Open Thread: August 6

by cv harquail on August 6, 2014

Hi All–

cornwall-map-naturally-heartfelt.jpgHere’s an open thread to enjoy while I get things back together over here.  A great business conference, a MIL visit, and all that freaking laundry from camp have kept me busy. What’s happening w/ you?



WarmStateMomma August 6, 2014 at 9:07 am

So we just moved into a new house in a different suburb of our city. As it turns out, our AP’s only friend from home who moved to the US lives in the same neighborhood! Of all people, the AP is getting us referrals for lawn service companies, pest control companies, etc. It’s a small world after all.

German Au-Pair August 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Before I went over as an AP, a close friend and a girl from my class au paired in different states on the East Coast. They didn’t know each other and had never heard of each other.
On holiday celebration both happened to visit the same entertainment park and my friend heard someone speak German an asked if the girls were APs. They quickly discovered they both knew me. And because that wasn’t enough of a coincidence, my class mate was with a girl who was friends (in Germany) with my friend’s best AP friend (who wasn’t with her). It really is a small world.

WarmStateMomma August 6, 2014 at 1:33 pm

LOL! My exchange student ran into friends of his from our city AND Tokyo when he was in Florida at Disney during winter break while he lived with us.

NoVA Twin Mom August 6, 2014 at 10:40 am

We just welcomed a fantastic new au pair that we LOVE (#6 for us in under four years, so we’re thrilled things are going well so far!) We’re just crossing our fingers that she likes us as much as we like her (and we do keep telling her how much we appreciate her).

Seattle Mom August 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Searching for a new au pair to start in January. It feels so early, and yet I’m feeling pressure from CCAP since my deadline to get their biggest repeat family discount is in September. I’m kind of irritated that they have incentives for me to find a match before most au pairs are really willing to consider January. It doesn’t seem right. This time around I’m not going to stress about the extra $300 or whatever it is and take my time.

AussiePair August 6, 2014 at 2:04 pm

My HF are looking now for an aunpair to arrive at a similar time. I told them that I would assume there will be more au pairs available online in the next month or two, because when I wanted to leave in January I was told to have my profile set up and submitted by early September. Good luck finding your next au pair!

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:11 pm


Taking a Computer Lunch August 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Seattle Mom, call HQ when the time is right and demand the same incentive as they offered in September. If you’ve been with one agency for a while and are a repeat customer, then push them to offer the same package when you’re ready. No sense in wasting your time with APs who want to arrive in October or November.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:11 pm

That is a great idea and I am going to do it. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself- I’m usually quick to complain when I see something that doesn’t make sense!

I am also signed up on Interexchange’s website and they specifically said it would be best to wait until mid-September to start looking for January. They are giving me a discount for completing the application by mid-August (and switching from another agency), and there is NO deadline for matching. If CCAP wants to keep my family they are going to have to work for it…

WestMom August 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Hi Seattle mom. I am with InterExchange and I register a good 6m before I need the next AP. I have never heard of a deadline for matching. What does that mean? How long do you have to match once you register with your agency?
I was also registered with APC one year and my registration was good for one year.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 3:05 pm

There is no actual deadline, but there is a deadline to get the maximum discounts as a repeat host family. The discounts go down as time goes by, and the first reduction happens in mid-September. Interexchange is giving me discounts just for signing up in August and for changing from another agency, and they will give me the same discounts whenever I match.

I’m looking at au pairs from both agencies and whichever one has the au pair I end up choosing, that is the agency I will go with.

Aussie HM August 6, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Seattle Mom,

We are in a similar situation, and after only having AP#1 for 3 weeks I feel a bit ridiculous shopping for her January replacement already ( AP’s in Aus only stay for 6 months). As the pool of candidates in January is significantly smaller the Agency is already pushing me to start looking now.

Defintiley demand the same discount from them regardless of when you match, they should look after you!! And if they wont do it, then chalk that $300 up to an investment in a good year by not rushing – and I’ll be crossing my fingers that the search goes well for you!

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Thanks, I am willing to spend an extra $300 to be able to take my time to find the right au pair.

I actually just emailed with an au pair who seemed great and she was very forthright- she’s willing to come in January, but she is currently unemployed and hoping to start working as an au pair sooner. So she asked me to check back with her in a month if I still don’t have someone, and if she’s still in the hunt we will talk. She is with Interexchange, so I don’t have to worry about losing my discount :).

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Also, we asked our current au pair if she had any interest in extending for 6 months. This way we would be starting a new au pair in July, which seems like it would be easier. But our current AP needs to get back home and get on with her life- if she stays here for 6 more months it will set her back a year in her studies. She said she was thinking about it and wanted to stay… but it’s not really worth it to her. And to be frank I’m not sure I *really* want her to stay. She is sweet and lovely with the kids… but not a rock star.

Kate August 6, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I’m welcoming my first AP next Thursday. This will be my first live in. I have gone to great lengths to make her feel welcome. I asked her favorite color and bought all new linens & towels. I picked up all of the bathroom essentials and bought a bunch of books and gift cards for her. Does anyone have any must do tips for a successful AP/HM relationship? Thx!

WarmStateMomma August 6, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Things I did differently the second time around that worked better:

1 – Get her into the routine quickly – and don’t fall into the habit of treating her like a houseguest.

2 – Use a handbook and a daily log to ensure everyone has the same expectations.

3 – Give her a schedule of the first week or two, so she knows when she has to be “on” and when she has down time.

Otherwise, just make time for your family to bond with her. I also framed some photos of her and her family/friends that I downloaded from her application on the agency’s website for her room.

Kate August 6, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Thanks, I have a very specific handbook and prepared a calendar for the first 2 weeks. I too printed photos for her room. What a great idea!

WarmStateMomma August 6, 2014 at 3:58 pm

There was a post this spring about using GoogleMaps to mark all of your family’s hotspots and local places of interest. It only took us 20 minutes to add everything we needed to our map.

HRHM August 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Don’t go to “great lengths” . Not to be a debbie-downer, but it’s important that you don’t make her feel like a guest or give her the impression that this entire year is going to be a series of ongoing presents and perks. I did this with our first AP (I think a lot of first-time HPs do) and it backfired big time. I thought that by making her feel special and wanted that it would motivate her to want to work extra hard and be a super-AP. In fact, it has quite the opposite effect. From what I can tell from her and also from stories I’ve seen here and heard my APs’ friends tell, it seems to make them think they are due these things from the get-go and that anything extra they do (even within the confines of the rules of the program) then warrant MORE gifts and perks. We are on AP #7 right now and have, year-by-year, whittled away at the perks and it really seems to have had the effect that when an AP really steps up and I do give a gift card or something, they now actually seem to appreciate it.

I realize my string of “meh” APs are not everyone’s experience, but I’ve heard this pattern repeated enough times to see that I’m not that rare…

Kate August 6, 2014 at 6:09 pm

Boy, I hope this doesn’t happen. I was very specific about expectations and required work but that being said my husband and I are definitely generous people.

Dorsi August 6, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I think the trick is to give perks when APs deserve perks. If she is doing a great job — a card and a treat that says, “Thanks for doing a great job” goes a long ways toward creating the right kind of relationship. A pair of tickets that you aren’t going to use to something just says, “we have so much stuff we don’t know what to do with it all.”

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 8:32 am

Unfortunately, I think HRHM is right. We tried too hard to make AP#1 happy when she arrived and we had a lot of issues with her that year. She never made the adjustment to “real life” after being treated like a special guest. It went against our nature to avoid doing that with AP#2, but we did it and we are 4.5 months into a fantastic year with her. We have more generous plans for later in AP#2’s year, when it can be shown as gratitude for a job well done.

K August 7, 2014 at 8:54 am

Her room, books and welcome gifts are done. I guess that will be it untill our routine is established.

WestMom August 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Agreed. I’d keep those nice gift cards and give them out over time. One year is a long time. I’d suggest a steady pace of rewards instead of a lot at once.

ILHostMom August 15, 2014 at 10:23 am

We also got very burned by essentially being too nice and welcoming. Our Au Pair started to cop a major sense of entitlement starting around month 3. She started to treat us as if we were a hotel and needed to cater to her social commitments and that it was our responsibility to roll out the red carpet until the end of the year. For our second Au Pair, we were much more clear on expectations, gave her rules (car must be home by 1 AM on weekends, etc), and didn’t give her many perks or bonuses until she really proved herself. Now, after 18 months, we spoil her rotten, but its because she deserves it and has never slacked off. My biggest weakness is that I am very friendly and can be a softy, so I think the first one saw that as an opportunity to take advantage. We have made it very clear with the second one that while we often act like “friends and family” she still has to remember her responsibilities and that in the end she does answer to us. We have all had a wonderful experience with #2.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Here is an instance where being cheap, lazy, and non-crafty has really worked in my favor! But I swear I’m a nice person and all my APs like me.. I’m just not into gifts or “special touches.” I’m not the kind of mom who makes art out of my kids’ lunches. Hell, I don’t even make my kids’ lunches :)

MH Mom August 7, 2014 at 1:16 pm

This is what I have for you based on three (Soon to be four) au pairs to date with good and not-so-good experiences.
1. Know that there will be language issues. We found the first step to handling them was to let her know that it was ok to ask questions and get clarification where she doesn’t understand something. Tell her up front, that you understand that there will be things she simply doesn’t understand and it is perfectly fine for her to stop you and ask you to explain it more. Also, tell her that you will do the same. I also state that is it is helpful to no one if she nods and say, “yes” about something you’ve asked her to take care of without understanding what it is and then not do it because she didn’t know what she was agreeing to. When you come home and whatever it was you asked of her isn’t done, you will start becoming frustrated if it continues to happen. Not to mention that she will also be frustrated when ask her why she didn’t do X and she has no clue what you’re talking about because she didn’t understand it and therefore it didn’t register in her memory.
2. Set the stage at the outset that in the first few weeks you will all be adjusting to living together and you will take every opportunity to help her do that by explaining how things need to be done. Tell her she should also ask lots of questions. I also tell her that she should take comments and corrections as guidance and not personally as all of this is new to her and you understand that she should not have any reason to inherently know that one of the kids will freak out if the peas touch the meat… or whatever the quirky thing is with your family. Do not let anything fester while you analyze why it happened. I have found it it better to respond immediately when something has happened because it is fresh and I am better able to deal with it productively because I don’t also have 3 or 4 other unresolved issues. I also take the approach that we discussed it, you’ve told me you understand issue and you’ll do better and I’ve moved on. I don’t have the energy for pent up frustration.
3. You have a manual so use it. My manual is a bit obsessively over complete coming in at 35 pages. I tell her that there are some strange things in there because we have run into them as issues in the past and so thought it better to write them down so we are all on the same page. I go through it all at once page by page – when she first arrives and ask her if she has any questions. She never does. Then I tell that we will re review it in two weeks after she has had an opportunity to get a bit acclimated. Then I go over it with her over the course of the week a couple of sections at a time. During the second run through, there are usually lots of questions and we can discuss some of the odder entries. I also ask her if there are things that she has issue with so that we can discuss them. This is partly so she can understand why we do certain things the way we do them and we can start to gauge if there are areas that may require a bit of attention.

One issue that I always cover since it has been an issue in the past is how we handle gas. We have a car dedicated to the au pair to use. The only real limitation is that she can only drive 12,000 miles in a year due to the lease terms. We even tell them if they drive more, they can do that, they just have to pay the lease overage. To deal with gas money, we add a set amount that more than covers what she will need to drive the kids around in a busy week and I add that to her check, which she gets every week including the weeks she is on vacation. There have been a few instances where there has been a lot of driving in a week due to some special activity and the au pair has come back for more money. I have told them no since we overpay them every other week and this is just one week where they don’t come out better off, but that over the course of the year it trues up to their advantage. Where they feel like they are getting the gummy end of the stick, I have told them the alternative is that they track and record their miles and I pay them for the actual cost of gas every week. (This only became an issue for our au pair who I could not get to give me receipts when she bought something for the kids (like special paper for a school project or froyo) despite repeatedly telling her that she shouldn’t pay for those things and to give me a receipt and I would gladly reimburse her for it. She didn’t elect for that option as I knew she wouldn’t because recordkeeping is not her strength). I know families do this differently, but it is one area that I have found it good to be very clear.
4. Make sure that you are clear that she is an adult in your home and you expect her to act accordingly which means:
a. If you or the kids make a make a mess, clean it up, do not leave it or me.
b. You will be in a position eventually to correct my children. Please make sure you do that in a way that demonstrates to them that you are the adult and and also demonstrates mature behavior, both because childish behavior from an adult is hurtful and because I want you to model appropriate responses to difficult situations.
c. I am your host mom, but I am not your mother. I will help you settle as best I can and treat you like part of this family, but I also expect you to be a functional adult.
d. I hope you will develop a social life that is appropriate for your age, and I expect you to use good judgment.
e. Be a good roommate as we all have to live together under this same roof.
5. I do hug or au pairs when they get off the plane whether they like it or not. Since we live in the west, usually they are too tired to resist, but I find that a good barometer of whether they are able to “go with it” as a general philosophy as we all know there will be plenty of need for that over the course of the year.

Take what you can and I wish you the best year.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 7, 2014 at 2:59 pm

#4 is awesome. I’ll be adding these verbatim to my handbook!

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I agree. I’m copying #4 right now into my handbook.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 3:09 pm

In particular, 4.a. has been *very* hard for our current AP to grasp. She would do some project with the kids and leave everything lying around.. or have friends with kids over, a huge mess would be left in the basement- I couldn’t believe my eyes! Our last 2 au pairs did not have a problem with this at all.

Skny August 6, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Another HM told me that she used to buy store brand yogurt to her Au pair, but one day bought a specific more expensive brand (different stores). Au pair loved more expensive yogurt. Next time she got the store brand again and Au pair will not eat it… She is very upset because it is going bad on her fridge.
I told her IF yogurt went bad I’d stop buying yogurt altogether. Husband said it is silly and just pay the extra 0.4 cents a piece for the yogurt. I felt it was a question of principle… She also said her Au pair won’t eat generic brand cereal…
Wonder what others think?

HRHM August 6, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I wonder if this falls into that special category “crap that bugs you when your AP is not so great but you wouldn’t blink at if your AP was doing a great job”…

Current AP is on week 3 of really great performance. If she asked me to buy her a specific brand of yogurt, I wouldn’t think twice about saying yes. But I can think of other APs when my answer would have been to “forget” her yogurt when I went shopping.

FWIW, I won’t eat generic cereal or store brand yogurt either. We all have our dietary quirks and unless AP is eating 20 yogurts a week or going through 5 boxes of cereal, this change will cost her less than 10 bucks a week, most likely.

Should be working August 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I think HRHM hit it. When all is well with AP I’m happily generous. When it isn’t, I’m a penny pincher. This isn’t quite fair because she may not realize the cause/effect dynamic here. But when I’m pinching pennies it also serves to warn myself that I’m not totally satisfied with AP. It’s also a balance on how much I want to communicate to the AP that we are generous, sharing, caring–so that she will be too–and how much we want to communicate that we also watch our dollars and are not pushovers.

Skny August 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm

40 cents more a piece. Sorry for typo. And yes, now that I think about it, the complaint about food was just one of tons of things she complained about…
And thinking about it, I would buy organic yogurt to my loved former Au pair if she came back. Seriously

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 9:01 am

I can understand feeling upset that the AP demands luxuries the rest of the family isn’t indulging in, but if the difference is only 4 cents….

FWIW – I regularly buy store brand stuff from one grocery chain but never from the other grocery chain because the quality difference seems noticeable.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I expect the AP to adjust to our level in these areas…. if it’s above what we would normally buy for ourselves, then we can expect her to adjust downward. If she really can’t eat our crappy yogurt, then no yogurt for her!

That being said, I buy the more expensive yogurt myself, but I generally will only buy plain and in the large bucket- we will NOT buy individual yogurts because our family goes through a lot of yogurt and it’s wasteful. You can add fruit, jam, honey, granola, etc to make it sweeter and it’s still usually healthier than the pre-sweetened stuff in the store. So if my AP had a hankering for the individual yogurts she would have to buy them with her own money. And then she’d have to figure out how to hide them from the kids.

