Open Thread: June 15

by cv harquail on June 14, 2014




It’s an open thread, for the rest of the weekend, with one little catch: Share a micro-affirmation, for anything about the Au Pair hosting experience, before you launch into a concern or question. I appreciate all the photographers who share their images in the Creative Commons section of Flickr. So much pretty.  Happy Sunday! ~cv


Image:  “Twilight prayer flags and stars” by David Abercrombie


spanishaupair June 15, 2014 at 5:34 am

Hi, i would like to know if im overreacting and getting mad with my HD for a silly thing.
Ok so yesterday i was minding the little one and everything went great until my HD and the older one came. As my HD sent the older one out, she started to call me stupid, meany and trying to hit and kick me, as i was stopping her from hitting she walked away to colour where she found one of their knifes so picked it and came to me saying ‘ive a knive im going to cut you” and holding it in a threatening way, ok that knive doesnt really cut but i think just the fact of finding one and saying that is the problem. So i took it and put it away, she is 4 so not a big deal, so as she was complaining and saying “im going to get it and cut you” i did something like “buufff” calm down and dont slap her. My HD heard me, well really heard everything but didnt care, started to scream to me and i replied what happened and if he really think thats normal and if he had any problems he could mind them now that he was home

Of course i was really mad with him so just talk the necessary, so he asked me if i have any problems and i said i dont think what happened early is normal. He said walk away of her, and “i ok but if im working and minding your kids what i do stop” he got mad and started to scream like mad and that he will fuck me out and other things that i didnt understand and that walk away i dont want to see you.
Sorry for long post but i know you like to have the details. Thanks

exaupair June 15, 2014 at 5:41 pm

HD should never yell at you period. And threatening he would fuck you up is a criminal offense, maybe he has forgotten about it.
If I were you I’d be too busy packing my bags to take my time talking to him, but if you care about this Family do what you think is best for you, good luck!

spanishaupair June 15, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I dont talk with him more than the polite hi, if he says it first, i am more polite than him.
After two years here at least the little boy who i love and he loves me deserves a better bye than slamming the door in their face

JenNC June 15, 2014 at 7:54 am

Spanish aupair I need more Information, wAs it the older kid or the little kid who started acting out when dad came home? You didn’t hit the child? You simply made a loud noise of frustration and took the knife away and told child to stop ? It sounds like his reaction was inappropriate if his kids are acting up and “threatening” even if we know they are children we have to tell them what is right and wrong walking away isn’t appropriate as it doesn’t teach a child what is right. His saying anything like ” I will fuck you up” or “kick u out” not sure which it was cause it’s confusing is wrong, he should never yell at you around kids or act threatening in anyway this is an issue, he shouldn’t use his power as a dad or as host parent or a man over you. Did you feel threatened? Did it scare you? If it did then you have reason to be upset. Jen

spanishaupair June 15, 2014 at 8:04 am

It was the older one the younger was with daddy. And obviouslly not never hit her, obviouslly have to press a little bit so she left the knife but would have never hit her.
I dont really know why he said that i was going out the door and had the chat i have wrote with him. Yeah sure i felt threatened and scared he was crazy. He has nevet shown respect indeed the older kid started to show up because she saw how he treats me.

JenNC June 15, 2014 at 8:36 am

I would contact your area coordinator, his reaction was in appropriate, in my opinion, and very threatening. But that is up to you. No host parent should ever become threatening, I understand there maybe a language issue, but he told you to walk away, and you had a valid question, if you are caring for the children, they are okay with you just walking away, , stop caring for kids, that is what he said but not what he really means. You would be in trouble if you did that too. You may need to call your area coordinator first tell her what happened, then have talk to the host mom about the situation and have a family meeting with the area coordinator, the host dad has to know he cannot react that way to you , if you are in charge of kids you have to be allowed to ” be in charge” as long as you don’t step over boundaries and I don’t think you did. Jen

LondonMum June 15, 2014 at 8:50 am

I agree with Jen but would also add that I think the issue of the child holding the knife and saying she will cut you needs to be addressed with the family. I know that all kids have tantrums but that is not a normal tantrum in my view and she stepped way over the line, whatever age she is. The fact that the dad wasn’t horrified that his child did this is very surprising. I would have expected him to put her in time out and let her know that that type of behaviour is absolutely not ok. It must be very difficult for you with the kids if the parents don’t back you up. Good luck with it.

spanishaupair June 15, 2014 at 9:15 am

Thanks JenC and Londonmum i needed it :)
Im in Europe so no agencies but will talk with my HM tomorrow, she is working until late tonight as yesterday.
Its nice to have this website and be able to get HP view

WestMom June 15, 2014 at 11:11 am

Spanish AP, no one should be yelling at you under any circumstances. I am having difficulty understanding the complete situation from your story, but I cannot imagine a host parent yelling at an AP, especially in front of the children. I would suggest addressing with HM as soon as possible, and even consider your exit strategy if you feel this has impacted your relationship to a point of no return.

spanishaupair June 15, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Hi, and thanks. Yes will try to talk with my hm. And yesterday i checked flights and hostels just in case, i didnt really left because at 10 pm in the countryside is difficult to go anywhere and more if u have to carry all the things you have after almos 2 years here

LondonMum June 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Which country are you in? Have you tried sites like Gumtree or Facebook AP groups to ask about work, what about at the kids school? You say you are in the country side so maybe there aren’t too many options for you. If you are from an EU country I would try, people often want an AP for a few months in the summer. I hope the situation improves for you.

spanishaupair June 15, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Im in Ireland and look a bit over gumtree and the facebook groups, but i want to talk with my hm and wait for an exam result that i should know next week before really taking a decission.
Thanks for the advice :)

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 8:52 am

@Spanishaupair – I apologize, but your story is a little bit difficult for me to understand. If the host father threatened you, leave as soon as you can. Abusers get worse, not better.

hOstCDmom June 15, 2014 at 9:09 am

EXCHANGE STUDENT QUESTION to all/any of you who have hosted them (in particular @WarmStateMama who I think has hosted exchange students) and any of you who have not but who have thoughts or insight!

First, which Agency did you use? Did you like the agency? Second, what are the issues you see with hosting (good, bad, difficult etc.).

We are at possibly coming to the end of our time hosting APs, or at least taking a long break. For our family, one of the big reasons to host in recent years (as we have needed the childcare aspect less and less (kids older, PT-WAHM mom, etc.) has been the language component. We have 6 children, one of whom is high school age and attends our local public high school.

We are considering that hosting an international exchange student might allow our family to continue the cultural exchange we have had with APs and continue to augment our kids’ language study/opportunities to practice, without the cost (!!), headaches, of hosting au pairs since we don’t really need childcare, per se.


WarmStateMomma June 15, 2014 at 4:42 pm

We hosted two boys (Vietnam and Japan) through YFU. The program takes way more kids than they have families for, so they will take even questionable families. You will meet some weirdos, but also a lot of great people. AFS is another big agency. They’re pretty much all the same but offer a discount to host families whose own kids want to study abroad, so maybe go with the agency whose study abroad opportunities you like for your kids. (Note that they told me they desperately needed American students to apply for study abroad scholarships, so those probably aren’t too competitive.)

It was an amazing experience, but expensive. Teenage boys eat soooo much, even when they weigh 100 pounds. It was also a lot of work because they joined the soccer team and needed rides that the school bus didn’t provide. Next time, I would host a kid who wasn’t passionate about an intensive sport or activity.

These boys became part of the family and we are often in contact with them. They came to visit us over the last winter break and one of them sent me a mother’s day card last year. Saying goodbye to them was horribly painful, but I’m so glad we had the experience with them.

The European kids had more conflict with their host parents over rules and such. My guys missed the freedom of having public transportation, but their idea of a wild Saturday night was playing video games until midnight and eating all the ice cream in the house. They were never disrespectful and helped with dishes/taking out the trash/etc without a single complaint. The Asian kids in general are way more sheltered and innocent than the Western kids, so it’s hard to predict which activities they consider age-appropriate. None of them in our city even dated to my knowledge.

Like the APs, the exchange students’ profiles bear little resemblance to the kid you pick up at the airport.

hOstCDmom June 15, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Thanks! Very helpful insight and considerations.

(Re the eating, we have 6 kids + AP, including two teen boys, plus we’ve had bro-pairs of late, so I figure I’ve now gotten used to the astronomical amount of food a household of 9 people/the teen demographic consumes…!! ;))

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 6:18 am

You’re welcome. Another thought: choose kids that are at least 16. They are more likely to have friends who can drive. Exchange students are strictly prohibited from driving and it’s less of a burden if they make friends with people who have cars.

You don’t interview exchange students at all – just choose from their profiles. They are brave kids, willing to live with any random family anywhere in the US.

You can host two kids (same gender, different languages) and the program will probably beg you to do this. Resist doing this if you host a girl – it was a running joke in our region that double-hosting girls never works out well.

Give the exchange student a regular chore beyond cleaning his/her room. It makes them feel more like part of the family. One of ours fed the dogs and the other took out the trash. They were both impressed with using the lawn mower and photographed themselves using it.

I can’t even imagine your grocery bill! But with 6 kids, your family is a dream come true for a lot of exchange students. I heard kids bragging about having a bigger host family. :)

NoVA Twin Mom June 16, 2014 at 7:43 am

I’ve written long answers twice that have been eaten by my phone so I’m going to summarize and let me know if you want more info. I had a fantastic experience hosting a student from Ukraine and my experience doing that convinced me to try the au pair program. I used ASSE because they were advertising that they needed
Host families and would take a “single” (at the time) host parent and most agencies required a second host parent.

First, they always have more potential kids than hosts so YOU can be picky. I’m not talking about the kids so much as whatever they call their version of an LCC. Try to find one that’s been there at least a year but preferably two. They change constantly and you want someone who has seen the “seasons” of hosting.

I agree, don’t host two girls at a time but will add a further comment – try not to host two kids from vastly different socioeconomic backgrounds either, because potentially one will have savings and allowance from parents that will allow them to pay for special trips/tours/etc and the other won’t. Which will cause hurt feelings.

