, 2015 at 3:49 pm

It sounds like you are a great HM and have a great relationship with the AP. I totally understand that you would want to feel free in your own house and I don’t necessarily think it even has a lot to do with them being together but rather them just being there privately. I my mind the same issue could have arisen had the AP “claimed” your backyard with a regular friend.
So since you have been really accomodating, I’m sure your AP appreciates your willingness to make her feel at home to. I would actually just gently talk to him about it. Tell him what you’ve told us: that you love that they’re happy and you like having her over but that you’re a bit confused about how to make things work when they just hang out around the house. tell him you want both parties to be comfortable and try to avoid any awkward moments. Maybe you can find a way to both use the same space without getting in each other’s way. Not sure how big your backyard is and if there’s a way to share the space without BEING in each other’s space. Or maybe talk upfront about it being fair game to say “Hey, weather is beautiful, I’m gonna join you” without anyone feeling awkward (so basically anything that’s NOT his private room, is NOT a lovenest.)
Have you had meals together with both of them?

I think any reasonable AP would see the potentially awkward situation and would like to do their part to solve it. Since you genuinly seem okay with this and eager to not make the AP (and his gf) uncomfortable, I’m sure you’re able to bring this across in a conversation.

SwissAuPair May 4, 2015 at 6:13 am

Maybe you would be okay with them sleeping at your place once a month or so? Tell them that they should ask the girlfirend’s hostfamily to spend some nights there. Also tell your AP how you feel when they are around, I’m sure the AP will understand!

Host Mom in Paradise May 4, 2015 at 5:51 pm

The way I see it — you interviewed and selected an au pair with whom you will cohabit for a whole year. You did NOT interview and select his partner. While romantic involvement is just Life (TM), it’s your right to say that this second person doesn’t belong in your space long-term. I can totally see that when they hang out in his room all day you’re on edge thinking about when they’ll come out and be in your space. Eek.

Didi May 4, 2015 at 6:02 pm

From au pair’s perspective, regardless how understanding you are of it, there is no reason for her to have a sleepover. They are grown ups, they can go for a drink, vacations and do fun stuff together, but this puts you in a situation where you are a mom to him and it’s another thing on your list to deal with. There are some great and innocent stories, but there have been stories when things would be missing, or they can stat fighting, or they can be loud…regardless what, if they are in your home, it becomes your problem.
I guess, I am seeing it as if I was a parent and my teenage kid wants her/his partner to spend a night, it would be a no..and this is not any different. for me..
Good luck

SKNY May 3, 2015 at 5:58 pm

mmm. This is a hard one. Maybe say the kids are asking what they were doing in his room all day? I would not be ok with it. My home is really not a motel… Sorry if looks bad. Of course I have a teen girl and we talk a lot about waiting for the one, etc, etc, etc…
In any case you need some type of bondaries… maybe they rotate every other week, once a week/month? not sure

HRHM May 3, 2015 at 6:42 pm

I’m one of THOSE host moms who doesn’t allow romantic gatherings/sleepovers under her roof. I know a lot of HMs think that it is infantalizing of me, but I all too well remember how COMPLETELY all comsuming being in love/lust was at that age. While I understand why they want to spend every free minute together, I don’t want to have to be around that all the time. And I don’t know a good way to dictate the very subjective limit of how much is too much, so I make it never…

Since you already have gone down that road, your best bet is to quickly chose your arbitrary breaking point. I would say once a month should be sufficient. Sit him down and explain that now that she is local, you are willing for her to stay overnight one night per month but that is all. He can sleep over with her at her HP’s once and they can have sex whereever and whenever during the days when no one is home. He will be fine and trust me, even with that limit, you will likely still see far more of her than you really care too.

dcmomof3 May 4, 2015 at 10:50 am

I’m in the “set the boundaries now” camp. And make sure that they are clear boundaries – I learned this the hard way after an AP had a local boyfriend and made all sorts of different runs at getting him into the house, none of which were ok with me. I told her no sleep overs, but then woke up at 3 am to find her boyfriend’s shoes at the bottom of the stairs, although he was gone by the time we woke up in the morning (I guess sex until 5 am does not count as “sleep over” and perhaps I should have used more graphic terms to describe what I did not want to be dealing with in my house). I also told her he could not just come over to visit without clearing with us first (this is a rule that I have for all AP visitors when we are home – they need to let me know if somebody is coming by). So, he started coming to the driveway and calling her to come outside to meet him in the driveway at all hours of the day and night which meant she was turning off and turning on the alarm again after we’d all gone to bed just so she could go see him in the driveway. So, I told her no more late night driveway visits if its just going to disturb us. Then he started bringing her breakfast on the weekend mornings and having cozy breakfast on the deck in nice weather, which of course prohibited us from going out on the deck for our breakfast. She was always trying to pressure me into letting him be at our house b/c he lived with his super-religious parents who did not believe in premarital sex. I could not care less, I just don’t want to deal with it in my home, disturbing my sleep and routine, with my pre-teen kids wondering what is going on with AP’s boyfriends. So, I would suggest to really lay it out there on what is acceptable in terms of daytime visits, night time visits, amount of notice required, length of stay, etc. Just explain that it is a family home and that AP chose to live with a family with young kids. My AP would push back and say that she was an adult, and I said, that’s true, but you made the decision to live as an adult in a family with kids and that means you need to accommodate our lifestyle and not the other way around. Eventually, the message got through, but it probably took longer than it should have if I’d just addressed every facet of the relationship up front.