And I will buy generic cereal but it has to be low-ish in sugar, no BHT and no artificial colors. No one else in my house buys cereal anymore (including DH) because I make them return it if it’s the wrong kind.

Yes I realize that I sound a bit nutty. But that’s part of life in our house.

exaupair August 7, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Store own brand products are by no means worse, and sometimes significantly better.

@Skny, that’s only yogurt, they won’t go bankrupt because of additional few bucks a week spent on high end dairy products.
However you’re right, the family can’t buy better quality products only for the AP, when the rest of them sticks to cheaper brands.

Seattle Mom August 8, 2014 at 12:48 pm

True dat, although the HM above with the situation said her AP now won’t eat the store brand, so I’m guessing that in this case the name brand is better. Or the AP thinks it’s better.

The kind I buy are better than store brand. I only buy locally made dairy products. So no Dannon for me.

Host Mom X August 7, 2014 at 2:03 pm

If yogurt is something this au pair actually eats a lot of, and enjoys – I don’t think I’d sweat it (for 4 cents/yogurt). I’d get her the kind she likes – food is so personal. But as others point out, I think that feeling less generous over these types of things indicates a deeper problem with the au pair. Our current AP consumes several types of food that our family just doesn’t – and it causes an extra expense. But, not enough of an expense to make an issue out of it, and it’s such an easy way to make another person feel happy and satisfied.

If we had an AP that said she had to eat steak or lobster 4x/week after we had it on some special occasion, or we got some on sale or something – well, then we’d have to talk about it, because that is obviously a real added expense of luxury food items. And yogurt could certainly be that way if it were, e.g., brand-name pricey greek or swiss yogurt that costs $2/cup vs. $.69/cup. So I think then I’d explain that we only get certain types of yogurt when it’s on sale, and we’ll happily continue to look out for the sales, since we know she likes it.

We had that issue with cereal brands – we only buy on sale when it’s, e.g., two for five, since otherwise cereal is just SO expensive, and it gets consumed at high rates in our home. So we get cereal based on what’s on sale, and we don’t always have each person’s favorite kind on hand for that reason. Now American-style breakfast cereal is not really as common in most other countries, so when our APs arrive they either: (1) ignore cereal as a weird American obsession; (2) embrace cereal as an AWESOME American obsession; or (3) eye cereal somewhat warily unless it is the one or two brands also available in their home country. If they fall into category 3, they tend to ask us to get that particular brand/type, which categorically fails to ever be on sale. With those APs, we’ve decided we’d rather get them the cereal they like. In the end, maybe it costs us $50 or at most $100 extra per year in cereal? It’s a small price to pay for avoiding resentment on what is really a minor issue. And truth be told – if an AP eats one cup of fancy yogurt per day at 1$ extra per cup – I guess $365 per year on yogurt for a happy AP still seems reasonable to me (as long as those tastes don’t extend to all kind of other fancy foods that increase the grocery bill in a similar manner, causing thousands of extra food dollars per year). Of course, if it turns into $1.50 extra per cup, etc. etc. – it’s a fine line, obviously, and you have to know what you’re comfortable with.

We had an AP who kept putting “exotic” fruits and vegetables on our grocery list (this is generally a problem for APs when they first arrive since fruits that are common and cheap in their home country may be “exotic” in our area). If she had actually eaten them, I think we would have just tried to accommodate. But she’d let them just rot, often. (And we would not eat them before they went bad either, because we didn’t want her to think we were eating the food she had specially asked for before she had a chance.) So – we did start saying: please think about what you think you really might want to eat this week, and how much, because you may not realize it but these fruits are not “in season” here, and are pretty expensive, and they are going to waste on top of it. She understood, but I think it made her feel uncomfortable that we said something, because then she never asked again. And we felt badly about that.

So now for new APs we just let them know when they arrive what fruits and vegetables are common to our area/easily available in grocery stores, and explain that certain types of fruits are not – and are more expensive, so we try to get fruits that are in season, and limit our consumption of fruits that just plain aren’t commonly grown here. We also explain that with fruits imported from far-off lands, they tend to go bad more quickly than the AP might be used to if those fruits are native to her home country, so that she realizes that if we do buy that kind of fruit, she can’t let it sit around too long.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 6, 2014 at 6:19 pm

AP #10 arrives tomorrow night. We’re in the midst of a mad house clean to “put our best foot forward” (and because we have a huge event for which family from both sides are flying in the following week). I spent yesterday cleaning the AP room, and deciding what could be used again – the sheets, the blankets, the pillows, and comforters, and what needs to go – shower curtain and liner. I make it more than hotel clean – I wash down the walls, wipe the floorboards, clean behind the bathroom sink. I wash everything! As I did my annual clean-from-the-ceiling-to-the-floor, I thought, I’m not really wiping away AP #9, just giving AP #10 the opportunity to think we’ve made the room just for her (and given how #4-9 took care of it, it seems to work).

I acquiesce to certain requests – current AP says she prefers to sleep with a body pillow. For someone who is going to provide total care for a teenager in diapers, I’m willing to do that for her. I’ll even by the rolls she says she prefers to have for breakfast.

However, for new HMs, the au pair bedroom is not a dorm room. Suit it out for longevity – assuming you like the program and, like me, you’ll be welcoming your 10th AP after 13 1/2 years. By sturdy items – if you go cheap it will just break.

My advice to new HMs is to be fair. Don’t bend over backwards to make your AP happy, but don’t treat her like a servant either. There’s a fine line between employee and member of the family, so make sure you receive the child care you want before you concede to extra time off to attend a concert, travel to another city, etc.

Make sure your handbook includes the sentence, “You are an adult in this household,” because for many APs, they were a child in their parent’s house when they got on the airplane, and taking care of your children may be the biggest responsibility of their lives. Don’t be afraid to make her hit the ground running – after all you’ve hired her to make your life easier.

Finally, give a hug the first time you meet your AP. She may freeze in your arms, not expecting a big American hug, but if she’s like AP #6, she’ll tell you after she returns home that that was the moment she knew she had made the right choice and that her year was going to be better than okay.

JourneyEC (previously CADinAUS) August 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I love that you hug your AP’s, many times people forget that AP’s give up so much to come have this experience. Those first few steps off the airplane to go live with almost complete strangers is frightening, it really makes you question everything even if you are prepared. Being reassured by a friendly hug, really does help to start things off the right way. Usually it is the little things that makes an AP feel like she and hopefully you made the right choice, like gifts tucked in her suitcase for the children and towels in her favourite colour.

This is my second time as an AP but I will be going to a first time family in the UK. I anticipate some learning curves but am excited for another great year as an AP. Has any other AP’s or HP’s experienced this? Any advice?

Returning HM August 6, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Our first LCC back in 2005 wisely reminded all of her new HFs that “au pairs need hugs too!” and I have always appreciated her reminder of this. I am someone who hugs my children a lot, but I am not otherwise a big hugger, and it was a good prompt to make sure that I reached out for the APs along with the children when I came home from one of my trips (I travel for work a couple of days each week). I used to joke about our AP from 2011-2012 that she was the first one lined up for a hug when I came home….ahead of the children. She really needed her hugs, and it definitely made us closer that I knew to provide them.

I will say, though, that now hosting a male AP has complicated this hugginess between APs and me. While we hugged them initially when they arrived off the bus from training school, it has been awkward for me to hug them, and I’ve only done so in particular circumstances. With our total rockstar one, we had started hugging more after around six months, when he went home for a visit and came back really focused on doing a great job and having a great rest of the year…and then we hugged a lot when he got hurt, and we were looking for any way to keep him – it was just such a hard and sad time for all of us, and he needed a lot of reassurance from me during that time. With his replacement, who was only with us 4.5 months, I only hugged him upon hello and goodbye and that was it….it just never felt right or comfortable otherwise. I did pat on the arm a fair amount and send texts to say how much I appreciated him, etc., but it just didn’t feel right to reach out for a hug for the most part.

2 kids in the UK August 8, 2014 at 2:16 am

We’re just about to welcome our second AP into our home in the UK. Our first experience turned bad after about 5 weeks when we became aware that the AP had an eating disorder (despite having screened for this!). Her expectations were that we would look after her (why she chose us – 2 medical professionals) and we would take on the parenting role. When it was made abundantly clear that this was not going to happen, she withdrew, started counting working hours to the minute (even though she was always well under) and treated our home like a hostel. My advice is behave like an adult, but I hoped you might be able to give us some more insight into what would help from the au pairs perspective. I think we make a great host family (of course!) and have a huge amount to offer. Our children are both at school, so there is a lot of spare time (there are a number of APs in the area and we arrange for them to meet, enrol her in English lessons, are walking distance to everything and are based in the centre of the UK with easy access to all major cities) I have found that the experience has really dented our confidence, and our 5 page manual is already 29 pages and growing. We have been very specific in what we want from an AP and really thought we’d chosen well last time, hence the anxiety this time!

Should be working August 7, 2014 at 12:37 am

I picked up our new AP last week, at a big hub airport so there were a bunch of HFs picking up APs. My AP ran over and we both had our arms out for a hug and were saying “ooooh” and “hiiiiii” in the squeeze. I noticed ALL the other families were offering handshakes and more reserved greetings. I was happy that I wanted to hug our new AP and that she was the same!

Aussie HM August 7, 2014 at 1:42 am

Us too SBW…. my kids made a sign for our new AP and we went as a family to pick her up, there were hugs all around! It was a strangly wonderful family outing, and seeing the way she interected with the kids and us HP’s on the way home, gave me great hope about our time together!

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 9:23 am

We hug, too. It’s funny to see their reactions since we’ve hosted only from non-hugging cultures. Our APs and exchange students from Japan, Vietnam and China all have told us they didn’t hug their own families. Imagine their surprise when even their extended host family hugs them the first time they meet!

exaupair August 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I did let my HM hug me when we first met in person for the sake of putting my best foot forward, but deep inside I was mortified. I’m not exactly from a non-hugging culture but I like to keep my distance at the very beginning, and she never appeared to be a “hugger” herself during our skype sessions. :-)

German Au-Pair August 7, 2014 at 7:00 pm

My HD hugged me when he picked me up and so did my HM even though both aren’t huggers -and neither am I. But even though I don’t usually like hugs, especially by strangers, it was nice to feel welcome and have this awkward moment many APs freak out about for weeks over. Whatever you do, just make sure you initiate it.
I lived in the South so eventually I had to get used to hugging and I can accept it as a social thing that is done and then it’s okay. I loved how my Southeners said “you’re not a hugger, right? Well, you gotta live with that now”. :D
My HM didn’t even hug me when I told her that a grandparent had died while I was away. Even though on one level I was kind of glad not to hug it out as I was trying to keep a calm, rational demeanor about it, it did seem weird and somewhat uncaring. Had she asked me if I wanted a hug I would have definitely said no, but I would have prefered and unwanted hug over not doing anything.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I remember hugging our last AP when she came to our house because I was so excited to see her (she came to replace our rematch AP). It was the only time I hugged her (neither of us are really huggers, except with the children of course) but I think it set the right tone.

I’ll remember to hug my next AP when she comes. I didn’t think to hug my current one. I think it does make a difference, even if it is the only hug you ever share.

LondonMum August 7, 2014 at 6:46 am

I’ve always had the dilemma about whether to take the children to the airport or not. I don’t want to overwhelm them with all of us and for her to feel like she is “on” with the kids from the first second! Especially if they have had a long day travelling and probably feel slightly traumatised by what they are letting themselves in for! It’s HDs job to pick up from the airport and I always give a big hug when they get home, although I laughed at the comment “freeze in your arms” as that has happened too, and I’ve had anxious mums phone to ask if AP has arrived yet even though the plane has just landed!
it’s always a tricky time. AP#1, who was one of the best, on her first morning, came into our bedroom whilst we were still in bed and said “I’m ready for work”! We got quite a shock! LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch August 7, 2014 at 9:33 am

When our kids were little we did not take them to the train station to meet the AP because the train arrives after 9:30 at night. The Camel has never gone – it’s way past her bedtime (even at 15, she remains a lark – early to bed, early to rise), and I usually stay home with her and put finishing touches on the house. DH now makes child #2 go with him.

I always tell the arriving AP that she should come up for breakfast when she’s hungry, but may spend the morning unpacking, Skyping with family, and reading the handbook. We have her start with The Camel’s midday meal (that’s a plunge unto itself!).

Friendly Confines Mom August 7, 2014 at 7:39 am

We are really excited to be welcoming our first AP soon. Some questions…

Do you schedule in mandatory things for “work hours” like a welcome dinner on the first night, and the orientation in your home with LCC? We will be having our AP work the full 45 hours a week, so I do want to set the precedent right away and schedule her 45 hours right off the bat.

Do you have your AP’s share your shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, mouth wash, etc? We will all share one (small) bathroom, so it seems weird to make her buy her own stuff, and I don’t mind sharing with her, I think the cost would be minimal to me, but when an AP is on such a tight budget trips to the drug store can add up.

I took a few days off of work to “train” her and I know I will be telling her a million tiny pieces of information about the kids, our home, our neighborhood. I do have a very general handbook, and I feel like a overly detailed handbook would be overwhelming. She is very smart and her English is great, but I am wondering how she is going to remember everything. I don’t know what my question is in there, but just wondering how detailed written instructions should be. I don’t have the time to write a book about where the kids clothes are, what diaper cream to use and when, food options for the kids, every little parenting/discipline thing, etc.

I was planning to have my toddler help with a welcome sign, and get her a gift card for Starbucks or something, but what else can I get for a welcome gift? I don’t have much time on my hands right now to shop.


NoVA Twin Mom August 7, 2014 at 8:33 am

Where are you located? We’re in the US (and it sounds like you are too) so my responses are based on that:

Our au pairs leave orientation in New York at about 5 PM on Thursday, then travel to us (outside DC) that same evening. So she doesn’t usually arrive until 10 PM, which is a little late for us to schedule a welcome dinner. I DO make sure to ask “when is the last time you ate?” on the way home and have regularly stopped at McDonalds to pick up food for both of us on the way home. Parts of that are by design. I don’t ask if she’s hungry. At this point au pairs are often still polite and would say no. But if the answer is that she hasn’t eaten a real meal since lunch (pretzels on a plane don’t count, though a heftier snack on the train might) we proceed directly to McDonalds. It’s a McDonalds stop because it’s generally familiar to the au pair – they at least know the basics of what’s on the menu without having to think too hard. And I get food for me too – even if I’m not especially hungry – so that she won’t feel awkward about getting food when no one else does. Some trips my (now) preschoolers have accompanied me for pickup – this year they didn’t because it was bedtime and I’d like their first impression to be somewhat positive.

Friday I have them get up at a reasonable hour and we work together. I don’t have a lot of the details you mention written down, but tell her verbally things like where kids clothes are, and we generally only keep the kinds of supplies we want her to use where she can find them. (We also do a lot of drawer labeling, which is also useful for my husband :)) I’ve also written down a “list of lunch ideas” for au pairs – not necessarily that they HAVE to use but because I recognize that sometimes even I draw a blank as to what to feed the kids so it helps me too.

So, for instance, if there are two kinds of diaper cream, one for “regular” use and one for when things get really bad, I’d keep only the regular kind in her “stash” of supplies, and bring out the “extra heavy duty” stuff when it becomes necessary and introduce it then. Same with any kind of medication that she’s only need to use on an “as needed” basis. You can always keep it somewhere somewhat accessible, and if she calls you and tells you something that says she’d need to use it you can introduce it then. My one exception to not writing everything down is that I DO write down Tylenol/ibuprofen doses where she can find them.

How will she remember everything? She won’t. Basically, remember that anything you tell her on the first two days you’re going to have to tell her again, or she’s going to have to “fumble through” to find her own way. She’s going to still be jet lagged, and unless English is her first language (and even then somewhat) no matter how good her English is, there’s a few days of transition where changing from hearing English often to hearing English all the time means that even words you do know don’t always make sense. And she needs to find her own way anyway and do what works for her (which may be different – but just as valid – as what works for you). At our house, as long as everyone is alive, reasonably happy, fed, and with a clean diaper when I come home (especially when my girls were babies/toddlers) I’m happy.