And buy your hostkid a yearbook. They probably won’t realize what all it entails until they’re delivered, at which point its often too late to order one. I had to call the school to find out about ordering them (surprisingly early in the year) but iy was worth vit when she realized she got one too. If I hosted again I’d make it a holiday or birthday present. (Hosting won’t happen while we have au pairs because it would be too hard to handle the disparate treatment between the au pair that is a little older but works and gets paid and can drive a car and the host kid that is allowed to “be a kid” but doesn’t get paid and could get in trouble with their agency for driving)

hOstCDmom June 16, 2014 at 8:18 am

Thanks for the input! I can’t imagine hosting 2 students, simply because we already have 6 kids (!) We can accommodate one more, and see potential benefits in doing so (cultural exchange, language etc.), but logistically/bedroom/roommate wise hosting 2 students would push our seams to bursting.

NoVA Twin Mom June 16, 2014 at 8:47 am

I can’t imagine hosting two either – but my “kid” was friends with the less-well-off of two in one house so I heard about it. I did briefly consider taking in a “rematch” student less than a month before the end of the school year so they could finish their year here but the situation resolved itself before I got enough information to make a decision. But that would have only been for a few weeks and I would have consulted the current hostkid before doing so

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 8:55 am

We hosted two because we didn’t have kids and didn’t want our exchange student to be lonely or a fifth wheel. It was great for the kids to have a buddy when facing all the scary “firsts” (first day of school, etc.).

I would only host one now that we are parents and I would never host an AP and an exchange student at the same time. The different responsibilities and privileges would be a disaster, even if we could accommodate an AP and a student.

exaupair June 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I wonder how do you screen for financial status of the exchange student? I bet you don’t ask how much savings do they plan to bring or if their family back home is well off enough to send them money :-)
Plus I’m quite sure exchange students in general come from more privileged backgrounds, if the family is poor they usually don’t have funds to send their kid abroad to study for a year.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

@exaupair: Japan and Vietnam are vastly different economically. Both kids were well off by their own local standards, but the Japanese kid obviously had a lot more resources. The family photos also give you an idea of the kid’s situation because you see their home, vacation, etc. The difference was obvious in their applications.

hOstCDmom June 16, 2014 at 12:39 pm

The agencies screen for financial status of the students, requiring financial disclosure from the students’ families and statements from banks, etc. demonstrating that they can guarantee a minimum of $300-$400/month x 10 months in liquid assets that the student can bring with them for personal expenses. (The agencies also charge the students fees, and those have to be paid before the student can come to the USA.)

hOstCDmom June 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

But that is just the minimum that the agency demands a guarantee for — some students might be able to/might bring more.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 2:11 pm

My kids said it cost around $10k for them to participate. Kids can also say they are willing to go to private school and pay the tuition – this is mainly to improve the odds for the kids who wouldn’t otherwise get selected (nationality and photo weigh heavily here) but who have plenty of resources. I know two kids who were placed at the last minute this way.

Exchange students typically come from families with enough money for the basics, but it’s possible that a kid can’t afford much more than that after paying $10k to get here. Those $4,000 of liquid assets may be the parents’ retirement money, college savings, etc.

That said, most kids are from Western Europe and Japan (with a few from wealthy Chinese/Korean families) and money isn’t an issue, especially with the exchange rates. Kids on the scholarship program for kids from Muslim countries (called YES?) are likely to be ultra wealthy (like private Benz and driver for each teenager in the family wealthy), and the host families have mentioned feeling super awkward about the income disparity.

NoVA Twin Mom June 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

In this case both my “kid” and her friend came through a State Department program called FLEX that brought students from the former Soviet Union to the US for a year, at practically no cost to their family, to experience US life (then go home and tell their friends/family we aren’t as bad as we were made out to be). Its like the YES program WarmStateMomma described but in this case most of the students could not afford to be an exchange student any other way. State Dept even provides some spending money. I would wholeheartedly recommend taking a student from this program because these kids worked like crazy to apply to come here and qualify and want to be here.

But you’d know going in that your “kid” is in this program. Since most of them share a common language at least as a second language (Russian) it may not be possible to host two FLEX kids at once. The family I knew of had a student through FLEX from one of the “stans” (yes, i know which one but im trying to preserve a little anonymity for all involved here :)) and one “regular”, her parents paid to get her here student from Western Europe. So the difference in backgrounds was obvious and I admired the family for trying it.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 8:37 am

Ditto on different socio-economic backgrounds (for families who don’t have a full house). It made for some awkward moments and we paid for both kids to do things so the kid with fewer resources could participate without feeling like a charity case.

The boys were nothing alike and didn’t seem to like each other much at first, but claimed to be brothers by the end of the 10 months.

hostmomincolorado June 15, 2014 at 9:40 am

First-thanks to all of the frequent contributing host moms with great insight and experience. Your points of view are always helpful to me when I run into issues and provide laughs and entertainment when I see we all run into the same problems (or that my issues pale in comparison to some others’).

My question today is regarding host family car use by au pairs for “road trips.” What experiences have you had and/or advice can you give regarding restrictions, rules, etc. to lay out beforehand? Our current au pair seems to be a good driver and we really like her. She has a AAA membership (we provide). She wants to take our car on a camping trip to a location about 4 hours away. She cannot rent a car as she is only 19. Ideas? Suggestions? Warnings?

Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Should be working June 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm

I started putting into my handbook that renting a car is not easy for under-21 APs, and I also insist they come with a credit card of their own, so that if they can rent a car they can do it without my help. I also tell them that public transportation to other cities is minimal and flights are expensive. It’s rear-end-covering, because I know they are going to want to take our car on the long trip to the Grand Canyon etc., but I’m not going to let them.

Our 26-yr-old AP asked to use our car for a 4-hr trip and I said no. She did not, however, offer to pay me for use of the car at all; perhaps if she had offered that I might have said ok.

We have had 19-yr-old APs who couldn’t rent cars and were very unhappy, but I’m not giving my car to a 19-yr-old just so she can have her vacation–as has been pointed out, once there is an accident, my life would be greatly impacted. Same with a repair.

hOstCDmom June 15, 2014 at 7:42 pm

Our experience (New England) is that APs *under 25* have not been able to rent cars, so pretty much ALL of our APs!

Angie host mom June 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Generally, we let our AP take our car on road trips if it doesn’t inconvenience us too much. It is hard to rent a car under 21. You could say you need to rent a car while she is on the trip and have her pay for that rental to gauge how badly she wants to go and to drive.

Our AP car was bought knowing it would be mostly driven by an AP – it is solid, reliable, easy to drive, and inexpensive, and not expensive to fix.

APs who can drive for road trips generally don’t do it for more than 1 or 2 – they get sick of their friends going with them and the AP having to drive the whole time while the friends chill. They learn who their friends are and who just wants a ride pretty quickly as well.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 15, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I insist now (since AP #8 had an accident that nearly totaled the car – and our insurance company required that she have a U.S. license to be covered) that our APs get a state license before they drive the car out of our greater city area (I give them an atlas that covers the tri-state area and tell them that they must stay within boundary until they have the license). Once they have a license, then I give them free reign. AP #1 drove about 6 hours away every weekend to a warmer beach destination, AP #3 drive up and down the East Coast – they were the most adventurous with the car. AP #4 took her mother to a beach destination and toward the end of her year returned to go camping with friends. AP #8 received, after the accident, a car curfew – after 2 distracted driving incidents, I didn’t want her behind the wheel of our car late at night.

If your AP is a good driver and has been working well, then why not reward her with the keys for a weekend camping trip. I would warn her that possessing alcohol is a felony, and it’s up to her to make sure that there isn’t any in the car (unless you have no concerns on that score). If she’s a so-so AP, then there is no need to reward her with the trip.

NNTexasHM June 15, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Oh thank you so much for asking this question – I spoke to an Au Pair candidate that asked about the use of the car and I said “the car is not available for road trips” and according to the responses on this thread it seems like it was in line with what a lot of host families do. If the gal arrives and she is just amazing and responsible and I’m willing to take the risk, I can always reconsider but I don’t want to mis set expectations.

Dorsi June 15, 2014 at 10:22 pm

We had a 22 year old Brazilian rent a car for a road trip (she was a non-driver for us — we didn’t need one, so I never saw her drive). She didn’t have any problems — other than getting pulled over for doing 75 in a 55 and talking her way out of the ticket.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 6:21 am

I would also consider what kinds of roads she will be on for this trip. I’d be less worried about my AP taking a road trip away from the city’s intersecting highways to a rural place than zipping downtown for an afternoon.

5kids=aupair June 16, 2014 at 8:15 am

We have always let our au pairs borrow the car for road trips. We have an extra car for the au pair, so there is no issue of needing it while they have it. They need to ask permission beforehand, though. Our APs have driven about 5 hours away. Most host families are not so generous, so the girls really appreciate the opportunity.

NJmama June 15, 2014 at 11:00 am

I let my au pairs use the car for personal use but generally limit driving to 15-20 miles. Our car also has a midnight curfew. We have always given the au pair the oldest car, and I usually use that an excuse as to why I would be uncomfortable with my au pair taking the car on road trips. Even if you have triple A, think of what it would be like if she got in an accident or the car broke down and she was four hours away.

That said we have made exceptions. We once had a 19 year old au pair who was a very good driver, and we would allow her to drive an hour away to spend the night with another au pair who didn’t have a car and who lived in the middle of nowhere. We’d also let her drive down, pick up the au pair, drive up to where we live and then drop her off.

However we did not allow her to do a road trip. Everyone is different about cars but I definitely tend to lean more conservative (I also learned my lesson. The one time we loosened our rules and let the au pair drive around before getting her state license she got into a car accident.) This is definitely one of those situations that forces you to think about how you would parent a teenager long before you ever thought you’d have to. If you are going to be worried about the car while she is away then trust your gut.

WestMom June 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

We also don’t let our AP take the car for road trips. Like NJMama, we have a car curfew too. Our APs have rented cars for longer trips as needed (we hire 21+ only, so car rentals have not been an issue).

I could imagine being more lenient for an awesome Au Pair who has proven to be an excellent, responsible driver to use our car while we are away on vacation, all expenses on her. We do have AAA and AP has her own card.

caring hp June 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

We also will not permit road trips or trips beyond our local area. Some of the reasons are:
1. We have been stuck with a car breakdown ourselves while out of town a few times and it cost a LOT more (like 600%) more for parts towing and labor than it costs at our local “mom and pop shop” mechanic at home where we know the owner well. I cannot take the risk of the financial burden of letting an AP take my car far away.
2. All our APs were worse or less reliable drivers a) on roads they dont drive daily/roads away from their local “comfort zone” (same goes for many non aupair adults but it is a particular concern for newer drivers in a new country and in a vehicle they dont own); and b) with buddies chattering in the car as one often has on road trips.
3. The ap car is our backup car so we need it occasionally and dont want it far away.
4. Per AAAs annual “cost of driving” study, every mile takes about 25c off a cars value or costs about 55-67 c a mile to operate depending on if sedan suv or van. I cant afford my car going on big ap trips.

