Open Thread: June 7

by cv harquail on June 7, 2014

 Off to the races!

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It’s not like my girls didn’t know we were going to Belmont, and didn’t have plenty of time to match their dress to any one of our collection of fascinators and hats, but no…. no one’s ready, and we’re dashing out the door.

In the meantime, we’ve got an open thread, for any comments and ideas that come to the fore.  It will stay open until Monday, or 100 comments, or some other excitement. Please be patient if you are a new commenter- your comment will be held in moderation for a little while.

Fingers crossed for a Triple Crown!


AlwaysHopeful HM June 7, 2014 at 10:43 am

So excited for California Chrome today! How exciting would that be if he got the Triple Crown??

Here’s my question for those who have searched at the conclusion of a successful term, especially those who are early searchers: how do you build up enthusiasm to look for someone new when someone great is sitting right in front of you? I find myself feeling a whole mix of emotions ranging from sadness to guilt about searching to even resentment of the au pairs who are looking to match. Also, I’ve noticed that I’ve sort of deified current au pair. We adore him, but he’s far from perfect. A couple of months ago, we even considered rematch. Now, I find myself feeling enormous gratitude for things I must have taken for granted all year. I think part of it is the permanence of it– realistically, we may never see AP again. :( Anyone else have this experience? This is our 2nd AP, but the last experience was different. Am I just crazy???

WarmStateMomma June 7, 2014 at 11:52 am

We are only 2.5 months into the year with AP#2 and I’m already worried about finding a successor who can measure up to this awesome young woman. I’m interested to see what the others have to say about this because we will be in the same boat at the end of the year.

TexasHM June 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

You’re not crazy. I had this exact same conversation with a very experienced HM friend and she laughed and said she had the same thought when she had her first great AP but that since then she’s had many just as great you just have to look! We early matched with our next AP (for Nov) last weekend and our current AP is a ROCKSTAR. Like rockstar to the point where our previous great APs have said “she’s totally the best AP you have ever had” including themselves! :) Anyway, I DREADED looking for a new match and even got on the site way early because I figured no one would hold a candle to current AP and that it would take forever to find someone we could “settle” for after rockstar AP. Boy was I worried for no reason! I found several awesome candidates and one we just clicked with and even dragging it out and throwing everything I had at her from a challenge email perspective did not shake the fact that she appears to be a great fit for us and us for her. Our current AP did not like ANY of the candidates I explored except this girl. Those of you on here that think I am the interview process nutcase (you’re right btw) I had NOTHING on my current AP. She was ruthless! Anyway, one thing I quickly was reminded of is every AP has their strengths and special qualities that bless our family which is a big part of why we love this program. Our previous AP to current was also wonderful and taught my kids piano and guitar and was super creative/artsy, but she was a slob! AP before that was our first and we had some bumps but she was unmatched in bonding and caring for babies! Current has a maturity and grace far beyond her years and I’ve watched my girls grow exponentially in the last 3 months in the shadow of this amazing woman! The next AP is super smart and probably the most determined and hardworking candidate I have ever seen (mult jobs, paying her college, helping family run a farm and being a tutor in her “free” time) so I am excited to see what my kids are blessed with from her. Start interviewing, take your time and I think when you find a strong candidate the excitement will occur on its own.
Sidenote – it took me MUCH longer to match at previous large agency because honestly I felt like the candidates weren’t as vetted and profiles not as detailed so I had to sift through a lot more party girls, disinterested in childcare travelers and the like. Interexchange had a 38 page dossier on the AP we matched with (current APs was 42 pages) and they really don’t glamorize the program so the candidates were very realistic in their expectations and I felt better educated/prepared for the program as a whole. Your match is out there! Good luck!!

Seattle Mom June 8, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Your experience is making me think I will take the plunge and sign up with a different agency next time around. I think part of my problem in matching is that I get so tired of reading through dud after dud application that when I find someone halfway decent I get excited. I know that there are great candidates with my agency, but it is soooo hard to find them. I’ve had two great au pairs, one crappy, and one barely mediocre. The bad & mediocre happened because I had AP search burnout, and the great ones happened partly by chance- I found AP 1 by chance and recognized how great she was. AP 3 I also found by chance (actually she found me- long story) and I didn’t really know how great she would be but I took a chance and it turned out great- actually what sold me on her was talking to her previous HM (she was an extension AP). The HM had concerns about her but they were not the kinds of things that concerned me. I think I appreciated her more :). And I bet that my one rematch AP was more appreciated by the family that she went to after us… it just goes to show that there is a cover for every pot. Usually.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2014 at 7:35 am

I have always involved my current AP – except AP #1 – it was before easy international communication – even the APs who were not my favorite people. I ask gently how they’re feeling about it – and always ask for permission to give out their email addresses to candidates. In general, only the most serious of candidates email/Skype with my current AP. Some want to know that the job can be done (dealing with a teenager with special needs is a daunting prospect – especially one that is medically fragile and requires total care). Some outgoing APs have been jealous of someone else taking care of “their” kids.

I will tell you that the sense of loss has been acute for many of the outgoing APs as their date of departure arrives. I have been fortunate to have 3 of my 8 former APs return for a visit (and a 4th is coming later this summer), but not only will the outgoing AP rarely see their HF again, they have formed intense relationships with other people in their AP year(s) to whom they are also in the process of saying goodbye.