Host Mom in Paradise May 4, 2015 at 5:16 pm

Hi moms and au pairs! I’m new to this board and thought I’d say hi and ask a question. In my home AP2 just started and AP1 went home after nearly 3/4 of the year for health reasons. It was very sudden (two days before announcing she’s leaving and moving out!) and I’m still trying to figure out what I should have done differently. This board has helped me understand how to set expectations and interview and match with AP2. Dang, I wish our local coordinator could have helped more in the process when AP1 was sick. Have you had a sick AP? What can a host family do when AP is chronically sick?

Momto4 May 5, 2015 at 8:56 am

I didn’t quite have a chronically sick AP but for a brief stretch, our AP was in and out of the doctors office or even the ER. For whatever reason, it took a bit for her to get a diagnosis and once they did, she was fine. However, in the meantime, it put a lot of pressure on my family because she relied on me like she would a mother to take her to all these doctors. In retrospect, I would have made her get the closest primary care doctor she could at the very start of her year so she could manage her own appointments and walk there or at least be a very short drive in town if she wasn’t well enough to walk. My having to drive her to the urgent care doctor 20 minutes away when i was supposed to be working really bugged me – I don’t want her to be ill but she is 27 years old and should be taking care of this stuff on her own.

That’s my long way of saying, make sure all your APs get a doctor as close as possible. That way, if they develop something chronic, they can more easily manage it. My APs condition, while not chronic, will need treatment for the rest of her time here so she finally can see someone nearby.

UKAu Pair May 5, 2015 at 9:03 am

I don’t have any experience of this situation but I wanted to say how rubbish that sounds! Did you know that she had health problems when you matched with her?

Host Mom in Paradise May 5, 2015 at 12:33 pm

AP1 got sick like a month or two after starting. It was a slow illness. I took her to urgent care because that’s what APIA says to do. What I didn’t know is that later she was taking herself to urgent care multiple times a month for 3 months. The co-pay for urgent care is the same as primary care, but they have the added benefit of drop-in vs appointment. My LCC was no help in trying to figure out what to do that wouldn’t be so expensive and could have better results. AP1 never did get a diagnosis here and ended up leaving because feeling sick all the time interfered with doing her work. After AP1 left I’m still getting medical bills for her treatment. The LCC isn’t sure what to do about that either.

JJ Host Mom May 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm

I’ve never had an LCC be at all helpful with medical issues. I’ve worked with two pretty good LCCs, from APIA and APC, and had the same problem. With both I’ve asked multiple times for a list of local doctors who take the au pair insurance. Both promised to send me some names and never did. I actually don’t think LCCs know how to help people with it. I once spent all of Thanksgiving Wednesday on the phone back and forth between the insurance company and a doctor’s office who the insurance company says they’ll bill, but who was refusing to take the insurance. Eventually all of my au pairs just stopped going to the doctor. It just wasn’t worth the trouble. My sense is that the insurance they offer for au pairs is not good, and I wish they’d do something about it. But maybe others have had different results.

Host Mom in Paradise May 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

JJ Host Mom, Yes!!! I wish the insurance were better! The $50 per office visit only covers the visit, not any of the tests! Au pair is expected to file insurance paperwork herself and pay the difference after the negotiated rate. There is no dental coverage (in the US we visit the dentist every 6 months) and there really should be. I wish there were mental health coverage. Some girls need extra support when they’re away from home for a year.

Is there anything we HPs can do about it????

