Open Thread: In like a polar bear…

by cv harquail on February 28, 2015

When the temperature on Feb. 27th is 14 degrees, no lions are coming over. Instead, polar bears.
Here’s a weekend open thread to help us glide from February to March.

Use this thread to bring up anything at all that’s on your Host Parent or Au Pair agenda.

Keep in mind that first time commenters might see a lag between hitting and seeing their comments on the blog, since first time comments must be approved by hand.
Also, if a topic comes up and then disappears, I may have snagged it for a post later this week.
As always, please follow the comments policy and be kind.


Old China Hand February 28, 2015 at 2:35 pm

I have a question about our new ap. Yes, the one who didn’t return my hairbrush. She has been here about 6 weeks and is great with the kids. Some normal Asian girl issues with taking initiative and being very afraid of messing up but generally good. The problem is that she always works too long. I give her a schedule (8-5 m-f) and she works at least an hour extra most days. She joins us for breakfast at 7:30 and either plays with my son, cooks, or does dishes while I cook. Then during breakfast she takes responsibility for making sure my son has what he needs. I get home early to nurse the baby for bed and she never ever stops work early. Instead she keeps working after her shift to clean up my son’s dinner (explicitly not her job) or to help me get him ready for bed. On weekends she entertains him while we clean or does all the dishes all day. She goes out in the evenings for class or bible study and on Sunday to church. After meals with us she always helps clean up unless she has to run to class. She is a very slow dishwasher and my husband often goes to sit down. She always helps cook and family rule is normally that cook doesn’t clean up.

On the one hand I love the help and don’t want to discourage her from spending time with us and feeling part of the family. On the other hand I don’t want to have her get burned out of resentful. On a third hand I don’t want my husband expecting her to do this. And a fourth hand issue is that I am very aware of how much more time she spends with the kids awake each week than we do and don’t want us to get resentful of her always being around. I am guessing as we get to know her better this will matter less. It’s just that our old ap didn’t hang out with us much.

Anyway I’m not sure what to do. Either with my slacker dishwashing hating husband (very good dad and Dh, just hates washing dishes) or over enthusiastic ap. thanks for the advice.

WarmStateMomma February 28, 2015 at 11:40 pm

Our AP has 2 weeks left and she still does all this extra stuff, I still thank/remind her that it’s not necessary, and still have a slacker husband. She may need to develop more of her own social life but the extra help may be a yearlong fixture. The only thing that changed for us during the year is that she started sleeping in super late on her days off after 2 months. But she still helps out exactly how you described all.the.time.

American Host Mom in Europe March 1, 2015 at 5:34 am

Some of what you describe sounds like what I would expect of a family member — like entertaining a small child during meals or helping clean up after a meal — and isn’t the point of the AP program that an AP is a family member as well as employee? It sounds like some of your past APs have been more “reserved” family members, so this feels over the top. I think you state clearly what isn’t expected as part of her job, but if there are things she wants to do as a family member, you are happy for her to do that. There is always the risk of going to far the other direction; one of my early APs even liked to help give the kids baths and play with them when she was off duty, and I stopped it, but then later she told me it was fun for her and asked if she could keep doing it; well, of course I didn’t want to stop her from having fun as part of our family!

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 9:48 am

Thanks for the advice. I think a lot of it is still getting used to each other. She also doesn’t have a computer, so maybe is less prone to hiding in her room than our previous AP. I just hope she doesn’t get resentful about extra work (like DH leaving his breakfast dishes in the sink every morning!).

TexasHM February 28, 2015 at 4:01 pm

It sounds like she is still trying to impress you/gain your approval and doesn’t have much of a social circle built out yet. If it was me, I would point out activities that I think would be of interest to her or ask another HM if her AP could take her out. I don’t know anything about Chinese APs but with other APs the less confident ones seem to overcompensate at first and can trend like a stage 5 clinger! ;)
I would say don’t panic yet, see if you can get her in more classes or going to the gym or find her some more friends and see if that doesn’t make her more scarce. When this happened to us in the course of only a few weeks she branched out and then my DH and kids started asking where she was all the time! Can’t win! :)

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 9:49 am

Yes, I think you hit it right on here. I wish we had other APs in town that she could go out with. Oh well. She is making friends and is generally out 4 nights a week (two classes and Bible study) in addition to most of the day Sunday. So it’s not like she is hanging around THAT much, just more than AP1, who was in the library every chance she had to get out of the house. I suspect getting out of our brutal northern Ohio winter will help too. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.