I have found that it is important to acknowledge the feelings of the current AP. I ask if it’s hard for her to talk with her successor. Sometimes the answer is yes, but usually it is no.

WarmStateMomma June 8, 2014 at 8:13 am

We hope to involve our current AP in the interview process for her successor. She is intelligent, insightful and can read between the lines easier than we can on the Chinese applications. I think she is better able to determine what the local agency has told the APs and can disabuse them of any false expectations.

WestMom June 8, 2014 at 9:44 am

It would be interesting to map out the HF emotions throughout the year, from the excitement of the new arrival, to the friendship that ensues after a few months, without forgetting the little marital-like grievances and the reset conversations. They do this with the APs at training. I think it would be interesting to do it for families too!

We are one of those families that don’t extend. I start my search very early; after we have a strong foundation with the AP, and before things get ‘too comfortable’. I always involve past and current AP in the interview process and it’s been super helpful. Actually, 3 of our past APs take this interview process very seriously. Candidates might think that speaking with a past AP is all about getting more details about us, but in actuality, our past APs give harder interviews than we do. They are very protective and want to make sure we pick the right person to take care of ‘their babies’. Also, most of our past APs are friendly to one another (4 live within 2hrs of each other in their home country!), and I think they also want to make sure the next AP will fit in the ‘ex-AP club’.

Our AP this year is amazing in so many ways. They all have been actually. I guess each new AP has specific qualities that make her great. That’s my mindset going into our next match. She may not be as great a cook, or as flexible as our current AP, but maybe she will have an amazing rapport with one of our child, or maybe she’ll be a little neater around the house. Or maybe we’ll just have a great connection.

Since we don’t extend, it is sometimes difficult to say goodbye after such a short time, but at the same time I always look forward to the enthusiasm and promise of a new arrival. In the end we have always parted with warm feelings and an open door.

Seattle Mom June 8, 2014 at 6:01 pm

I think my husband gets this way and it’s why it is hard to get him to take part in the matching process in any meaningful way. He loved AP #1 and AP #3, though they were not perfect. I have not yet had that feeling, though I did recognize how great those APs were and how lucky we were to have found them as we did. I’m always looking for an improvement on the last model, but it never seems to work out that way :).

HRHM June 8, 2014 at 6:48 pm

me too, although DH in my case is totally disconnected.

I gave my heart to the first and when she turned out to be “a flameout” at 11 months, I just haven’t been able to do it again…so now I like them, but am always looking for the unicorn. LOL

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2014 at 8:41 pm

My DH is very connected to our APs, both past and present. AP #2 showed up, suddenly, but in hindsight not completely unexpectedly at our door on Friday, because the guy for whom she had returned to the US failed to pick her up at the airport. Of course we welcomed her with open arms, anything less would be churlish. But it was DH who grilled her why she kept trying to connect with this guy, and supportively told her that she was too good for him.

DH and I have always done interviews together – one of the reasons it takes us so long to match – we usually interview at the weekend. He asks half the questions and I the other half. Of course, he quit his job to care for The Camel for 20 months (I had the benefits and she had the extensive special needs) – so he’s vested.

NNTexasHM June 7, 2014 at 12:41 pm

I need immediate suggestions. I’m in the process of evaluating a match with an Au Pair who is in country. She has seemed terrific up until now, answering all questions I’ve asked promptly, expressing enthusiasm, and in our first Skype session she was incredibly persistent in trying to connect (we had skype problems) but after 3-4 hours of attempts every 30 minutes until we got it to work. We ended up talking for over an hour.

We then set up a time to Skype with my family (the first was just with me) and unfortunately 1) She agreed to the time but at the designated time was in an area with no wifi 2) Didn’t answer her phone when I called because she couldn’t hear it 3) Didn’t respond to the message and she sent an email asking me to try her cell. I was a little less than thrilled as I had my family all lined up, showered, prepared with questions and I expected her to be in a place where we could Skype.

When I called she had her volume on the phone turned up (she was at an outing which was set up “last minute”) and we rescheduled for later in the day. She suggested we could do it over cell as we had already talked via Skype previously. I told her firmly “No, I need my child and husband to see you and for you to see them. My child prepared a number of items to show you as we thought that might make the conversation easier”.

My question – is there a good way to let her know I’m confused why she wasn’t in a place where she could Skype? I realize in looking at the email that she alluded to the fact that she might not be in a place with wifi and gave me her cell “just in case” but I thought that was as a back up in case skype didn’t work.

We had also confirmed our Skype session earlier and I had explicitly said “I will reach out to you via Skype first so that we can do a face to face”.

I’m concerned by this miscommunication and would like to figure out what it means.

I’ve received such constructive feedback from both Au Pairs and HMs so I’d appreciate any comments on how to figure out what happened and whether this is an indicator of future communication issues.

Thank you!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 7, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I agree with TexasHM. Especially if your concern is future miscommunication, it’s important that you clearly communicate what’s on your mind. Any answer she gives will inform your decisions going forward.