TexasHM May 5, 2015 at 9:22 am

There are several threads on AP illnesses. If you search on the right hand side for sick or illness several will pop up, here is a couple to get you started. :)

Host Mom X May 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm

We just rematched with an AP who had two chronic illness, disclosed on her application. (I’ve written about this situation some in another post.) We spoke about the conditions with the AP, and she assured us that the illnesses do not affect her daily life, that she takes medication, and that everything is fine. We decided we were okay with that because each of our parents have the same conditions, and it does not affect their daily life when controlled with medication. This AP was only with us for 6 weeks (8 when rematch was over), and she didn’t have to go to the doctor at all during that time – so with the further info you provided, it wasn’t really the same kind of situation. Anyway – there were multiple things that led to rematch, but one was that the AP complained that there was too much walking involved in caring for our kids, and she just couldn’t do it with her illness. But – hard to know if that wasn’t just an excuse once we called rematch (in her eyes, maybe a better explanation for the rematch than that she just wasn’t cut out for the job?). She was also overweight, and contrary to what she had told us during interviews, just wasn’t used to walking much. And when she first started, and complained about the walking and her illness, we sat her down and seriously asked, “will this be a problem? Because if it is, we have to know now.” And she said, “no, no – it won’t be.” But then she went back to that excuse during rematch.

Anyway – I feel terrible, but this situation will likely prejudice me in the future against overweight APs and APs with similar kinds of chronic conditions. Taking care of kids is a physical job.

I don’t know what you could have done differently, HMiP. As others have mentioned, the AP healthcare situation is really tough. I am thankful we haven’t had to deal with too much on that front. One useful thing we discovered is that at least for women’s healthcare (gyn appointments, even breast exams, etc.), Planned Parenthood has a sliding scale that makes it free for APs.

Anna May 6, 2015 at 10:43 am

Same prejudice here against overweight au pairs. We had an overweight au pair once and her food habits were awful (she ate bread with cheese, all the time), and she had no idea how to serve fruits and veggies to our kids (she removed the insides of a tomato and served them just the skins…). If not prodded daily she never offered out kids fruits or vegetables. When she was with us I constantly had to throw out rotten produce. She also was slow, passive (sat doing nothing, when kids asked her to play with them, told them “no”), and she got depressed. She told us in her family they ate junk food (cookies, chips) all the time (this was after she was here already). She had a sister who was morbidly obese and looking to become an au pair; she was looking for over a year at least (I still don’t know if she ended up going; she ended up switching agencies though). Her qualifications on paper were excellent, if she were fit she would be a hot candidate. So I am sure that many host families share this prejudice.

Host Mom X May 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Yup, this description matches our AP (eating habits, etc.). She had GREAT qualifications otherwise. We thought we had a great “find” because other families were prejudiced and we were willing to overlook it. But it turned out to actually be a problem, argh.

Anna May 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm

I wonder if you matched with our former au pair’s sister….. Their qualifications were almost identical (they volunteered in the same place with kids with cancer, etc.)

Host Mom X May 6, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Haha, no – our AP didn’t have a sister. (Also – I wouldn’t describe her as morbidly obese. Just “regular” overweight.) And no cancer volunteering.

Anna May 6, 2015 at 1:51 pm

I had a situation where an au pair didn’t disclose a chronic arm issue. She came a month before I had my third (chunky) baby. She left right about when I returned back to work, when the baby was three months old, because lifting the baby exacerbated her arm pain. She rematched and went to a family with older kids. I am still holding a grudge against her; the au pair we had after her was the worst nightmare, and I feel it was her fault for putting us in this situation.
She knew about her problem; she didn’t disclose it in matching; and once the pain started, she refused to do anything about it – she never went to the doctor (even though I offered to pay out of pocket for chiropractic visits), she never implemented any of the suggestions I gave to ease her pain (like lulling the baby to sleep while sitting, not walking with baby in arms; not carrying the baby in the carseat but buckling her into it in the car, etc…)

UKAu Pair May 5, 2015 at 9:31 am

Following on from the weather conversation above, NoVA Twin Mom and I had a slight breakdown in communications- I misunderstood something she had said because of the difference in meaning in British and American English.

It got me thinking about what an American family would do if they hosted a British/Australian AP, particularly if they had small children (up to the age of about 4/5 I suppose, when they learn to read and write).

Has anyone actually hosted an AP who speaks British English? How often did you find yourself misunderstanding each other? There are SO many differences: you’ve got the colour/color, favourite/favorite, grey/gray, aluminium/aluminum spelling changes, but words have different meanings as well.

Compare NoVA TM talking about ‘bathrooms’ with my use of ‘toilet’ or ‘loo’. In the UK, if you asked me where the bathroom was I’d assume you wanted a shower (and would probably be quite surprised!).

Townhouse vs. Terrace (a ‘townhouse’ here is something different)
Crisps vs. Chips vs. Fries
Cookie vs. Biscuit vs. Scone
Interstate/Highway/Freeway vs. Motorway/Dual Carriageway
Pavement vs. Sidewalk

And ‘fanny’ means something quite different in England!

Not only do you have the potential for confusion over words meaning different things (my American friend was baffled when I asked her what she was doing for Boxing Day, while I was horrified to find out that Americans have no word for ‘fortnight’!), but small children could conceivably get very confused indeed.