AuPair Paris February 28, 2015 at 4:36 pm

How do Host Parents feel about presents? As I get to have a close relationship with my HK, I find myself getting them little things fairly frequently. Not ridiculously – I have a small stipend, I’m hardly sacrificing it all on junk, or spoiling them… But I remember books that they’d like, and get them used copies, or buy craft supplies to do cool projects and stuff… I think the H-P are starting to find it a bit weird, and I don’t want to upset them… It’s just not important enough stuff to ask them to buy for the kids, but I don’t want to be inappropriate.

I feel weird bringing it up with the host-parents because I don’t want it to seem like I want credit or kudos for liking my host-kids… But I am worried that they’re not happy about it, or feel like I’m spoiling them… How do host parents on here feel about it?

A/B HostMom February 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

I would love if our AP did this but she doesn’t. I would find it very thoughtful and considerate!

TexasHM February 28, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Agreed and I would try to reimburse the AP, this is very thoughtful!

AlwaysHopeful HM February 28, 2015 at 11:18 pm

I also find this to be very sweet. However, I can see a few reasons the HF may be uncomfortable.
1) the HF may feel that you are trying to buy the kids’ affection (not saying you are, just that they may feel that way)
2) the HKs may begin to expect/demand gifts from you (or future au pairs) and may become resentful if they are not provided.
3) the HF may have limits in the “stuff” HKs are allowed to acquire, or may have a family structure that frowns upon “just because” gifts in favor of things that are earned.
4) the items may be things the kids like, but for whatever reason the parents don’t want them to have.
5) the parents may be uncomfortable with you paying for these things out of pocket, but also feel resentful of having to reimburse you for purchases you decided on your own to make.

Of course, none of these things could be true, and your HF may be tickled pink that you are taking such a special interest in the kids. The point is, if you feel like you’re gettig sideways glances, it’s worth checking In with the HPs and just asking “hey, is this okay?”

WarmStateMomma February 28, 2015 at 11:42 pm

+1. But it is wonderfully kind of you to be generous with the kids.

AuPair Paris March 1, 2015 at 4:31 am

`Thanks! This is what I was worried about, yeah. I am not trying to spoil the kids, or buy their affection, but I wonder if that’s what the parents are worried about. It’s just hard when you’re out and you see something that a particular kid would totally flip over! (And then, to be fair, you have to find things for the others…)

I’ll try to tone it down. It can be a new facet of my self-control-when-shopping plan.

American Host Mom in Europe March 1, 2015 at 5:38 am

I would find it delightful. But I understand others might not. Perhaps bring it up, ask how they feel about it and propose some options to let them drive what they are most comfortable with: providing you with petty cash for such purchases (as they might just be uncomfortable with you spending your money), or the status qui, or they reinburse you, or you reduce your shopping, etc.

SKNY March 1, 2015 at 12:46 pm

I was like this in my last family and the mom started adding 50 dolares a week to my pay (at this point I was already a sponsored student and with them for 1.5 years. It was uncomfortable for me at first but mom felt I spent a lot of my allowance on the kids (we would get pedicures together, movies, treats….

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 12:54 pm

We’ll i think that’s different if you’re paying for DOING things with the kids. For example, if our AP takes the kids to the movies or buys them a snack, of course we give her money for it. We’ve asked her to try to keep these outings and treats to a certain amount a month. There are tons of free things to do in my area and we ask that they pack a lunch if they are out during meal times, so I don’t expect her to be spending very much.

That’s different than what I was talking about – our AP who would but the kids a toy or something when she was out off duty, sometimes a couple times a week. Toys they liked sure, but not that they wanted or needed or that I wanted to pay for. I would have preferred she just not but those things.