That being said – if something is a REALLY big deal – tell her that, and you can even ascribe it to “I’m a little nutty about this, but ______.” That isn’t meant to apply to major safety things like carseats/seatbelts, but smaller, “getting along with HM/HD” things. Tell her this on the Friday when you’re training her ideally, but you might not even know what these things are until later.

Saturday/Sunday they tend to hang out with us, drive, learn the neighborhood more, maybe go out for that welcome dinner or ice cream. Sunday night I’m thrilled if she goes out with new au pair friends (until a reasonable hour) before her “big first day” on Monday. Monday the “real” schedule starts.

Friendly Confines Mom August 7, 2014 at 9:20 am

I guess I should have noted, this is her second year. She’s spent a year in New York prior to this. She will arrive at our place late afternoon on a weekend day.

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 11:14 am

With anything you give her, give some thought to whether she can tote it home. Items she will use up during her stay or gift cards to restaurants/activities work especially well.

Seattle Mom August 7, 2014 at 12:45 pm

We had one AP who had extended after spending a year in another home (also in NY State). I was surprised by how poor her English was, despite having spent a year as an AP in the US. She was upfront about it- said that if anything was important for her to understand I should write it down. She liked getting notes. She would nod and pretend to understand everything I said, even if she had no idea- that was cultural, and part of the reason her comprehension didn’t really improve much.

All of that said she was a total rock star and I would have gladly kept her with us for another year if we could. In fact she’s coming back soon on a fiance visa and I am very excited that we will get to see her again. I hope it all works out… would love to have her in our kids’ lives for the long term.

And she shared our toothpaste. We never offered, it just happened that way- we keep it on the sink in our tiny shared bathroom, and clearly she was using it. That was fine with us. Our first AP bought her own, and I think our current AP is using ours’ but to be honest I’m not sure. You’re right, another person doesn’t put that much of a dent in it. All of our APs have purchased their own toiletries, other than toothpaste. I am glad for that because my hair products are expensive and I don’t go through them quickly.

Host Mom X August 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm

If it’s her second year, and she’s not arriving on that typical Thursday evening, getting used to a new country, getting over jet lag, no friends, missing family, etc. — then I think it’s a bit different. We had an extension AP once, and with the way scheduling worked out coming from her prior family and doing a bit of travelling, she didn’t arrive on that typical Thursday, and was a few days later than her actual contract start date. Anyway, that AP actually arrived on moving day – we were moving into a new house. We had told her ahead of time that our kids would be with family during most of the day, but that we actually needed help later on in the day/early evening, and that we’d ask her to work just a few hours that first day. That worked out just fine – because she was an extension, knew the US already, knew our city somewhat, and knew how to take care of kids. She took a few hours after arrival before the kids came back to explore the neighborhood, get her room together, and then she kept the kids occupied while we finished up with the movers. That first week was sort of touch and go (again, explained and agreed to beforehand) – but we had a “real” schedule and asked her to work the full 45 hours (after all, we were working too, even though also trying to unpack a new house, and needed help watching the kids while we unpacked). I think for an extension AP, it should be no big deal to jump right in. Of course make time to go over everything that needs to be gone over, show her around, have a nice welcome dinner, etc. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with starting the full 45 hour week right away with a full day. (In our case, we had to put off our usual training stuff till after that first moving week, and just asked the AP to play with the kids in the way a babysitter would. We had sent her our handbook ahead of time, with typical schedules, info about the kids, food, etc. – so she had some idea of what the norm was for us.)

WestMom August 7, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Our APs arrive Thursday night and I make a special training schedule from Thursday night to Sunday, which includes our special welcome dinner, appliance tutorials, driving practice, trip to supermarket, all sprinkled with a few fun activities in between. We start counting hours in earnest on Monday.

LondonMum August 8, 2014 at 11:20 am

As most of you all seem to give a “handbook” to the AP, I’m curious if this is something the agency tells you to do. We are on year 6 of hosting and I have never provided a handbook. I send an outline of her week, hours and tasks, but that is only 1 sheet of A4. Obviously, on arrival I would show her how to use the washing machine, dishwasher and cooker but that’s really about it. The kids clothes etc are in their room, AP has her own bathroom so no rules about timings in the morning etc.

I just wondered, what is in the handbook and how long is an average one, maybe there is loads of stuff I’m failing to point out! My system seems to have worked so far though ….!

HRHM August 8, 2014 at 12:17 pm

The HHHB was something Cultural Care recommended prior to our first year. They had an outline that you could use, and we did. Ours started small but has expanded annually to 22 pages this year. It contains everything from schedules and task lists, to rules on car and phone use, to instructions on putting together meals. No single AP has needed all the information (some are able to cook already, some know how to use western appliances, etc) but each piece of information is in there for a reason. It also helps as a screening tool because we send it out to candidates after the first Skype interview. Once they read about the car curfew and vacation timing rules, they may bail and that’s fine. If they have no questions about the content, that generally leads me to believe they didn’t even look at it and I can then “quiz” them about aspects to ensure they did. It also is my ‘shield” if after arrival they balk at any aspect of the job or restrictions that was clearly layed out in the HHHB. I point it out in writing and remind them that they agreed to everything before we matched – our LCC has been great in those instances because she can clearly see that the AP is the one changing the “psychological contract” so to speak.

There is a section on APMom with some sample HBs I think, if you’re curious.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm

We didn’t have one with our first AP – we were clueless. We had a better sense with our second AP what was acceptable to us! We call our rules “guidelines to having a good year with us.” There’s a lot of wiggle room with a great AP, not so much with a mediocre one.

TexasHM August 15, 2014 at 12:22 am

HRHM you read my mind and couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s a screening tool first, guide second and shield third!

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 8:46 am

The first 3-4 days should be a time to get settled and learn how the household works, how to do things the way your kids like, etc. Then the first two weeks or so should be more rigorous than you expect the rest of the year to go.

Welcome Dinner and LCC orientation are not work hours for us.

We don’t share a bathroom with our AP; I’d invite her to use our products if we were sharing a space, though.

Give her a notepad to jot down notes as she follows you around in those first few days. Use masking tape to let her label cleaning products in her language – depending on her home country, she may be unfamiliar with our stuff.

The welcome sign and gift card would be nice. I included an inexpensive umbrella and slippers (she’s unlikely to have brought those or want to bring home expensive ones at the end of the year), toiletries, a wall map of the US, and some paint supplies (her application said she enjoys painting). We had books about sightseeing in our area, so we placed those in her room. My AP loves flowers and was really excited when we brought home a pretty potted plant for her room.

Dorsi August 7, 2014 at 9:39 am

I often give warm pajama pants (flannel, fleece) — our APs are always cold!. Dollar store can be a great source for some toiletries and such. American or local themed stuff is great – I found cute little US map puzzles there last time I looked — perfect activity for AP to do with the kids. I put some snacks in there as well, though after one bad experience, I try not to set up the “we buy you junk food” expectation.

I do not count work hours until Monday morning. I know we have discussed this in the past with paying for orientation, etc. My schedule (for orientation) is start and stop times with some details about the topics we will cover, so that they know if/when they can go out or skype their family. Some of our orientation involves doing a few tourist activities with the kids — good introduction to the car seats, diaper bag, etc.

NJ Mama August 7, 2014 at 10:10 am

We all share a bathroom, but I tell the APs it’s best for them to buy their own toiletries. I use different hair products than my kids (because I have crazy big hair and my kids don’t), and my Hs has his own brand, and my kids like kid toothpaste and I use the yucky sensitive kind. It just seems like most of the APs I’ve had wanted to use their own stuff anyway. Also this may sound strange but when you all have to share a bathroom I find that everyone – kids included – like to have their own things. Of course the challenge is where to store everything but we manage.

I did have one AP that would use a lot of my toiletries. She was a great AP, and one of my first APS, so I let it slide, but it would really be annoying when things got used up quickly. So with the next one I suggested that we all get our own and it seems to have worked out well since.

NBHostMom August 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

At one point we had a live-in nanny who shared a bathroom with our kids (we’re now in a different house where au pair has a bathroom)…. I didn’t setup bathroom sharing rules, I regretted it. Skipping the long story about her makeup everywhere, using way too much of the products we purchased etc, I solved by providing her one of these wheeled caddies that she could move back and forth between her room and the bathroom. I provided it under the guise of keeping the kids out of her things:

It kept her many many many necessities off my counter and was a good attempt to stop her mass consumption of our toiletries. You could initially stock it with a nice stash of products for her and set the standard that she buys for herself. If, during the year, you like her, things are going well and you notice she buys the same kind of shampoo as you, you can always offer yours to share. It’s way easier to start not sharing and relax than move in the opposite direction. Who knows what her bathroom habits are.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 7, 2014 at 9:54 am

I count the LCC meeting as work hours, but not dinner – I never want to give the AP the impression that she’s expected to work during dinner (see the discussion about pitching in during meals elsewhere). She feeds the Camel and once she’s tidied up, I don’t mind if she escapes into her room for a break. Child #2 goes downstairs to call her to the table for dinner.

Because The Camel, our beloved teenager with special needs, takes multiple medications, we keep a cheat chart available on our kitchen bulletin board. Our handbook contains very explicit instructions about her care – including when to call us, the pediatrician, the hospital to which we take her, or 911. All of the medical procedures – including increasing medicine doses during illness are spelled out in detail. That being said, if we know The Camel is heading south DH and I sometimes stay home from work, because it’s a huge job to manage a medically fragile child in crisis (fortunately, The Camel has been the healthiest person in the house as far as routine illness goes).

Don’t be afraid to put instructions in writing – I recommend using your computer, saving the document, and printing it out and either stapling it together or putting it in a binder. I do that because instructions change so frequently when children are little – especially those still in diapers (except mine) – it makes it easier to update doses of medicine, nap routine, etc.

Most of my APs look at the medicine cheat sheet for the first few weeks, but it doesn’t take them long to nail. Child #2 is a teenager, and fully responsible for his own medication (an occasional allergy pill or Ibuprofen).

Don’t be afraid to let your AP own the routine. I let every AP develop her own routine with The Camel. Children are going to meet a lot of adults who are responsible for them – and the more they adjust to different styles of care giving, the better off they will be. (The exception may be kids with emotional-behavioral issues who absolutely need exactly the same routine.) I let the AP take ownership of her care for The Camel.

My advice – if you’re taking time off for more than a day or two, then take off at intervals – and let the AP take care of the kids on her own. Do something for yourself that you wouldn’t usually do.

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm

My former AP moved out of state at the end of her AP year to live with a family as an unofficial AP and tutor while she attends college. She applied to change her visa to a student visa, but was denied because the school semester wasn’t going to start until several months after her AP visa expired. The denial letter she received 3 weeks ago said she was here without lawful status and needed to depart “immediately.” She told me she plans to leave in October. In the meantime, she is driving in her new location and her dangerous lack of driving skills virtually guarantee that she will have an encounter with the local police between now and October.

Does anyone know if the AP is making a huge mistake by not leaving sooner? It sounds really risky to me, but I have zero experience in this area.

Host Mom X August 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Having recently helped a former AP deal with immigration issues, including working with immigration lawyers – yes, the student visa denial letter that tells you to leave the country immediately is serious business. It means leave immediately. Now – she can certainly roll the dice and may not encounter a problem. On the one hand, the immigration folks have been known to do random surprise visits to make sure that those who have been denied visas do indeed leave “immediately”; but there is also a good chance that no one will do anything. (Given the current immigration crisis in our country, particularly with kids, I would venture to say that attention is elsewhere right now.) And – since her new location is probably not the address that she applied from (presumably she applied for her student visa while still living at your home, and used your address), she isn’t easily tracked down (unless you give her up!). But the issue you are worrying about – that she’ll get stopped by cops and have her status discovered? That I’m not sure about. I think whether cops will/are allowed to ask for your immigration status papers on a traffic stop varies state by state these days, with certain warm states (I forget which one is yours! Though you say she moved out of state….) having enacted some fairly Draconian laws in recent years in that regard.

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 3:19 pm

She’s in California now. She must be using her Chinese license to get around (or driving without a license). When she gets into a car accident, I’m worried about whether the cops will check her immigration status once they realize she has no license from a US state. I don’t know if they’d take her into custody or if this is so common they ignore it for non-violent offenders.

I strongly disagree with her working illegally in the US and gaming the system (she already got 3 extra months for while they considered her invalid visa request), but we wouldn’t turn her in. I don’t think immigration officials will go looking for her, but they must have her current address (it’s where she received the denial letter).

Host Mom X August 7, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Hmm, maybe California is better about this; also, I should probably stop talking since now I really don’t know what I’m talking about, but I don’t THINK state police would take her into custody – I think they have to call feds for an immigration issue. It’s just that some states have recently given state cops the authority to look into immigration at a traffic stop, even though immigration is a federal issue. But if they find something – I think then they have to turn it over to feds. I guess I’m not sure that they’d check into it in California – they’d probably be more concerned that she is driving without a license, which itself is a serious offense.

I thought maybe you had received the denial letter at your address. If they have her current address, there would be some concern. We were advised by immigration attorneys that our AP should be concerned, though her denial letter came to our address and she was staying with her significant other most of the time at that point.

WarmStateMomma August 7, 2014 at 4:33 pm

She emailed me her denial letter to ask for advice. I told her she’d need an immigration attorney to get reliable advice because I’d just be guessing. I don’t agree with her choices, but the idea of her being locked up is scary. She is pretty vulnerable and naïve.

Host Mom X August 7, 2014 at 4:53 pm

It is scary. And if she is found in violation, it could bar her from coming back here legally another time. I wish her luck and hope everything turns out okay!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 9, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Your AP is unlikely to suffer any consequences – unless she gets into an accident. The reality of the situation is that Homeland Security is overloaded and is unlikely to go looking for your former AP. It sounds as though she is securing a lawyer, which she will want to do.

My advice – don’t get involved. Your agency may telephone you to say that your AP did not get on a flight home and that they are required to report it to Homeland Security. Mine did when we attempted to sponsor AP #1 as an employer (we put her on a student visa before her J-1 expired).

L. August 10, 2014 at 7:49 am

I am an immigration attorney. Now that the change of status request has been denied, she is out of status and accruing unlawful presence. She needs to leave. If she stays 180 days past her permission, she triggers a 3 year bar on re-entry. If it’s over 6 months, it will be a 10 year bar. She is also likely to not be approved for a visa ever again just based on the consular officers discretion next time she applies if she doesn’t leave right away.

Also, students can’t usually work on the side except in extenuating circumstances with permission. To get approved for a student visa, you have to prove that you can pay for school. Likely, your au pair can’t and that is why she first came as an au pair and not as a student. American students don’t have to prove the means up front and heavily depend on loans, which isn’t an option for international students.

When you au pair gets pulled over next, she could very easily get put in detention and deported. There have been 400000+ deportations under Obama, so don’t think it couldn’t happen to her. Maybe she doesn’t care, because she would get to stay longer first.

So, my advice is that she get a consult with a lawyer and plan to leave.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 9:01 am

Thanks. She doesn’t have the means to go to school here and cover living expenses. She knows it’s illegal to work off campus on a student visa but a friend of hers (who married an American for his passport) keeps telling her how easy all this is.

Host Mom X August 11, 2014 at 9:43 am

Ugh, the au pair friends who have managed to game the immigration system are really problematic, in terms of giving false (or risky) hope. All of our former au pair’s immigration advice initially came from such friends – and of course relying on the possibility that you will have the same good luck as your friend in trying to game the system is really not a smart plan.

Although in the end for our au pair, one of these game-the-system friends did end up giving us the idea that — when our au pair accomplished it through proper means, with the assistance of proper lawyers — ultimately allowed her to remain here legally.

German Au-Pair August 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

May I ask a question that is on many APs mind? Does not paying your taxes as an AP have consequences for you in the future if you don’t intend on living in the US but only want to come back as a tourist or student? Many fear that not paying your taxes may result in not getting a tourist or student visa or being denied entry upon arrival.
Especially when you are back home when you’d have to do your taxes you’re likely not going to do them and send them across the world to the US.

