Open Thread: July 24

by cv harquail on July 25, 2014

Maybe you can tell it’s been a busy work week over here?

I was actually afraid to sign into my blog email to see what was going on, and how many new threads had been started by impatient folks needing immediate advice. 210258035_0a52ab2be7_z

Fear not, here is a chance for you to lob in anything at all. Since it’s been a long and post-less week, I’ll open this early and close it rather late. Enjoy!


Image: Fishing nets in Greece, by Miemo Penttinen




Skny July 25, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Hi all
Wondering if anyone here (host) feels like they have to be on their best behavior when Au pair is around, afraid Au pair will pick up a “wrong” habit?
An example: Au pair complaining you can use net in front of kids but she can’t…
Or… I spent weeks educating Au pair about positive discipline, modeling good interaction, making sure I was interacting with kids the way I expect her to interact (patience, paying attention, nothing that I don’t usually strive for, but going the extra step to really model well.)
But then the one day I loose (terrible night with baby, 12hs shift in the hospital, long day, really tired, really tired child… List goes on) when 2yo insists in hitting, and I place her in her room (because it is that or else…) she is there to watch.
Next morning I hear: do that or go to your room, eat this or go to room… Do you want to go to room?
I never worried about it in 3 Au pairs. Now I feel that whenever I am in ap presence I must be the perfect parent.

Repeataupair July 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

You should have a talk with her. You are the mom and are not being paid for being a parent. She is paid for being an au pair, for that very reason she should be paid for what she is asked to do, not what she decides to do.
She should do what you say, not do, whatever the reasons are, and she is not here to judge you for that.

HRHM July 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I agree with RepeatAuPair. This is definitely something that requires a reset condo. It may be that she is just that personality that slides into mimicry behaviours very easily. If so she needs to understand that you want her to stick with the plan set forth in her training and NOT to slide into your worst behaviors. She needs to see that you are parenting in the situation where you have worked your own job all day long and are tired and likely not at your best. She, on the other hand, is DOING HER JOB which involves following your guidelines.

If she can’t grasp that and move back toward the expected methods, then she may not be the AuPair for your family. (or any for that matter)

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Skny: Without seeing your AP in action, it sounds like the AP may think that you want her to send the child to her room when she doesn’t do what is asked. I’d explain that you were just not at your best, and that you need her to do X when the child doesn’t do what’s asked of her. I’d also explain why you weren’t at your best (as you did here) so she gets the difference between an AP working 45 hours and then going “off duty” vs. you working full time and then coming home to be “on-duty.”

Angie host mom July 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm

APs pick up your bad habits which are consistent with their own personalities, and they’ll get there whether you are careful or not. They’ll see you at your worst.

Mine certainly have, but only those bad habits that are natural to them. Negative discipline from one, pc use in front of kids for one, etc. I don’t know a way around it.

Repeataupair July 25, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Other topic /

I have three weeks left with my current family, I am switching for a family that had the same au pair for 5 years, I have experience with kids, this is my third au pair year, I am not worried about the handling part but more the fit in part. I really like them so I decided when matching that I should say yes even though they had an au pair for so long but it’s starting to come closer and to build up in my head, I am getting really nervous of getting rejected and not being able to fit it. Also when I sent an email to the au pair she anwsered 3 weeks later, appologizing to the fact she answered so late but when I answered back, the next email was again 3 weeks later and out of 5 questions she answered only 2 in a couple of sentences. I know it is going to be really hard for her but that makes me sad she is making no effort to know me, when I am trying, I have asked both questions about her and the host family, but she does not bother.
It’s hard to talk about that to anyone, no one I know has been in the same situation, I don’t know any repeat au pair who are also extending, I don’t see myself talking about that to my previous, current or future host family, so here I am. I’m not even sure what I am asking here, I guess I just need some perspective and a chance to let it out.

SKNY July 26, 2014 at 7:09 am

They MAY reject you or not. I was an Au pair for a family who had the same Au pair for 2 years, and they did fine. But when my loved Au pair left (only one term) my kids really felt and did reject the new Au pair.
My advice if happens is: do not take it personally. Do not assume those are bad kids. Keep trying. Don’t reject them back. May take some time.
Just be sympathetic, be patient, be kind.
With my kids it took about 3 weeks for them to warm up to Au pair, but at that point she had decided they were spoiled brats and kind of rejected them. It took some serious talk for her to snap out of it.

Repeataupair July 26, 2014 at 11:01 am

Thank you ! I will definitively give them time, that’s a big adjustment and I don’t expect them to be all happy this is me instead of her from Day 1. She is leaving 10 day-ish before I get there so this will help a little.

AussiePair July 25, 2014 at 8:26 pm

My host family have started looking for their next au pair (I leave in 4 months) and they’ve expressed their interest in me helping with the interview process..

So I guess my question is for host parents who have integrated au pairs into the interview process: How can I best help my host family find their next au pair? What have you found helpful? And do you have any tips for not letting my emotions (I don’t want to leave :( ) affect my opinion of the potential au pairs?

HRHM July 25, 2014 at 9:29 pm

My advice is to think about this as a chance for you to give your Host kids the most important going away present EVER – wonderful care for the coming year. This is more important and will effect their lives for years to come. Much better gift than kinder eggs and stuffed Koalas. :)

I ask my current AP to interview because she knows what my kids are like and what personality characteristics it takes to manage their personalities and schedules. I ask a former AP to interview as well because she has some distance and is not as invested emotionally. She has also had a few years to mature and has realized that some things she originally did wrong and knows how to screen for those same things in the candidates.