Angie host mom June 7, 2014 at 10:41 pm

I wouldn’t actually worry about this one and think it is a communication issue you can deal with, if the skype meeting with the kids goes ok. I know in country au pairs are under tight time lines, and she wanted to meet you but there are also a lot of things to work on and wrap up if you may be going home as an AP. She gave you her cell number in case, she thought she’d have wifi, it didn’t work out, you were upset because you really wanted to skype, and she let you reschedule. She wanted to do it over the phone because she’s got a lot going on and wants to wrap things up. You have a lot going on too – but so does she.

I honestly wouldn’t give it a second thought. I’d worry about why she’s rematching a lot more! Unless it is an extension with change of city.

NNTexasHM June 8, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hi Angie – this is not a rematch Au Pair she is in country not engaged as an Au Pair. When I talked to her about expectations she admitted she was wrong, I had been very clear about wanting to skype and she should have been in a place where she could Skype (she set the time, not me). My family had re-arranged our schedule, skipped swim practice and were ready with a list of questions so I was not thrilled but she immediately told me it was unprofessional of her.

So that’s settled but I did want to clarify there was no “wrap up of a previous job” etc.

Angie host mom June 8, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Oh, sorry, I didn’t get that. We generally don’t rearrange our schedules or cancel stuff to talk to candidates over skype, generally we aren’t in a rush with selection to have to do that, so I had assumed this was a rush situation. Sorry!

HRHM June 8, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Just curious, how can someone who is in the US, not as an AP, presumably on some other type of legal immigration status, become an AP? I thought that they had to be in their home country and go through the process from there in order to apply…

Should be working June 8, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Yeah, this does not sound like an agency au pair.

NNTexasHM June 8, 2014 at 10:54 pm

Sorry for the confusion – she is not in the US. Did I say that in my post? Sincerely asking as it seems it was confusing to others?

Should be working June 9, 2014 at 12:48 am

NNTexasHM, “in-country” in AP agency lingo means “in the U.S.”, either looking to extend or to rematch. “Overseas” means “in her home country”–even where that country is contiguous with the U.S. (Mexico).

TexasHM June 7, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I’d just flat out ask her but you already know me well enough to know this. :) I would say “I’m confused as to what happened. I thought we had scheduled an appointment to Skype.” See what she says and if she says she warned you there was a chance it wouldn’t work out then ask her why she didn’t suggest a different time when she was sure it would work out. Not accusatory, just seeking to understand if it was a miscommunication. What was she doing btw? If she didn’t have control over the situation – aka the host family and AP are on vacation somewhere right now and she’s at their mercy on logistics/plans is different than she is settled but decided at the last minute to go to a concert with her friends instead and didn’t immediately email you for a reschedule.

Seattle Mom June 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm

Yep that’s what I would do. And see what her reaction is.. if she admits that she made a mistake, offers to reschedule and actually makes it to the Skype appointment the second time, etc. If she gets defensive I would drop her like a hot potato.

SecondTryHM June 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

We are currently in transition and I’m trying to figure out where to go from here. A little background – our current au pair is nice, personable, responsible. She is also indecisive and anxious. When she arrived she was homesick and took a while to adjust, she seemed fine when she wasn’t working but seemed flustered, distant, whenever she was in charge of the kids. We talked and it turned out that she was suffering from horrible anxiety everyday that she had to work. We tried some adjustment but when the anxiety continued we decided to go into transition. Within days of the decision for rematch she was a new person, easy going with the kids, bonding, etc. Initially she was happy with the idea of rematching but of course her indecisiveness/anxiety came through during that process as well and she has not found a family she thought would make her happy. In the meantime we have not found a candidate in the rematch pool that would work for our family (driver, experience with multiple young kids, laid back) so we are expanding our search to July/August overseas candidates.
Our au pair is now acting great and we have told her so. She is thinking maybe she could be happy here. Should we give her another chance? I’m concerned that she is going to become depressed/anxious again once she has recommitted but we haven’t found a good replacement candidate right now. If we match with an out of country au pair we may have to go 6 weeks without an au pair if our current one goes home (and that would be a really stressful summer). I talked with our rematch coordinator and she thinks we should still try to rematch (she doesn’t think our current au pair will make it the rest of the year).
I was thinking of maybe seeing if she was willing to make a deal where she stayed for the summer and we matched with a new girl in August or September. She wouldn’t be fulfilling her full year so I’m not sure if the au pair agency would go for it. Any thoughts?

Angie host mom June 8, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Hmmm. It could be that the anxiety is gone because she sees the light at the end of the tunnel in leaving. I think you should talk to her about how she is different and why.

NNTexasHM June 8, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Agree with Angie – I think you should seriously consider that it’s a year vs a short term situation, which is making all the difference.

Momto3Americans June 8, 2014 at 4:06 pm

We went through something similar recently. We found a new overseas AP then gave our current AP many weeks notice to give her more time to find the right family and us more childcare coverage. Could you keep her on until you find a new AP? It would give her more time to find the right family too! In my experience (which is very limited) I think you have entered transition and should see it through now. For us it all seemed to get better when we went into rematch but I then realized it was because I was slacking off in what I was expecting. I was letting all the things I wasn’t happy with go because there was an end in sight and I wanted as smooth transition as possible. So it was the right decision for us to stick with the rematch decision.