Do you ask a British AP to say ‘zee’ instead of ‘zed’ when singing the alphabet? Would you ask her to say ‘yard’ instead of ‘garden’? (A ‘yard’ sounds horrible to me- they’re usually concrete with a few weeks). Would you ask her to use ‘pants’ and ‘underpants’ with your child instead of ‘trousers’ and ‘pants/knickers’? If she was helping a child with homework would you want her to remind him to use ‘full stops’, or ‘periods’?

I suppose I’m particularly asking for younger children, where the way the AP speaks will have more of an effect on their language. What if she corrects something that isn’t wrong? If I heard a child say ‘I learned’, ‘I dove’ or ‘I snuck’ then I’d correct them automatically, just as I would if he said ‘I buyed’ instead of ‘I bought’. After a while in the US it would probably sink in that in American grammar those forms are correct, but it would take a lot of getting used to.

Would you ever have a British AP? Would language differences be a factor in your decision? Would it bother you that your children were hearing two different forms of English from different native speakers, or would you welcome it?

I don’t really know where I’m going with this but I find the differences between the two languages fascinating and wondered how they’d translate into an AP context.

NoVA Twin Mom May 5, 2015 at 9:50 am

We do basically have au pairs who speak “British” English, because that’s what is usually taught in schools in Europe as a second language. Our au pairs tend to be from Sweden, so many of their words tend to be the British versions rather than the American versions of words.

In our family, we tend to laugh off the differences, but as my husband and I have studied abroad in Europe, we tend to know many of the British “counterpart” words (though they don’t tend to be the first ones that come to mind, admittedly) – I didn’t remember the “loo”/bathroom one, so I learned something new :) It did take me a minute this winter to remember where the “sledge” was the first time our au pair asked – right, the sled.

But in our family we like learning new things. Hopefully anyone in the au pair program feels the same way. One of our daughters seems to have picked up a British accent somewhere, we’re not sure if it’s from Peppa Pig or from our au pairs. It’s pretty funny. The only time we’ll probably CARE is when the girls are old enough for spelling tests or to get graded on spelling, then we’ll want our au pairs to be careful to emphasize the “American” spelling of words. Until then, we think it’s fun to learn about the different way people refer to things.

AuPair Paris May 5, 2015 at 10:29 am

Eh, but that’s the cultural exchange, right? And I feel like most British people know the American words for most things from TV and the internet. I teach my kids English, and when it comes to a word that’s different in British English and American English, I just teach them both and explain which is which! I guess with spelling it’s different – although when helping the French kids with their homework I often emphasise(emphasize!), like “oh, how do you spell this word? It’s actually the same word in English but spelt(spelled!) differently! Let’s look it up!”. It’s just a part of them knowing that it’s fine for them to make mistakes and keep trying, because I’ll certainly do the same thing in French all the time.

I know it’s different when it’s an *actual* language difference, and British au pairs aren’t there to teach “their language” to American kids. But British kids all pretty much grow up exposed to American and British terms and spellings. It doesn’t mess us up!

WarmStateMomma May 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm

We host Chinese APs for the language and they say so many things differently in English than an American speaker would. It’s hard to tell how much is because they study British English and how much is just because their textbooks are lousy. All three have been college graduates from different parts of the country and they usually make the same mistakes which tells me the language is taught in a pretty uniform manner throughout the country.

My daughter imitates the British accents when she plays with her Octonauts toys and it’s crazy adorable. If we weren’t having our APs teach a foreign language to the kids, we would definitely consider British APs. It doesn’t get much cuter than hearing a small child with a British accent. MOST IMPORTANTLY: I have young kids and don’t want them learning to speak or pronounce English incorrectly from an AP who has a tenuous hold on the language. Speaking a different (correct) version of English would be fine, though.

In British English – are playgrounds outdoor spaces with a large play structure for young kids, or a track and athletic field? The Chinese APs use “playground” to mean the track for running laps that you find inside of a sports stadium. I’m not sure if this is a British thing or just another mistake in their textbooks.

AuPair Paris May 5, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Yeah a playground for us is like a park with swings, see-saws and slides and climbing frames. (Ok, my British -American falls down here. A climbing frame is a jungle gym, right? And a see-saw is a teeter totter and a slide is… The same? In French it’s “un toboggan”, which in English is a kind of sledge, which in American English is a sled..!) OR it’s the playground at school – like the schoolyard where kids play. I can’t imagine ever using playground for like an empty space with a running track or anything. Maybe a playING ground for certain sports..? It could be Southern/regional British I guess, but I wouldn’t say it.

UKAu Pair May 6, 2015 at 4:55 am

Nah, sounds like a mistake to me. I speak RP and I’d use ‘playground’ the same way you would- to mean a park, or the place where children play at break time at school.