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 8:26 am

We had an AP who bought the kids little gifts all the time, and while of course I appreciated her generosity, I was uncomfortable with it. Mostly because I wanted her to use her stipend for herself, not for buying the kids stuff. I wondered after a while, should I be offering to pay her back? But it wasn’t stuff I wanted the kids to have necessarily, and i would have rather her not get it than have to pay for it myself. It was awkward. Also, I was worried she was buying the kids’ affection and that it was indicative of not being able to say no to them.

Have your ever read the five love languages book? Makes me think perhaps you’re someone who shows love through gift giving. My husband and I are mostly certainly not that type, so I just don’t understand it. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just that your host parents moot to not understand your motives or how they should behave.

So in summary, while it was very sweet and of course the kids loved it, I would suggest following the parents’ lead. Do they buy little things for the kids? Or do they try to keep a clutter free home? How do they act when theyewrn you’ve bought the kids something else? And how much money are you spending? Do you truly want to spend your money this way? Are there other ways you can show your love and appreciation?

Old China Hand March 1, 2015 at 10:17 pm

I completely agree! I would be unhappy with ap buying gifts for my kids. We don’t go for lots of presents or toys and try to get fewer nicer things.

5 love languages is an amazing book. It helped me understand Dh so much better.

GermanAuPair March 1, 2015 at 7:34 am

I did that, too. Just little things like buying fun stickers for a potty chart to encourage the little one to use the toilet, going to dunkin donuts (the little ones’ favorite place), getting stuff we ran out of (mostly apple juice or ketchup, but also crayons, paper,…) or taking them to the mall on a rainy day because they loved to try on dresses (I’d buy them some hair clips or a shirt). And when I went on a weekend trip I sometimes brought them something. I talked about it with my HM a few times. She said she appreciated it but that I didn’t have to spend my money on the kids and that she could give me some extra money for those kind of things.
If I took the kids somewhere (like the mall) I talked to my HM first, of course.
I never asked her for money, though, because to me they were family and I’d do the same for my little sister at home…

Seattle Mom March 2, 2015 at 6:10 pm

I had one au pair who seemed to spend quite a bit of her own money on the kids. But she also spent quite a bit of my money on her own groceries, so I didn’t feel too bad about it :).

I know that she loved the kids and did it because she found things she wanted them to have, but knew we wouldn’t buy :). Nothing super expensive or off-limits, we just don’t buy a lot of stuff. It really didn’t bother me, but it also didn’t bother me when our other 3 au pairs didn’t buy gifts or spend money on the kids.

I remember her first month or so with us I was puzzled when some newly purchased books and games showed up that I didn’t pay for… and it continued to happen throughout the year in drips and drops. But this woman was a shopper- she bought us all kinds of random stuff. One of her charming qualities.

A/B HostMom February 28, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Do others have APs like this? Our AP has some friends around who speak her language, but she often spends the weekend doing nothing in her room. I asked her why not go to the movies or the major city near us and she said she has no money. I don’t know if she’s saving it or spending it on Starbucks and other stuff. If we were doing anything fun I’d invite her along, but in the winter when it’s below freezing our weekends are pretty boring. Just seems like a waste of her time here. She’s been here 7 months, and the rest of her year is getting filled up quickly with classes, etc, I just think its ashame to spend her free time doing nothing.

AuPair Paris February 28, 2015 at 5:18 pm

I do this some weekends. I sometimes explore Paris – or at least go into town to shop. Other times, especially when it’s cold, I hole up in my room, and draw or do homework, or watch trashy TV. My class is crazy sociable, and I meet up with other au pairs during the day when the kids are at school, and some evenings when I’m not working the next morning. Sometimes I take the weekends for just me. I try not to be too much in the way of the family though!

NewAPmom February 28, 2015 at 9:24 pm

Sounds like you are taking advantage of your location though. We’re near a major city on the same level as Paris, and she has yet to go to any of the museums there, which I’ve told her are perfect for cold days (just an example of what she can do). She has a few girls she’s friends with, but she’s not as social as you. Doesn’t go out that often, never during the week, and I don’t think often during the day when she has free time. Seems to spend most of her time with her phone. Whatever, I don’t care that much, I think it’s just her personality, but I’m just surprised that someone living here in the US from another country isn’t taking more advantage of our location. She doesn’t hang out with people who don’t speak her language, so much for coming here to improve her English!