HRHM June 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm

This describes us to a T. Our car is present first to allow our AP to transport our kids, second to allow our AP to get to classes and cluster meetings. Her use to get around town is a limited privilege (no more than 25 miles, back by midnight, she pays for gas beyond the aforementioned and she must have a US license) Our AP vehicle is now 10 years old and while a honda, it may go anytime. The one time current AP asked to take it on a road trip about 2 hours away, I reminded her that the check airbag light has been coming on (the mechanic can’t replicate or figure out why) and that if it broke down while she had it out of town that SHE would have to pay to have it towed back (I estimated it would be around $200) At that point, she decided to tell the other APs that I said no.
I might be willing to make exeptions on a case by case basis for the right AP to any of my rules…current AP screwed that up for herself by keeping the van out overnight while we were out of town. She knew we have a GPS tracker, not sure why it didn’t occur to her that the most likely time we would use it was while we were out of town, but when I did look at 2 am, there it was, out on the town. I sent her a text right then and there and it hasn’t happened again.

happyhostmom June 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Our AD advised us to not allow travel beyond the general area, just enough so she could get around town and neighboring towns to visit friends or Au Pair meetings or get togethers. I agree with it, as we live close to NYC and she can take a cheap train ride. there are also bus options to Boston, etc. We are very generous with the car though and pay for all the gas, even though she uses it for personal use and she doesn’t have a curfew, so I think other areas make up for it. one of our AP’s got in an accident and a PP was right about the cost of towng. Also I dont’ want to have a car I own driven with other people and if there is an accident, I’d be responsble.

WestMom June 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm

New question.

Any suggestions for arrival gifts for APs? After 6 years, I feel I could use a little inspiration. I usually bundle a streetwise map of the city, a KleanKanteen bottle to take to the gym or on excursions, a cute umbrella and a diary (which many have used to write recipes…). Any other ideas for useful gifts (aside from beauty products and sport team gear…)? We live in major metro where AP will do much commuting by train/walking.

Also, how much do you typically spend on arrival presents?

JenNC June 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I bought American things, some postcards, a local hat, shirt, American flag welcome balloons a banner, and lots of information.OHHHH I bought mine English study books, ones that are work books to work in and she loved them. Jen

Should be working June 15, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Umbrella, great idea!

I take our prettiest basket and load it with sample-size shampoos, conditioners, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, new toothbrush, floss, tampons, pads, pocket kleenex, maybe some fancy chocolate. I wouldn’t get anything else. Who knows what her tastes are–local t-shirts or designer clothes?

Repeataupair June 15, 2014 at 9:26 pm

The old navy T shirt for the 4th of July, as it has the year on it it’s a great present for Summer coming au pairs, and it is quite cheap ($5).

Taking a Computer Lunch June 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm

My city charges a bag fee for most shopping trip. I have been giving my APs a tote bag with their initials for a couple of years. They don’t seem to use it for shopping. Because we have a pool, I give incoming APs a swim towel with their name on it. They have loved it – not only do they use it for the pool, but also when they travel and stay at youth hostels.

If your AP will be commuting, why not load up a commuter card with $20 to get her started (DH usually helps the AP do this in person the first time he and child #2 take the AP into the city), so she can practice.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 7:33 am

I bought paints, brushes and flat canvasses for the AP whose application says 3 times that she enjoys oil painting. Also, umbrella and slippers from IKEA (since they will be lost soon anyway), a wall map of the US to mark/inspire travels, and a mouse pad and poster from Shutterfly with the family photos from her application.

TexasHM June 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

I usually do a basket of small toiletries and whatnot with our nearby theaters loyalty tshirt and cup (gets them free popcorn and drinks every visit) and something texas/local city. Now I’m going to start doing that American flag idea shared on the last thread!!

NewAupairL June 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm

New question.

I started to write my application and I see many girls doing letters to the families with the same pattern, not too long and not too much detail.
But my letter is huge! I’m trying to put all my experiences with details .
My question is: What do you think is the most essential to put in the letter and what is important only mention in the email.

thank you!

Maybe this can be a subject for a new post?

NBHostMom June 16, 2014 at 10:50 am

As a host mom, I really get tired of reading letters with the same pattern. They typically state: “I love kids”, “I have x experience” (with no detail), “I enjoy y” and “I am looking forward to an great au pair year”. By getting away from this, you’re definitely on the right track! Don’t worry too much about the length, but make sure the information is relevant, tell me lots about your childcare experience, your personality and interests/passions and how you spend your free time. Make sure the information is about you, not your best friend, siblings, parents or a geography lesson about your country. Some quick tips: be honest, don’t embellish and don’t tell me what you think I want to hear … if you show who you really are, chances are much better you’ll find a host family the really matches you :)

To answer your question more specifically, tell me enough that I can understand your experience without having to guess what it was really about. For example, there is a big difference between: “I ride horses” and “I ride horses twice a week and give lessons every second weekend to a group of 4 girls between the ages of 6-10 years old. I started riding when I was 8 years old and caring for horses and instructing children has given me a great sense of responsibility and enjoyment.” I’d say the second example is much more useful to understand who you are. However, if you start giving me a lesson in proper horse care, you’re entering the territory of not relevant information. You can also included sentences such as, “I’d love to tell you more about the lesson plans I developed for my riding students, if you’re interested”. This gives a hint that there is more to discuss but keeps your letter at a readable length.

LondonMum June 16, 2014 at 10:56 am

If you have loads of experience, maybe you could list them in bullet points so the HF can see at a glance what your experience is, and then underneath, go into detail about each job. Sometimes, for families that are reading a LOT of profiles, it can seem daunting to have a huge letter to read. Information up front and detail afterwards would encourage me to keep reading!

Say a bit about your family – how many siblings and if you are oldest/youngest and what you do at home to help around the house (if anything!). Something about your hobbies and interests, even things you want to do but have not had the time or opportunity for yet. It gives an idea of the type of person you are, but again, don’t go into loads of detail in the letter. It will give you something to talk about in email and Skype interview.

Some families want a LOT of detail, but usually in email, once they have shown an interest in your profile. Good luck!

Angie host mom June 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Details on the child care experience, and your own family life, any other work experience or living abroad experience. Show how you can be independent. Be upbeat if you have an upbeat personality. Think a little about your audience and what they want and need to know – and what will be a turn-off.

One letter I read described child care experience like this – to paraphrase – “I take care of my friend’s baby regularly so she can visit his father in jail. He is not guilty but is in jail for two years.”

Why is this such a bad thing to say in a letter? Because a host family isn’t going to get him out of jail! What on earth does the fact that he is in jail have to do with why they should choose you as an au pair? Because you are not judgmental about folks convicted of crimes? This is only a plus to a HF with a convicted felon in the house :-)

This is an extreme example, but a lot of au pairs sabotage their chances with HFs by putting things in their letters that really don’t belong there.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I would avoid talking about your culture’s traditional activities. Every AP from China has an application saying she enjoys calligraphy, tea ceremonies and traditional Chinese paper crafts. They don’t actually have an interest in these things, but they’ve done them before in school because it’s part of their cultural heritage. Understand that every applicant from your country may have these same activities listed and it gives the HF no information except that an agency coached you.

Just give accurate information about yourself – no one was going to hire you anyway because of these activities. Every applicant is an individual and the HF wants to get a sense of who the individual is. That’s what sets apart a great application from the rest of the pile.

WestMom June 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Personally, I think the photos count for a lot! It’s important to get all the right points across in the letter, but I think it’s equally important to pick the right photos. Photos with kids are great, but only if they look genuine. I see some profiles with tons of kids pictures that were clearly orchestrated on the same day (same kids, AP dressed in same clothes, etc.). I like to see photos of AP with her parents, siblings, grandparents. Photos titled ME! And ME AGAIN! without much context are not helpful. Photos of AP doing something she loves are great, like doing a sport.

As for the letter, I echo the previous posters. We pool from s single country we know well, so we don’t need the geography lesson. Tell us what you really like to do in your time off, not only ‘shopping’. And tell us why you want to come to America, not only because ‘it’s been your dream since you were little’ and ‘you like American TV and movies’. Very importantly for me, is how you think your AP experience will help you in the future? Do you want to master English for your future job? Do you want to spend a year with children because you think you may want to become a pre-school teacher? Or do you want to take a year off after school to gain some independence before starting in the workforce?

caring hp June 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm

NEW question:
Which agency do u feel is more realistic in briefing and training au pairs that au pairing is a 45 hour a week job with a lot of time spend with or doing things related to kids?
I am agency shopping. I get the impression interexchange is very “real” and trains or counsels aps to realize 45 hrs doing this per week is indeed a commitment. I get the impression some of the bigger agencies let the aps think they will be waltzing through pumpkin patches, disney and fun zoos or museums as part of their “typical daily life” and some aps get a terrible shock to realize smelly diapers or kids making mud pies are “daily life” but the other things are seasonal treats at most.
Or do the APs pick up the overly “rosy” impression from home country agencies? I often wonder if the home countries get big commissions from the $9000 + in annual, application and matching fees HFs pay and the large fees some APs have to pay and if this fosters a culture where home country agencies set APs up for a reality shock upon starting work.
If there are any APs reading this please share your views on how well your american or home country agency briefed you before registering and at Orientation or AP academy or Training.

Anna June 15, 2014 at 9:11 pm

I am starting to look for next year too ( I have lots of time so it is still very early). I really like GoAuPair. Now I am browsing both Interexchange and GoAuPair, and the second one gives me at least three times more available candidates for my search criteria, and the quality is impressive. I think the key is to look for a candidate who has real work experience and knows what work is.

Multitasking Host Mom June 15, 2014 at 10:04 pm

We have also used GoAuPair. Our best au pair came from there. She was a very hard worker. Plus, they had great customer service, I thought. Loved that I would get handwritten notes a few times during the year from the agency.

happyhostmom June 16, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I really like Au Pair Care. I like that their training is in person and not on video. Our area director is fantastic and I feel like the quality of au pairs is very high compared to other sites I’ve looked at. I researched agenices on aupaircleaning a few years ago, the top two for parent satisfaction are Au Pair Care and Go Au Pair. that being said, I’ve heard of horrror stories from every agency.

Repeataupair June 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm

The french agency never briefed me, i never heard of one doing it tbh.