I think we generally have a better understanding of American English than Americans do with British English, because we’re exposed to so much American television and culture. I still cringe at American spelling though, and although American past participles like ‘snuck’ and ‘dove’ are sneaking into British usage, they’re very definitely incorrect.

German Au-Pair May 5, 2015 at 5:58 pm

Wait, we learn BE in school and my kids got a good laugh at my zed. But what would learned, dove and snuck be in BE? Shouldn’t I have learned those…

BE and AE is sooo confusing to me because I’m always so unsure whether my usage is simply wrong or just in the wrong English.

NJ Mama May 5, 2015 at 7:16 pm

I don’t think anyone was more surprised than our current British Au Pair about just how many differences there are betw BE and AE. She was also very surprised at how different the food is over here, and she was starting to go through withdrawal until she found that the Wegmans that’s about 15 miles away sells salad cream!

My kids are older but I agree – there’s always going to be differences in the language and it’s all part of the cultural exchange.

That said – older kids are not immune! My 11 year old was upset that her English/LAL teacher wouldn’t let her use the word “minger” in a short story. But my 11 year old is also a bit of a smart aleck – we warned her it wasn’t going to fly and she tried anyway. But in the end it made for a funny story.

AuPair Paris May 6, 2015 at 1:50 am

We have weird past participles sometimes, but both variants are almost always acceptable. We might say “learnt”, “dived”. and “sneaked”. (We might not – depending on how much American TV we watched as a kid!) The weirdest one of me is “hung” and “hanged”. Because I see it almost always in the context of capital punishment on period dramas set in England, it really frustrates me when they say “hung” (because in England it’s “hanged” and *definitely* in 18th Century England it was “hanged”. :P ). It’s the only anachronism that really annoys me for some reason.

UKAu Pair May 6, 2015 at 5:01 am

German AP we’d say ‘learnt’, ‘sneaked’ and ‘dived’. If you use the American versions nobody will correct you, because we’ll hear your accent and understand that you’re not a native speaker, but it isn’t grammatically correct and is considered by purists a very ugly way of speaking. We’re almost reaching a situation of diglossia in England, where ‘learned’ and ‘snuck’ would be acceptable with friends but not in a formal setting. I’ve never heard anyone use ‘dove’. It’s definitely wrong.

‘Hung’ and ‘hanged’ annoys me too! There’s a significant difference in meaning and really, period dramas should know their subject matter better than that.

AlwaysHopeful HM May 6, 2015 at 6:12 am

Hung is also incorrect in AE, when referring to capital punishment, suicide, etc. We would say, for example “he was so distraught he hanged himself” and “she hung the stockings by the fire to dry.” At least that’s what I was taught!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 6, 2015 at 7:20 am

The worst AE/BE mistake I ever made was telling a 12-year-old boy in Dublin that I could see his fanny. He has one in America, he definitely does not in Dublin!

UKAu Pair May 6, 2015 at 7:51 am

That’s interesting AlwaysHopeful. Maybe it’s one of those things which is incorrect everywhere but gradually becoming more accepted?

Yikes! It’s bad enough when American tourists talk about ‘fanny packs’ (we call them ‘bum bags’). How did the boy react? Did you know him or was he some random Irish lad on the street?

SKNY May 5, 2015 at 9:34 am

ok, not really related, not really a call for help… just a cry:
I am just tired of my live-out nanny. Yes, she is still extra reliable, a lot cheaper, and responsible. That being said, she does not feel comfortable driving the kids, so they have been stuck in the house all week since thanksgiving. She first did not take them out to play because it was too cold, then too windy, now too hot :( My 3yo got cabin fever BAD. Hyper and daring… jumping off furnitures… out of control. I am not paying for a 3 day pre-school to help her unload, and had to have a SERIOUS talk to caregiver to get her to drive 3yo to pre-school.
I actually made the call to former au pair (one who was awesome and saved me for 2 months before baby was born) to come back till end of school year, and she accepted, BUT husband feels unfair with live out caregiver who has been loyal, responsible, safe, and needs the income. Besides, there are only 8 weeks till the end of the school year (when we wont need anyone anyway).
We already agreed that we will be going back to au pair in the fall…
But I miss:
* My flexibility (i.e. that rare saturday night date if we have a snow day or holiday during the week)
* My extra help (you know, she does laundry and organize playroom, but both kids sleep for 2+hs in the afternoon, and now I need to change their wardrobes into summer clothes… and it is not her job… had I had an au pair, all the kids closets would be organized by now)…
ok, cry is over.