Multitasking Host Mom June 8, 2014 at 6:30 pm

You say she is indecisive. Just make sure she is actually telling you she wants to stay or is just still making up her mind and will go the other way tomorrow. I would definitely proceed with caution if you do decide to not rematch. The anxiety could come back or she might change her mind…I could not take that risk.You will have to figure out your own tolerance level for this unknown. That said…the one time I would not stress about a gap in childcare would be during the summer. Before we switch to APs we always hired either a college student or young teacher who had the summer off and wanted to work full-time in childcare. It wasn’t that hard to find someone either through recommendation from friends or through the many babysitting websites. That might be an alternative for you until an out of country AP arrives in August.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2014 at 8:59 pm

I’ve combed your email carefully and don’t see how long your current AP has been with you. Once you reach the 6-month mark, in my opinion, you’re home free. However, if you decide to stick it out with her, ask for a mediated meeting with your LCC and agree on parameters for staying.

We did this with AP #8. She wanted to go home at month 5 (she had been in a car accident that was completely her fault – and we imposed a car curfew upon her and, let’s be honest, did not treat her as a member of the family in the same way we had our previous APs). She wanted out 3 weeks before Christmas, but agreed to wait until we had a new AP, even though that meant waiting for a new AP. However, I had just paid for her plane ticket to a destination city for Christmas and called her on it. She decided to stay and had a mediated meeting to agree on the parameters of her staying (one was that I accept the mediocre way she did the chores – and because DH didn’t want to wait 6 weeks for a new AP – I agreed – until she invited her homeless boyfriend to live in our house).

This is my long way of telling you that if you ultimately decide to complete your year with this AP, that you need the LCC to help you sit down and agree upon the parameters of a successful year – and she has to agree to completing it now (because you don’t want her yanking your chain later).

BropairJJ June 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I know this has been discussed before as a full on blog post, but that was a long time ago and I thought that I might get a more updated view.

What are people’s attitudes towards male au pairs?

I only ask because I’m still in the matching process with no recent interest from any families. My agency explained that it had a lot to do with men not being seen as real care givers in America.

WarmStateMomma June 7, 2014 at 6:36 pm


Child care is traditionally seen as a woman’s job in the US, but that is (slowly) changing. There is also a perception that child abusers are more often male, but I have no idea if that’s true or not.

I personally prefer female caregivers for my toddler daughter. You are mostly likely going to find a family with active, older children. Either boys only or a mix of boys and girls.

LondonMum June 7, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Personally, I would love to have a male AP, I think it would be great for my boys and I have friends who have had male APs who were fab. Unfortunately, HD is absolutely against it, he just says he doesn’t want a man looking after his kids. Maybe it’s a “king of his castle” thing and he doesn’t want another man in the house and maybe deep down the idea that most abusers of children are men – sorry, it’s not my view, but his! (That’s why he refuses to take part in any church activities and I go with the kids on my own, the scandals of priests and kids!)

I know that there are many families here in UK that have male APs, don’t know about US, but I’m sure if you keep looking you will find a great family. I hope as my kids get older, I may be able to persuade HD to have a male AP,
Good luck!

exaupair June 8, 2014 at 6:10 am

The same argument I’ve heard from my HM when I asked her why is she looking for females when she has an active 10 year old son, who would obviously got on better with a male AP. She and her husband were convinced that even if a guy looks great on paper he could turn out a pedo.

NJ Mama June 8, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I’ve really gone back and forth on this and in fact we were once very close with matching with a bropair in extension while we were in rematch and of course kicked ourselves b/c it was at the start of our horrible stretch. It didn’t help that we were at my inlaws for a long weekend and the MIL was HORRIFIED that we would even consider a male au pair.

Our reason is that we have two young girl and live in a small house, so not a ton of privacy for everyone. My girls are independent but especially at that time still needed help in the bathroom and I worried about how comfortable they would feel with a guy. At the same time, I think a bropair would be great for my older daughter – the tomboy with anxiety. I’d actually love to hear from other HMs who have girls who have had male au pairs and how they worked it out, b/c I have seen some really great male candidates. In addition I come from a family of three brothers and have 5 nephews — two are amazing babysitters and great role models. So this is something I have thought about. If I had boys it would be a no brainer — I’d go with a male au pair in a heartbeat.

Angie host mom June 7, 2014 at 10:44 pm

A few people love having male au pairs…

I won’t consider one since I have two daughters and a hubby who frankly gets along better with women, and so do I. It’s a household fit thing.

I have a friend who is a single mom of boys who won’t get a guy au pair because she doesn’t want to live with another guy – feels it would be weird. But that could change when the boys are older.

I have another friend who has a guy au pair – a single dad who doesn’t want to live with a girl au pair!

WarmStateMomma June 8, 2014 at 8:06 am

I’d feel weird as a single parent living with an AP of the opposite gender, but it’s probably ok for the right individuals.

Our first AP looked like a teenager and HD only once took her to the grocery store alone. He felt like everyone saw him as a creepy old guy and refused to ever take her without me again. I wonder if transracial adoptive fathers feel this way when their daughters grow up.