American Host Mom in Europe March 1, 2015 at 5:49 am

Many of my APs have holed up in their room for the weekend, and even during the day when kids are at daycare/school. I find it baffling. We are in the countryside, but easy to drive or take train to lots of interesting places, including the capital city in a European country. I make suggestions of places to go, offer ideas of what they can do, and propose ways to meet people (other than the 2 months of local language training they take, it isn’t so easy to meet other APs or others). Yet they still spend most of their time on TED talks, or YouTube, or bad TV. All my APs are English speaking, and English is widely spoken here, so it isn’t a language issue.

I get that their job during the week can be tiring, and to be fair, we often don’t do much at the weekends either (although are outside all day in the warm months!). In the summer, I try to get my APs outside picking fruit like every other family member, but often they give up and go back to their room after an hour (my 5&6 year olds last longer!). I’ve just written off to an unfortunate generational thing. And personality, because for sure they haven’t all been like that!

spanishaupair March 1, 2015 at 7:59 am

As an aupair i did that quite often. I really enjoyed having a relaxed day/weekend and just hang in my room, specially during winter.
I guess everyone needs a break and have time for themselves.

Multitasking Host Mom March 1, 2015 at 11:18 am

Our first AP would often spend her off time in her room. She really only did something if someone else did all the planning. She didn’t have a very proactive personality. This did bother me a lot but just because I was projecting my feelings. I spent my summers in college working near a big tourist attraction. I spent most of my free time exploring the area ( sometimes by myself if no one else was interested in going) and saw and experienced many things that now that I am old and getting gray;) would never have the time to do. I am so glad that I didn’t waste those opportunities now that I look back. That is why it bothers me when an AP doesn’t get out more. But I never saw a way that I could make this AP see what she was missing.

A/B HostMom March 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Yup! I don’t think some of these girls want to really see the US–I think some of them have lived at home their whole life and just want to get away. My au pair is like yours–not very proactive in general. I think she just doesn’t do stuff alone. I spent a month abroad when I was in college and you bet I spent all my free time exploring whether it was alone or with friends. I also gave my AP a list of must see sites in the major city near us as well as a guide book for it and a regional guide book. Don’t think she’s opened either! I’m seriously considering asking her to leave the books at the end of the year since she’s dpending her travel month out west.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm

DH and I lived abroad and explored our respective countries all the time (in fact, I went to visit him twice, and he came to stay with me when he studies were done). I lived with a HF 4 times while studying in Europe and spent my weekends touring the country, visiting friends, or going to other countries. I didn’t mind touring alone. DH traveled together for 2 months, and there were just times when he would say, “Go ahead, I’ll meet you at that cafe – and that was fine.” I find TV rather boring, although I do spend too much time on the computer. I like to keep NPR on while I cook and clean, because I enjoy listening to the variety of programming while I do other things that are not so entertaining.

I don’t really understand spending a whole day holed up in my room – it’s just not my thing – but I do understand the need for down time.

For the 11 APs I have hosted, it came down to curiosity and imagination, quite frankly. My APs who were the best students were often the most curious people, and the most likely to explore our city and other cities all over the country. They were more likely to create an activity for local APs – whether it was watching a movie in our basement, meeting at Starbucks, or heading to a local lake to walk in the evening. If I were to ask them “Are you doing anything this evening?” the would reply, “I’ve invited a bunch of girls to join me at the movies” etc. Maximizing their year by meeting new people and exploring new places was a priority for them.

I have hosted plenty of what I call B- students – APs who are perfectly competent at what they do, but don’t stretch themselves and often wait for others to take the initiative in planning activities. If I were to ask them “Are you doing anything this evening?” the response will often be “I don’t know I’m waiting to hear back from the girls.” In the absence of a planned activity they are likely to nap all day, watch TV or movies.

None of my APs have explored the city on their own.

I do find myself being proactive, and saying. This is really special about our city, you won’t want to miss it.