SKNY May 5, 2015 at 9:36 am

just fixing that I am NOW paying pre-school

AlwaysHopeful HM May 5, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Hang in there, SKNY– the end is in sight! And you’ll be able to use some of that money you’ve saved for some fabulous date nights once your new au pair arrives in the fall!!

nannytoaupair? May 6, 2015 at 1:35 am

It sounds to me like you need a new/better nanny? I understand that you are just covering a gap but it doesn’t sound like your nanny is doing her job. If she was an au pair I bet we would all be encouraging you to rematch!

Why not ask your nanny ‘while the kids are asleep this afternoon can you please take all their winter stuff out of their closet’? Use the next day for her to sort into too small/ can be used next year piles and her third day to sub In summer things.

Host Mom in the City May 6, 2015 at 8:22 am

Well she doesn’t sound like a very good nanny, so that’s maybe that’s the real issue? But honestly your post worries me. We’re currently hosting our fifth au pair and she leaves at the end of the summer and I am desperate to make another childcare situation work as I don’t think I can go through matching and those first few months again (we had a recent rematch that really shook me). But honestly, I don’t know that I’ll find anything that works as well as the au pair program does for us. We’ll be trying other things too, but who knows – we may come back. Grass is always greener, huh?

SKNY May 6, 2015 at 9:07 am

Things I love about having a nanny:
For us it is cheaper by a LOT. talking money but also utilities, food, trips, etc.
No one living in my house / Privacy
Not having to worry about cooking a A+++ meal when I dont feel like. I always feel like i have to have a 3 course dinner with my au pairs.
Cooking what I want and not worrying if au pairs eat A, X, or Z.
Freedom in the house…. It is really nice to relax, and have no one to see me at my worse, or with my messy hair, or just relax and say: yeah, dishes will get done later, or yeah, who cares about the mess….

Things I miss:
nanny watches the kids and do their laundry, and kind of keep their toys (dont organize, just throw on boxes (I organized the whole room, all toys in correct bins, etc… and she just throws it… ugh)
No help with changing seasons, even though there are tons of free time, not creative, wont do arts/crafts/fun things (actually did in the first month, gone now).
Cant use extra hrs on date night
No flexibility in schedule
Wont drive the kids
Not adventurous with weather…

Host Mom in the City May 6, 2015 at 9:32 am

Hm… I think all those “things I miss” except the flexibility are just because she doesn’t sound like a very good nanny. There is no reason why a nanny shouldn’t be keeping on top of cleaning/organizing toys, doing kids laundry, going outside every day, and coming up with ways to keep the kids entertained…

A nanny for us would also be cheaper and of course the big thing is having my house, my car, and my vacations back – it’s just that flexibility that keeps me. Such a tough decision.

SKNY May 6, 2015 at 10:42 am

We use all our hrs during the week, so I miss having the chance to get a date night when there is a holiday in the middle of the week (or a snow day)… I also miss being able to “twick” the schedule a little (like start half hr later or end 1/2 hr early) to cover a doctor appointment or another real need…
Oh and I also miss the language exposure… that is a harder one

HostDadCalifornia May 5, 2015 at 2:48 pm

We are a first time host family and everything is going very well through the first 4.5 months. When we are on vacation, we do not have our Au Pair work at all. She goes as a member of our family and we pay for her meals. She also has the option of staying home.

We have been on one weekend trip so far with our Au Pair and she paid for her own hotel room (the children stay with us in our room). We are going on a 10 day trip later in the summer and we will be staying with relatives where she will have her own space but she is paying for her flight.

We will be participating in several multi day sports tournaments over the summer and will be staying in hotels for at least 3 weekends. The tournaments are within a 1-2 hour drive of our home. The hotels we are staying in are generally in the $100-$150 per night range, so the total cost for the weekend is generally $200-$300. Total for the summer is going to be in the $900 range (possibly more if we stay additional nights). Our 3 children are all 6 and under, so we are not at the point where they would be able to stay in their own room without us.

We would like to give her the opportunity to come with us, but we aren’t sure if she can afford her own room and two rooms would really up our expenses. Would it be acceptable to offer our Au Pair to stay in the same hotel room while we are at these tournaments? We would do our best to set up a partition, but she would not have her own room with a door. She will not be working on these trips. If she were to stay home, she does not have access to a car but would have some limited access to public transportation (we are working on her getting a driver license and insured but she does not drive in the course of her Au Pair duties).

NoVA Twin Mom May 6, 2015 at 5:26 am

We *just* had a really interesting discussion about this – check here

HostDadCalifornia May 6, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I read that entire thread before I posted and there was very little talk about offering to share the HF room with an AP.

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I would just say that the family is going on the trip, that she is welcome to join you (describe the arrangements) but that there are no hard feelings if she’d rather have the house to herself instead. If she wants to tag along and doesn’t mind bunking with the HF, so be it. As long as she knows she can opt out of the trip, it doesn’t really matter what the sleeping arrangements are.