5kids=aupair June 8, 2014 at 9:00 am

We’re finally ready for a male AP this year. I’m hoping it works out and he’ll match with us. There are 3 other males in our cluster right now which if a lot. I think the boys will LOVE it! The only thing that worries me is the amount of clean-up and laundry there is with 5 kids and if he can hang. LOL

Always Hopeful HM June 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I think that it’s just starting to hit my current au pair that the year is coming to an end. He just received his travel instructions, and his two closest friends are actually leaving next month, 2 months before him. Some of his friends hvae complained to him about their jealousy in having to talk to their “replacements” and having to move out of their rooms (overlap situation). Our AP is very accomodating, so I think he might tell me he’s okay with those things even if they are bothering him, so I’ve been trying to tread carefully. This was purely a gap year for him, so extension was never on the table, and I actually think one year is the right amount of time. But, oh how I hate goodbyes! I’ve been so worried about how his departure will affect my son that I forgot how much I’ll miss him too! I recall on another thread someone said that “it’s our year, too.” That’s really very true!!

Seattle Mom June 8, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Good question!

We have two girls, so a male AP is out.. though my husband says he would actually love to have another guy in the house. He feels severely outnumbered, two girls, me, and a female AP.

There is also the perception in the US that childcare is a woman’s job, though it is true that it is changing. I see & hear about more male daycare workers and preschool teachers, and I think it’s a good thing!

I have read that statistically most sex offenders are men (though not necessarily child abusers).. I’m pretty sure that Gavin DeBecker says that in The Gift of Fear. That guy is amazing. But he makes a big point of saying that you need to be careful with anyone taking care of your kids- male or female- pay attention and listen to your intuition in all circumstances. He doesn’t say that you shouldn’t use male childcare providers, or that you even should necessarily be more careful with men.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 8, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Bropair JJ- we are a family that is open to male au pairs, but I can see why it can be difficult to match. To a certain extent, I think the difficulty in matching becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for bropairs. Even though I am pro-bro, I find very few that I want to end up interviewing, primarily because many of the applicants are overcoached or just trying too hard. I find my eyes glazing over when an applicant has just the right answers (generally right down the middle) for everything and I have no reliable cues regarding his true personality. Or, when an applicant tries too hard to show personality, in a forced, awkward way. For our family, personality trumps almost everything, so if I cant figure out that a candidate’s personality MIGHT fit our family’s by the time I’ve scanned the letter and photos, I’m ready to move on, and usually never look back. I use the same early elimination method for female au pairs, but in general, they seem more confident of their place as au pairs, so I see less of the unappealing desperation in their profiles. I dont know if this is helpful to you, because obviously I dont know what’s in your profile, and how other families screen, but that’s just one view on why males may have a harder time matching.

BroAuPair June 8, 2014 at 10:34 pm

Hey man, keep the faith, the au pair process can take a long time, but dont give up, I was lucky and found my Host Family at the same day I got online, sometimes it just take a while.

BropairJJ June 9, 2014 at 3:31 am

Thank you everyone for the replies, they are all quite encouraging. I have to admit that the waiting game is getting me down a bit but you have made me more hopeful.

Of course if anyone is in CHI’s Program and wants to look me up, let me know! ;)

Multitasking Host Mom June 9, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Just a suggestion. Could you also sign up with another large US agencies that accepts male au pairs? I need a big pool of APs to pick from since I look for a special needs willing person with some direct experience with this type of child. That means I always sign up with two agencies to make sure I have enough APs to choice from. It might be a good idea to expand your pool also…of course with host families…since you are also looking for a specific type of match, those few HF that want a male AP. I know there might be more fees involved and more work with paperwork, etc., but since what you are doing now is not working, it might be worth seeing what other agencies are out there.

BropairJJ June 9, 2014 at 7:13 pm

This is something I have had at the back of my mind but I haven’t really wanted to, mostly because of the extra paperwork and fees that I would have to pay. It is something that I will probably have to start thinking seriously about though.

ShenValHM June 9, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Our reason for not choosing BroPairs that hasn’t been mentioned yet: Auto insurance for a male under 25 year-old driver is crazy expensive. Girls are cheaper drivers. It’s that simple.

Returning HM June 9, 2014 at 11:43 am

We are a family who hires male APs. We have a 12 year old daughter and a 9 year old boy, and most of the care is for the 9 year old. Here is my response based on two years of going through matching looking exclusively for a male AP:

1) Many male candidates don’t have the kind of childcare experience that I consider valuable. They have coached (1-2 hrs/week) or led a youth group (1-2 hours/week), but they haven’t spent much sustained time one-on-one or one-on-two with children. The candidate we matched with last year and the one we matched with for the coming year were exceptions — one had worked in a school for a year, and the other is completing his teacher training. Their applications really stood out in the group. I didn’t consider candidates with only 3 childcare experiences especially if two of them were only for a short time or short duration each time.

2) Many male APs don’t seem to take the “dear host family” letter all that seriously and write only a few lines. This is our chance to get to know you and to imagine having you as part of our household, so definitely make sure your essay is full and SHOWS your personality.

3) From this blog and just from talking to other HMs of male APs, I know that many of us who get male APs for our children do so because we have very active boys. Your application should show experience working with active boys and interest in (and patience for) working with active boys.