HRHM June 15, 2014 at 9:39 pm

So how do you find out what the year will be like?

I’m just trying to figure out who is informing/misinforming all these APs?

Skny June 16, 2014 at 7:10 am

Agencies in the country I come from advertise Au pair program as an exchange program. You will learn English, have free room and board in a families house, have a chance to travel the country, and get a weekly allowance, and in exchange ALL you have to do is watch kids for 45hs and keep the kids things organized….

Repeataupair June 16, 2014 at 7:03 pm

Well in France we have a forum website for au pairs who go to the USA which is extremely informative and I have read many blogs before coming, that helped get a better picture, plus I am a camp counselor in France, I know what it is to take care of kids for 10 hours straight so I never had very bad surprises for now, but I have seen that many of my friends don’t realize what it is to take care of kids and not just baby sit (playing with the kids and look for activities VS telling the kids to play by themselves).

NNTexasHM June 15, 2014 at 10:21 pm

I have just signed up with Interexchange and I found some good candidates and a few who never responded or weren’t interested in my State and told me “no thank you”. I did appreciate that those with whom I spoke seemed to get the fact that this is a job and none expressed surprise that it is a 45 hour a week job with evenings on Thursdays and Saturdays – (except for the weekend they get off a month). When I asked “is the schedule clear” they all responded “yes” and “of course, those are your hours – it makes sense!” which I appreciated. Nothing is worse than an Au Pair who thinks the schedule is a “suggestion” or worse, they feign ignorance. I had that experience more than once with Au Pair in America.

WestMom June 15, 2014 at 11:06 pm

I have never had this problem with any of our APs (InterExchange). I do spend a long time interviewing and we do go through the sample 45hr schedule in detail. Our last 3 APs had very demanding jobs before coming here and our little 45hr routine seemed like a walk in the park for them. I think screening for girls who have had real jobs in the past would help alleviate this potential issue.

Also, 3 or our APs used the same small agency in France and were very happy with the local interview process. They said they took the time to explain everything in detail (2 were also registered with APC and felt their on-boarding was a bit more of a mill, with ‘coaching’ to be more appealing to families and with more pressure to match).

TexasHM June 17, 2014 at 10:55 am

This was a huge difference for us APIA vs interexchange. I sat and listened to my incoming and departing APs talk about this and the differences were SHOCKING. APIA AP said they were totally sold and she only got perspective because she did her homework and joined a lot of FB groups and blogs of APs already here. Said from her orientation she thought probably at least a third went into rematch within 8 weeks of arrival and huge orientation class (100ish). Interexchange AP said 30 in her orientation class and much lower rematch rate. There were still burnouts of course but she said they weren’t because APs didn’t know it was a job, that was crystal clear. In fact, if you look at the contract the agency makes the APs sign (you can see it in the system) it’s VERY clear that it’s not a vacation. You are there to work, must get approval for anything else and host family calls the shots. We matched with a polish AP for Nov and I asked her about all this (she too looked at multiple agencies) and she agreed interexchange was very clear. Said she had friends not get accepted by interexchange, went down the street to two other big agencies and they accepted them no screening. :(

DowntownMom June 17, 2014 at 11:18 am

Some of our Interexchange au pairs kept track of rematches, which were consistently around 25-30% of the orientation class. I am not sure how this compares to other agencies.

WestMom June 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm

We are with InterExchange too, and I guesstimate the rematch rate to be about 1 our of 5. Not scientific at all, but based on what I have heard from our APs over the last 5 years. I would love to get actual numbers from the agency, would anyone know?

I met an AP who just arrived last month (mid-May arrival), and when I saw her last week, she said 3 people were already in rematch out of a pool of 20 (actually one was sent home within 48hrs).

Skny June 15, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Topic: my new Au pair arrived Friday and I am already worried. Bad feeling all around. Even wrote a post. Anyway… The pressing question for the moment: she brought her iPhone from home. We give a basic phone. Since she arrived she has spent every second on it (when connected to wifi). She messages all the time. When we are talking to her, meal times, etc. I actually had to gently tell her to avoid texting on the table.
So I already gave her a schedule. When is the time to gently tell her to not even bring phone upstairs during work time tomorrow?
Also, I am still staying home for a month with her here (I initially was going back in a week). Tips on how to get her going right away are appreciated. I have a feeling she will stand back and be an expectatior

hOstCDmom June 15, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I think you tell her to keep her iPhone in her room, in a drawer, during all working hours… TONIGHT — before she is on duty tomorrow. Start as you mean to go on, then it is more like a neutral house rule, rather than a criticism of something she has done. You can say, I’ve seen that you brought your iPhone with you and like to use it, which is fine during off duty time (but not at the table), but at any time you are scheduled to be on duty, no matter what the kids are doing/not doing, your phone needs to be out of sight in your room.

hOstCDmom June 15, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Re getting her going right away….where can you go tomorrow morning with the baby? Go to the grocery store, or a neighbor, or Starbucks…or…or. But I would get out of sight, especially at the start of her schedule, every day this week. (But maybe not go toooo far, and go somewhere where you are reachable on your mobile!)

Skny June 16, 2014 at 7:15 am

Thanks for both ideas. I did tell last night to leave phone downstairs. I am also following your advice to go away from day one. I was actually planning on staying with her all the time all week. Changing that.

HRHM June 15, 2014 at 9:43 pm

I would also look into how to set “off” times on your wireless router. It depends on the router, but most have some way of either turning it off altogether or by MAC address for certain devices or by giving her the “guest” password and shutting just the guest one off during her work hours. If I remember correctly, your kids are pretty little and it will be easier to just remove temptation than to have to deal with it after she has let something bad happen while she’s not paying attention…

Skny June 16, 2014 at 7:13 am

Great idea, thanks. I am actually looking for a new router and will look for something that offers this. Kids are 11 weeks, 2yo and 4yo. My 2yo is a daredevil so this is a concern

CAHostMom June 17, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Just adding my 2 cents re: personal cell phone usage… We had a 19 y/o AP that lasted about 2.5 months (2 months too long in hindsight) and one of the biggest issues that we had with her was her use of her personal iPhone that she brought from Sweden. She was completely addicted to it. We made rules, had discussions, shut off the internet while we were away (which was a pain; but the only thing that worked). But after that, she spent all day texting back and fourth from the AP phone we provided with other APs (we verified by looking at the logs on the cell phone bill). Some APs just don’t get it and aren’t mature enough to respect rules (or just know better upon arrival). Pay close attention to how much time and effort that you are putting into managing the problems/immaturity. At some point it just isn’t worth it. My regret in our situation was how long I let it go on.

WestMom June 15, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Agreed that you need to set expectations about phone usage. We had this problem with one AP, and I am super clear about our rules for internet access and texting now. It has not been a problem since.
One note- I have noticed that our APs who ended up bringing or buying iPhones here, tend to not pay as much attention to OUR phone. They would either forget it or leave it off. I would also emphasize to your AP that she needs to carry and pay attention to the family phone at all times.

exaupair June 16, 2014 at 7:02 am

Not really at all times though? Family phone is for on duty only, so it’s fair to say that she could easily turn it off or not take it with her during her time off….
A for the time when she works, turn the wifi off so that she simply can’t use it when she’s with the kids. When’ if she brings it up tell her about your concerns.

NoVA Twin Mom June 16, 2014 at 7:20 am

I would say yes, all times. Because chances are she’s only running the “phone from home” on wifi to keep her costs down. Which means it works most everywhere she goes due fo the prevalence of free wifi. But if her car breaks down or she gets lost or somehow otherwise needs help while on the road, she’s going to need to call someone. While she can maybe call 911 for help without cell phone service, there’s a range of situations where a young woman would want help that don’t require police or fire department intervention. Such as “I don’t remember the name of the exit I need from the freeway” or, as our first two au apirs managed to do, “I know you warned me about this and even gave me cash to fill the tank, but I drove too far between gas fill ups and now the car is out of gas. What do I do now?” (For the record, the answer to taht is to walk to the nearest gas station if its safe to get a gas can and some gas, or if your host parents have added you to their AAA or roadside assistance contract to call them).

Most of the time when a host family wants an au pair to keep the family phone on them at all times its for the au pair’s safety/convenience, not so we can demand that tbe return to the house to work or something.

NoVA Twin Mom June 16, 2014 at 7:24 am

I will say that my answer might change if the au pair had an actual cellular plan on their “other” phone so it would work for calling. That has not been my experience though.

WestMom June 16, 2014 at 8:56 am

Our phone should be with her at all times. We both work in the city and AP is listed as one of the emergency contacts at school. This seldom happens, but if one child falls sick at school or there is early dismissal, it is likely that she will be the one who will need to pick up the kids (and we will readjust her schedule accordingly). Also, living around NYC and having lived through 9/11, the blackout of 2003, and other commuting disasters, I fully expected our AP to be reachable at all times in case of emergencies.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Our handbook says to carry the phone at all times. The Camel is capable of tanking at school, and the AP is usually the first person who can get there and decide a plan of action (hospital, doctor or home) by looking at her. However, we have had some APs who have liked to take long walks, and it’s then perfectly acceptable for her to call DH (who works at a desk) and say “The school called me, but I’m still over an hour from home, can you or HM go get her?” (Sometimes it’s not The Camel, but the fact that her school has no power or water that ends her school day.) Flexibility on this order is rewarded, but we’re up front – it’s part of the job.

HRHM June 16, 2014 at 4:01 pm

None of our APs have had cell service on their “home phone” so yes they need ours in order to have a working phone. We too would expect to be able to reach AP in off duty hours for emergency help with a sick kid, power outage at school, etc. In all honesty, I don’t think it has happened once in the 6 years we’ve had APs, but this flexibility is the reason we have an AP. And she needs to have her work phone with her in those cases.

Also, even if her “home phone” worked in the US, I would not be inclined to routinely have to call a German phone number (and pay long distance) to get ahold of her. I bet most of her AP friends use their “work phone” off duty and would feel the same way about paying long distance to get in touch as well.

CAcapitolHostMom June 16, 2014 at 7:09 pm

We had this same problem. And because we have two teenagers in our house, I can tell you, it’s not an au pair thing. It’s generational. You have to sit down the au pair and specifically tell her when and how and where she can use her phone. Many homes have cell phone baskets that kids have to put their phones in when they arrrive home. They can’t use their phones outside the basket until certain times or days. This is critical to teaching teens to open their eyes and look around. Since au pairs are basically older teens, I think it’s really important to sit down and demonstrate what is appropriate and what isn’t. Also, I’d consider printing a photo of a girl on a phone on a couch and showing her what that posture looks like to you. Explain that it feels cut off and not tuned in.