TexasHM August 15, 2014 at 12:27 am

Agencies tell us yes and tell APs that now in orientation but I don’t know any details and am curious to know more on this myself.

WarmStateMomma August 15, 2014 at 7:48 am


I don’t know how well the govt tracks taxes or how likely they are to cause a problem later. I do know that you can file a late tax return. Many APs won’t owe anything because of they only worked a few months of the second calendar year. So they would file a return (1040EZ-NR) stating how much they earned and how much is due (hopefully, $0) and not have to send a payment.

Repeataupair August 7, 2014 at 6:18 pm

I just did a playdate at the pool. The other au pair came with the 3 HK and did not bring her bathing suit. The yougest almost drown herself and her au pair yelled for help, I was the one who went to get her. After that the 4 yo kept staying with me while I was also keeping and eye on the 4 other kids (6,7,8,9) and stopping the fighting. I would turn around to see the au pair on a long chair with her two cellphones.
It seriously made me so mad, she is not even bothering to come in the water when she has three young host kids but when an accident almost happen she gets even more careless.
She is the au pair of my a friend of my HM and everytime I am with her I can see she has difficulties, I know the girls aren’t super easy but this is a safety issue so I feel like I need to let my HM know what happened.

spanishaupair August 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm

I think you have to tell her, i mean its a really big safety issue one of the kids could have died and she didnt even move and care less of the kids.

HRHM August 7, 2014 at 7:04 pm

OMG yes! Please speak with your HM immediately about this. Your counterpart put very young children in jeopardy and this for me would mean a rematch meeting tonight.

We actually have a section in our HHHB that states that the AP must be in the water and within arms length of DD6 anytime they go to the pool. When she was 4, it said that she must have a hand on her at all times (she wasn’t a swimmer yet and three feet was the shallowest depth)

Repeataupair August 7, 2014 at 7:19 pm

I have let my HM know I wanted to talk to her, I’ll talk to her once the kids are in bed.
I still feel bad about it and I felt uncomfortable in the pool with the kids. I have watched groups of kids in the pool many time but not alone with kids in both shallow and deep end.

Aussie HM August 8, 2014 at 1:01 am

RepeatAuPair – please let us know how the conversation with your HM goes, I certainly would want my Aupair to tell me about incidents like this. Even more so if it was about a family that I am friends with. Secondary drowing is an absolutely horrific thing, and while its not common, its certainly something that the HM of that child needs to be aware of.

Im sure that your HM will respect your maurity and honesty in coming forward about what is clearly an unacceptable saftey issue – best of luck!

WarmStateMomma August 8, 2014 at 8:01 am

+1!!! This kind of tragedy is completely preventable. The parents absolutely need to know their AP is not watching out for the kids at the pool. I would have more trust in my AP if she had the good judgment to tell me about this kind of issue before something terrible happened.

Amelie August 9, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I don’t want to alarm anybody, just reinforce that safety in the pool is a very serious matter:

Even a minor incident in a pool can have severe consequences.

I am a very good swimmer, and so were my host kids (although they were young at the time), but still, I’d always keep my eyes on them and be sure I was within an arm’s reach from them.

Taking care of multiple children while in the water can be a challenge! Specially if they’re not your kids.

Emerald City HM August 7, 2014 at 7:09 pm

My post didn’t whow up because I included a link or something.

Either way, please let the host parents know ASAP! They will have to watch for signs of delayed drowning and chances are their au pair won’t tell them.

exaupair August 7, 2014 at 7:36 pm

Disturbing story I wanted to share:
It’s summer, kids are off school so the “au pair season” is in its full swing. I was on a train back from work today. I usually sit in a so called “quiet area” – 6 seats, 5 of which empty, a rather loud family comes along. Mum + 5 daughters (one of them turned out to be the AP) sit next to me. The actual daughters were rather young including one toddler so they didn’t really respect the unwritten rule of the quiet area, i.e. started doing what small kids do best :-) The mum tried to calm the girls down at first, the AP helped her as much as she could trying to bribe the kids with snacks, books etc. After everything failed the mum gave up and floated away with her magazine leaving the AP pretty much on her own.
Now comes the sad part: my journey back home takes up to 1hr, so it’s enough time for an adult to feel the need to go to the toilet. At some point the AP needed to go, so she wanted to give on of the girls who was sitting on her lap back to her mum. And she goes: “Please hold X for a minute I need to go to the bathroom”. Any normal person would have said something like yeah sure, however the HM looked really bemused and said “You will go when you’re off it’s not even 8.30, you’re needed here now”.
I really would like to think the HM just had a bad day and otherwise is a lovely person, however what I thought at the moment was more like OMFG run for your life girl!

WarmStateMomma August 8, 2014 at 8:03 am

What a terrible way to treat someone, especially in front of your children.

Caring HP August 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Report it urgently to LCC and your HM. If you are worried it will impact your relationship with the AP tell the HM to say that it was reported to her through another visitor to the Pool. If the AP was so busy with her phone and suntan etc, she wouldnt have noticed if other neighbors passed by and observed the lack of attentiveness or incidents anyway.
Don’t wait. It is a life or death thing. In seconds a child’s life would be over – the length of time it takes her to be occupied posting a FB post…

I can ‘discuss’ or ‘compromise’ on various AP matters such as vacations, schedules etc but there is no compromise appropriate on safety.

We actually prohibited our last AP from taking the kids to the pool – she was absolutely addicted to her phone. I could have told her to leave phone at home going to the pool but then if there was an emergency she would not have it. We knew that as long as the phone was anywhere near her, in her bag, or on her pool chair, the children’s safety would suffer. Thus we decided she was not to bring the kids to the pool and I hired a secondary person to take care of pool stuff and had the APs hours for other childcare needs. Her time with us was nearly up anyway when pool season started, so there was no point in trying to reform her ways for the sake of a few weeks of summer pool time but I think she found it annoying that she was left to do kids laundry or tidy their rooms while another person came in to take them to the pool.

Repeataupair August 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

My HM reminded me I could have told the kids to get out of the water, which I understand, I chose to try as long as I could to stay with them and then took the 4yo out.
Concerning the HF, my HM sent an email to them, the mom knew her au pair was going without a bathing suit but she agreed the situation wasnt good, I am not sure what is going to happen though. I did my part, I asked my host mom to send the info which she did, the decision is up to the parents now.

HRHM August 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Thank you.

Regardless of the outcome, you did the right thing. If the other HF doesn’t think this is a problematic situation a)they are nuts/in denial and b)they are inviting tragedy in the future. But you have done your part and I commend you for being strong enough to do it.

NJmama August 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm

RepeatAupair – I think you did everything right. Also do not feel afraid to speak up and say you don’t want to do play dates at the pool with the other au pair and kids anymore. That is way too much to put on you. And as a mom I want to say I appreciate that you spoke up. My guess is the other host family has to know things are not good. And hopefully you will never be put in that situation again.

Repeataupair August 8, 2014 at 11:37 pm

I’ve learned my lesson :)
But next week is my last week with my HF so there will not be any issue again with that au pair I guess.
My HM did not know this would turn out like this and agreed the situation was not good for me, she is always very fair concerning my work.

Seattle Mom August 11, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Glad that your HM understands and agrees, and of course that you spoke up. It can be hard to do.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 9:03 am

You did the right thing. Hopefully, the other family’s parents will take the issue seriously.

aupair August 8, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I had the exact same problem! the au pair and I would go to the pool, I had two kids at that time (15 months and 4. both could not swim) My HM friends au pair brought “her” two kids, who were (12 months and almost 4). She also sat on a chair and relaxed while I WAS ALL BY MYSELF WITH 4 YOUNG KIDS! she also just left us to go to the bathroom! I couldn’t even say anything, because she just left!!! her 4 year old was fearless, and could not swim! He almost drowned as well. Thank God for the lifeguards, because I couldn’t leave the babies in the water by themselves to go after the 4 y.o. An other time we went to the mall. There was some kind of dance party, so LOTS OF KIDS everywhere. All of a sudden she was gone!!! 15min later I saw her window shopping! I told my HM after the pool incident, and after the mall too. She again talked to her friend. 2 weeks later she got fired because she yelled at the kids (Mom came home early) because they were too loud while she wanted to take a freaking nap!!! it’s sad…

Caring HP August 8, 2014 at 12:08 pm

sorry, my 1st post was a response to the AP who had to deal with another AP not paying attention to children’s safety at pool-time.

Kate August 8, 2014 at 2:35 pm

I was reviewing my handbook with my LCC and I have a clause that states should the AP decide not to take her vacation that she would be paid double for that week. My LCC asked me to remove it, stating that it violates the rules. I read the rules and I don’t see how it violates. Thoughts??

HRHM August 8, 2014 at 4:04 pm

The rules state that you MUST give them 2 paid weeks off. In addition they state that you must pay them for the other (49) weeks of the year. So, no extra “unpaid” weeks off either.
Personally, I feel you are inviting burnout and badness if you allow her to skip taking her weeks of vacation. Everyone needs a break – especially from someone else’s kids!

Your other options, if you feel you can’t spare her for vacation time would be to have her take vacation while your family is away on your vacation (that’s how we handle it) As long as your out of town anyway, let her use that week (s) to go away. Very few of us “need” an AP while on vacation. Or you can ask her to take them 1-2 days at a time (long weekends instead of a solid week)

Kate August 8, 2014 at 4:35 pm

I don’t have any problem with her taking it off and didn’t realize that she must take vacation. Good to know. I’m lucky that I get 5 weeks vacatiin and 1 week of personal time. I guess I was naive in thinking that the AP might not take additiinal vacation. She’ll be taking 3 one week vacations with the family too.

Should be working August 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Kate, do read on this site about APs on “vacation” with family. It’s not vacation for them even if the destination is nice. They can’t do what they want all day, aren’t with friends, and didn’t choose the plan themselves. But there are ways to help them enjoy it and be grateful while they are still technically on the job.

Twin Momma August 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Topic: Renewing an okay au pair

Hello all,

What are your thoughts about renewing an okay au pair? She does okay taking care of my twin daughters who are 19 mos. She is sweet to them, but I know children are not her passion. With two mobile toddlers, you have to be a quick multi-tasker and she is a one trick pony. I am also not pleased with her command of English. I was hoping it would get better by now after being in the US for 6-mos., perhaps she doesn’t apply herself? She is helpful and does a little extra (loading the twins in the car, washes extra dishes, launders family towels, mops the kitchen floor, etc) I am disappointed that she is super needy with her boyfriend that she met just 2-weeks after arriving the US. I am getting the sense that she came to the US to get married. Now that my twins are older, I would want someone who drives. She is not a good driver and is terrified of driving.

I am torn about renewing because there are pluses and minuses about her. I get that my situation isn’t the most ideal for most au pairs: I am a single parent who uses all the 45-hours, Mon-Fri and I work full-time. My twins are toddlers so it takes a lot of mental and physical energy to care for them. I am very realistic about the program that most of the au pairs motivation to come to the US is not to care for children. As a result, I work with what I have. I look forward to your thoughts.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 9, 2014 at 9:41 am

New topic: For folks who have had a sad rematch (as opposed to one where you’re screaming “hallelujah, finally!”), how have you recharged your enthusiasm for the next au pair? Our au pair left last month after 10 months. We loved him, but he had to go. Now, we have a new one starting in Sept who seems smart, mature, and energetic, has great references, and really seemed to click well with us on skype. But I just don’t feel excited… Anyone else been through this?

Should be working August 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Fake it ’til you make it? If you’ve had a few au pairs, it becomes more of a routine transition: clean and set up room; make a schedule of first days; kids make welcome sign. You only have to be cheerful and helpful, not necessarily excited (although excitement makes it easier to do the routine). I am always surprised at how my kids, even while they are still mourning a beloved AP, get excited when the new one comes (and has gifts for them). So the kids can be excited while you are cheerful and businesslike.

It is one of the few advantages of a flameout AP or a bad experience: You get excited for the new one. One of the few downsides of a great AP year is that it is hard to feel excited for the next one. But maybe the kids and the AP can carry this excitement part. Your job is to set him up for a good year.

exaupair August 9, 2014 at 12:28 pm

I can only tell you from APs perspective : When I was leaving my first (horrible) HF for another one I wasn’t feeling relieved, I wasn’t overly excited, I was happy to have found people who I clicked with. My arrival wasn’t exactly a hallelujah moment for my new HF as well, they didn’t overreact about minor things like yet another AP in their house (one of the reasons I felt they were perfect for me), there was no welcome sign, no welcome dinner, no weekend spent on driving around local area – and we still had great time together.
There’s nothing wrong with lack of excitement, only because you don’t bent over backwards to welcome the new AP it doesn’t mean both of you won’t have a successful year.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 10, 2014 at 7:42 am

Okay, here’s a new one for me – AP #10 has just arrived, and yesterday while grocery shopping with DH (it’s his Saturday ritual and he always takes the new AP with him on the grounds that it’s easier to point to food you want than to write it on a list at first) – she mentions that she wants laundry detergent that’s scented – but opened the bottles in the grocery store and couldn’t find a scent she liked. Because I’m allergic to most perfumes (and have to wear non-latex gloves when I wash dishes and clean to keep my eczema from breaking out), I purposely buy scent-and-dye free detergent. Child #2 shares a lot of my allergies, so if she manages to score a scented detergent that she likes, I’ll have to make it clear that it’s ONLY for washing her clothes and the items that only she uses!

NoVA Twin Mom August 10, 2014 at 8:20 am

If she manages to find an acceptable kind of scented detergent, I would also recommend seriously reviewing how much to use at a time. I once had a friend that also preferred scented laundry products, but she subscribed to the “if some is good more must be better” theory of soap – she would use 2-3 times the recommended amount of soap and 2-3 dryer sheets, because then the scent was stronger (not to mention it gummed up the washer and dryer because neither machine is meant to be used with that much soap/fabric softener). At that point, the scented gunk will still be in the machines and rub off on the next sets of laundry washed – which could be yours.

Have you framed it in the sense that this is an allergy in your case and therefore nonnegotiable, rather than just something you prefer not to use? Can she find a comparable body spray that she could add outside your house before leaving for the evening?

Should be working August 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

An allergy is a medical issue, not a “preference”. No perfumed detergent for her this year, OR you could buy her the detergent and send her to the laundromat. Also if she is handling the Camel a lot and has the perfumey clothing, your daughter might react to her clothes.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 11, 2014 at 7:34 am

Lots of people handle the Camel and I don’t check what they wear or how they wash their clothes. She has 20 teachers, therapists and para-educators at school!

NBHostMom August 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Silly question, but she’s only been here for a few days. How does she know she doesn’t like your detergent, has she already done laundry in your house? I’m asking because it’s always been at minimum a week before our au pairs have ventured into doing their own laundry. I’m wondering if there may actually be an misunderstanding over her needing “her own” detergent. Or, depending on where she is from, even what she was looking at: laundry detergent vs. “people soap”

Taking a Computer Lunch August 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

I find that APs need to do their laundry right away – they’ve been in orientation for several days. Anyway, our laundry detergent is so concentrated, that I opened the cap to show her the various levels – I had one AP, who had never done a load of laundry in her life, who filled the cap to the top – what a mess!

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

Mine, too. They each brought one suitcase, mostly filled with gifts for my daughter instead of clothes for themselves. They do laundry in the first couple of days but aren’t familiar with our appliances, single-purpose soaps and detergent, etc.

Host Mom X August 10, 2014 at 9:04 pm

That could work (making it clear that it’s only for HER clothes). We also only use fragrance-free detergent because our young children have sensitive, eczema-prone skin, but we had an AP that expressed a strong preference for scented detergent (HD has the same preference, but he has had to get over it!). We explained the situation, and got her a scented detergent to use only for her own laundry. It worked out just fine. (I don’t think any of our kids’ skin are so sensitive to fragrance that a bit of residue in the machine would have been a problem; if your family’s allergies are more sensitive, that could be a problem, but I’m sure your new AP would understand and be able to do without the fragrance for a year, if she is of the flexible nature you probably look for in APs!)