4) Likewise, from these conversations, I know that many of us who have male APs also have a son with ADHD. If you can get experience working with children with ADHD, great. Definitely do not check “no” to willingness to work with children with special needs if you are someone who is patient, organized, and willing to work with a child with ADHD (my son’s ADHD doesn’t require any specialized care; just a lot of patience, structure, and activity – everything a good experienced childcare provider should be able to provide; the two candidates we picked had mentioned experience working with exactly this type of child).

5) Hang in there. Both years, we picked the second candidate whom we interviewed and both times we got their application the day they uploaded it. We ended up keeping in touch with both of the first candidates we interviewed, whom we didn’t pick, and they both ended up getting interviewed by 7-8 families before finding their match. They were both good candidates, just didn’t have what I was looking for in terms of a personality fit or extensive understanding of active boys and their needs. They both found excellent families, and you likely will too. Ask a friend or trusted advisor (a teacher, parent, coach, etc) to read your application with an eye to what a busy HM of young active boys would be looking for (since this is the population most likely to hire you) and make sure you’ve done all you can to show your experience. And if you don’t have that much experience, use these weeks and months of waiting to get more, particularly with active boys who have a few behavioral challenges. You’ll get yourself some valuable experience and be better prepared for the year ahead.

Best of luck!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 9, 2014 at 3:01 pm

+1 on all of this. Well said, Returning HM!

Anonymous in CA June 9, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Following up on Returning HM’s comment #4…and don’t go on and on about special needs experience in your essay, then check the “NO” box to the “special needs willing” question. This goes for all APs, not just BroPairs…it feels really disingenous to read in your family essay what a great experience you had caring for a special needs child, only to see that you are unwilling to care for an SN child as an au pair!

Old China Hand June 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm

If we have another boy (baby coming later this month, sex unknown), I would definitely consider a male au pair. That being said, we only get native Mandarin speaking au pairs, and I would make the bar VERY high for a Chinese man to come live with my family. The cultural differences in how men and women behave there would make it unlikely that I would find someone I think is acceptable (no smoking, minimal drinking, needs to help with chores and clean up after himself, etc). I know there are Chinese men like this, because I am friends with some, but with the smaller pool and the cultural differences, I could imagine it being very hard.

WarmStateMomma June 9, 2014 at 3:48 pm

I saw that Interexchange had a few bropairs from China. My APs’ views of gender roles makes me think their male counterparts would have difficulty fitting into our family. They think that cleaning is really for women and their standards for clean are terrible, so I can’t imagine men being willing/able to be useful in that regard. Perhaps the guys applying for the program are more progressive anyway? We have enough cultural challenges that I don’t need to seek more. :)

Old China Hand June 10, 2014 at 11:40 am

Yeah… given how our former flatmates and our AP have been shocked at my husband doing dishes, helping with laundry, participating in cleaning, and so on, I don’t think that we’re up for the double cultural differences of dealing with a bropair. Our AP wants to stay in the US and marry here partly because of all these cultural differences. I guess if you found a very feminine Chinese guy, it could work, but I’d be nervous.

By the way, there is a great facebook group and blog for families trying to raise bilingual Chinese-English kids. and

WarmStateMomma June 10, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Thanks so much! I will definitely check those out. We don’t know anyone else doing this.

Old China Hand June 10, 2014 at 7:37 pm

You and I are among the only foreigners I know doing this… the guy who started the facebook group messaged me and was like “did you mean to join this group?”. But it has good advice and I think that my husband and I are now resolved to try to spend my first sabbatical in China (where my research is anyway) so our kids can attend local school that year. I think I may also try to put it off by a year so that they will be a little older. I have a junior faculty research leave next year anyway, so it isn’t like I’m thinking about 8 straight years of teaching before a break. :) Just 3.5 instead of 2.5. But, yes, great resources.

I also found some more sources for Chinese books, though they are a bit pricey:,,, and All do a good job having simplified characters as an option.

WarmStateMomma June 11, 2014 at 11:39 am

We don’t have a personal or professional connection to China, but we love Singapore and relocating there with my husband’s company is a possibility in a few years. I have this beautiful fantasy of my kids going to bilingual schools while I sun myself on a tropical beach. :)

We aren’t foreigners, though. Just plain vanilla Americans who know how hard it is to pick up another language later in life. Our original goal was a second language, but now I think understanding the culture is also pretty challenging without native teachers.

Old China Hand June 11, 2014 at 11:45 am

Haha… I was being so Chinese. By foreigner I meant that we aren’t Chinese. We’re plain, old normal Americans. Chinese friends often say that to me, “oh, in the US there were so many foreigners everywhere and very few Chinese people”. And I have to remind them that they are the foreigners here, but here I am doing the same thing. Sorry for the confusion.

Culture is a huge part of it. I never took any Chinese culture classes in college (didn’t get a major or minor in east asian studies or anything like that) but I learned so much culture through my classes. There is a debate at my school about whether language classes should “count” towards the cultural diversity requirement because folks in fields that just study culture (like anthropology) and view language a purely a tool don’t think you get enough culture in a language class. I think both go hand in hand.