Skny June 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm

How about feedback on early training? How do you recommend delivery? On the spot at the time? Or later on the day?
I don’t want her to think I am picking or criticizing all she does, and we are on day two only. But there are things I see wrong and want to correct.
Examples today
– 2yo fell and hurt. She said: it was nothing, it was nothing…
I know it is common but in our household it is dealt different. It was something. She fell and hurt. I want my kids to trust their feelings. So instead we acknowledge: you fell and you are now crying. It must have hurt. I am sorry.
– 2yo was frustrated and started yelling. She closed her ears with her fingers.
None of it serious but we try to be respectful to kids. Do I tell at the time? Do I wait until night? Kids are 2 and 4.
Finally I got her a Portuguese copy of a great book on respecting kids and gentle parenting. Should I highlight important parts, should I assign time within schedule for her to read chapters?

hOstCDmom June 17, 2014 at 1:00 pm

My suggestion is to tell her in advance, today, that you will spend 20 min each evening this week to discuss the day. (Since you are home on mat leave still, perhaps you have the time to do this?) I would say “I know you will have lots of questions, and I will have lots of feedback for you. It isn’t criticism, but rather I will want to tell you what you did the way I like, and what you should do differently. I know you can’t read my mind, so I will simply tell you each day this week so that you can more rapidly adapt to how I need things done.” (I know you speak APs language, so this should be easily finessed. You can also even say DH and I have found this to be the best way to train our previous au pairs…true, or not.) Then, meet with her each evening, ask her if she has any questions, highlight something positive she did, and then simply tell her, “I noticed X, Y and Z and need you do them differently/respond differently etc.”

I think if you tell her in advance you will be giving such feedback each day, it will seem less like “criticism” and more like “training”.

WarmStateMomma June 17, 2014 at 6:46 pm


Taking a Computer Lunch June 17, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Ask her to give you time after the kids go to bed. The only time to discipline the AP in front of the kids is when she puts their lives in danger.

From what you described this AP sounds way in over her head – especially putting fingers her in ears to block out a child. That’s what strangers do on a train – not what people who are trying to care for a child do!

NewbieHM June 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm

How do you guys help AP feel more like part of the family without feeling like you are playing host 24/7 and also making sure she does what is required of her as an AP. We are expecting out second AP soon and we want to have a good start. Our first AP spent every non-working second inside of her room. On the weekends she would stay in there all day and only would come out to eat when we were not around. She didn’t have many friends which means she didn’t have a lot of things to do on the weekends. We tried asking her to join us for breakfast/lunch/dinner the first few weeks but she refused most of the time. Our LLC said she probably needed her own space so we stopped, we also got tired of having to extend invitations for every meal. One time we invited her to go out to dinner with us, she refused and decided to eat by herself at a fast food chain. Quite honestly it made us feel uncomfortable to have recluse in our house. Basically if she wasn’t on duty we wouldn’t see her even if she was in the house. Has anybody experienced this? Any ideas in case it happens again or how to avoid this in the future? I would also love to hear from other AP’s perspective. Thanks.

WestMom June 16, 2014 at 9:03 am

We really look for candidates who have strong family ties and give importance to family meals and celebrations. We also make a big deal of dinners. AP is actually responsible for one meal during the week and her hours overlap with dinner so we eat together every night. I think coming together around the table helps us create a strong bond with our APs and although we respect each other’s time alone, our APs definitely don’t feel like guests. Sounds like in your situation, lack of friends might also be to blame, but perhaps a few adjustments will make the next AP more comfortable around you.

LondonMum June 16, 2014 at 9:15 am

Have you told her about the facebook AP page that she can join – you just enter the zip code and it gives APs in your area. She may need some ideas of where to go out and what to do. Have any of your friends got APs that you could introduce her to? What about friends from her classes – maybe ask her about it? We had an AP that was exactly the same, she only went out 2 nights in the whole 10 months she was with us, we felt like she had wasted her year here as she didn’t even go to events or museums or sightseeing which was free.

Maybe put together a little welcome pack of local things to do and a travel card for public transport so she can get out and about. Think about the “top 10” things that people visiting your area would like to do/see. I would email the new AP now, before she arrives, and get her to check the facebook site relating to your area so she has some friends to see. If they socialise outside of the home, they are more likely to socialise with you and have stuff to chat to you about. Is there a downstairs area of the house that she could sit and read or something, to at least be in the same area as the rest of the family.

Maybe she thinks that if she joins you, you will ask her to do things for the kids and she wants her down time. I would make it clear that you understand her free time is her own but you want her to feel able to use the house as her own home, not necessarily joining you in an activity, but being around in the same space as any family member would be.

Having said all that, we could not persuade our AP to come out of her room either, that is why it lasted 10 months and not a year as it got to the point that it was just so uncomfortable and there was a constant feeling of tension in the house. I hope you have better luck with the new AP!

NewbieHM June 16, 2014 at 2:22 pm

We did all of those things. She also had an AP buddy assigned to her at first but she didn’t like her (she always found something wrong with the other AP). We tried to make sure we kept our kids away from her when she was off duty but sometimes it was hard, they are still toddlers and enjoyed being with her. During the week she would eat with us right after her shift, she would exchange a few words during dinner then as soon as she was finished eating she would say goodnight and leave. Anyways, the whole situation was weird even to our guests. Hopefully that was a fluke.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm

It’s just the AP’s personality and you can’t fix it, but the next one could be very different. Our current AP sticks to her room when she wants time to herself but also spends a lot of her off-duty time with us. It’s a really nice balance and your next AP may be just as awesome.

LondonMum June 16, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I think everyone gets at least one not so great AP, out of 6, we have only had one like that, and 2 fabulous APs. I guess it’s nearly over so you can chalk it up to experience and in your next search, ask them what they want to do with their free time at the weekend and evenings, look for an outgoing and chatty personality! As your kids get older, that will become more important, I know with young children it’s more important that they can be warm and caring towards them, but you need to feel comfortable too!

exaupair June 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Maybe you weren’t precise enough with your expectations with the “family member” part of the deal. If you would be more comfortable with someone who likes to hang out with you and the kids during their time off just say it next time.

DowntownMom June 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm

We do prefer APs like WarmStateMomma’s. The APs agree that they absolutely want this and give examples of how they will spend time with us. Some lied to us and some didn’t realize beforehand that they wanted minimal contact. I wish I knew how to screen for this! Especially because our current AP keeps a fantastic balance, and we are having a great year.

Angie host mom June 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I’m guessing it was a fluke. They are all different.

If you have the same thing happen with your next AP – then you really have to look at why. If not, just chalk it up to different personalities.

HRHM June 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm

With toddlers and babies, if AP is working 8-9 hours straight, I bet at the end of the day she was toast. I remember those days when my kids were that young and there were many days I would have loved to shut myself up alone! LOL.

It does sound like a personality issue with your AP though, since she didn’t want to be with friends either. Overall an awkward fit that will hopefully not be repeated with your next AP.

Skny June 16, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I agree. if I can’t wait some nights for my girls to go to bed so I can be off for a while, I can only think an Au pair after a long day. It is actually easier to hang out with the kids off time as they get older. I watched triplets from ages 3 to 6, and it was def more fun to spend my time off with them as they became olders (and let’s face it, started really following instructions, etc).
Also keep in mind that most Au pairs do honestly come wanting to fully be part of the family, but once they arrive, they may realize they need time off/alone. Happens a lot. So I don’t think Au pair was purposely deceiving hp.
And again, I have had days with my own kids where id gladly lock myself in a room for a whole weekend… And they were my own loved kids…

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 9:52 am

Our first AP went everywhere I went, and only went out 3 times without me all year. She joined us for meals, but it was often awkward to have a reclusive shadow (odd combination). I have no advice for you on this issue, but I hear you on how awkward it can be. And such a shame for a young person to waste a year of their life in a foreign bedroom instead of exploring and growing….

LondonMum June 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

WSM I can relate to “reclusive shadow”, always at my shoulder but not speaking or being sociable – weird!

Caring HP June 16, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Yes, we have had this happen for a few reasons. It has ALWAYS left the AP and HF jaded and more tense because the AP gets cabin fever eventually and/or gets more focused on trivial or petty household matters that can lead to tension. Generally we find when an AP is out and about shopping, exploring, hiking, exercising, at coffee shops or whatever, they come home invigorated, fresher and with a more open mind and their world has gotten bigger than just the HF household so the HF household ‘petty/trivial’ matters are diluted. Most AP and non-AP adults would get bored or frustrated or grumpy if they confine themselves and dont get out and about.

As we have grown as Hosts, we developed a toolkit of ideas for APs who are slow or shy to get out of the house for various reasons. We try to be upbeat and not make it seem like we are kicking the AP out – we are not – we just know from experience that past APs have been so much happier and less homesick when they saw new things and met new people. Samples of these reasons and tools are below:

– For v young and seemingly shy APs we talk to their Parent at home for ideas and support.
– We explain to the AP in our essay that we feel it is good for HPs, HKs and AP to have a break from each other no matter how much they like each other. It makes the relationship stronger/better. To support this, we coordinate schedules with the AP to help her get 3 night weekends once or twice a month instead of 2 nights so she can travel or explore more and pick and choose from cheaper ticket choices; or we try and re-schedule any weekend work time she is scheduled for if we know it would interfere with a trip opportunity that weekend..

– we and the kids love to hear about the AP filling her treasure bank of memories so we try to ask about their adventures and build the excitement

– When APs say they have no money to travel, we help them learn about ways to book early and get super cheap luxury bus trips, or find (and split cost with friends) of lower cost hotel rooms in safe areas of destinations; we lend tents and show them how to set them up and find local Federal & State parks that charge as little as $35 a night per campsite for up to 8 people!! $4.37 a night per AP…. some of the parks even have free camping nights for beginners or people who volunteer a few hours for park programs; etc

– if an AP says she has no friend to travel with to a specific destination we share suggestions from our past APs adventures about visiting AP friends there or staying at a youth hostel and asking the LCC to connect her with the LCC there so she can attend a cluster gathering or informally meet APs living there

– on occasion we’ve coordinated with other HF friends and taken each others APs to museums etc because as they say ‘a change is as good as a break’ – an AP might not want to go to the zoo with her own HF as she is tired of them, but she might find it fun to go to the Zoo with another APs HF… (word of warning, that philosophy applied to our kids too and they ignored our AP on outings and loved the visiting AP because she gave them loads of attention as they were a new novelty to her (and visa versa) and then our AP got jealous and took it out on us….)