I sometimes email a new AP with this kind of thing so they don’t feel put on the spot to answer and so they have time to make up an excuse if they don’t want to come. Also, I have a paper trail that they weren’t forced to go (in case things went south).

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Yeah, those threads are mainly about AP sharing a room with kids. I agree with WarmStateMomma and just let her know the arrangements. Then AP can either choose to come with you, choose to stay home, or (maybe) you can give her the option of paying for her own room.

Similar situation here. AP1 was supposed to go on a trip with the kid and his dad to someplace exotic. It was totally optional; she could decline the trip. The arrangements were that she would be expected to participate in family events as the kid’s AP as another pair of hands, and at night she’d have an adult, female roommate (dad’s 18-year-old cousin). If she doesn’t like the arrangement, she’s free to decline the trip. As long as everything is clear and agreed-upon I don’t see the problem.

TexasHM May 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Am I losing it? Let me clarify quick before all the regulars chime in: ;)

Our new AP arrived Friday night and she is AWESOME. Great driver, great with kids, great with us, great judgment, smart, beautiful, the whole package. So why do I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop?

Yes, we had a disastrous match about 6 months ago and I joke that I have PTSD and its flaring but seriously, I find myself cringing or watching for signs that aren’t there! We are having a blast with her but I feel like I am losing my mind. Has anyone else had this adjustment after a terrible match? Any advice?

Host Mom in Paradise May 5, 2015 at 4:45 pm

I’m right there with you, TexasHM, with AP2. Nothing constructive to add, and I’m looking forward to the advice!

ILHostMom May 5, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Yes, I had something similar happen. We suffered through a miserable year with the worst Au Pair imaginable. She lied, manipulated, didn’t like my son, was moody, partied constantly. Its a long story, but we were stuck with her (or at least thought we were), so we never rematched. Then along came AP #2, who seemed like an angel. She was funny, helpful, flexible, cheerful, and adored my son. Sometimes she would do something harmless, but because it reminded me of something Au Pair #1 would do, I would overreact. She knew we had come from a terrible experience. She saw that we were a nice family that had really been taken advantage of, so she understood my occasional over-sensitivity. I would say that for the first 2 months I kept thinking things would go sour, but they were great the whole time. We had an awesome 18 months together, and we still have a great relationship, even though she’s been gone for 6 months. My advice is to be patient (with both yourself and her). If you find yourself being sensitive, just be open with her and explain you’re getting over the previous experience. I think another thing is to be really clear on your expectations, and don’t let them slide just yet…. Sounds like she’s only been there a few days so you may start to see some quirks after a few weeks.

NJmama May 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm

I can completely relate! For months after we got our current AP – after a string of bad luck that ended up w the Bridezilla – I was afraid to even discuss my AP situation. Whenever anyone asked I’d say, “It’s going so well I don’t want to speak about it bc I’m afraid I’ll jinx it.” I think it wasn’t until we crossed the 6-month mark that I finally relaxed enough to tell everyone how amazing she is.

So just take it day by day (which is ALWAYS easier said than done).

My fingers are crossed for you TexasHM!

Host Mom X May 5, 2015 at 6:36 pm

We are still sort of feeling that way after a month with our new AP – and our recently rematched AP wasn’t even THAT bad all told….new AP is so great, but there must be SOMETHING wrong, right????

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 11:26 am

I’m so glad it’s going well!! Our second AP had me feeling the same way – waiting for something bad to happen after our agonizingly slow last few months of AP#1’s year. Other than AP#2’s repeated failures on the driving test, no shoes dropped. It took awhile to trust that it was going to be ok, though. She even found AP#3 for us, who is on week 8 and getting more amazing every day.

Seattle Mom May 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm

When you start getting annoyed about things like “she left some water on the sink in the bathroom” then you know you have a good au pair. That’s where I am right now :).

Though I do have to talk with her (AGAIN) about turning her space heater off when she’s not in her room. This time I will show her our electricity bill and how much it has gone up since she has been with us (and this is compared to with previous au pairs, not with no au pair- we have a hothouse flower on our hands).

Taking a Computer Lunch May 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Not to mention the fire risk! AP #2 liked to light candles in her room. Sometimes she would leave the house and I’d glance into her room because I could see light flickering. Yup – the candle! I had to make it clear – no unattended lit candles or the rule would be no candles at all.

If she’s so cold that she wants her room toasty warm the minute she enters it, then she should keep a thick hoodie by the door!

Host Mom X May 6, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Hmm, I kind of feel the opposite over the little annoyances. Those little kinds of things (“some water on the sink” type things) bug me soooo much more with a bad AP. With a good one, I note it, and then think “ah, but that’s not a big deal! She’s just so great!”