You should be honest with the incoming AP about what your life and job are really like. Don’t sugar-coat any of it because you don’t want to court candidates who are actually looking for something easier and won’t be able to handle the real deal. Better to scare off a weak candidate before she moves into your room. You should listen to see what her priorities are. Of course it’s natural for her to ask you about your social life, how nice the car is, where you vacation, if there is a pool nearby. But if that’s all she asks , it’s a red flag. She should also ask about the kids and their lives, and I would hope she would want insight into your relationship with the HPs as well.

I can tell you as a 7 time host Mom, I truly value my APs’ input into this decision and they have never dissapointed me. They help me every year and I’m so grateful to have them to rely on.

SKNY July 26, 2014 at 7:03 am

Agreed. The other thing that I have noticed is that prospective Au pairs tend to see current Au pairs as friends/allies and tend to be more honest to them.
An Au pair may tell a family she doesn’t party, but first thing she will ask current/previous Au pair is if there are many bars… So hear well, think of your love/care for your kids, and ask yourself if that is the person you want working with YOUR kids…

AussiePair July 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

Thanks everyone for the input. I guess I’m just worried that my opinions will actually be a negative impact than a positive one. I really want them to end up with a fantastic next au pair!

WarmStateMomma July 26, 2014 at 5:38 pm

AussiePair: My current AP is awesome and we will definitely ask for her help when it’s time to locate her successor. She can read between the lines on a candidate’s application and responses. She also knows how to explain to a candidate what life is like for someone from China to live with my family in my community. We would truly value her opinion and advice on this issue.

Your HF likely feels the same way about you – and it’s a reflection of the confidence they have in you.

happyhostmom July 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm

+1 with SKNY and HRHM. I had one candidate I really liked. Old AP interviewed her in their native language and first thing she asked was “where are all the American boys in your town.” I didn’t want a party girl and she didn’t present that way to me, but she did to my AP. our old and current AP’s are friends on FB and occasionally Skype with Kids, share pics and are friends. It’s awesome because that great relationship helps keep the old APs part of the family. for the OP, my advice is to be honest with the new AP’s (agree not to sugar coat) and keep focusing on that you would want a great AP here with “your kids” nothing could be worse than having them with an unsafe new au pair, or perhaps even on who won’t contact you! Good luck!!!!

Mom2Jack July 28, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I have a friend that received input from her departing au pair that a potential au pair was a partier based upon her conversation/interview with the potential au pair. I also know a family where the current au pair became Facebook friends with the au pair that they were matching with only to find out that he had a sleeve of tattoos that he had not disclosed and was a partier based upon his Facebook pics. Current au pairs seem to be able to get better access to the true character of the potential au pair better than a host parent who is seeing the potential au pair’s interview face.

TexasHM July 25, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Completely agreed HRHM. Our APs have helped us by reading between the lines, looking for the red flags they’ve seen in other APs and often the candidates will admit things or show their truer colors to a peer vs potential “boss”. Our APs have not been shy about shooting down candidates and giving us detailed feedback. It’s been a lifesaver (we dodged some fakers that way) and our APs have all gotten to know/like each other so I told someone the other day it’s kind of like pledging a sorority. ;). It also helps because after you leave the new AP can help be your link to the family and kids. My current AP sets up Skype sessions with last AP, play dates with first AP (she married and stayed here) so she’s a great facilitator always sending them pics, updates on FB, etc so keep that in mind too. :)

5kids=Aupair July 26, 2014 at 9:19 am

I have a new AP, 1 wk. they hang out and watch TV, play video games and sit for leisurely meals with the kids. While I enjoy AP so far and want them to bond, I also see the amazing piles of things not getting done. How do I get new AP to do both? I have everything in my manual which they have not read due to the language level. I’m going to have our first weekly meeting, which I’ve never done in all my years of hosting, how would you approach this without squashing their mojo?

Anonymous in CA July 26, 2014 at 11:51 am

From day 1 with AP, I have a pretty detailed schedule for that lists out escatly what she’s supposed to be doing with DS, the time frames in which to do them, plus what her tasks are (I’m totally happy and want her to include DS in doing DS laundry, but at the end of the day, it’s AP’s responsibility to make sure it gets done, for example). AP’s receptive English level is quite good, so I just leave it for her and she manages to get it all done (remember, there’s often a disparity between receptive language and productive language, and written receptive language tends to come first in language acquisition, so while your AP’s language level may not be sufficient to read an entire handbook, I may be sufficient to follow a schedule with time slots and brief instructions). If something on the schedule doesn’t happen, I figure it wasn’t sufficiently clear and I highlight it in the next week’s schedule and point it out to her verbally when she gets the schedule for the week. My schedule comes just up to the line of micromanaging, but to be honest, the 3 APs with whom I’ve done this have all told me how much the appreciate the clarity of what the expectations are.

Far better to set the tone and expectations early, as I’m sure you know!

Anna July 26, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Anonymous in CA, would you mind sharing your micromanaging schedule, please?
I am having issues with my au pair that she doesn’t get things done at the end of the day, and I have to try doing this with her. I want to see an example, I never had to do this level of management before.

HRHM July 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm

It also depends on the ages of your kids and what her hours are. If you have her working 45 hours a week with preschoolers, it’s totally different than if you have her wo5king 30 hours per week with grade schoolers. So, if you want her to use her “kid” hours and “chore” hours simultaneously, have her work WITH your kids to make sure beds are getting made, sheets changed, dishes washed, floors picked up, etc. Even a 5 year old can haul their dirty sheets to the laundry room or help put the clean silver away out of the dishwasher. She needs to understand ASAP that she is not there to be a playmate but rather another adult in the home to help care for the kids AND teach them how to ultimately care for themselves.