German Au-Pair August 13, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Yeah, to me laundry just never seemed fresh with unscented detergent. We had those scented perls that you drop in with the clothes, maybe those are an option?
She can use your detergent and add the perls when washing her clothes. That way, there can never be confusion about which detergent should be used for which load of clothes.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 10, 2014 at 7:51 am

Maybe instead of scented detergent, she can spritz her clothes with a linen spray after drying them, or keep a sachet in her drawers and closet. That way her clothes can have the scent she chooses, and there’s no danger of a laundry mixup.

LondonMum August 10, 2014 at 10:57 am

Or maybe she could just not be so fussy! LOL, she could take a shower and then use perfume so she would still smell “fresh”, I can’t believe she smelt all the soap powder in the shop and still didn’t like any, what was she expecting, Marc Jacobs scented soap powder! I can’t imagine what DH was thinking in the shop whilst she was doing this, it’s so funny!

Seattle Mom August 11, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I agree with this.. personally I’ve never given my AP the option of different laundry soap. We use fragrance free, clear & natural.. we also have an energy efficient machine so you are supposed to use only a drop. If an AP asked to use a scented kind I would probably say no. At the very least they would have to buy their own. My last AP bought her own dryer sheets (i guess for the smell) and I told her to never ever use them on the kids’ laundry.

I think of this as part of being flexible and part of the family.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 11, 2014 at 7:30 am

DH is used to the quirks of the AP’s first visit to the grocery store. That’s why there’s junky sugar cereal on the AP shelf. But the desire to have different laundry detergent was a first for us!

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 10:36 am

New concern. AP#2 went out for a walk yesterday evening. 90 minutes later, she’s not home and it’s 9pm. HD is fretting and so I call AP#2 (checking up on APs isn’t something I normally do). She was almost home and turned down a ride. HD wants me to have a chat with AP#2 about not walking alone at night but I’m not sure how to phrase it so that it doesn’t sound like a command or new restriction.

We’d really prefer for her to take the car if she’s going out alone after dark. Is this unreasonable? We don’t want to “parent” a 25yo, but we don’t want her getting hurt either.

Returning HM August 11, 2014 at 10:57 am

Only you know your neighborhood. One of our APs a few years ago would go running at night. It was fine in our suburban DC neighborhood, but when I found out she was running on the Capitol Crescent Trail at night, I told her very clearly not to do so. I phrased it in a way that showed her my concerns without overly alarming her or making it an order. Shortly after this discussion, someone was raped while jogging on the trail, and she really saw why I had been worried. I think you know the relative safety of your neighborhood and particular streets/areas best, so you can be very clear with her that it’s not a restriction for *your* pleasure but really one for her own good.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 11:26 am

We just moved to the neighborhood a week ago. It’s really nice but there are some pretty sketchy areas nearby and I really don’t know yet how safe it is for a woman to wander around solo after dark. HD is usually very lax about this, perhaps b/c he’s a guy and not used to worrying about personal safety.

I don’t want to scare her, but assaults happen. She knows not to open the door for unexpected people, and has told me that she ignored the doorbell last week when someone unexpected and unknown showed up. He was probably a harmless salesperson, but it’s not worth it.

Should be working August 11, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Teaching APs about personal-safety norms in the USA and in our specific area is always a challenge for me. I don’t want to sound like it’s all so scary, but I also want them to understand that there areas they should avoid and that crime here is more common, and more violent, than in the neighborhoods they grew up in (like the countryside). I tell them I will be a little “bossy” to start with about wanting to know where they are and how they plan to get there, but that it is because I realize they can’t yet know what they will come to know and get a feel for.

Host Mom X August 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

We have always lived in big, busy cities. In our last city, we lived in the heart of a famously unsafe neighborhood (which had vastly improved from that reputation, but which was still an “up and coming” neighborhood in a large city). Now we live in a more typically “safe”-seeming neighborhood, but still in a very large, famously unsafe city. We put in our handbook and have discussions with our APs about safe practices in our cities right from the outset, and I don’t think of it as imposing restrictions. We explain the realities of our city and neighborhood (trying to keep a good balance between unnecessarily frightening them so that they want to go home and making sure they understand what’s what), and advise about late-night walking, public transportation, how and where to walk safely, etc. We don’t require them to do anything specific, but we express what we think is safe and what is not, and we ask them to text us when they’re going to be out late, or to tell us ahead of time their basic plans (i.e. so we know approximately when or if to expect them home, and if they are planning to stay elsewhere). But – our APs are grown-ups, and we too had to learn about living in our cities, and had to have the freedom to learn how to get about safely.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm

I guess my concern is how to respect her freedom while giving her the information to make good choices in a new environment. I’m glad to hear that other HMs have this conversation with their APs.

NJ Mama August 11, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I wonder if what concerned you wasn’t so much that she was walking alone so late — but that she did so before really getting to know the area. I find that in the first few weeks I can go a little overboard when they go out for a quick trip and then don’t come back for two hours (are they lost? in an accident? are they OK?). This is when I tell them — Look. I’m a mom. I know you are old enough to make your own decisions, but I will worry if you disappear for long stretches of time. If you went to the pharmacy and then decided to go to Starbucks and then to Old Navy just let me know. A quick text here and there goes a long way.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm

She said she was going out for a walk (not unusual for her). Then it got dark and she still wasn’t home. She’d been gone for 90 minutes (much longer than her prior walks). Apparently, she’d walked to the gym, worked out, and was walking home. If we’d known she was going to the gym, we would have suggested she drive or at least not worried that she was gone for longer than usual. But we also don’t want her to feel like she has to share all of her plans with us.

I just want a text saying “plans changed – see you in the morning” if her dinner plans turn into a movie night and sleepover. (That example is actually in the handbook.) I won’t ask questions beyond “did you have fun last night?” so she doesn’t feel like we’re prying, but she usually shares what she did.

NJ Mama August 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Yes I completely agree – I don’t want to know all their plans, just a simple “plans have changed I’ll be home in an hour” will suffice.

Aussie HM August 11, 2014 at 7:13 pm

WSM, I would say to her exactly as you have here, that you are new to the area, and while its a lovely place you do not yet know what its like after dark and if there are certain areas or parks she needs to be aware of when walking home alone.

An example we have used is that in our area, its perfectly fine to catch the train home until the wee hours of the morning, ( transit police on every train after 10 pm) but not to wait at the station for a connecting bus – either call us to pick her up or get a cab from the station to our home.

We have also got a phrase in our handbook about letting us know if her plans change, ” Please let us know if you are going to be later than expected or your evening plans change, not becasue we want to be your parents, but because you are now a member of our family and we want you to be safe!”

Hopefully she takes any converation in the spirit it is meant!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 11, 2014 at 8:15 pm

While our immediate neighborhood is safe, we live in between an “iffy” neighborhood and a dangerous one (think MS-13 extension). No matter how many times I tell our APs not to go into the MS-13 neighborhood alone at all, or at night even in a group, they do. Once. One AP went into a McDonalds in the evening with a friend, only to be told by a woman their age, “You don’t belong here.” I understand that it can be extremely difficult distinguishing boundaries in a new country – especially in an area where poverty and wealth are not evident (not a case in my greater neighborhood). I tell APs, “I want to know where you are going in your first weeks here. Ask me what’s safe.”

WarmStateMomma August 15, 2014 at 7:58 am

Update: I discussed it with our AP last night. She said her city at home has so many walking around at night that she’s always felt safe walking alone (understandable). She understood our concerns about her safety in our less-crowded suburb and I think she’s going to take the car when she plans on being out after dark.

sunnyvah August 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

This reminds me of a specific sunday at the beginning of my au pair year ;)
My HPs and I didn´t have the “chemistry” and our relationship was sometimes a bit rocky. 2 months or so in my au pair year I had my free sunday and planned to go to the gym. I told my HF when I saw them on my way out. But that was more out of courtesy and not because I felt obliged. I met a friend at the gym and we went for a short old navy and starbucks run afterwards. After 3 or 4 hours or so I came home and was greeted with: “Well, that was a long work out.” (In a very snappy voice) HD turned around and went away. My other HD said: “Next time tell us if you´re out longer.”.
I remember being really upset afterwards because of the tone and this being my free day.
I think it´s absolutely important and ok to make APs (and visitors in general) aware of dangerous parts in the neighbourhood and I appreciate every HP feeling responsible for the well being of their Au pair. On the other hand I thought and I still think, that APs have a right to do things “unsupervised” and should be able to use their free time as they want to. If someone takes care of your children, they should be able to take care of themself.
If you stay overnight- well, thats something you should let your family know (I even felt uncomfortable, when my flatmates stayed overnight and didn´t tell me).
Like many things, how much an AP tells, depends on the AP-HP- Relationship. My HP in Ireland always knew everything (they´re still in the loop of the important events in my life). HM and meare friends and are really like- minded. We talked a lot and that way she always knew where I´d be… But this was voluntarily.

LondonMum August 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Sorry you were treated like this, they must have been real worriers. During the day, on your day off, I would never check what you are up to although, as you said, it’s usual to say a quick, “I’m off to the gym, see you later”. I would not make an assumption about how long you would be and expect you back, your day off, your choice what to do and how long you take. However, if you were staying out for the night, or decided to late on, when you were already out, I do ask for a quick text to say “I’m not coming home tonight”. I would not ask who you are with or what you’re doing, if you wanted to tell me later or chat about it, that’s your choice. It seems chemistry is one of the most important things but the hardest to screen for when matching!

WarmStateMomma August 15, 2014 at 9:56 pm


Tristatemom August 11, 2014 at 2:25 pm

We have had the issue with all of our APs. They don’t seem to be forthcoming with their plans without me prodding. The 90 min walk thing is something my current AP would do too and she is smart and has been here 9 months. I just don’t get why it is hard to say “Sat I am going to see a movie with Jenny” etc? Maybe an AP reader can provide some insight?

spanishaupair August 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm

As an AP i usually try to tell my HP where and for how long I’m going but seriouslly sometimes is impossible, maybe i go for a 90 minutes walk (yeah I’m a big fan of walking) and then meet a friend and finish going out to starbuck or wherever and finish coming 4 hours late, sometimes i realise and text my HP but sometimes you are a bit busy and finish forgetting the hour.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

@Spanishaupair: Changing your plans and forgetting to text is completely understandable, especially if you’ve lived independently and aren’t used to having people at home worrying about you. I just hope my AP wouldn’t feel like I’m being intrusive if I called to verify that she was ok.

On the other hand, we are really happy that AP#2 is getting out of the house and enjoying herself.

spanishaupair August 11, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Most of the AP i have met what have been quite a lot after being so long working as an aupair, may get a bit annoyed in the moment you call them, but they apprecieate the call or you ask for some info, that shows you care about your AP something that we appreciate.

WarmStateMomma August 11, 2014 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for the insight. I remember being annoyed with my own mother and her boundless worries, but now I’m the worried mother…. :)

exaupair August 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

I occasionally shared my evening plans with HPs, but not always, for different reasons. So there might be different reasons for your AP:
1. She simply forgot, we all forget sometimes
2. She felt like you won’t approve of what she plans to do, and she doesn’t want to give you a chance to start behaving more like parents than hosts
3. She thought it’s insignificant i.e. “I go out with Jenny every week, why would this time be that much different”
4. She thought you were busy and didn’t want to bother – if you come back from work and she is on her way out, and she sees you being occupied with kids after the whole day without them etc. then she might think that you just need a time out with them so it’s better to just grab a purse and leave for the evening.

HRHM August 11, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Thinking back to being 19, I didn’t tell my parents where I was going, ever. I told them when I was leaving, gave them a rough idea of when I’d be back (ie, tonight after you’re asleep, sometime on Monday, etc) and who I’d be with (Stacy and I are going out, I’ll see you tomorrow)

I actually rarely knew where I would end up and what I’d be doing – not that most of what I was doing was “parent-sharing” material LOL.

Try to keep in mind where you were and what you were like at this age. At 23, I was married, owned my own home and lived 600 miles from my parents. While I get it that an AP is not quite in that stage of maturity yet, you have to give her the space to become the adult she is. Give her the lowdown on safe vs unsafe in your opinion (and really, that’s all it is) and then let her decide. For instance, in our house we just had the “people die hiking in the mountains during the summer, so if you hike, SOMEONE has to know where, so we know where to start looking when you go missing” conversation. Beyond that, I ask questions but mainly as conversation starters and to make suggestions for follow up activities (if you liked Boulder, you might enjoy X Y or Z)

I often go for 90+ minute walks, not sure what is weird about that.

NoVA Twin Mom August 11, 2014 at 10:00 pm

That’s the argument I tell our au pairs about why I want to know if they plan to return home tonight or not – not so much because I want to know what they’re out doing (though I’m interested in a friendly, so what did you do this weekend kind of way). I really just want to know that if you don’t come home, it was *your* decision not to. Otherwise I need to know when to call the police, and the first things they’ll want to know are when I last saw you and when I expected to see you again (but didn’t )

Taking a Computer Lunch August 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I take the opposite approach. I’m very low key. The obvious exception – APs who really can’t drive. I spent 8 months getting an AP to the point where I trusted her to take the car overnight (really!), so when she did – I wanted a name and phone number for her destination. Otherwise, I usually find out about their mistakes after the fact.

We have a “light-bulb” system. The light over the AP door goes on when they leave and goes off when they return home. If it’s still on in the AM, then we assume they stayed out with friends. We don’t text. So far, everyone has turned up on time on Monday morning. They’re adults in my house, so I don’t need a text for every step in their evening (and I walk the 2 miles home from the Metro after hours occasionally, too).

LondonMum August 12, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I agree with TACL, I am low key about it, I tell them areas I wouldn’t walk alone late at night but where we live is safe, busy at night and well lit. Once they have the information, it’s their choice what to do with it. APs are adults in our house too, we have a similar light bulb system but it’s that if she comes home, she bolts the front door so in the morning if it’s bolted we know she’s in.

NJ Mama August 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I lean on the conservative side of this one, and here’s why. If I were visiting a friend in another city and I went out for a walk, and the walk turned into going to the gym and/or starbucks or wherever, and I didn’t get home for 2-3 hours, I think it would be rude not to tell the friend that I was going to be out longer than anticipated. I think my friend would certainly worry and have reason to worry. Likewise, if I were visiting a friend in another city, and I went out alone or with other friends and later decided to stay out all night. I think my friend would fully expect that I would let her know that I was staying out all night. I think it’s respectful to do that. I don’t really buy into the idea that an au pair – or anyone for that matter – could be out for four hours and forget to text the people she’s staying with to tell them she’s out longer than anticipated. Especially if I am providing a phone for the sole purpose of staying in touch.

I have also found that the more mature au pairs have no problem saying, “I’m going out with friends at 9 pm.” and then texting at 11:30 to say, “Hey I’m staying out for the night. So you don’t have to worry!” I have found that the ones who are less mature seem to get all crazy about us host moms being in their business. I really don’t want to be in their business. I just want to know when they’re coming home. Because here’s the thing: Yes many of these girls are in their mid-20s and have lived independently, but while they are in the U.S. they are our responsibility. I for one take that responsibility very seriously.

I also am very upfront when I interview with au pair candidates that this is how I am, and I ask them to really think about whether they would have a problem with that. It’s fine if they do – I tell them that there are other families out there who are more lax about these things.

Now, if my au pair started dating a guy and every Fri night he picked her up and she stayed out til Sunday night, then after awhile I wouldn’t expect a text every time saying she’d be out all night. If however, she got engaged, I would then worry that there would come a day where she wouldn’t come back at all. But as you all know, that’s only b/c I’ve been burned on that front before :).

DowntownMom August 12, 2014 at 1:56 pm

1. I really appreciate your comment about “the ones who are less mature seem to get all crazy about us host moms being in their business”! We are a part-of-the-family host family (who want all APs to have a good time with friends as well) and all indicate a big interest in becoming friends. I never pry, but often simply ask about the AP’s plans to make small talk, so I find it somewhat rude when an AP pretends I am getting into her business and acts like the princess on the pea.