Swiss AuPair March 2, 2015 at 1:47 am

When I was an Aupair the first time, I was not that much into tourist attractions or museums. I always felt like I have a lot of time to see all this, because I live here. Of course, the first month I was there, I saw a lot of the “great” stuff, but was like “I have 11 more months to see all the other things”. And then at month 10, I was stressed, because over the year I added a lot more “things to see” to my list and I had just a few weeks left. This was my first Aupair experience in a small european city and I was really sad about that at the end. I was an Aupair 3 more years (in 3 different places) and never acted like that again. I was just too lazy in my freetime.

Schnitzelpizza March 2, 2015 at 10:31 am

How easy is it for her to get to the major city?
When I was in Scandinavia I earned an okay salary in comparison (~$120/week), however a bus ticket into town cost approximately $10 (one-way) and while I would have loved to go to the city more often I simply couldn’t. It also was a 45 minutes bus ride and after finishing work I would pretty much have to take the last bus into the city and then either would have had to take the next bus back home or take the local train and hike through the forest for 7 km.

Is she saving for anything special? An expensive class she wants to take? A trip she is planing? Her future in her home country (education, moving out from home)?

When doing “nothing”… what does she do? Read? Watch tv? Skype?
She might simply be introverted (in the basic meaning of the word) and drawing strenght from being alone. Some people just don’t thrive on being around other people but on being at home reading, drawing, knitting…

A/BHostmom March 2, 2015 at 1:15 pm

It is very easy for her to get to the major city–it’s about an hour by train and $10 each way, but many people in our town commute to it for work so it is not unreasonable to go there on the weekend. I know of other au pairs that go every weekend. I honestly don’t know where her money goes. I see she buys a lot of frivolous stuff, but I guess that’s what young girls do. Personally I’d rather spend my money on experiences than junk, but that’s me. When she’s doing nothing she’s sitting in her room with the door closed, so I imagine she’s skyping, or watching TV. Don’t think she reads much. If she wants to do nothing in her room all day, that’s her choice– I just think it’s such a waste of time, especially when these girls come here claiming they want to experience life in the US and travel, but yet don’t.
Because we want an AP who will take advantage of our location and develop a social life, we were sure to put this in our application for next year’s AP.

hOstCDmom March 2, 2015 at 1:29 pm

When our children were small, we didn’t much care what our AP did in her off time. Now that we have preteen and teens (well a gaggle, elem age to teenage) we care A LOT what kind of behavior an AP is modeling for our teens. We very much do not want an AP that models the “sleep all day/spend all weekend holed up in your room on your computer/watching TV” as an acceptable way of living. To be clear, it IS acceptable that an AP (or any adult) may choose to live this way, it doesn’t make someone a bad person, it just isn’t the way of living we want modeled in our home, and thus and AP who did this wouldn’t be the right match for our family and our values.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 2, 2015 at 2:46 pm

That’s a very interesting way to look at it – and a valid point. Now that child #2 is a teenager, I have noticed that he pays attention to what the AP eats, so I wonder if he also notices how she behaves at the weekend? While he holes up a little, I also make sure he has some chores that force him to step away from the computer. When the weather is fine (spring come soon!) he is outside and away from the house a lot.

Should be working March 2, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Our updated handbook explicitly talks about role-modeling for our teen and preteen. That includes not being glued to screens in shared space, keeping undergarments covered, driving safely, and helping out in the house.

AuPairInMadrid March 2, 2015 at 2:45 pm

I do that sometimes as well. I’m quite an introverted person and being around people exhausts me a lot sometimes. So after having my “people limit for the week” filled up with the people I see at language school and the family at home, it’s paradise to just spend some time alone on my computer and catch up on my shows.

DowntownMom March 1, 2015 at 12:03 am

I have been surprised by how few of the sites and museums any of our APs have been interested in, despite all of my suggestions. There is a ton of sightseeing in close vicinity. Someone commented here a couple of years ago that being in another country alone may be adventure enough for some. I can also see how a regular work week is tiring. Still it is surprising that they don’t even hit two or three of the major sights.

Au Pair in France March 1, 2015 at 6:01 am

Does anyone have any advice on what to do when host parents disagree on how they are raising their kids, so AP and the kids are getting two different sets of instructions? One example of this are HD says no screen time during the week, but HM has told us that they can watch 1/2 hour each day. This means that the older two will be complaining that they’re allowed to watch a DVD, while the younger one will be crying that ‘daddy will be cross if we watch it’. They also disagree on what food they are allowed, HD says no deserts during the week except yoghurt (and only one a day, with not too much dairy generally) and limited fruit (it’s too sugary) whereas HM is happy with us baking something at lunch break, and giving them as much fruit as they can eat, which again leads to the kids arguing over which parent they should listen to.