Skny July 26, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Agreed on the age difference. I have 3 kids 4 and under, and I much rather have my Au pair closely watch and interact with my kids than doing chores. Whatever they can do during nap is ok with me (although surprisingly they seem able to do a lot)

WarmStateMomma July 26, 2014 at 5:41 pm

Use a daily log to have your AP check boxes of daily and weekly tasks. This reinforces your expectations without having to verbally nag her. You can phrase it as “now that you’ve had this time to bond, please start on the normal schedule next week.”

Returning HM July 26, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Great wording.

Girl in ca July 26, 2014 at 5:52 pm

New topic

Recently we figured out that hildre had lices in their head. My hostmom calles an expert to make us a treatment. I started to fell that my hostmom was upset with me and when the expert ended her work she told us how many lices and nits we have. In the final I was the person with more nits and a lice and rhe children only had nits. Parents were clean. But now I am worried about what they can think about because I usually spent the weekenda out of the house. I used to spent the night with female friends but recently I knew a guy seems a nice person.

Do you think this can be a big issue for my host family?

I had lices once when I was I child but never since I grew up.

Skny July 27, 2014 at 12:04 am

Going back to work full time in the fall and trying to write a schedule up.
I am having every other Friday off, and working every other Friday half day. The Fridays I work half day, Au pair would finish her 45hs on Friday about 12, and have weekends off.
On the Fridays I don’t work, I would still need help for an hr to take 4yo to school without having to toll newborn and 2yo along (I will be taking her to school daily).
Keeping in mind that ap would have worked already 39hs Mon through Thu, would it be abusive to request her to only work 7:30 to 8:30 on Fri (the school hr), so that I’d have 5hs left for a Sat night date (on those every other week only)?
4yo will be in school full time starting fall…

hOstCDmom July 27, 2014 at 11:56 am

No, I think that is fine/fair. I would lay the schedule out upfront, letting her know it will be an every other week thing etc., so that she has the full picture and perspective. APs agree to work 45h, so working 45h is not abusive. And while she might prefer to not work the 1h on Friday, having her work the one hour you need, and then have the rest of the day free, is not “abusive” — it is why you have an AP.

hOstCDmom July 27, 2014 at 12:11 pm

AND, she has a 2.5 day weekend every other week, (Friday at noon until Monday AM) which gives nice opportunities for weekend travel/plans etc. Pros and Cons to all AP schedules, but what you describe seems to 1. follow the rules; 2. be fair; 3. be balanced between “pros and cons”; and is 4. predictable. All in all, a totally fine AP work schedule, IMO.

WarmStateMomma July 27, 2014 at 2:45 pm


AlwaysHopeful HM July 27, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Totally agree.

WestMom July 27, 2014 at 8:31 am

New question about scheduling.

AP#6 is arriving in a few weeks. Up until now, I have always scheduled our APs for 45hrs. (This was following some advice on this board to start with a full schedule and lighten up as needed). I pad generously with extra 30mins here and there. For example, I give an extra 30 min each morning to straighten up after everyone has gone to work/school. I don’t mandate that the straightening happens right then and there, and the reality is that every AP has just gone back to bed right after the kids are gone (and the straightening may or may not get done later in the day…). I also pad before the kids come home from school, and AP’s hours include a nice leisurely home cooked dinner with our family before her shift ends. On Fridays, I usually let her go about 2hrs before her shift ends, and on Saturdays she can leave as soon as the kids are done with homework. So all in all, out of the 45hrs, there are probably really only 35-7hrs of actual babysitting (although I am sure our APs would tell you they were working a full 45hrs).

Now that our kids are middle-schoolers, more independent and can basically babysit themselves, I find it harder to justify a 45hrs schedule. Current AP has told me that she is sometimes bored because the kids occupy themselves and she doesn’t have much to do.

Now, I am wondering if I shouldn’t be more detailed in my scheduling. For example, set precise babysitting hours (which would more exactly represent what we actually ask of our AP), and then set a detailed list of chores to be done ‘during the remaining 10hrs’ (some things should be done at certain times, but I am very flexible about when to do chores—By the way, probably not more than 2-3hrs out of the 10 and most could be done while babysitting!).

Here’s what I am concerned about… If I give AP a 35hr week, I am concerned that there might be resentment when we need her for some extra hours (some late weeknights mostly, or a few sat nights per year, and certainly the longer summer schedule)… I am also concerned about ending her shift before dinner. It is really nice to eat with AP, and I am wondering if she will want to eat with us if it’s not included in her hours… That’s really the only time of the week where the family is all together and we get to know one another (but I do think it’s generous to count it in her ‘hours’).

I know all of us HMs handle scheduling differently, but I would love your suggestions on this.

Repeataupair July 27, 2014 at 10:11 am

I would right this all down in a schedule part of your handbook:
School year:
You are expected to actively watch the children for about 30/35 hours a week and to do so pick up / clean up for 2 to 4 hours a week. You will not be asked to do 45 hours every week however you will be asked to do some evening baby sitting from time to time as we need it. We will try to give you as much notice as possible, if you would like to plan a weekend/vacation, discuss it with us so we make sure you will not be working at that time. There might be days where the kids will be sick, school will be canceled, etc. At that time your schedule will be changed last minute, those things can not be planned and do not depend on us, we expect some flexibility from you for the times we will need it.

School breaks / Summer vacation:
Your shift will be slightly longer since the kids will not be in school, you will probably be doing 45 hours every week. Any cleaning / laundry asked can be included in the time you are with the kids when they are busy doing things on their own.

This is just an idea but if she knows before hand this is coming, there shouldnt be any resentment.
In our handbook my host mom also added the diffferent taks and gave a schedule for it (monday you can do this, tuesday this, etc) but added that I am welcome to make up my own schedule for it as long as things are done.