-we buy museum memberships for our family and upgrade them to the kind that give you guest passes and we try to give APs and a buddy passes or bring them along with us on weekends so they ‘see something’ new. We tell them they are not working and are free to hang with us, or head off with the buddy and catch up with us for the ride home. Some museums or community facilities will let you add a ‘household’ member or ‘childcare’ provider to your membership for a small or no fee too and it helps penny-wise APs to have these ‘free’ passes/tickets.

– for a very religious AP who was shy we helped her discover a few different local churches to help her find one she liked; we tried to connect her with neighborhood friends of the same religion and those friends tried to find her local teens her age in the same religion (she remained too shy to make a go of that)

-for another AP who had some specific interests and was very shy we tried to connect her with the other AP clusters in the area via the LCCs and send around an email to the Agency people in the area asking them if they knew APs in neighboring clusters with the same specific hobby

– we have hosted small parties at our house for birthdays or AP arrival week or combined departure parties for outgoing and welcome parties for incoming parties so the new person the met former persons friends; and invited APs from the neighborhood who were around her age-group soon after she arrived so she felt like she was meeting them on home turf

– we had one extreme penny-wise AP who would not spend a PENNY and I mean a PENNY because she wanted to buy a certain treat for a person in her life that was SO expensive. She would lie to her AP friends and say she would not go out because she didnt have the car keys (incorrect) or was sick (incorrect) in case they would put her in a predicament of going to Cheese Cake Factory where she would have to pay her share of the meal or buy a coke. It was maddening because even if we gave her extra money to go out as a treat, she pocketed that too to put it towards the gift. With her, we started to give her small gift cards for local places (ice cream parlors, movie theater, local concerts) or tickets we got through memberships. They were “use or lose” cards/tickets so in line with her ‘penny-wise’ mentality she did indeed go out with friends to use them thank goodness – and was in much happier form afterwards (much to our delight as it made our life less tense too).

– Our very conservative AP would make a new friend, be all happy for a week or so and then shut down on the friend if they friend showed interest in parties or people that had any involvement with drinking or dating. I think her parents were very involved in her life via skype and were pushing her to avoid such ‘people’. We had to try and counsel her that she could still meet the other APs in non-drinking environments like Zumba class; or book clubs and that didnt mean she had to join APs for the drinking/dating/singles bars parts of their lives. We also talked to the LCC offline and asked her to help us identify APs with similar conservative views and in fact she became good friends with one of them thankfully. With her, we invited her to wholesome type family activities (family festivals, BBQs etc) with us sometimes and she seemed to enjoy that. She seemed re-charged in the days after any such event. (The problem was our kids didnt want me always inviting her along because like many Host Kids, on Saturday/Sunday they want their parents to themselves if the kids and HPs have been busy Mon-Fri and not seen enough of each other.) That AP seemed to classify herself as introverted/somebody who did not like going out. However, I think she was somebody who loved meeting people (in such family-friendly environments) and it was lovely to see how re-charged and invigorated she was after such events. She would never have classified herself as social but we and all our friends and neighbors felt she was so cheerful and social and wonderful company….

We’ve had the outgoing and ‘dawn party animal’ kind too:)

NewbieHM June 16, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Wow, thanks for all these are great ideas! I’m definitely copying some them next time. I hope our next AP can find a good balance and have a great year. They come all the way here and spend a year in the US they should try to go to places and make lots if friends. We offered her tickets, didn’t give her a curfew, gave her the car with gas included. Most of the time she went to the mall on her own and when she did go out with friends she was back at 10:30pm or so, it was very sad. Hopefully our next AP will make better use of her year.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Our handbook explicitly invites AP to eat dinner with us every night, not as a part of the job, but as family time. It goes on to say that every night is not a requirement, but that I expect the AP to eat with us at least 2x per week. I really find that sharing meals makes a difference in the relationship. Our previous AP stopped eating with us after a visit home (she was really homesick). I could definitely feel a shift in the relationship after that. I dont think it was because she wasnt eating with us, but not having that family time together didnt allow us the chance we could have used to help thongs along.

Skny June 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

I agree Au pairs who go out, travel, make friends make happier Au pairs.

AussiePair June 17, 2014 at 12:08 am

I actually have no input into how to fix this, but I will say, as an au pair the one thing that I’ve found to bring about homesickness, is idleness. After just having the slowest weekend in a long time, I’ve had a tough couple of days (missing home, feeling down), and I can honestly say that 90% of it is because I wasn’t busy…

The more you can encourage your au pair to get out the better, although you can’t help a person that doesn’t want help, so a big part of it is personality..

NZ HM June 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Great suggestions! I also agree that in the end it’s personality which you can screen for during matching but can’t change once they are with you. Much like London Mum and NewbieHM, we had one AP, who was hiding in her room most of the time, we found the entire living situation becoming uncomfortable for everyone incl. her, which is why she left prematurely, out of her own accord. It turned out she lacked some basic social skills (simple ones, like saying ‘thank you’ after we hosted a lot of her AP friends for her birthday, funnily the AP friends all thanked us for having them…) and had serious family issues back home. She couldn’t or didn’t want to adapt to what we consider normal family life (so this one could have been avoided with more rigorous screening and the right questions – lesson learned!) and in the end we just stopped making offers and suggestions or inviting her along to outings. Clearly a personality thing.

On the other hand, some APs are shy or reserved and really benefit from suggestions and being helped and pushed out of their comfort zone. Others yet might stay home for different reasons and not be willing to accept help. We had the stingy AP, the lazy AP, the ‘I’ve done one weekend trip and seen it all’ AP, the ‘yeah, but…’ AP, the AP who didn’t want to mingle with other APs and the socially awkward AP – none of them could be motivated to head out and explore no matter how many suggestions, neither with us nor friends/ other APs. At some point you just give up and hope for better luck next time…

Repeataupair June 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I am trying to find some orginial projects / activities to do with the kids, any ideas you’ve seen previous au pairs doing ? (kids are 6 (does not read, girl, crafty) and 8 (likes being out, boy). I am looking for things they will both enjoy and maybe a project that could be taken on three weeks or so. I have already made some research and started a list of ideas of outsides games and inside ones (for rainy days) but I am always open to suggestions.

Thank you very much if you have any, one last week of school !

Dorsi June 15, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Are you on Pinterest?? — there is a ton of great stuff there. Some of the agencies even maintain accounts you can follow.

Repeataupair June 16, 2014 at 7:05 pm

I have looked through it but I wanted an au pair point of view since we cannot freely buy anything that is needed or such.

AussiePair June 16, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I’ve done a lot of treasure hunts so far, although any “prizes” I’ve bought with my own money, I’m sure my HPs wouldn’t mind paying, but I like to buy a little treat now and then (it’s usually just a small piece of candy, and some cheap little toys; $1 glow sticks, stickers etc.)

I have a 6 yr old and a 3 yr old, the 3yr old needs to read the number on the back of the clue, and the 6 year old needs to read the clue out loud (this is helping both of them to practice word and number recognition etc.). I also draw up a map , and if they don’t get the answer to the next hiding place from the clue alone they can refer to the map, most of the clues rhyme and don’t specifically point on the location so it’s also good for their problem solving. I’ve also started adding in actions that they need to do (like hopping to the next clue, or dancing before moving on). And they think it’s hilarious when I hide the clue in a “funny” place, like sticking it under the kitchen table or in the oven.

It does take a bit of preparation, but it’s totally worth it..

Other ideas are “I spy” walks, either in the neighborhood or the backyard , just draw / write a list of things for the kids to find. You could even give them a little point and shoot camera (if you have one available) and get them to take pictures of the things they find.

As Dorsi said Pintereast is a great resource! I’m mostly pinning things for younger kids, but if you want to give me your email I can link you to my board.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Awesome ideas! Your host family must love the effort you’re making to engage their kids!

HRHM June 16, 2014 at 10:32 pm

I’m totally impressed and would give my right arm for an AP who puts this kind of effort into her work! Maybe I’ll send my new AP to pinterest with the assigment to put together one cool activity a week.

AussiePair June 17, 2014 at 12:03 am

I’d also suggest talking to your HP, if you have an activity in mind, let them know you need x, y and z for the activity. In my experience parents are more than happy to spend a few dollars on art supplies if it means their kids are happy and engaged, plus you can get fairl cheap supplies for these things at Michael’s and Target etc. just stick to the clearance stuff.

Also thought of two more potential activities.,,

You can head out and collect rocks (satisfies the boy), and then turn them into pets and use old shoeboxes to make homes for them (crafty for the girl) and/or, turn jars into habitats for bugs and go collect bugs )I haven’t yet met a child who doesn’t think this is awesome. And seeing as your children are a bit older you could turn it into a research project, they can find out what type of biug they caught, find out what it eats and what it’s environment is like, they could either do this in the internet, or even better take a trip to the local library and spend the day looking through bug books!! And then maybe even go to a nearby zoo or museum to learn even more (if they have bugs/you have access to a place like this).

I hope you find something to entertain them both this summer, good luck!

WarmStateMomma June 17, 2014 at 7:51 am

AussiePair – Will you be our au pair next year?

AussiePair June 17, 2014 at 8:15 am

Haha, I’m actually in my second year, if you’re looking in 3 years time though… Might reapply for the repeat program lol

American Host Mom in Europe June 18, 2014 at 8:10 am

AussiePair – I’m not in the US, so no restrictions — want to be my au pair? I love your ideas! Thanks for sharing!

EU.AP June 16, 2014 at 8:33 am

Try searching some kid science experiments. Google “scuba diver bottle experiment” then go to the first link. It’s time consuming, and once you’re finished the kids have a good time making the diver float and sink. The 6 y.o. May have problems getting it to work, though, as it takes some strength.

YouTube has kid friendly science experiments also. I would search on my off time, because I would actually show the video to the kids, as it was a good “hook”, but I wanted to know what I was showing to them first.

Card tricks! Some card tricks are based on math (very simple arithmetic) so if you search YouTube you can find some good ones, and take some time learning/practicing on your own. You can teach the 8 y.o. and then he can show off to his little sister and parents.