Host Mom in Paradise May 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm

How do you set expectations? I should have a handbook but don’t, and it’s a little late now (I can’t start a new project for a month, and so by the time I’m finished with a handbook, AP2 will have been here 2 months). I don’t want to be THAT HM who escalates expectations slowly. But I also can’t afford the time to put together written materials.

hOstCDmom May 5, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Frankly, I think you have to make the time to put together your expectations in written form. To not do so is unfair to the AP. The way to set expectations is to convey them; and when you have someone working for you whose native language isn’t English, and who must work solo when you are not there (the case with most APs) then I think it is incumbent upon the HP to take the time to create a Handbook. Cobble from the models on this site, use models on some of the agency sites, stay up late, get up early, but make it a priority or you will otherwise spend much more time over the next year dealing with the consequences of not having a handbook.

Host Mom in Paradise May 5, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Yeah. That’s what I figured (and I wish I’d found this site before AP1!!!!). I’ll have to do my best with verbal communication until next month, and be honest with AP2 that we’ll have to wing it until then. Luckily AP2 and I share a common language.

HRHM May 5, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Steal/borrow one from another HM NOW. Get it in digital form so you can make quick edits and then print it out and intitute it.

There are a multitude of folks here who would be happy to share.

Mimi May 5, 2015 at 5:43 pm


Host Mom in Paradise May 5, 2015 at 5:57 pm

Steal/borrow! Okay. I’m on it. :) Thanks, HMs!

SKNY May 5, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Check with TexasHM, she had a good one. maybe you can borrow hers and change what you dont like it…

Kiki May 6, 2015 at 7:41 am

I have a very thorough one I’d be happy to email you.

WarmStateMomma May 6, 2015 at 11:15 am

You can email me at and I will share mine. I’ve survived a year with no handbook but wouldn’t try it again. Year 2 was infinitely happier for all parties and a large part of that was setting expectations in the handbook.

Also – I highly recommend having a daily form that the AP completes, with a checklist that she has to circle yes/no for completion of daily or weekly tasks. *This form does all the nagging so you don’t have to do it in person!* Nagging is uncomfortable for me and the form just keeps it all so objective.

Host Mom in Paradise May 6, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Thanks, everyone, for the replies. I basically copy/pasted the CC handbook ( and tailored it to my family. I added some photographs and removed parts that weren’t relevant to me. There are a lot of things my family hasn’t done yet (like playdates) and I left those as TBDs.

But the first thing I did? Ordered 2 fire extinguishers for the house.

You guys are awesome. Thank you.

Host Mom X May 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm

We have a daily log for the AP to write what she did with the kids, what the kids ate (more details for the baby – poops, naps, etc.) – but I am going to steal that checklist for next time! It seems pedantic to some APs I’m sure, but does sound sooo much better than nagging or “checking in” about each item that simply has to get done on a regular basis. (And we do already spell some things out on the weekly calendar due to desire not to have to nag, e.g. “Since house clearers are coming on Friday, please make sure to have kids clean up all toys and books and clothes Wednesday and Thursday after school.”) Our last rematch AP was terribly concerned about filling in the daily log, even during matching – which maybe should have raised a red flag? She just asked “why” we required it several times, even though we explained (and it wasn’t a language barrier). Oddly, filling out the daily log and getting those types of chore tasks done were some of her best qualities….

Mimi May 5, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Totally agree. There are great examples here that will cut the time considerably for you. Even if you have a product you don’t love, you can get your current AP to help with improvements and edits at the end of her term or as you go along (assuming you think this would be ok and she is up for the task).

My handbook is modeled after our agency (CCAP) template with some additions. I like how it’s laid out and I added a section about expectations that talks about what we expect from the AP and what she can expect in return. It also includes our routines and systems (schedules and how to use appliances), ideas for kid’s snacks and meals, a list of things to do around our community (with maps), ideas for things to do with the kids, and ideas about how to keep their behavior on-track.

I also add the disclaimer that the handbook is a work in progress and specifically “We don’t expect you to remember everything we have written here, nor do we expect you to get it right immediately and all the time. So please think of this as a guideline, or a reference tool. If you don’t understand anything, or have questions, let us now right away! We cannot fix a problem if we don’t know about it.”

Dorsi May 6, 2015 at 2:54 am

Also, depending on the age of your kids and the complexity of your expectations, your hand book can be 3 pages long (mine was when I had a newborn). With three small kids, it has grown to about 10 pages. With a little plagarization, a handbook can be put together in an hour.

Host Mom X May 6, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Yup – ours started out as a pretty short basic handbook and house guidelines for infant and toddler based on APC’s model. Over the years it has expanded to almost ten pages, which now include “sample days with the children” and “sample schedules,” etc.

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