2. I also very much agree with your comment on letting someone know where you are out of common courtesy. College roommates and I would let each other know, when we could expect to see the other person again.

By the way, one of our au pairs ended up with the AP Don Juan, who I had warned her about as diplomatically as possible, and ended up focusing all her energy and ‘cultural exchange’ on him, so I really feel for what you experienced with bridezilla!

AlwaysHopeful HM August 12, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I totally agree. I can’t imagine any person in my home– family or friend– not checking in that way, and i do the same when i visit others. It’s not such a burden to say “I’m running out for a bit; be back in a few hours” or “not sure how long i’ll be; i’ll let you know if wil be super late.” To me, part of being an adult is being accountable to others in his way, not because they are in charge of you, but because it’s coming courtesy. Neither of my au pairs have had any problem with this. Also, having lived alone for many years, and now being a single mom, I find it scary to be in a situation where no one knows where I am or when to expect me!

NJmama August 12, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Awww thanks DowntownM it’s good we have aupairmom – we don’t feel so alone!!

German Au-Pair August 12, 2014 at 8:25 pm

If you like your AP sharing her plans, communicate that. Some people would feel it’s intrusive, some people like to share. My HP and I would occasionally ask each other what the other party had planned. I would ask them what they were doing if they were wearing overly fancing clothes and vice versa or just random if there was time and it came up. But since most of the time they didn’t really care what I was doing. So even though I’m the kind of person who would have shared every plan (as far as there was an actual plan and not just “let’s hang and see what happens”) I would have happily shared. Most APs don’t want to bore their HP and I think only few actually don’t want to tell.
If you care and like to hear their stories, discuss that while matching and/or in your handbook or generally in the beginning. Tell them that you love to hear what they’re up to if they feel like telling but that you want require them to tell anything about their personal time if they don’t want to. If you are concerned about safety, tell them you would like to know an approximate place and time so you can tell the police or their parents SOMETHING should a problem occur.
Some like to share, some don’t. Some would want to but feel like they shouldn’t bore you with their boring Starbucks meeting and some simply don’t think about sharing plans because it’s not been part of their lives for a while.

WarmStateMomma August 13, 2014 at 10:09 am

I like hearing about her experiences and what she’s up to, but we try not to pry. So we ask her if she has plans for the weekend or if she had a good time. She can either give yes/no answers, or tell us all about it. Usually, she shares funny stories or her impression of new places she’s visited. Like a roommate would.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Lol! I tell au pairs during matching that we are a nosy family by nature, so even though I’ll try not to pry too much, it most certainly will happen! My sister, who lives nearby, is the nosiest of us all. :) I ask how they feel about that. Our first au pair was pretty private, so I ended up not prying too much (it felt uncomfortable), but I did still ask where she was going/ when she’d be back. Our second au pair volunteered a lot of (filtered) information, so even when I asked questions, I didn’t feel like I was prying.

secondtimeaupair August 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm

ok, I’ve read this blog for years now and love it. my opinion is that she just forgot to the tell you. I am 25 too and I live by myself and I don’t have to tell anyone where I am going or what I am doing. She might have to get used to having people around her who want to know if plans change. I think that’s one of the things I have to learn again. Maybe she thought you wouldn’t notice if she was gone longer because we Au Pairs (especially the ones who are very independent) think that you will be occupied with your family and “forget” about us. I am not sure I am making sense here. ;) People from other countries maybe underestimate the danger in walking around by yourself at night because they can do this at home without having to feel unsafe. Just tell her that you worry when you don’t hear from her when plans change and she will be gone longer. Tell her to write you a text. We actually feel more like a family member when we know that you worry about us. I know I did feel more included in my former and soon to be host family again. Again, that’s just my opinion and I hope I could help. :)

old au pair mom August 11, 2014 at 10:12 pm

My family has employed au pairs for 14 years. You can offer sensible suggestions, be mindful of your surroundings, this neighborhood is good, that one is scary after 6pm, but the benefit of an au pair is she/he is an adult. Set up your ways early, do you want to know their off work schedule or not. We choose not to interfere, other than to offer safety tips about local driving conditions. One reason I insist that the A/P car stays home during A/P vacations is that I don’t need the worry or resulting hassle if there is a problem outside of an hour drive. I have had warm, loving relationships with many of our au pairs, but I try and treat them as an equal to me, as if they were a work subordinate, not an equal to my children. This is my first post and I really enjoy reading the thoughtful discussions. So much kindness and caring.

BroAuPair August 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I just finished my au pair year, today was my last day, and I think that every au pair has to tell their Host Parents where they are going and how long they are gonna stay out, not because they don`t trust the au pair but because its a matter of security cause if something happens to the au pair, the host parents can help, so some au pairs should really grow up and stop thinking that their host parents are just getting into their business! Plus it is not the au pair`s house, so she obviously has to be polite and tell her pans to the family.

Emerald City HM August 12, 2014 at 2:25 pm

So I’m going to admit here that the courtesy phone call is a point of contention between my husband and I. He sometimes works late so I do know where he is, but he also sometimes gets so caught up in work that he forgets to send a quick text or something to let me know that he will be even later.

He has really gotten better about this since our last argument about this. So realistically if my mature husband can’t remember to send a text home I can really easily see how an au pair might not really think about it.

Ours have been pretty good about letting us know that plans have changed and they won’t be home for the evening (which is a really rare occurence). We also don’t really ask at all, other than to please let us know if they won’t be home, particularly if they have taken the car instead of the bus, because of arragements for use.

MH Mom August 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

I tell the au pairs that I want to know who they are with when they go out at night and when they expect to be home (whether it’s very late that night or Sunday night). I don’t give them or the car a curfew. I tell them that I don’t care what they are doing, as I expect them to make good decisions, but that if my insomniac HD wakes in the middle of the night and find that she is not there, he will worry. Then he will proceed to wake me up and everyone else up in the house asking if anyone knows if au pair was expecting to stay out all night. He worries. He would do the same thing if I was very late at work and didn’t let him know I was going to be very late.

I do not expect them to ask permission, but to just send a text if they are out and decide to spend the night at a friend’s house. I tell them very bluntly to make good decisions as I do not want to have to call their parents and tell them something horrible has happened. I also want to be in a position to help them should something happen and for that I need to have a sense of where they are going, who they are with and when I should expect to see them again.

Skny August 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Does it matter what your au pair thinks of you, or your family, IF she is decent au pair?
I am in a resort with my kids. We met a family with an au pair from my home country. We were all hanging together… Later on the kids were playing and au pair started talking about her family… How unstructured they were, kids fighting all the time, mom says she is Christian but is not. Very judgemental and I ended up leaving. The family was all happy about how they were unsure about her, but she stepped up this vacation.
Oh well… I am still sour about our experience about au pair bashing us to her family, with some also very judgemental similar complaints…
I am starting to wonder if to make the au pair program work I have to be ok with the fact that my future au pair will be bashing us to strangers even when I think she is great….
Should I not worry about it?
I have really been rethinking it all… Part is being nervous about going forward, part is wondering if it is worth it opening my house to someone who will see me on my worst and judge me about it…

HRHM August 12, 2014 at 10:28 pm

I don’t know how old you are, but I, as an “old” HM have acquired the wonderful gift of middle-age; I don’t give a flying F$&^ what some 19 year old thinks of me (or most anyone else for that matter)

I was very insecure throughout my life and into my 20s and really felt that I needed to mold myself to be what others were impressed by. I’ve been lucky that my life, my marriage, my career and my failures have led me to realize that there are some people I will never please because that’s just who THEY are. And I won’t ever please anyone ALL of the time. So now I focus my energy on pleasing myself and the few very close people in my life.

She doesn’t have to like me, doesn’t have to agree with my way of doing things, BUT she does have to fake it well enough in my presence (and DH and the kids) that we think she does.

Is it betrayal when you find out she’s been faking it? Yes. But to regain/retain perspective – this is a little girl (maturity wise) who has never had the degree of responsibility or level of committment or multiple demands that you have. Her opinion really means nothing. It’s easy for her to armchair quarterback when her Mom still makes her bed at home and her only decision is which pair of heels goes best with the skirt for Friday. Let it go…

Aussie HM August 12, 2014 at 11:06 pm

+1 ” I don’t give a flying F$&^ what some 19 year old thinks of me ” !! Gold HRHM, thanks for the chuckle!

Also, SKNY, sometimes I need to whinge about my DH or my kids, and that doesnt mean I dont love and respect them (but it does mean at times they drive me completley bonkers!) Perhaps she doesnt have many friends where she is AuPairing who are from your/her home country and she just needed to have a little whinge to get it off her chest?

WarmStateMomma August 13, 2014 at 9:57 am


She’s never raised a family, never managed a household and (probably) never held a full-time job with real responsibilities. We are all perfect parents until we have kids. :)

angie host mom August 12, 2014 at 11:15 pm

I don’t really care if ap bashes me to her friends. I hope she knows she can always use me as an excuse… If she doesn’t want to drive she can say ir took the car…. but really slamming us, I think it would hurt regardless of whether it should or not

Skny August 13, 2014 at 7:48 am

Thanks HRHM, and others. It is true.
I believe that part of it is that being a former au pair, I really go extra lengths to make sure I am sensitive to their needs, assist in all I can to help them adjust, am accommodating as my best host family was (and as I wished the others were). That means not using that Sat night every time I need it, twisting MY schedule around (even though it inconveniences me) just so she can take that one desired class, allowing her to drive farther than really makes me comfortable so she can visit a friend far away…. Spending hrs on phone helping her set up some problem (when my former hosts would have made me figure it out)…

It worked with au pairs 1 and 2. This time not (not a 19yo, but a 24 who had never left home or had any real life experience, or survival skills).
My husband keeps telling me I need to stop trying to be the host I wanted to have had, and just be the boss.
And yes, learning experience, that is really what I need to do.

AlwaysHopeful HM August 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Skny, I hear you on the dilemma of establishing the right relationship with your au pair. Personally, I only want someone living in my home if they are going to be integrated into our lives as a family member or at least close friend. I would be miserable housing a mere employee. So, for me, that means I’m always thinking about what could make AP’s day brighter or easier, or how I could help to make the AP experience more fulfilling. I don’t try to do so at my expense, but for something really worthwhile, I’m willing to compromise. And, the whole time, I’m hoping that we’re growing and building a whole family relationship. So I would be pretty disappointed to learn that the whole time, AP secretly disliked me. I generally don’t care what outsiders think about me, but I do care at home, in my “circle of trust.” (to quote “Meet the Parents”) :)

Seattle Mom August 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm

I once found a video interview online that my first au pair did.. on some au pair video blog thing. I think my au pair had a link to it in her blog, which is how I found it. Anyway she was talking about her experience, and while she didn’t exactly bash us if you read between the lines it was clear she wasn’t thrilled about us. I mean, she gushed about how great the kids are and how that’s the most important thing, but then she didn’t sound too happy about her host parents.

It threw me for a loop how hurt I was to see this video. It took me a while to recover from it. The hardest thing for me was that we really liked our AP and thought she was doing a good job. After some time I realized that the issue was that this interview was done at a time when the AP was working very hard (end of the summer), 45 hours every week, and having a tough time. Also DH was home a lot and he was having a rough summer too… so his bad mood was probably rubbing off on her. There also was a bit of what HRHM and others have said- though this was a lovely, hard-working girl, she never was a mother herself, never had to hold a full-time job, pay a mortgage & other bills, put food on the table for everyone *AND* take care of the kids in her “free” time. So she didn’t really understand how hard we had it. At the time I was very sad and I talked to one of my friends about it, who is a mother & works but happens to be very young- same age as that AP. She totally got that this woman was sweet but still didn’t understand, and said that I should not take it so seriously.

Anyway we still keep in touch with that AP and she keeps in touch with us too. I know that she doesn’t hate us or think bad things about us really. But at that time she probably was bashing us (she knew better than to do it on a public video, is my guess).

German Au-Pair August 13, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I know you had some pretty bad AP experiences yourself so you probably see this pretty black and white.
But I can tell you that I loved and respected my HP even though we weren’t that close. I greatly appreciated what they did for me and mentioned that to others as well as to them. I had respect for the difficulty of raisingt two children, both with some level of special needs and be great at their jobs, too.
And still sometimes I needed to complain. There were things that I would have loved -like a friendship-like realtionship- and I do think the kids were pretty spoiled and that was really frustrating at times. I’m sure I’ve complained about that a hundred times even though I realized the struggles they had, think they are great parents overall and I love the kids dearly.
You don’t know what prompted the other AP to vent but part of it is probably that you are from her home country, which make you feel connected in a foreign country and which makes it easier to express your concern. Maybe something particularly stressful happened before and she just needed someone to vent.
I wouldn’t worry about that too much. You clearly do everything you can to help them have a great experience and I’m sure any good -or even decent- AP will appreciate that. And while they might sometimes disagree with your parenting style, think your children are spoiled and you’re a slob (or whatever your biggest every-day-failing may be) it doesn’t actually mean they think badly about you and don’t appreciate what you’re doing or respect you overall.

DowntownMom August 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

Do you have any tips on how to screen for an AP with an honest interest in a friendship-like relationship? That is so important to me, but even though everyone says they want it, it has been very hit and miss for us. We don’t need to be glued together every minute of the day, but to have fun conversations and also discuss serious topics occasionally. We have that right now, and have had it in the past, and I have no clue whatsoever how to screen for it…

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2014 at 10:51 pm

I’ve not succeeded in this. I have very extroverted APs with whom I remain attached and very introverted APs with whom it was hard to develop a relationship, but once we succeeded, they became very attached to us and we to them. AP #2 returned this summer, and I felt like we picked up where we left off – the relationship has changed a lot in the decade since she lived with us, but I thoroughly enjoy her company each time she returns (this was her 3rd trip back).

We’re having a bit of a rough time with AP #10 right now, but I’m trying to remember that AP #4, whom we loved and adored, had a best friend at the start who was a bit rocky and at the time I thought the relationship could go either way. And AP #6 was a bit standoffish until her parents visited.

APs will tell you what you want to hear during the interview process. However, if you want an AP who will be close, look to those who have close relationships with family members.

WarmStateMomma August 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

I’d love to know how to do this, too. We have a friendly, joking relationship with our current AP and I’m going to miss that when it’s time for her to move on.

TexasHM August 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I think like a lot of traits, this is something that you can vet out during a longer, more intense interview cycle. I know, I am the interview beater but by the time AP is in our home we have usually had some deep and occasionally even sensitive conversations. I like to peel the onion – husband calls it being nosey – and I find pretty quickly the APs that are open and receptive and the ones that are hiding something or just more introverted react in a different way. Current AP is most introverted by far but I found that she was much more open via email vs Skype (always nervous) so I sent her lots of casual dialogue and details and she opened up. By the time we match I know all about their family, they’ve read our 30 page manifesto, I’ve asked about their future goals, dreams, challenges, mistakes, holidays, religion, you name it all that stuff you don’t talk about in polite company. :) I mean she is coming to live in my house and care for my irreplaceable children! I am not going to be shy about asking why she changed her major in college or quit a certain job or whether or not she’s close to her parents. I’m not looking to cause grief but I’m not going to settle for a surface level conversation and interview either and the ones that survived it have been successful here. Ones that don’t want a lifelong relationship or are just trying to get here or hiding things get impatient with me or don’t like the digging and opt themselves out (which is great!).

WarmStateMomma August 14, 2014 at 5:21 pm

TexasHM: if you have any of your questions saved, would you mind sending them to me? I’m going to start looking pretty early for the next AP because we’d like to match before Thanksgiving and you know we’re looking for a rare combination of skills. Also, I just registered with Interexchange and blamed you for sending us their way. :)

TexasHM August 15, 2014 at 12:19 am

Lol yes warm state momma you’re going to be sorry you asked I have email templates of rounds of questions and then subsets to dig in each area (driving, interests, religion, family, etc). If you don’t see them from me on email tomorrow ping me and remind me! ;). Love interexchange! Good luck!