WarmStateMomma July 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm

What about including date nights on the school-year schedule as a regular, ongoing thing? Then you can give her the time off when you don’t need it (even if this is more often than not) instead of adding it when you do? We did that with AP#2 and she’s accepted it as a pleasant surprise that we don’t often use our date nights, instead of a hassle when we do.

AlwaysHopeful HM July 27, 2014 at 7:04 pm

For dinner, my handbook says that the au pair is welcome to join us every night, that we find it to be a nice family activity, but that we don’t require it. It goes on to say that we do request that the au pair eat with us at least 2x per week. First au pair ate with us every night, until she decided she didn’t want to anymore, so stopped entirely. 2nd au pair ate with us 2-4 times per week on average for the duration of his year (even during our rematch period). Neither complained about the “extra hours” dinner imposed.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm

My needs differ from yours – because while my AP works 25-30 hours a week during the school year, she’s bathing, diapering, dressing & feeding a child with special needs with almost no self-help skills. (So when she’s on, she totally feels needed.) Nevertheless, I ask my au pairs to do the following:

1) 1 load of kid laundry every week
2) to wash The Camel’s sheets and towels every week with hers (we also wash The Camel’s sheet with ours – they get that stinky)
3) to do light cleaning in the The Camel’s room
4) to clean The Camel’s toys
5) to do light cleaning in The Camel’s bathroom
6) to prepare meals and freeze them ahead of time for The Camel
7) to wash the breakfast dishes (kids & AP only) and to wipe down counters)

Child #2 needs transportation and a reminder to get off the computer and do his homework. He’s been pretty self-sufficient for a long time – comes with the territory of having a sibling with special needs. Now that child #2 is facing AP #10, he is no longer interested in bonding. It would take a special and persistent AP to break through his shell.

Oh – and we warn ahead of time that the magic window of 8:00-2:40 disappears completely when The Camel is ill or on school holiday.

meanwhile in canada July 27, 2014 at 9:57 am

new topic: we are in the process of hiring an au pair for the first time, and i am feeling a bit overwhelmed for two reasons:
1. when i asked to look at candidates’ more detailed applications, all of the girls i asked to look at were told i was “interested” in them. now i have multiple (dozens!) of emails in my inbox from girls that i am not really interested in. what is the etiquette here? am i obligated to email each of them back? (my instinct is to email all of them, but i don’t know if i have that kind of time…)
2. we have narrowed it down to 2 girls who i think would both be great for different reasons. how do you choose?? i know that’s really a personal thing for each family, but i am curious how people make that last decision. you go through so much personal stuff with the candidates, it feels like breaking up to choose one over the other…
thanks in advance.

NBHostMom July 28, 2014 at 11:52 am

For the candidates you’re not interested in, I’d write a generic, short and simple email saying after reading their application that you’ve decided they are not a match for your family and wish them well. Copy and paste this generic reply to all those that have emailed you.

NBHostMom July 28, 2014 at 12:06 pm

For second part to your question, I know the difficulty in picking between two great candidates! I’m a list person…. I listed my selection criteria in order of importance and then reviewed each candidate’s interview against these criteria again. This was a good review for me and also helped me reflect back on the interviews. It also helped me weigh the importance of different skills for my family’s needs (ie cooking vs swimming)

I also asked my school-aged kids, who would you pick and why…. Kids have very interesting answers, I was surprised at how insightful they were.

Finally, there is a gut feel… This is a bit harder, but skills and experience aside, who do you think would mesh better with your family’s style?

Should be working July 28, 2014 at 12:26 pm

For choosing among the two: READ the posts all over this site on matching, interviewing, etc. Just read it all and get ideas. Ask more questions.

If you are stuck between two very different candidates, I suggest you might want to reflect carefully on your priorities and needs. An active go-getter might seem great for some reasons, but not with your new baby. A calm, quiet AP might be great with a certain 7-yr-old but not a different kind of 14-yr-old. It’s not all about personality nor about objective experience and qualities. We have had good APs whom I have not personally liked or enjoyed all that much–but the kids were happy and well cared for. So think about your needs and priorities, and then consider the candidates.

NJ Mama July 28, 2014 at 1:18 pm

This may sound silly but whenever I have a hard time choosing between two of anything — after I’ve talked to all parties involved (husband, kids, etc.) after I’ve written lists over and over, I flip a coin — not so that “heads” wins and “tails” loses, but because if I don’t like the outcome it helps me to make my decision. (meaning if “heads” pops up and I think … no no no … then I would know that I want to go with “tails.”)

Not always full proof (if it’s really close you find yourself going for best out of 3 and then best out of 5). But more often than not it helps me to figure out what my gut is telling me.

You may also want to talk to the match person at your agency and get their insight.

Aussie HM July 27, 2014 at 7:37 pm

New AP teething problems…

HM’s I need some advice!! We have a new AP ( our first), we have her working 43 hours; 4x 10 hour day and tuesdays day just 2 hours in the morning. She has both saturday and sunday off every week and never works past 5 in the evening.

Every day for her first week alone with the children, she was in tears at the end of the day (often by lunch time) and has said numerous times that 10 hour days are too long for her. She wants my husband to come home from work, or my sister to come over ( who lives locally) every lunchtime so she can have a break in the middle of the day.

My kids are 3.5 and 1.5, both sleep for 2 hours in the afternoon and are pretty easy going kids. She has very few chores to do, only the childrens laundry and tidy away toys at the end of the day.

We were honest with our schedule when interviewing and have not deviated from what we initially advertised.

Do you think its just a bit of homesickness and adjustment or is she not cut out to be our Aupair?? HELP!?