Pinjatas have also been a good one in the past. It takes a few days, and gets REALLY messy. I try to find things other than candy to put in them, just little toys found around the house (mcdonalds happy meals). I’ve found that girls have been more into decorating, and boys into destroying. Even the non crafty kids have enjoyed this.

Repeataupair June 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

Thank you for all of your suggestions, I like your scavenger hunt, I have started to build one as well that is based on pairs (I hide drew hats and cow boy boots all over, one of each color and they have to find the green one, pair them up and memorize where they’ve seen the other, then I give the next color, etc), I have done it before in camps and it’s always a big success. I’ll try yours as well I think.
I will also make kites with the kids and I have started to build my own water games for outside.
Other ideas, I know I was the one asking for some but if what I have can help others:
– Create your own liquid chalk
– Do a few science experiment (try putting ivory soap in your microwave !)
– Make your own pop sicles (we did watermelon by putting it in the mixer, smoothies and also orange juice + pieces of fruits)
– do obstacle course
– balloon races (put string in the house , tape a balloon to a straw that has the string through it, blow, let go !)
– Create fun targets for the water guns…

Dorsi June 15, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Wow. We were in this same situation a few months ago — end of orientation weekend and she spent all of her time texting and little time learning. Texting while I was driving her places, texting at the table. She had our smart phone and her own and she just went back and forth between the two. I dealt with it pretty quickly, including involving the LCC. It never got really better — she was more discreet about it, but she was never present with us. When we had the rematch conversation, she was totally unmoved and seemed happy to be going home.

I would strike fast and furious. I would also leave her with the older child right away. If this is going to fail, you want to know as soon as possible — we could not find an incountry infant qualified rematch and had to go out of country.

HRHM June 15, 2014 at 9:53 pm

Yes, I have to say, this is a bad harbinger…

I remember when you originally posted about being home longer than expected and how to make sure that didn’t impact her start. Now it seems like maybe it’s a good thing, since she doesn’t sound like much of a “self-starter”. I would sit her down tonight or first thing tomorrow and let her know that a) her iphone and the work phone are off limits for texting and surfing during work hours (unless she is sending you cute kid pictures or necessary questions) and that you are fully capable of checking and WILL be spot checking to verfiy that she is complying (I’m of the mid that I would rather warn them off than catch them rule breaking) and b) that in your family/our culture, it is considered rude to bring your smartphone to the table or be on it while you are supposed to be engaged in a conversation or event with physically present people.

Maybe the other APs can weigh in on this – is it acceptable in your homes and countries to ignore the people around you in favor of your phone? Including your boss while he/she is talking to you? I understand that off duty time is your own, but there has to be a sense of putting your best foot forward at least in the beginning.

exaupair June 16, 2014 at 7:25 am

Yes, it is “acceptable” i.e. you won’t be punished if you ignore everything and everyone. However, the common courtesy is a different story. It’s always better to acknowledge people around you, although technically you are “allowed” not to.

Am I allowed to ignore my boss? During my off time absolutely, and it can’t be held against me. Although asking the AP this is pointless and in contradiction with what people say about this program. Within the “family member” spirit of the program HP is not exactly my boss.

exaupair June 16, 2014 at 7:39 am

Forgot to add, it’s exactly what HRHM said above, ignoring people around you is a sign of really bad manners. So if you don’t mind being branded a rude prick you can get away with treating people like if they were invisible.

Emerald City HM June 16, 2014 at 12:44 am

I wish I had a microaffirmation right now. Today’s kind of a tough one for me.

So what do you do about family that rarely comes to visit and is essentially jealous of the au pair? My mom is coming to visit about 3 weeks after our new au pair arrives and she has already requested that she wants to do something sans au pair. She blames our first au pair for not being able to bond with our daughter. It one of those situations where I really wish she would look at her own actions, but you know I can’t make someone see their own issues even when they are clear as day to me. Yes I fully admit my walls are like a safe around her, which I do realize probably inhibits the whole bonding thing.

So do I ask the au pair to make herself scarce that weekend with an extra day off fully knowing she might not have many friends yet? Do I find an activity for her to do and buy her ticket? Any other ideas? Do I just let the cards fall wherever they do?

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 6:31 am

We had a similar situation when my MIL came to visit 3 weeks after AP#2 arrived. I told AP#2 that MIL doesn’t get to see the little one often and that they needed time to bond. I told MIL that I didn’t want the new AP to spoil the baby the way grandmothers are allowed to, so I’d given AP#2 the time off (so the AP wouldn’t witness/adopt all the rule-breaking). AP#2 was actually still on duty but spent her on-duty time upstairs watching movies, etc., while MIL got to wrangle the baby without assistance/interference. I had the piece of mind that the AP was available if needed; MIL got her bonding time and the AP got to relax. Everyone was really happy with the situation.

Dorsi June 16, 2014 at 4:53 pm

Can you plan some activities for just your mom and child? I know that might not be easy. Some grandmas can go out to the zoo for the afternoon with the littles, some can’t.

Most of my APs have been well established by week 3 to find something to do on the weekend if they are off. Depending on the AP, you may even be able to be quite frank — explain that your mom feels threatened by her easy and close relationship with your daughter and you need her to give them some time alone. You can always send your AP to my house for a play date!

HRHM June 16, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I am honest with each of my APs about the good/bad/ugly about any visits with the grandparents. My Mom is useless and quite frankly a little frightening, as is MIL. But at least my Mom is kind and polite with the AP. I ask AP to be on duty and just hang back because I can’t really trust the GMs to actually safely care for my kids, although as the kids age it’s becoming less of an issue. I also warn AP that my MIL will be downright rude and mean. On arrival, I openly, in front of AP, tell MIL that AP is not a servant and is to be treated kindly and with respect, and that if there is any AP bossing to be done, it will be done by me, not her. Yes, I have given this speech many years in a row, and no, it doesn’t help. But at least everyone knows that I’m aware of what’s going on and not happy about it. And hopefully AP feels empowered a little bit with MIL because she knows my position.

Should be working June 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm

HRHM, I love that you say that so plainly in front of both of them.

My father can be very controlling with the AP, I warn them and ask them to take it with a grain of salt, and let her know that she, the AP, is my right-hand-gal and try to be a team with her.

My AP ends up also traveling with my extended family for 1-2 trips a year. Usually to a fabulous place and a luxurious setting, but those people are nuts and I’d rather skip the whole thing if I could.
Some APs enjoy the trip and can easily deal with the relatives, others have been gritting their teeth.

Momto3Americans June 16, 2014 at 1:45 pm

New question…. What is the best way to distribute the weekly family schedule and AP hours? I find myself scribbling them down on a scrap of paper then taking a photo with my phone before I give it to AP. I am not the type to have a perfectly accurate weekly calendar on the fridge but do keep some of the important things in a google calendar… Anyone use an online calendar to schedule the AP and the kids activities??


WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I just have a monthly calendar and add her work days, family events, her AP events, etc. TexasHM uses an app called Cozi and you can search for her comments on that.

NJ Mama June 16, 2014 at 2:09 pm

When I was with AuPairCare, they had this great excel sheet that you could download and save. It let you list the ap’s working hours each day and automatically tallied up the hours for each day and then for the week as well. There were even two start and stop times for each day so you could log in that your ap worked from 6 am – 9 am, and then from 3:30 pm to 7:30 pm. It also had a space for notes for mornings, afternoons and evening, so you could write down different kid activities, and also an additional section at the bottom of the scheduled hours where I would often note changes to the schedule. Every Sunday I would update last week’s schedule for the upcoming week, and for my last au pair I would email it to her, but for most of them I just posted it on the fridge. It was a great way for all of us to keep track of what the kids were doing each week. I wonder if this is something that someone from APC would share? It’s a fantastic tool. Otherwise I would get one of those gigantic monthly calendars and write everything down so the ap and kids could see, but I’d always forget to write in pencil and I’d was scribbling things out constantly. The excel sheet is the way to go.

Should be working June 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm

I absolutely use Google Calendar and create an AP calendar (in addition to calendars I own for kids, school, and house/dog) that I own and control, and share with her and DH, and use to show her her hours.

In addition I write a weekly email on Friday before the new week, listing the events of the week and noting any unusual items. This is good because sometimes the AP writes to me to correct something or note a discrepancy between my email and the Google calendar.

WestMom June 16, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I use Google cal too, religiously. I set up multiple cals which are shared with DH and AP. I set up APs hours so the hours are recurring week after week, and I adjust weekly based on special activities, nights out, etc. I find that it’s a great way to have everything in one place, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Once AP arrives, I help her set up a Google account and load the calendar for the first time either on her laptop, iPhone, or other. I used to also print out the weekly Google calendar and put it on our cork board, but I stopped this year. I just ask that they review the calendar over the weekend.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 16, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I don’t use Google calendar because I don’t trust Google with my family information, quite frankly. I buy a wall calendar with a pretty picture and big boxes with space for writing. I put the AP’s hours on top of the box, then come activities that are unusual for the day: a doctor’s appointment, a birthday, a school, event, a HP working late – which are circled so they stand out to the AP. Finally, I put the routine events at the bottom – usually kid events that happen every week – ballet lessons, Boy Scouts, etc. In the weeks they don’t happen, I write “No Scouts.” Now that my kids are older, everyone can look at the calendar and see what is happening. Child #2 is fond of writing things like “Make ice cream sundaes.”

Should be working June 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Do you mean in terms of surveillance issues, or in terms of advertising marketed to you? I don’t like either concept (not that my family’s life is of much interest to the NSA, but still), but the product is so useful I caved.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm

We were so excited about Google calendar, but the AP’s computer and smartphone are from China so she can’t access it (no Google or FB in China).

HRHM June 16, 2014 at 5:31 pm

CC will send you a book with a weekly log on each page with spaces to fill in the dates. I used to get it automatically but now you have to ask your LCC to order one for you. We keep it on the kitchen counter and use it for all sorts of reminders, notes, menu stuff, etc. I also use Google calendar, but more for myself. I don’t think AP actually looks at it although she has access.

Should be working June 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I also like Google calendar because it puts more of the onus on the AP to figure out what she needs to be doing or planning. If I’ve blocked out 9am-5pm childcare with my 9-yr-olds, it’s her problem to figure out whether to get a playdate or plan an outing. Or if she sees that DH and I have a concert planned for a certain Fri night, she knows she can’t plan to be out that night. And when I’ve had an AP come to me with a blanket, “Can I have Friday night off?” when the calendar shows that HPs are going out, I can say, “Tell me what you see on the calendar; tell me what you want; and suggest ways to make it work”. One AP found this totally illuminating and helpful.