WarmStateMomma June 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm


HD and I learned a lot about Russian culture in our language classes, but the differences weren’t so stark.

Beth June 8, 2014 at 10:55 am

I’m a HM going on 5 years but I’m always challenged by how much cleaning ( for the kids area/ kids), bathroom, kitchen, den is acceptable. Is vacuuming, mopping kitchen floor/ acceptable. I’ve never asked any of them to help in this capacity but it would be helpful. I’d love to hear others opinions.

LondonMum June 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

In UK they are allowed to do “light housework” and my AP does downstairs vacuume and mops the kitchen floor once a week. She also does 2 loads of kids laundry per week and changes their bed sheets once a fortnight. Considering the amount of housework there is, I consider this to be “light”! However, like you, I felt that I shouldn’t ask them to do housework as they are there for childcare, but now we are on year 5 and both kids are at school all day and my AP only works 23 hours per week plus 2 babysits, I think it is fair to ask her to do it and they haven’t minded at all so far! The other things I expect her to do, empty the dishwasher If it is full and to clean up the kitchen after cooking, empty the bin if it’s full, I consider these things to be part of living in a shared house with other adults and sharing the load of basic “maintenance”.

If your AP is working 45 hours and has small children at home all day, she may have enough to do already! I work on the premis that if you treat them well, they will treat you well, however with one AP it didn’t go both ways and she totally took the Micky! Hopefully your AP will have a reasonable attitude!

exaupair June 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Mopping kitchen floor is acceptable, kitchen is a common area and everyone uses it including your au pair, so I wouldn’t hesitate to ask her to do it once or twice a week. Same with vacuuming the rooms everyone uses, asking her to do it would be fine.

HRHM June 8, 2014 at 7:04 pm

I think some of this varies also by what ages your kids are and how many hours she is scheduled to work doing direct childcare. I certainly wouldn’t want my AP to ignore my small kids to do cooking/cleaning/laundry instead. But in my case, with 2 independant grade schoolers who tend to play with each other, I feel comfortable tasking my Ap with ALOT of household related chores. So, cooking breakfast, emptying dishwasher, cleaning up completely from any cooking she does, cleaning up the dining area after she feeds the kids, to include wiping down the table and van/mop the floor as needed. Making sure the kids pick up their stuff in their rooms, playroom, common rooms, yard. Organizing toys in the playroom, garage, reshelving/organizing books, returning books to the library. Kid laundry, including folding and supervizing putting away. Cleaning kid and AP baths top to bottom once a week, vac/dust/change sheets in her room and theirs (she can enlist their help as needed/desired) once a week. emptying trash in bedrooms and baths they 3 use. Cleaning up and organizing art supplies, school papers, craft projects. Keeping AP car clean and filled with gas, taking AP car for service as needed. And finally, as a flatmate (not as an AP per se) I hope that she will police her own stuff in the common areas (hang up coat, remove shoes from middle of floor, etc) and take out the trash/recycle about 1/3 of the time.

If she had small kids 45 hours a week, this list would be MUCH shorter.

Taking a Computer Lunch June 8, 2014 at 9:04 pm

As an American HM, I would say that mopping a kitchen floor is not part of an AP’s duties. If you find an AP that agrees to do it, and later challenges you on other issues, this may be a chore that will be held against you. While I personally feel that emptying a dishwasher is a common adult chore, I take care of the kitchen floor.

exaupair June 9, 2014 at 4:14 am

You think that mopping the kitchen floor, while taking turns with other adults living in the house could ever be held against you?This may not be her duty as such but it’s a common courtesy when you live with other people.

hOstCDmom June 9, 2014 at 8:13 am

I also think there is a big difference between sweeping and mopping (in theory there probably isn’t, but they somehow seem different, the former more immediate clean up of food/crumbs, the latter more “heavy cleaning”).

I also think context matters — i.e. are you asking the AP to “sweep the kitchen floor after the kids eat lunch/dinner every day, while she is on duty” (this seems perfectly normal kid related clean up to me) versus “mop the kitchen floor on Mondays and Thursdays” which may well be related to the fact that the kids have dirtied it, but somehow the kid related nexus seems much more tenuous…

HRHM June 9, 2014 at 2:17 pm

In my case, it is “use the swiffer wet jet after you or the kids spill sticky crap on the kitchen floor or under the table” which with my kids AND AP ends up being daily! LOL

WestMom June 8, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I typically don’t ask AP to mop the floor *but* on Saturdays, we are all-hands on deck to clean up the house, parents and kids included. I wholeheartedly ask her to supervise the kids and lend a hand. I think as a shared responsibility, it would be quite acceptable.

angie host mom June 9, 2014 at 2:38 am

It is au pair specific for us. Current ap isn’t a great cleaner but doesn’t mind hanging with the kids a little longer so I can get some cleaning done, fair enough. Others have been great cleaners and gone way over the top!

Seattle Mom June 8, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Aww I hope she finds someone!

NNTexasHM June 8, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Dallas Host mom – I’m friends with Texas HM so I hope she passes along your info and we meet up for lunch – we have a small group that get together. Support (especially in a community where there are not a TON of APs is so helpful!).

Angie host mom June 9, 2014 at 4:08 pm

This is just a funny open thread comment.