OpinionatedHM July 27, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Hi Aussie HM,

Having done this schedule (actually 12hr/5days a week) myself with 2 kids very close in age, it can be overwhelming if there is not a routine. One thing I have found with each of our 4 AuPairs, they are not accustomed to being responsible for planning anything more than their own free time. With two children that age for 10 hours, advance planning is essential. If your AuPair isn’t prepping meals and planning the activities of the next day the night before, she will feel like she hasn’t stopped running at the end of her shift. I would sit down with her and help her make a plan for the day. Kids that age need activities and a change of pace every 20 to 40 minutes. They need snack breaks and meal breaks. Once the day gets schedule into chunks if time, it should feel more manageable for your AP. You might also identify ways you can set her up for success, like making sure diapers are stocked and kid xcups are clean or even prep breakfast for them. Maybe help
Her find a library with a story time for toddlers that she can go to each week.

Hopefully it’s just an adjustment period to the constant attentiveness that she needs to have and not an inability to do the job. Ifor many AP’s who have never worked more than a few hours at a time, working 10 hour days can be very hard and seem overwhelming. It’s a maturity and experience issue. Your schedule is perfectly reasonable and within program parameters. I’d give her a clear goal and time limit and if she can’t meet it, rematch. Hopefully a little guidance will help her feel more comfortable with the responsibility.

NoVA Twin Mom July 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm

We had one au pair last 3.5 days with a schedule similar to yours, with the same explanation. There was also a tinge of depression, statements that she “didn’t like *little* kids” (my twins were two at the time) and her hesitation to touch/hug my children (which I’m not hearing from you) so we chose to send her into rematch after the first week. Basically I didn’t dare leave my kids alone with her after her reactions to my kids after the first week. Luckily you only seem to be hearing the “10 hours is too much” explanation. We were also very upfront about the schedule and (obviously) about our kids’ ages, so there was an extra layer of frustration in our case.

While there were extra factors that caused me to send our au pair into almost immediate rematch (which the agency didn’t protest at all), we did (and continue to) do many of the things OpinionatedHM outlines. We even wrote out the schedule and had a scheduled activity outside the house everyday (library story hour, even a trip to McDonalds playplace, SOMETHING every day). We send our girls to preschooll (a few hours a day four days a week) just to give them some structure, but flameout au pair couldn’t last the few weeks between the beginning of her year and the beginning of preschool to find out how her year would improve. We did the meal prep too, because I wouldn’t expect the au pair to do that ‘outside her hours’ even if it would make their time easier. I just don’t see it happening, no matter how good she is.

Good luck. In our case, our flameout mentioned that she was really looking for a “before and after school care, drive the kids to a few activities” gig. She blanched a bit when I mentioned that even the au pairs that HAVE that gig during the school year don’t tend to have it in mid-July, which is when we sent her into rematch.

I recommended that the agency send her home based on some of my observations (I REALLY think she was clinically depressed, something that is majorly looked badly upon in her home country so probably wouldn’t have been diagnosed there); of course they didn’t listen to me but did listen when I said she needed to be with kids that could speak up/defend themselves. She ended up rematching but didn’t finish her year (I heard that later from our LCC).

Anyway I agree you’re going to have to micromanage for a while to give her some structure, but wanted to warn you that this may be the beginning of the road to rematch.

AussiePair July 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm

+1 to both of these responses. Even I will admit that working 10 hours straight for the first few weeks was overwhelming for me (even when you have kids that nap). Coming from working a full time job you think you’re prepared, but you don’t neccessarily realise what it will be like working 9-10 hours straight with no lunch break or anything. In saying that, working out and sticking to a routine changes everything. I would suggest asking the au pair to help you write the schedule/plan with you, this way she will feel that she has some amount of control, and hopefully she won’t then resent you for telling her how to spend every minute of her day.

Good luck! I hope your situation improves. If she still has the same opinion after a schedule has been set for a few weeks I would start to seriously think about rematch.

Anonymous in CA July 28, 2014 at 12:22 am

+++ to the responses. Rhythm, predictability, structure; it’s good for children, it’s good for APs (and to be honest, it’s good for most adults too!).

I still do this even with AP for my 7 year old…literally, a schedule that starts at 8am and finishes at 6 pm, 4 days per week (love that summertime schedule!). I built it starting with meals and snacks, then added in something physical every single morning (outside, running, biking, playground, etc.), then each day of the week is something (Monday is painting, Tuesday is play dough, Wednesday is cooking), etc.; then there are regular weekly afternoon things (e.g., every X day at the library is a puppet show, or every X day at the children’s museum is a particular activity; and I have on the schedule to try to have a play date at least once / week and I’ve gone out of my way to empower AP in reaching out to parents of other children – I reach out first with AP cc’d on the email, etc.).

Children thrive on structure and predictability …even at 7 years old, DS knows and looks forward to the activity for a particular day – it is how he keeps track of the days of the week, actually. (I may have missed my calling as a Waldorf pre-school teacher!).

Returning HM July 28, 2014 at 6:47 am

I read this thinking, “wow, this mom is exactly like me” – and there you’ve outed yourself as another Waldorf mom! Our schedule looks exactly the in terms of its structure and predictability – as well as its fullness, describing each sequential activity. I try very hard to teach our APs as well as our children the importance of an in-breath followed by an out-breath as part of the rhythm for the day. I learned this from our wonderful Waldorf preschool teachers and have been following it ever since. :-)

Skny July 28, 2014 at 9:35 pm

How does this Work in practice? I thought of doing this but wondering if would Work as i might suggest 20 min for getting ready and they will occasionally give someone a hard time and take an hr. Not sure if ap would be proactive enough to think: ok, so maybe will jump activity 3, and go straight to 4… Etc.