CAcapitolHostMom June 16, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Color-coded Google calendars. Also, printing the week on the fridge (that’s more for your husband than your au pair).

SingleHM June 16, 2014 at 11:12 pm

I have a dry erase board that I bought at Office Depot a few years ago. It was a sticker one and I put it on the back of the garage door (it’s about 15″ x 20″). Every Sunday I put the schedule for the week on it, along with weather and any other ‘need to knows’. It’s helpful and works for me/us.

I also have a Google calendar that I map out further, but none of my au pairs really used it much. They don’t plan that far ahead. :)

SingleHM June 16, 2014 at 11:14 pm
A.L. Lovely June 16, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I asked a question awhile ago in an open thread about whether it was acceptable for Canadians to be au pairs in the U.S. and everyone was very helpful with their answers.

Now I’m wondering if there is a big difference in how much each agency charges an au pair. The very first agency I contacted was Au Pair Care and after filling out form to request more information they sent a brochure which stated that cost to join was 1400-something. Are all agencies similar in that price or are some much cheaper than others? Does any one know how much Au Pair In America asks for? I thought about agency shopping but if they’re all pretty similar then I’d rather just narrow it down to those two I mentioned.

HRHM June 17, 2014 at 8:25 am

you might be better off asking this question on an AP facebook group or two. I imagine that each agency in each country charges a somewhat different price but that within a country (whatever the local market will bear), they don’t differ wildly, since they are competing for the same women/men. If you are only interested in finding out what APIA charges in your area, you might as well just call them directly and ask.

For better or worse, there is not a lot of transparency when it comes to agency operations, including costs. HPs only know what our APs tell us about the overseas partners, many of whom are not even truly part of the agency but rather contracted third parties.

A.L. Lovely June 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

See I kind of thought that too at first about most agencies not differing significantly but still wanted to be sure. I think I’ll just keep it simple and contact APIA to compare to APC.

happyhostmom June 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Topic: I had a potential au pair candidate recently send me a friend request through Facebook. I interviewed her three years ago and really liked her, but after speaking with her a few times, I didn’t think she had enough childcare experience that matched my family needs. She was a sweet girl and I was honest with her about it and she took it well. My question is do I accept it? I feel weird if I do or weird if I don’t. I already have an au pair that is staying until next year.

HRHM June 17, 2014 at 8:29 am

It really depends on you FB “style” Some people are only FB friends with people they know and have a pre-existing relationship with (me). Others have several thousand friends, many of whom they have never and will never actually meet. I often become FB friends with APs while in the matching process, but when the match doesn’t occur, I “unfriend” them, as I don’t know them well and don’t really want them and all their friends looking at my pictures, etc. I do stay FB friends with my former APs and it’s a great way for them to keep up with my kids and us with them after they’ve moved on. I find it mildly strange that this was 3 years ago and NOW she’s trying to friend you. If it was me, I would just ignore…

LondonMum June 17, 2014 at 10:51 am

I agree with HRHM, we have similar FB styles but actually I won’t friend an AP before they arrive as I don’t want someone I haven’t met looking at my stuff. I’m sure its a good way for them to get to know your personality but it wouldn’t sit well with me. I do send them up to date photos and let them know what we have been up to, but that is by email. I do friend most APs on FB once I get to know them (although, one I didn’t as I really did not want to keep in touch!) and it is a really good way of keeping in touch once they have gone. 3 years is a long time and I would also just ignore

Taking a Computer Lunch June 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

As a matter of policy I don’t friend candidates or current APs. I figure it’s too much information. I do friend past APs and have found it’s the best way to stay in touch with them. I don’t put many family photos on FB (child #2 who is a privacy nut forbids it – he keeps putting work-arounds on my computer to prevent corporate spying).

My advice. Ignore it. I have friend requests that I have ignored for years.

WestMom June 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

I don’t accept request from candidates, except the ones we match with. We do have a ‘family FB page’ which I use to connect to APs when I am in search mode. APs click ‘like’ on our page and that’s a good way for me to stay in touch. Short of that, if you really want to stay in touch, you could simply say that you keep your facebook page for close friends and family but send your email address for future contact. You could also redirect her to your LinkedIn profile. Most people I know are a bit moe flexible on who they connect with on there…

Dorsi June 17, 2014 at 11:10 am

Without hesitation, “no”. This is not a person you have a relationship with or will build a relationship with. There is no reason for her to know more about you and you don’t want to know more about her (or get her Candy Crush Saga requests).

Sometimes people let Facebook comb through their email contacts and send requests to everyone they have ever emailed. She may not even realize that she has sent a friend request to you.

happyhostmom June 17, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I think I am going to ignore. Wasn’t sure If I was being mean by ignoring. Good advice. thank you. Also as a matter of policy, I have never friended currenty nannies or au Pairs. My current au pair wouldn’t mind, as she has told me, but I told her we could do it after she leaves. She lives with me, and we have no trust issues, so no need to do it.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 17, 2014 at 7:06 pm

As a general matter, I search for prospective au pairs on FB to see 1) if there’s any immediately obvious reason to walk away, 2) any little glimpses of their personality, and especially if it confirms their presentation in e application, and 3) just how loosy-goosey they are with privacy settings. If you’re considering accepting, you could check out her page first, and see if she seems crazy. Since you liked her a lot during the process, you might find that you want to accept the request, and maybe restrict what she can see on your page. Im not a person who has unlimited FB friends ive never met, but I do like it as a low-key way of connecting with a people I like, but dont have time/ interest for ongoing formal communication. For example, I love being able to see what’s happening with old friends from elementary school, as long as it’s through an effortless FB post, and not expending any real effort, lol! I havent run across any former prospective au pairs that i’d be interested enough to friend, but it’s possible. Also, when I go on Skype, the names of all the former prospectives with whom I’ve skyped pop up, so I could imagine that happening to someone and them saying “I wonder how X family is doing” and deciding to reach out in the least intrusive way possible. Just a thought.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 17, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Oh, also it’s not mean to ignore. It’s just a part of life on FB!

exaupair June 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Some people are what I would call “friend collectors”. They will add just about anyone who they have seen at least once in their lives.
I would either ignore or delete her friend request, which I think will also forbid her adding you again.

CanadaHostMom June 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I’m wondering how well others get to know their au pairs before they arrive. We had lots of great conversations with our next au pair during the matching process, but now conversations have fizzled out. She doesn’t arrive until September and I feel I’m running out of excuses to email her once every few weeks to check-in. In my mind, I’d love for her to become a pen-pal with my oldest child before she arrives, with the hope of making the transition a bit easier. She is slow to respond to emails as she agonizes over her written English, during matching she shared this concern and her preference to Skype. How do others handle this waiting period? Should I just float along with occasional emails? Or should I push the situation forward? Any creative ideas to get some casual conversation between her and the kids going without being too pushy?

Should be working June 16, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Funny, I have always tried to maintain some distance between kids and incoming AP until she arrives, especially if the current AP is beloved–because then the kids will go out of their way to find something they DO NOT LIKE about the new AP. This is the first time I’ll have my son dictate an email to me for the AP, because he isn’t much feeling the love with our departing AP. My daughter loves departing AP, so I’m letting that wait until the new AP arrives.

I feel like it’s hard to build anything before the AP is actually here, unless there is some specific talent or interest I can get the kids excited about. When she arrives–usually with gifts in hand–and the other AP is gone, it makes a nice splash and I like to start off on that note.

HRHM June 16, 2014 at 5:33 pm

You also need to recognize that she is probably going to be focused right now on enjoying her summer with her friends and gearing up to say goodbye. I would let her have her space and just let her know that you are still around if she needs anything or has questions.

WarmStateMomma June 16, 2014 at 5:52 pm

We matched 4 months prior to arrival. Some weeks we emailed a few times, some weeks we didn’t communicate at all. I sometimes found a pretext to email her to keep communication going, but 2-3 weeks of silence seemed ok too.

Pretexts I used: forwarding info to prepare her for the driving exams, forwarding links to Amazon and Target so she could get an idea of what to pack and what to buy here, sending an e-card for her country’s biggest holiday, asking about what food to have on hand for her first meal or two here, asking her if she’d commit to joining us on a vacation before I bought the tickets, sending along a cute/funny family/baby photo that shows where we live, etc.

You could have your kids make some signs that say “Hi” and the AP’s name, and then photograph the kids with the signs and forward the image. She will share that with her friends and family and she won’t need a lot of language skills to respond.

CanadaHostMom June 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Those are all great ideas. I’m trying not to harass the poor girl, but I’m also trying to setup friendly and open conversations…. Bottom line is I’m probably thinking too much :)

It’s a bit of an adjustment from email several candidates, several times a week to match…. Maybe I’m in matching withdrawal …. Who’d thought that could happen :D

Taking a Computer Lunch June 17, 2014 at 11:12 am

My advice is to not over-involve your incoming AP. I have found over the years that incoming APs are wildly busy with finishing school programs, proms, last minute holidays with families and friends. A few have even worked full-time during the summer before they arrived.

I try to remember the dates of their proms and ask to see photos, but by and large I take my cues from the them. I do send out an email about three weeks before she arrives “I bet you’re wondering what to pack!” because a) it is broiling hot and sticky in my city for the first two months of her year and b) The Camel is called The Camel because she spits to protect her airway and I want them to bring well-worn clothing that they don’t care about when they’re working. While the Europeans have a good sense of how to dress in the winter, the Brazilians have no experience with the bitter cold of North America so I warn them to bring warm clothing but they’ll need to buy some more here (I keep some items APs have left behind so I do have a rain jacket and a down coat on hand, plus some mittens and scarves).

Finally the week before she arrives, I tell her that I want her to have some food she likes in the house when she arrives, so I ask what she likes to eat for breakfast and lunch so I can stock up.

happyhostmom June 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I’ve matched early with all of my au pairs. I definately keep up the emailing. I let them know what’s going on in everyone’s lives, such as birthday parties, kid’s milestones, even the weather, etc..exciting things coming up. I ask her about her life. I don’t expect her to write back right away or evey day. Also we did Skype a few more times before she came. I think it helped as the kids knew her face before she came and it made them so excited to meet her. It worked really really with my oldest. I talked to my AD about this before and she encourages it. She says it’s a good way to really get to know them and spot issues that maybe you didn’t spot before. It’s much easier to break a match than an au pair already living in your home. I wasn’t worried about that with my au pairs, just wanted us to all get as comfortable as possible before she joined the home.

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