I wrote myself a short household to-do list in the kitchen this morning and left it sort of by the kids’ wish list fun stuff to do with au pair this summer list.

Coming back from an errand, I saw AP sitting with daughter and drawing a picture on my to do list. A little irritated at the loss of my list – thinking there is fresh paper a room away but realizing my handwriting was very messy and it could have looked like trash, I forgot about it.

I started working on work rather than the household list I was going to get to this evening, including vacuuming the house, but I just heard the vacuum going. I think AP thought it was HER to do list! :-)

I really want her to go out and have fun with the kids during their summer break, but I can’t bring myself to tell her to quit vacuuming and go ice skating yet – maybe after lunch.

hOstCDmom June 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Who knew? — all you have to do is leave a list on the kitchen counter and all shall be done…!! :)

WarmStateMomma June 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm

That’s awesome!

American AP in Germany June 10, 2014 at 5:27 am

Hahah, something similar happened to me just the other day. I do most of the light and heavy cleaning in the house, but my host mom washes the windows. The other day, she was off from work and left the window washer out with my cleaning stuff, so naturally I thought I should do it. I was almost finished by the time she got back from the grocery store and exclaimed in horror that she had left it out to remind herself to do! She felt pretty bad, but at the same time she was probably secretly happy .. :D And I didn’t mind doing it either hahah

AlwaysHopeful HM June 10, 2014 at 8:57 am

Has anyone else found the DISC profiles to be more stressful than helpful? At first, I was really enamored by them, but after reading through so many, I find myself using them for emikination only, rather than just info on personality. Im searching through APc (my current agency) and CCAP. In general CCAP’s profiles are more knformative, but for both a few agencies, the analyses are so generic that I really dont find them useful now that the novelty has worn off. Last year, APC used a describe-yourself approach to personality, which was also not terribly informative, but it at leat let me see what the applicant thiught of himself/herself!

Seattle Mom June 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I can’t use them… because AP #1 and AP #2 had very similar DISC profiles and AP 1 was a rock-star and AP 2 was an ASAP rematch!!

Should be working June 10, 2014 at 1:23 pm

I love the DiSC and have written about it on here a bunch of times. I recommend taking the complete test online for $40 or whatever and studying the results in order to understand the entire test better and what it describes. (I also had DH take it–lots of laughs on both our parts with regard to how it accurately described the difficulties of working with each of us.)

The reports the agency gives are VERY truncated and spun to the positive aspect of each trait. But if you have the 15-page explanation of all 16 personality types that you will receive along with your own result, you can easily translate the agency’s truncated report into the longer explanation of whatever personality type the AP turns out to be (by looking for key words in the longer report’s personality descriptions that also appear in the agency’s short report–it’s pretty obvious after you study the 15-page report). And you can then understand that personality type better from the long-report point of view rather than the agency’s quick description.

It is totally true that there is no good or bad with these. It is a matter, as I have said before, of “packages” of traits combined with qualities that the test doesn’t account for (like warmth or loving kids or devotion to your family). And then it is a matter of knowing which package-traits are most important to you. Our first au pair was a strong leader, got the kids motivated, planned great outings, and was devoted to us passionately; she was also stubborn and bossy–high leadership/dominance does go with bossiness and stubbornness. Our third au pair was gentle, patient, accepting–and also on the lazy side, happy to do melty beads all afternoon at home rather than get the kids outdoors or on an outing and not so careful with household tasks. High patience with repetitive tasks correlates to low ambition.

And then of course there are other qualities that the test doesn’t measure in these packages–like how much is this AP really interested in being part of a family. We recently had a high-patience AP who was not interested in family life at all. She did her work meticulously but didn’t have that devoted enthusiasm to us and didn’t really play with our younger child. Our stubborn/leader AP loved us so much and so vocally that it made it easier for us to deal with her stubbornness (she is the one who refused to change kids’ sheets more than once every two weeks, saying it was unnecessary).

It doesn’t give THE answer to matching but it is a great tool, in my view. It is the only “objective” evaluation in the whole matching package. Maybe an AP who seems mild-mannered on Skype is actually a dominant type–you might want to know that and nothing in her application would make it clear otherwise. It might turn you off, or it might reassure you that she is tough enough to handle your kids.

AlwaysHopeful HM June 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Wow. ..I’ve really got to work on the typos. Sorry! Fat fingers + autocorrect are a bad combination!!

AlwaysHopeful HM June 10, 2014 at 10:13 am

Quick question before CV closes the thread: for any au pairs who went home, then au paired again later, how was your second experience? Did you find it was just as rewarding? For any HPs who’ve hosted former au pairs, any insights? Did you find it to be a better or worse experience than having a “fresh” au pair, or did it make any difference at all?

LisaExAuPair June 11, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I was an repeat au pair. I stayed with the same family for a total of three years. First I was there for two years and then one. All my years were very different. First year I had one kid in half day pre school (worked 45 hours), second year he went to school with his older sister (worked 30-35) and the last year it was more like the second, but the kids were older and more independent. I loved all my three years, but in different ways. I am very glad I came back, although I had my moments were I had had enough. But I guess that is part of life:) Are you thinking about bringing an old au pair back?

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