Anonymous in CA July 28, 2014 at 10:47 pm

SKNY – I think that with younger children it is more of a rhythm than a schedule. First we dress, then we go out to play, then we snack, then we play again but perhaps in a more structured way (like baking, painting, playing with beeswax, folding laundry…whatever it is, it should be always the same thing on the same day of the week), then we lunch, then we rest, then we go to story time (or read a book / tell a story at home), then we snack, then we walk, then we have dinner and get ready for bed.

The rhythm becomes predictable every day and soon enough they start to fall into it and behavior issues often dissipate because the predictability provides a tremendous amount of security.

Maybe you build in general time frames, but not a strict schedule.

I am also a strong believer in ‘purposeful work.’ I think even young children appreciate purposeful work. Sure they are maybe not actually helpful when they ‘fold’ the laundry because you probably have to go behind them and do it all again later, but they feel big, strong, they learn how to have patience with their work, they feel great when they achieve it, and they often feel important…like their work matters…they matter.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 28, 2014 at 7:19 am

I’m not a Waldorf Mom, and while I don’t believe in scheduling my APs to the nth, I do see the benefits. Very few of my APs have taken the initiative over the years to organize kid activities, and child #2 prefers to have some down time to read, enjoy media time (he’s limited as much as I can limit a middle-schooler with a cell phone), and organize sessions with friends. At this point in his life all he thinks he needs adults for is to provide transportation.

Nevertheless, the feeding and medication regimine for The Camel is such that it builds a certain rhythm to the day. Make-a-Wish gave her an above-ground pool years ago, and during the summer down-time months our APs hang out in it with her for hours, with a certain amount of in-an-out for meals and meds. It makes their last weeks with us perhaps a little more relaxing, even if they are working more hours (The Camel goes to school half-time in the summer, so the AP gets a few hours to herself in the morning, but nothing like the long days off during the school year).

Child #2 usually goes to camp, although he’s about to age out. He has no camp this week and we’re experimenting with a chore list and an incentive, knowing that next summer he will have aged out of most day camps.

Aussie HM July 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm

Thanks so much HM’s!! ( and Au Pairs!)

I took your advice and had a long chat over many cups of tea with our Au pair and worked through the schedule, she had some good ideas as well and seemed very keen to be a part of scheduling decisions – which is something that was certainly lacking in her first few weeks. We talked about how the schedule was a guide for her to use and modify as events and weather dictated! We have set up a regular Sunday night catch up and week planning session between the 2 of us, so I’m feeling much better about it.

I did come home from work yesterday to 2 happy children, a happy Au pair and a tidy house – a gold medal result in my book!

Thanks again for your support and ideas – I’ve been reading this forum voraciously over the past week and it has been invaluable

NZ HM July 28, 2014 at 6:08 am

New question: With arrival of new AP imminent I am wondering about the benefits of a detailed schedule for the first few days (she arrives Thu night and will start work the following Mon). I remember I have seen some discussions and posts on here somewhere but can’t seem to be able to find anything now.

I would appreciate other HF’s input on how much time they plan out during these first few days, how many and what activities they schedule, how this is perceived by APs (who are not working yet but expected to be there) and if they send the intial schedule to the AP before their arrival or just ‘surprise’ them when they get there?!

Thanks heaps in advance (and to everyone for all the great contribution that have really helped us a lot to navigate host-parenthood!)

spanishaupair July 28, 2014 at 6:48 am

I think is handy to have an schedule for the first days it helps us to know what kids usually do and which activities are available in the area.
In general aupairs like to know what is expected so maybe u can send it.
Good luck with new aupair

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 9:41 am

I gave the first 10 days to AP#2 a few weeks before her arrival. I wanted her to expect feedback (due to cultural issues with her predecessor) – and built that into the schedule. I also wanted her to see when she’d have free time so it would be easier to make social plans with APs she met early on. We also sent a Google Map with all of our nearby hotspots on it and notes about each (thanks to a great post on this site), but later learned that she couldn’t access it before she got to the US.

Here’s the basic schedule:

She arrived Thursday evening, so Friday had her sleeping in, unpacking, and going to Target (with baby and I) for whatever she needed. Saturday was a driving assessment and showing her around our area. Sunday was an outing to a major annual event in our city. The first weekend was also for her to learn her way around the house and get to know our daughter.

Monday, the AP was solo. Tuesday, I had the day off and worked with the AP, bringing the baby to story hour at the library, feeding ducks, etc. We met during naptime to discuss readjustments/feedback. Wed/Thu she was solo with the baby; Friday I was home and the AP’s only work time was to have a meeting with me (during nap time) to discuss how everything was going.

The second weekend, the LCC came over for the orientation and the rest of the time AP#2 was free to make her own plans.

This worked out really well for us. Anything you can do to help your incoming AP understand what to expect is helpful, especially since she already has to deal with a new country, a new job, and a new family. If your AP comes from a culture where direct communication or constructive criticism is not common, it’s important that she expects this is going to happen so it doesn’t seem personal. If she doesn’t have a lot of experience caring for young children for long periods of time or she comes from a culture where she’s never been expected to show any initiative, give her ideas for activities with the kids. We have books with hundreds of ideas for age-appropriate activities that require little to no prep – I use them all the time for ideas and encourage the AP to do the same.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 29, 2014 at 7:28 am

Our AP arrives on Thursday night. The Camel goes to bed early, so she is always asleep when the AP arrives, but now that child #2 is a teenager, he often goes into town with DH to pick up the AP.