Always Hopeful HM August 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

Texas HM, curious how you handle the lengthy process in a pressure situation (like rematch, where the AP may have literally a couple of days left to find a family or go home). Would you just skip the rematch pool and look overseas or at extensions? I’m a little worried that, out of time pressure, I didn’t vet our new au pair enough. He’s scheduled to arrive in mid Sept. I had one weekend to review his profile, talk with him twice and decide. And, while he seems great, I really had to lop off a lot of my typical process…there’s nothing to be done At this point but hope for the best, but I was wondering about a future time (not that I hope to ever be in this situation again!).

TexasHM August 15, 2014 at 11:55 am

You know what? We just had this back in Jan/Feb. Existing AP had family emergency, we were thrown into rematch and couldn’t wait for out of country so we looked at rematch APs and I followed the awesome advice of other HMs on here and still followed my interview process (albeit a much accelerated one) and checked all the boxes. We matched with our current rockstar AP in 3 days, there was actually another candidate that was amazing as well we just couldn’t progress as fast and were down the road with current AP so had to cut her loose – she also matched quickly and is very happy and doing great in the NE now so it can be done! Now, I have found that rematch APs tend to be more responsive because they are often literally sitting around all day praying for a match so in those 3 days we skyped I think 5 times and I think I looked the day before she arrived (3 days after match) and we had exchanged almost 100 emails!! Not all were crazy long, some were one liners but you get the idea. We had a similar scenario with the AP that had the family emergency. We matched with her after only 6 days but again – 6 Skype sessions and a 100+ emails in that time so its less about the timeframe and more about making sure I check all the boxes and follow my process!
I think every HM has second thoughts before an AP arrives (at least I do!), luckily our only surprises were with first AP (before fine tuned interview process) english level and driving. Since then zero surprises (knock on wood).

TexasHM August 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Oh and one more thing Always Hopeful I don’t think its too late at all. Not that you formally interview him now that he’s already coming but I still think you can round off things and expectation set (better now than after arrival). And as far as the agency pressure Interexchange was great about being respectful of both sides. I made it clear we were an experienced family and had a formal process and that I would keep both the candidates and my LC informed as we progressed (which I did via emails) and we got zero pressure. Everything I did I sent them a note – for example (Skyped with XXX tonight and it went great, next step is I have sent her an email with a few questions and in the meantime she will Skype with my husband tomorrow night at 6pm). They did tell our current AP the day we matched that they were putting her on a plane 2 days later. I asked her why she didn’t tell me that and she said because we always had a next step planned and things were progressing well and quickly and she wanted us to want her 100% and not be pressured. Smart AP and thank God she wasn’t sent home!! She says if we were still going the day before she would have told me but she figured we would either cut her loose or match before then (she was right). Don’t sacrifice your process if it works (I know, easy for me to say). I did lose a lot of sleep for a couple days there but honestly once I saw the two profiles of the APs we strongly considered I was excited so if it happens again just hang in there! Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do and I think then you match but keep crossing the ts until the day they arrive! Good luck!

German Au-Pair August 14, 2014 at 8:15 pm

Maybe you could ask questions that don’t have an obvious right answer? Like “what do you think would be an acceptable reason to miss a child’s birthday party?” I loved being there for those parties and would have done everything to be there but I would say that a concert of your favorite band in your city is a pretty valid reason for making it up to the child and missing the party itself.
Maybe how much of their personal life they share with their family, if they have their family on FB, how do they feel after a long work/school day and what they usually do afterwards (keeping to oneself vs going out to blow off steam vs hanging with friends -or a combination of everything). I would not only ask if they want to be part of the family -no one will say no here- but how they picture that (maybe add that of course it will differ between individual AP-HP combinations). If you have family rituals like Friday night movie night, tell them and ask them if that is something they feel would be fun for them.
If you really like talking to her on a personal, friendship-like level, tell her that that’s your style and that you are aware that that can come off as nosy and how she would feel about that. How does she think she will react if she asks you about her new purchase or can she imagine watching a movie with you after the kids are in bed. Does she ever do something similiar with her own parents? How does she spend her time with friends?
In general, “how have you handled XY in the past” is much easier to answer than “how would you handle XY”. It allows for a much more realistic, personal response because you don’t have to imagine unfamiliar circumstances.
Maybe you could actually start a friendship like conversation about favorite movies and books and hobbies. Questions like “what was the most embarrassing/fun/sadest/siliest thing that has ever happened to you?”

DowntownMom August 15, 2014 at 10:00 pm

Thanks so much for your ideas! We have had the problem that our immature, or to put it more kindly, young, APs, really seemed to believe that they would spend Saturday evenings watching the Disney channel with us, and then they partied until they keeled over. What actually worried me about one AP was that she was barely responding to emails after matching, and lo and behold, she showed no interest in us. The next time this happens, we may consider unmatching since it ended up being a tedious year. I am SO grateful for our current au pair, who has her life with her friends, but is also part of the family with many laughs and cultural exchanges.

Dorsi August 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I think, in the beginning, I was picking people that were more like me. I thought, “I would have been a good Au Pair, therefore I should find someone who is like I was (at 20).” I also had been an exchange student, and really wanted to provide APs with a great experience like I had. However, there are lots of girls out there who are not at all like me — and even better. I think it is natural to think back to your own experiences to try to find the “right person” — you were surely a great AP for the family you matched with, but that is not relevant anymore. Look at what your family needs and find someone who can provide it — and require that of them. Be a demanding, but fair boss and it is easy to provide meaningful extras — and you AP can have a great year. Be a good friend and a great host, and it can be difficult to be a effective boss and have a great year for your family — or for your AuPair.

NJ Mama August 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Sometimes I wonder if the au pairs even know what “being part of a family” means. Like they may think they want to be part of the family, but then when they get here they may decide after spending all week with our kids they’d much rather spend all their free time away from us. It’s a tough one!

Whenever I ask an au pair if she is looking to be part of a family — or if an au pair says to me that what she wants is to be part of a family — I tell them that we try to go with the flow, that I’ve had an au pair who was a bit of a homebody and did everything with us … to one that started out doing a lot with us and then for the second half of her year started spending all of her free time with friends … to an au pair who hardly spent any time with us but was “on” when she was home. And then I ask them if they think they’d want to hang out with the family when they’re off from work. Or if they think they’d want to go to one of the kid’s sporting events on the weekend or at night when they’re not scheduled to work — just to try to get a feel for the way they answer (It’s not a requirement. It’s just that the ones that want to spend time with the family seem really into those things and the ones that don’t seem unsure). Would they want to go to the movies with us on a rainy Saturday afternoon? Or out for pizza on Friday night? I try to ask them questions in a way that gets them to think about whether they would really want to do those things. And I think by telling them that I’ve had different experiences, they seem a bit more open to talking about what they would want.

In the end though it really is a bit of a crapshoot! I will say that those au pairs who are big sisters who who spend lots of time with their own extended families have been the ones who have been into doing things with my family. the others .. not so much. But again, hard to reach firm conclusions based on my own small sample :).

LondonMum August 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

“Sometimes I wonder if APs know what “being part of the family” means”. I think the trouble is it means different things to different families, depending how your own family works!

I have loved APs who I could chat to on the same level, show me her purchases from shopping trips, do each other’s nails, share a glass of wine and “the voice” or “bake off” together. Discuss the news/politics/books. Share new music we have downloaded and sometimes share a family meal if we are all staying in together (in our household that happens rarely as we all enjoy going out, either me and HD together or separately with friends).

On the other hand, if she wanted to stick by my side every evening, always eat together, come on every family outing, always be part of the kids weekend activities etc, it would DRIVE ME CRAZY!!!!! (We had an AP like that, so I know!)

So the thing to search for is really personal to each family, it’s a very difficult thing to find out in a Skype interview. A big part of it is just chemistry too, which I guess you won’t really feel till AP arrives and you get to know them.

4th time lucky?! August 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Totally agree. Chemistry is really important, and questions over skype are a good start but the very young (or immature) APs might not even know what they really want.

We had one AP who had a troubled relationship with her family at home and thought she wanted to be part of a different (more close-knit family) arrangement but just couldn’t. She got annoyed with even simple questions like “where are you off to”/ “what are you up to” / “when do you think you’re home” / “how was your weekend” and didn’t enjoy spending time together at all… So lesson learned! As TACL mentioned too: more important than what they say is where they come from (can’t shake off upbringing/ socialisation).

For us as relatively new HPs it was also a learning curve to find out what kind of relationship we actually want and how much time we want to spend together. And as LondonMum said: you might only know what doesn’t work if you experience it (the one who’s always out; the shy one who doesn’t like to go out by herself and waits for friends to call but doesn’t want to do anything with you either; the one who sits at home all the time waiting to be invited along [in every sense of the word]; the one who is happy to spend time with you and by themselves – YAY!)…

WarmStateMomma August 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm

We skyped with AP#2 a couple of days before she left China just to touch base with her before she arrived. She was so giggly/bubbly we freaked out and wondered if it was all a huge mistake. Thankfully, she turned out to be a normal, personable young woman.

DowntownMom August 15, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I would love a discussion on what “part of the family” means! I don’t want another child, but would love a good roommate (such as my current AP!!!).

HRHM August 14, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I think the key is that whatever level they (and you) want, they (and you) need to understand that “you pick up one end of the stick, you pick up the other”. If AP wants to spend all of her time with her friends and won’t come to family events without being booked for work hours, then she shouldn’t be expected to be invited to weekend getaways or special events (cirque du soleil, nutcracker at christmas, etc) You can’t blow off HKs birthday or school play or piano recital because it bores you but then be mad that they didn’t spend money on you to take you on their family ski weekend…
It goes the other way as well. Don’t expect AP to come to soccer games in her free time, but then not bring her (and pay) when you go to amusement parks.

Emerald City HM August 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I just have to say, that almost every time I read one of your posts I really feel I’m reading my own thoughts in your posts, you just write them better than I do.

DowntownMom August 15, 2014 at 10:19 pm

This is very interesting, Dorsi! I used to pick the teacher/social-worker-to-be types that seemed to have plenty of initiative, but now I prefer the ambitious (honest about their goals?) ones that are more reserved and similar to me. It works surprisingly wel for both kids and parents. BTW, I definitely admire teachers a lot! Maybe teachers with a certain nationality or just not my cup of tea…

Taking a Computer Lunch August 13, 2014 at 8:26 pm

How much trouble am I in? Have not yet gone through handbook with the AP, who claims she has read it, but keeps abutting it (it’s a convergence – training a new AP and preparing for a Bar Mitzvah on Saturday). At mandatory LCC intake this morning, LCC asks “Have you discussed holidays?” No, although it’s in the handbook (the long answer of course, is that I’m trying to train an AP and clean my house like a madwoman – not a good combination – fortunately the new AP/Bar Mitzvah confluence is only going to happen once!)

Anyway, the Bar Mitzvah selected a trip to Charleston as the desired gift, for which a wonderful uncle is paying 100% of the expenses and has offered to host not only the AP but a friend as well. AP makes it clear that she does not want to join us on the trip – but to join other APs on another trip to a destination city. That is fine with me. However, I made it clear to the AP that joining us mean a working trip, which would leave her with two weeks of holiday, but joining her friends while we’re in Charleston would require that she use vacation time. She nearly burst into tears on the spot, because she also wants to travel to another destination in March, and she had assumed she would also have time off while both kids were away in July. I told her no, that if she had used all her holiday by July, then she would be given cleaning tasks while the kids were away because she had already used her holiday.

Now, if she proves herself a fantastic AP, I’d probably give her the third holiday week as a paid holiday, but I’m NOT going to tell her that 5 days into her year with us!!!

DowntownMom August 13, 2014 at 9:57 pm

As always, a great strategy! I made the mistake for a couple of years to tell APs that there is a 50% chance of them having Labor Day off (naive me… I thought being very explicit would help), but we would first know 2-3 weeks ahead of time. Sadly, most pretended it was a promise, which made things awkward… And me reluctant to give any heads up on potential bonus days off. Fortunately our current AP is stellar and very mature, which makes me want to give her time off, even if I could use a hand!!

WarmStateMomma August 14, 2014 at 10:22 am

Yikes. I think you said that your APs don’t have a full 45-hr schedule, so I’d require her to review the handbook again and meet with you to discuss it.

I may add something to my handbook and family profile letting candidates know they should only expect 2 weeks off per year, that the US doesn’t have any long public holidays, and describe the US work week. (The Chinese schedule is more like a Western European schedule than a US schedule with several weeks off, short hours, long lunches, etc.)

WestMom August 14, 2014 at 11:52 am

Wow, that’s a little insane that she has planned all her vacation already after 5 days of being here… And that you ask her to come with you on a working trip and she basically says no. I would think that having just arrived, she would be excited to be included in your Charleston plans… Let us know what happens?

NJ Mama August 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Isn’t there some rule that aps can’t take vacation until they’ve been with the family for two months?

I ask that … although I have been lax and given au pairs time off early if they asked. At the same time, I have also been burned by doing just that.

As always TACL, I think you handled it well. And like WestMom I’m surprised she turned down a trip to Charleston! Definitely keep us posted!!!

HRHM August 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Not so much a rule as a reccomendation – when we started with APC (after a couple years with CC) they told us that effectively, the vacation time is accrued with no accrual in the first 2 months and then 1 work day per month for months 3-12. Their advise was to attempt to dole it out at the end of month 7 and then again near to the end of the year. That rarely works out well for AP or us, since why would she want a week of vacation right before she has 4 weeks of travel time? And why would I want her to vacation right as I’m about to transition to a new AP with the kids out of school (ack!).

In reality, our AP takes her vacation in Sept (1st week so pretty close to her July 12 start date) and again at spring break (March 28 this year) as this is fairly well spaced for her and works for us because we take our vacations on these weeks. win-win

Taking a Computer Lunch August 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm

AP just arrived. The Charleston trip is for Christmas, so the AP will have been here for 4 1/2 months. We’ve never had an AP throw us over for Christmas before – we’ve gone to several destination places, including the Grand Canyon – and my uncle always invites the AP to bring a guest at his expense (the guest has to buy her own ticket – we pay for the AP’s). We always give the AP and her guest at least one day off to explore the destination by themselves, but I’m not going to announce that five days into a year!

NBHostMom August 15, 2014 at 8:27 am

You’re are no doubt taking the right approach with this!

Reading this has me curious, is she working out okay in other areas? Personally, if I had to deal with vacation drama one week in, I might be reconsidering her maturity in general.

HRHM August 15, 2014 at 10:31 am

The fact that she is already blowing your family off for the holidays (not sure if she’s Jewish as well or where Chanukah falls this year…) really gives me pause. I suppose if she’s Christian and wants to spend it with other celebrants, I could sort of get that. It just seems a little early in the year to already decide that she doesn’t want to spend the time with her US “family”

In addition, it seems like her main focus is her travel and vacation and NOT how to do a great job as an AP. I’ve had this AP before and I would RUN the other direction. AP4 arrived knowing that she would have to take her vacation at the christmas holidays and in February. I was deployed from August to Valentines and DH was on his own with her. She (after arrival but before I left) threw a fit about having to go to Miami in October and we broke down, said yes and bent over backwards to make it happen despite my deployment. Turns out that was the year of the oil spill so the Miami trip was off, but she just bought tickets someplace else without even asking us… This was a preview for her entire attitude a behavior that year. If I had been home, she would have gone to rematch, but DH didn’t have it in him to deal with it. I felt like we were a hostel for her travel year.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 16, 2014 at 12:04 am

The AP arrived a week ago and is about to be thrown into the extended family fire – child #2 becomes a Bar Mitzvah tomorrow. DH and I have been so busy with preparations that we haven’t had time to do our usual new AP conversations. Fortunately the school year starts before labor day. The AP is Christian. While we are not, we do accede to the majority and celebrate Christmas nominally (we do some decoration, but not a lot – we exchange both Chanukah and Christmas presents, and we do one traditional Chanukah dinner (Who doesn’t like latkes?) as well as one extensive Christmas dinner (think lamb and fish).

We have never, ever, experienced and AP who had her holidays set out in the first week of her arrival. Usually, by March I am threatening APs to select a week to take off or I will do it for them.

I shall catch my breath next week and see where we stand. The AP did state that she wasn’t homesick because she didn’t want to go home, but was experiencing extreme culture shock. It doesn’t help that tonight I had 14 family members talking in 15 different directions at the dinner table!

Should be working August 16, 2014 at 12:48 am

Mazel tov, TaCL! May it be a joyous day for all of you!

WarmStateMomma August 16, 2014 at 8:07 am

@TACL: That does sound overwhelming for a new person in the household. Perhaps the answer is that you just enjoy celebrating your son’s accomplishments with your loved ones and refocus with the AP when life returns to normal?

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I hope the Bar Mitzvah went well! Congratulations.

DowntownMom August 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm

As always, a great strategy! I made the mistake for a couple of years to tell APs that there is a 50% chance of them having Labor Day off (naive me… I thought being very explicit would help), but we would first know 2-3 weeks ahead of time. Sadly, most pretended it was a promise, which made things awkward… And me reluctant to give any heads up on potential bonus days off. Fortunately our current AP is stellar and very mature, which makes me want to give her time off, even if I could use a hand!!

Always Hopeful HM August 16, 2014 at 1:08 am

New discussion:

When my au pair left in rematch recently, my sister generously and
graciously offered to be my interim “au pair” for a few weeks until she had to return to work (her job is seasonal). She moved in and handled the morning and afternoon routines for my son, who was in summer camp during the day. I love my sister, I really do, and I am very grateful that she was willing to help, but…the experience just made me more frustrated than ever that AP2 screwed up and had to leave! For the 3 weeks of her stay, my sister consistently dropped my son off and picked him up late from camp and appointments. He was being tutored as well, and had homework every night, which she often “forgot” or planned to get to at some point (usually the end of the evening when he was cranky and unfocused). Over my daily objections, he had TONS of sugary drinks and treats, played outside with no one watching (my sister finds me to be overprotective) and watched goo gobs of TV. My sister also believes in doing laundry every day, so she did small load after small load of her laundry and his. At the end of her 3 weeks, my brand new laundry detergent bottle is empty! She and I have different priorities. I’m a pretty messy housekeeper, mad okay with that. She is obsessive about having everything neat and clean. So, she spent a lot of energy making sure the house was in order, but didn’t make sure he had his bath on time. APs 1 and 2 both made the work look easy… I know it’s a lot, but my sister complains everyday that I’m not paying her enough for the work she does (I’ve been giving her AP 2’s stipend amount), that it’s too much work, and that she quits! Really, I don’t want to sound ungrateful. She really helped me out in a pinch. She’s leaving in the morning, and for the next few weeks I’ll be cobbling together taking leave from work, aftercare at the school and help from my parents. It won’t be easy, but I have to say that I’m grateful to have some time to break my son of all of the bad habits he’s developed in the last 3 weeks! No question here, just a guilty vent…

exaupair August 16, 2014 at 7:03 am

It’s so much easier to vent over caregivers who are NOT your friends or family, isn’t it? For that reason I’d rather not employ a good friend or a family member, like ever. When they’re great they’re great, but when they’re ok but not spectacular it’s kind of hard to tell them off, even though you’re the employer. And when they’re plain rubbish you give them another chance after another, and every other chance is absolutely the last one when it’s really not, because it would be so hard and unpleasant to fire a childhood friend or a sister :-)
For your own sanity never employ little sisters lol.

WarmStateMomma August 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

I hear you!! My MIL would have loved to move in with us and provide child care, but there’s no way she’d respect our choices. TV, bad food, etc.

HRHM August 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

You don’t say how old your sister is, but if she is in the AP range, hopefully this week makes you feel better about having to micromanage your APs sometimes – at least you can, as opposed to family.

I sort of know how you feel. On 2 occasions I’ve had my Mom come and help for a couple weeks when we had unforsee childcare gaps (one rematch, one deployment before AP arrival) and in both cases, I had to let go of any pre-conceived notions of what the “job” entailed. As long as she kept them alive and relatively disease free, I just thanked her and then was releived when it was over. They are not the people you would hire if you were interviewing for the job, but for a short term emergency, it’s better than nothing…

Hope your next AP makes up for the trouble.

Should be working August 16, 2014 at 1:33 pm

What basically finally got DH and me to do the necessary process of writing wills with guardianship provisions was a time when my sister took care of the kids. Terrible. I realized I would NOT want her to be guardian no matter what, so we’d better specify who we DO want.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I can’t imagine my sister providing childcare for me… she has no patience & she’s mean to my kids! My mother isn’t much better, but add lots of presents and sugar to buy compliance. UGH. But when I was in a pinch, my mom came and was our fill-in nanny for a month. And she did it for the price of a plane ticket (much cheaper than AP).

Anyway, I feel your pain, and hope your new AP will be a good fit.

WestMom August 17, 2014 at 4:57 am

New question.

I am wondering how host moms with older kids deal with this scheduling question. When do you consider kids ‘old enough’ to be home alone and AP not on duty, even if she chooses to be home?

Up until this past year, I have always scheduled AP to be on duty whenever DH and I are both out of the house. This means that on Sat mornings AP would start at 7:30 to accommodate for our early morning workouts.

Now that our kids are basically older and pretty much able to babysit themselves (13yrs), is it ok to have AP start later with the assumption that the kids can take care of themselves before she starts (which basically means sleep until we come back)? I realize she would be the first contact in case of an emergency (if she chooses to be home), but does that automatically require that I count all hours where she is home and DH and I are both out? Thanks!

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Good question! I’m not there yet by any stretch (still have a preschooler) but I’ve wondered about this myself.

German Au-Pair August 18, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I think that depends on one thing and one thing only: is it okay for her to leave the house during those hours?
My Hp would leave the kids a note where they went on the weekends when the kids were allowed to sleep in. I was there and sound asleep and would have been there in case of emergency but if I had an early lunch date or whatever with a friend, I was allowed to go and the kids to stay by themselves. If that’s okay -and she knows it- she doesn’t work. Plus in this situation the kids should know what constitutes an emergency. Obnoxious sibling behavior is not an emergency (speaking from experience here…waking up to two screaming teenagers because one made inappropriate sounds in the other one’s room should count as double hours…). They should only wake her if there is something severe going on like the oven burning or missing teeth or something. If it’s not worth calling your parents to come for, you don’t wake the AP in her free time either.
If you scheduled her for something later that day, it would be a reasonable assumption that she would use her morning hours to actually leave the house. If that’s okay, then she’s not working.

Anna August 17, 2014 at 8:43 am

I think so. I my state by law I can leave kids at home for a short time alone starting at 8 years old. I sometimes leave one of my oldest two home alone when I go grocery shopping, whether or not my au pair is home, and it is outside her working hours.

caring hp August 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

If u have not requested her to be under your roof while u do your Saturday morning workout she is not on duty.
Put another way, could she also head off for aN early morning run should she desire while you are gone? If you expect she must stay home then it is fair to call it work. If she too may suddenly decide to become an early riser and head out and you don’t mind then it is not work hours. I know of hosts with older kids like yours who leave the kids in charge of themselves for some hours here and there like you. Sure it is comforting to know AP is likely “near” but that said, if AP went out for a run or something and the teens had an emergency, the teen kids are old enough to call 911 or neighbors or parents cell if necessary so in those circumstances AP is not to count it as duty time. Different if she was prohibited from leaving the house at that time.

WestMom August 17, 2014 at 9:36 am

That’s exactly what you describe. She can do whatever she wants during that time, and doesn’t have to me home.

I just want to make sure I am not breaking any rule. I know this has been discussed in the past… For example, you can’t not count you child’s nap time because technically AP cannot go anywhere during that time, which I completely, absolutely agree with.

Our situation is a bit more grey… It’s very likely that AP will be here, sleeping, and she very well may be the first contact in case of emergency. Anyone else in this particular situation?

WarmStateMomma August 17, 2014 at 9:58 am

I’m not in that situation, but what if you didn’t have an AP? If you’d still leave the kids home alone, it sounds fine to me.

German Au-Pair August 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Oh, I didn’t read that.
I was the kind of AP who usually slept in and could be expected to be there but I also felt comfortable enough to mind my own business when off duty. I would usually offer guidance to the kids -like making sure teeth were brushed- even if I was off duty. Mostly because I didn’t use my 45h anyway and felt it was a good way to contribute. However, if I wasn’t feeling up to the discussion, I’d feel comfortable just letting the kids be. So to me the area wasn’t really that grey. Maybe you could put something in your handbook that the kids are fine being alone in the house and if she’s not scheduled to work she’s not expected to engage in any way and can come and go as she pleases. If she’s at home, she’s expected to help get them out of the burning building but not to fix the broken computer.
Again, if you would leave them by themselves it’s fine. Sometimes my Hp were surprised to see me go early when I had a breakfast with friends and since that was okay, I was not working.
Or, to put it differently: she’s off duty and during that time, she may find herself in the house with your family. If you happen to choose it’s fine for your kids to be left alone during a certain time and she happens to be at home so be it.
The very fact that you worry about this makes me think that you AP will not feel like your taking advantage of her.

WarmStateMomma August 18, 2014 at 7:10 pm

“If she’s at home, she’s expected to help get them out of the burning building but not to fix the broken computer.”

Yes. I completely agree with this.

skny August 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm

interviewing au pairs right now. (as our last one ended up in rematch).
Wondering if I should alert her about the problem last one had with 4yo (4yo rejecting her first and ended up rejected).
Also wonder if I should ask how she would resolve very specific problems such as: what would you do if child throw a tamtrum or has a meltdown in public? What would you do if a child tried to hit you (specifically we had one terrible episode where 4yo on wanted to go on indoor hot tub, au pair wanted to go on outdoor pool. So she carried child to outdoor pool. Child had a tamtrum, au pair decided it was time for nap and no more pool. 4yo refuse. So she restrained 4yo and carried her into hotel room. 4yo gets free and bite her while doing so…. trying to prevent this from ever happening again…). Suggestions?
PS: 4yo has never assalted someone before (other than fighting with sisters)

NJmama August 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm

I would definitely lay out scenarios and ask them how they would respond – but don’t start out by saying “our last AP did this. How would you handle”? Instead say something like, “how would you handle a child who has a public meltdown? Have you ever been confronted with this and what was successful for you in the past?” Same with, “what would you do if a child wanted to do something that his/her sibling didn’t want to do? What worked for you in the past?”

Same for the hitting and the rejecting. My older daughter can be very difficult for the au pairs to get to know at first. I’ve told them that and then asked how the ap would try to engage her or bond with her. I ask them to describe their most difficult time caring for a child and how they handled it, and if a child wasn’t warm to them or said something hurtful, would it hurt their feelings – would they let it get to them?

And then after asking a bunch of questions like this I send an email detailing different challenges and describe what didn’t work in situation X but what did work the next time. I guess that’s my version of my dare to match email.

Funny our new AP started a few weeks ago. Fingers crossed but it’s going really well! And she recently told me how she was a little nervous after I sent her that email but was glad I did. She said what made her nervous is she was worried she’d have challenging situations every day and it hasn’t been that way at all. (In fact, that email weeded out quite a few candidates before we ever had our first Skype session.) My AP also went out of her way to get to know my daughter before she came – my daughter is older so she could email but she was wonderful in the way she read the books my daughter read and they’d discuss them.

Just a few days ago she asked if everything was ok with my older daughter – only bc my younger one is such a love – always sitting on the APs lap when watching a movie, that sort of thing, while the older one is more independent and likes to keep to herself. Everything was fine – and her feelings weren’t hurt at all, she just wanted to make sure she was doing ok.

And then just today they went to the mall together – just the two of them – and they’re really starting to bond.

I can’t tell you what a relief this has been. My kids even commented that they didn’t realize how bad things had gotten until someone so good came along.

Anyway good luck skny – I know how overwhelming this whole thing is. I’m really pulling for you!!!

WarmStateMomma August 20, 2014 at 10:44 pm


Ask how they’d handle those challenging scenarios without sharing the bad memories. It comes across as bitter ex-girlfriend material.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 21, 2014 at 8:02 am

When my kids were little, we asked a question based on a scenario we faced as parents all the time: What would you do if the baby absolutely needed to be fed and an older child was having a temper tantrum? Candidates who could elaborate on how they would respond and drew upon their own experiences interested us. Candidates who gave a pat answer and demonstrated that they hadn’t faced this situation didn’t make the cut.

Don’t speak ill of previous au pairs. It makes the candidate and your current au pair nervous about how you will treat them.

WarmStateMomma August 21, 2014 at 9:49 am

This is the perfect scenario for me to ask about next time around! Thanks.

TexasHM August 20, 2014 at 8:31 pm

If I recall you’ve had previous successful APs so I would be completely honest, ironically I find good APs are often very critical of other APs (they’ve seen them first hand and felt sorry for their families). I don’t know that you drop it all at once but definitely ask the questions and then organically explain when the time is right and you feel comfortable. Many APs think host parents are sugar coating and think their kids are angels and come waiting to see the shoe drop. I would think they will see you are genuine and like that. It’s going to come out eventually, use it to your advantage in your screening process.

WarmStateMomma August 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

AP#2’s birthday snuck up on me and I’d love some gift suggestions. It’s a week away and I don’t have time for anything too complicated. I suspect she’d prefer “experiences” to “things,” but I’m not sure what to get her. Restaurant gift cards aren’t a great option because she doesn’t eat at the kinds of places that sell gift cards.

My congressman hasn’t sent the US flag I ordered, so he’s not getting my vote next election!

HRHM August 22, 2014 at 5:26 pm

depends on how much you want to spend. I’m assuming based on your moniker that you are in FL? If so, surfing lesson! I’m actually getting DD surf lessons at Typhoon Lagoon for her birthday next week and DH and Dnephew did them a few years ago and loved it. Could go to Cocoa Beach or TL – both would be a once in a lifetime experience for most APs!

WarmStateMomma August 23, 2014 at 7:59 am

I am from FL (left 5 years ago for an inferior warm state) and a complete idiot. We are heading to my hometown (Orlando) to visit family for Labor Day weekend and the AP is bringing a friend. She’s off duty after the flight and the APs have tickets to the parks. The surf lessons would have been great, but they’re booked through the end of the year. I will look for another experience they can have together. Blue Man Group tickets might be fun. Also because I’m an idiot, I already told her about the indoor skydiving on I-Drive and she’s probably already booked that with her friend.

I’m already looking forward to the trip – shopping at Publix, ordering fries from Checkers, driving on good roads, and being somewhere pretty!

AlwaysHopeful HM August 23, 2014 at 9:53 am

Do they have character meals lined up? They really add to the Disney experience– maybe you could spring for one as a bday gift. Probably too late for the castle, but they could do princess at Akers us (or whatever it’s called), or Crystal Palace for traditional characters.

skny August 23, 2014 at 7:55 am

I am reviewing my handbook to send to interviewed au pairs and wonder if I should or not send them a suggested detailed handbook or save it for here.
In the past all I had was an overview (breakfast, get dressed, outing). And it worked. NOt with last au pair. With 3 kids and an au pair over her head we learned that you must plan, follow a routine, or things go crazy. If you come back from park at 12 and leave them hungry and tired playing while you get lunch started, they will fight, have melt downs, or get in trouble.
Plus without any plan, 9hs with 3 kids 4 and under can last forever, and become the hardest job ever.
So for last au pair I made a detailed schedule with suggestions such as
from 7 to 9, make breakfast, change kids, fix hairs, and get them to pick up after themselves so you dont have to do it later. Also a good time to pack swimming bag (while you are in the bedroom and they are picking up mess).
from 9 – 10, is a good time to let them play in the play room while you check out lunch options and pre-prepare it (so it is ready whem back rom swimming)….
anyway, it was very specific and made me feel I was micromanaging (which I hate to do).
However I feel if she had this basis from day one she could have done better on the first few weeks, and then maybe changed and adjusted later.
So question is: add to handbook vs showng as a suggestion on first day, vs waiting

WarmStateMomma August 23, 2014 at 8:04 am

When you were an AP, would you like seeing this level of detail? I think it would be helpful to show someone how the day will unfold and what’s she’s signing up for. If it sounds too scary to an a prospective AP, she may not be prepared for the reality of watching 3 kids.

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