We follow a similar rhythm – Friday morning to eat breakfast, unpack, call family, and then have a first tour of the house. Friday afternoon to watch me feed The Camel (although with APs who have real prior experience with children who need total care – as AP #10 – coming next week – does, I let them feed her). We do a child-related activity, do the meds, do another child-related activity, and feed The Camel dinner. Dinner has traditionally been a typical American meal.

Saturday morning we have the AP go grocery shopping with us. In my experience, their classroom English is not nuanced sufficient enough for giving us a shopping list – and seeing the food helps them to select items they like. On Saturday afternoon, DH takes them for the first driving session – in which he approves their skills or not (AP #5 scraped another car – pulling out of a pull-in parking spot in a grocery store – which led to a series of driving lessons).

Sunday is usually reserved for a tour of the city near which we live (getting child #2 to join me or DH is now like pulling teeth).

Traditionally, our APs have started the Friday before school starts. We’ve now pushed the calendar back sufficiently (by letting AP’s leave a week early – their choice) that we have some more flexibility and opportunity to learn the rhythms of home life before they get that wonderful 6 1/2 hour midday break in their schedule.

Should be working July 28, 2014 at 9:50 am

I do a “schedule of first days”. Arrival Friday evening, unpacking, late dinner (kids already ate). Saturday she can sleep in, unpack and we show her around. Maybe some driving practice. Welcome dinner. Sunday is driving practice and family outing. Mon-Tues she is scheduled to “shadow” me. Wednesday she is scheduled to be on her own (with my school/camp-aged kids) unless she wants me to come along for dropoff/pickup etc. I send this info in an email before she leaves for training school. I also encourage her to make friends with au pairs who will live near us and tell her she should absolutely make plans for the first, and even more the second, weekend because friends are the antidote to homesickness.

Aussie HM July 28, 2014 at 8:00 pm

NZ Host mum,

I had a very loose schedule, and to be honest it was a bit of a disaster, both the AP and I feel much better about having a more detailed one which clearly spells out when to do things. Once she is more familiar with the children and how our household works, we can revise it and relax if nessesary!

Good luck and please keep us posted with how you go :)

Returning HM July 28, 2014 at 6:57 am

We give our AP a schedule for multiple reasons: so he knows what to expect and what is happening when and also so he knows when he is off and can make plans to go out. We send this schedule while in training school and encourage him to make plans for Sat night (he is off following an early dinner w us) so he knows going in that while his first few days will be long and packed with both sightseeing and training, we will make sure he has time to socialize as well as to be with us.

We found doing a detailed schedule from the start alleviated the anxiety of “when am I going to practice driving?” and “will I have a chance to go to the pharmacy?” — it’s all listed in there. Our APs have said they really appreciated knowing what to expect…and frankly, it’s also a good intro to us since I am a very detail-oriented scheduler, and this helps orient them to our job (they will have all seen and been talked through at least two weeks of the schedule by me and previous AP during matching so any AP coming to us knows to expect this kind of detailed schedule).

Good luck w your new AP!

AlwaysHopeful HM July 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm

CV- seems like a great blog topic: strategies for structuring the first few days with a new AP!

CAHostMom July 28, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I agree with AlwaysHopefulHM! That’s a great topic idea …

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 9:50 am

My daughter is 19 months now and it’s time to provide her with more educational opportunities. She has wonderful language skills and picks things up quickly (like shapes and a few abstract concepts) but I feel like we should be teaching her some of the things she’d be learning in a daycare. My goal is a mix of unstructured play and educational activities.

I’ve started reading up on Montessori theories and such, but does anyone have advice for how to do this properly? Or how to integrate the AP into the process? Our AP would likely happily engage our daughter in these types of activities, but she’d need some clear direction and I’m just wading into this myself. Should I have the AP’s days be focused on the unstructured play and activities the AP doesn’t have to organize (like toddler hour at the library), with mine focused on the educational activities?

Seattle Mom July 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I would talk to your AP and see if she has any ideas and how willing she is to do more structured activities. There must be some books with ideas that you can share with AP. I guess it depends on how independent your AP is. You might have to tell her “do this activity on this day” or you might just be able to give a book to her and tell her to start incorporating the activities on a daily basis.

I personally have been way too lazy to do this kind of thing myself. My kids both started p/t preschool at 2 because I don’t feel like doing structured activities. My APs have all had varying abilities to do these things, but I think they were all better than me :).

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Thanks, Seattle Mom. She not terribly independent, but maybe this is a good place to start.

Seattle Mom July 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm

We’re now recruiting a new au pair. I just started the search process. This is the 5th time I’ve done this, and I’m feeling just as overwhelmed as I was the first time. Maybe more so, because I understand what can go well and what can go wrong and how little I can really know a person until they walk through my front door and sit down with my kids.

And CCAP keeps changing their online search process. I think it’s better now than it was the last time, but it’s a new system to learn. The nice thing now is that you can see the full applications (minus contact details) before putting a hold on an AP candidate. So I’ve read through a lot of applications without ever feeling any pressure to make a decision to contact anyone. I think after reading through 10 applications I finally found someone to interview. She seems very nice, no red flags, though she’s younger than I really want (19) and her English level is very low.

I’m changing my own selection process somewhat.. after reading this blog closely and thinking about my bottlenecks in the past. I’m going to skype first, and email detailed questions later. Often I send back and forth a bunch of questions and the AP seems to answer everything well, and then I rule her out based on the first skype contact. This way I think I can save some time- if she seems good on skype then I’ll get to the questions. The only concern I have is that I’ll get attached to people before putting them through the ringer, and I’ll be soft on them.. but that is my problem always anyway- once I’ve decided to contact a potential AP I get attached to them and want them to succeed. I’m not good at looking for signs that someone is wrong for us. I need to change that, and be more discriminating.

Although I have gotten better. Our current AP is fantastic with the kids.. and that is really enough. It’s the minimum. And she is a likable, considerate person. But had I known what I know now I would have not chosen her (she’s not bright, she’s not careful, she doesn’t have very good awareness of what is happening around her). The previous 2 au pairs who lasted the year with us were not like that- I would have chosen them ten times over had i known ahead of time what it would be like. And we had one re-match, where I did not like how she was with the kids or with us. I completely misread her.

One new thing is that I’m working through 2 agencies right now. Both the one I’ve been with for years, and Interexchange. The only reason I would switch agencies is for better screening- so if interexchange really has better APs I guess I’ll find a good one there quicker. But if I find a CCAP AP that I really like first I’ll just stay there- I am fine with the agency, for the most part.

So this isn’t a question.. just sharing where we are and my current thoughts on the matching process.

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 2:33 pm

I started looking (casually) for our next AP on and GAP doesn’t let me limit the people who contact me to people who meet my criteria, so I’ve received 70+ messages from people who haven’t looked at our profile even once, so they don’t know we’re looking for someone who speaks Mandarin. Both sites have a function to search by your criteria, but I can’t figure out how to narrow applicants down by language on the APW site.

I’d love a post where HMs compared their experiences on these different sites.

NBHostMom July 28, 2014 at 3:13 pm

We found our current au pair on who has worked out extremely well. The process of finding her was frustrating, so much so that this time around we only look at agency candidates.

After looking at many, many, many non-matching applicants through the website, my aupairworld strategy became:
1. From submitted applicant, do quick scan of start date, home country and language skills… immediately decline if profile doesn’t match
2. If first indicators match, I’d read their profile text and look at photos. If I strongly liked the person I’d reply, if any doubt I’d decline. No photos / incomplete text = declined.
3. I also gave extra attention to candidates who wrote a personalized note to me with their submitted application, I found many of the candidates online really weren’t 100% committed to the program… a personalized note is a nice initial indication that they’re putting some effort in.

I received 500+ applicants, of which I actually had meaningful email exchanges with about 10. Through my ruthless declining of applicants based on cursory scans, I’m sure I declined some great candidates… but the sheer volume prevented me from digging to deep.

Did you locate aupairwold’s “advanced search”? “Go to Find an au pair” and click on the text below the search button. It’s not as detailed as GreatAupairs, but much better than the basic search.

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Thanks. I check each candidate’s profile before rejecting them, to ensure I’m not rejecting someone who moved from a Chinese-speaking country or who grew up speaking Mandarin at home. It’s a hassle and I got irritated with a few of the candidates who pinged me back asking why I had rejected them. Pro tip: don’t apply in Spanish or Romanian for a job that requires English and Mandarin.

APW lets anyone message me, even if they don’t speak the languages I’m looking for, don’t want to come to the US, or don’t want a 12-month program.

I can’t get the fastmatch/easymatch function on GAP’s site to limit by language, so I have to enter my parameters again to search.

HRHM July 28, 2014 at 4:58 pm

Have you thought about writing your heading and letter in Mandarin? Maybe that would deter the non-speakers from pinging you.

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Good idea, but I only know the Mandarin words that my toddler knows and my profile would be limited to things like “doggies,” “milky-milk,” “don’t open that” and “doll”….

When it’s closer to the end of her year, I’ll ask AP#2 to give me a hand. I started looking at these sites just before she passed her road test and I was getting worried about whether we’d need to cut her loose.

NBHostMom July 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm

For us, our big item is our au pair must be an excellent swimmer. We put the at the top, before I say any thing else, in capitals surrounded by stars. For you:


A bit hard to miss like that :)

American Host Mom in Europe July 28, 2014 at 7:14 pm

I ONLY use GAP to find candidates (and once APW), as there aren’t agencies in my country. I have tried the ***ONLY APPLY IF…*** appproach, and find it doesn’t work; people still don’t read (we must have an experienced driver, as there is no public transportation near us, and kids have to be driven to preschool/school). My solution has just been to jump to that info when I look at a profile (not only the multiple choice bit, but also the interview question relating to it), and if it isn’t a match, I decline and stop reading. A pain, but keeps my time investment limited. I also indicate in my cover note that we will decline anyone without it, so I don’t feel obligated to write explanations in responses.

On GAP, you can search strictly on language “Find Caregivers by language”, but I’m guessing you’ve seen that. APW is pretty worthless, in comparison, from a search functionality (and detailed profile) standpoint.

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for all the ideas!

Abba July 29, 2014 at 7:00 am

WarmStateMomma–I think GAP should let you limit who can contact you. I had the same problem when I first registered with them and couldn’t figure out how to fix it on their very confusing site, so I called customer service and they set it up for me. Not user-friendly or intuitive at all, but it should work. I found almost impossible to navigate.

Host Mom in the City July 28, 2014 at 9:56 pm

I have a new question – our fourth au pair is arriving in three weeks! I am excited, but realized more and more after selecting her that her English is really really bad. I don’t speak her language either. I haven’t sent her our handbook like I normally do because I don’t think she’ll be able to read it based on our email conversations.

Does anyone have tips for managing with an au pair that really doesn’t have good English? How did it turn out over the year?

WarmStateMomma July 28, 2014 at 10:05 pm

My APs have horrible written English, but their spoken English is better than we need. Is it possible yours is in the same boat?

NoVA Twin Mom July 29, 2014 at 8:15 am

For our au pair with the worst English (but great baby care skills, which is what we needed at that time) – we wrote directions down and ran them through google translate. It didn’t help with “roommate” type-friendly encounters, but at least we knew the feeding schedule was clear.

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