NewbieHM March 1, 2015 at 9:27 am

Mom is always right, honey. Tell her he is contradicting him and she will handle it, lol. No seriously, ask them to agree on something. If they can’t and you think that disobeying one of their rules is going to get you home then get your LLC involved.

Do people really limit the amount of fruit children take? I let them eat as much fresh fruit as they want. I also let them eat as much yogurt as they want. Not the sugary kind but plain yogurt with granola, fresh fruits and a little bit of honey. They eat big bowls of it as snack some days, they love it. I make my own because I like it better than store bought and is waaaaay cheaper and everyone can eat lots of it that way, including AP.

UKAu Pair March 1, 2015 at 10:43 am

She’s in France, so no LCC.

My French HP were similarly inconsistent. I’d suggest you talk to one of them. Don’t be confrontational, just say that you’re confused because you’re getting mixed messages and you want to clarify what is and isn’t okay.

WarmStateMomma March 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Our pediatrician suggests limiting fruit/juice because of the sugar content, and suggests limits on our toddler’s dairy intake as well. That may be more about ensuring a balanced diet than anything bad about dairy.

Au Pair in France March 1, 2015 at 5:44 pm

I don’t have an LCC, I’m not here with an agency, but it’s not that I’m worried they’ll be upset with me for breaking their rules, it’s more that the kids spend so much time arguing over which parent they should be listening to, and any decisions I make will upset one of the kids, because it’s not following somebody’s rules.

And yes HD really does try to limit fruit, because it’s full of sugar, which I would sort of understand if they didn’t have pretty much unlimited bread and jam. They limit butter and (skimmed) milk as well, because it’s too fatty for the children – we’re supposed to spread natural yoghurt on our toast for breakfast, instead of butter, which I found really strange at first, but I actually prefer now!

Old China Hand March 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm

We treat fruit as dessert and limit it as such. One bowl with dinner. Yogurt is whole milk and unsweetened. Breakfast only. Both are because my toddler would only eat those things if allowed. Too much sugar in both.

NewbieHM March 2, 2015 at 4:06 pm

My kids rarely drink juice or eat jam but they eat lots of fruits after almost every meal. I will talk to their pediatrician and see if there is an issue. Now I feel like a terrible mom for feeding them endless amounts of blueberries, lol.

Anon for this one March 1, 2015 at 7:12 am

So I don’t know what to do. My husband recorded video in our eating area and as reviewing it he discovered our au pair pulling the hair of out 2 year old and yanking her head down because she was crying.

Do I tell the LCC? Do I talk to our au pair? Do we just go into rematch?

cv harquail March 1, 2015 at 1:42 pm


This seems like an automatic rematch situation. My inflexible expectation is that an au pair keeps a child feeling safe. If the au pair hurts a child in any way, that’s an automatic ‘out of my house now’.

What’s also upsetting here is that the au pair is reacting physically to a situation where your child needs something else- comforting, listening, calm direction, etc. If an au pair is rough in this kind of situation, how might she act when a kid is really out of hand or when she (the au pair) is angry?

Do you have any other data about the au pair’s behavior?

First I’d contact your LCC. Then, I’d have a sit down with the au pair to understand what was happening for her, just in case there is more you need to know before deciding to rematch.


Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 2:29 pm

Rematch IMMEDIATELY. She needs to be out of your house tonight.

Should be working March 1, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Please post back if the agency tries to put the AP into another family–and tell us which agency that would be! I think physical abuse is a send-home-immediately offense; I know that CCAP goes over that at orientation and I imagine the other agencies do too.

hOstCDmom March 1, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Document. Tell the LCC, in writing (email) cc’ing the program director, what happened and request a meeting with LCC immediately. Then call the LCC for a meeting forthwith. If you can’t reach the LCC, call the emergency number with your agency. Be explicit that you want the AP to move out today — this is a situation where LCCs should provide emergency housing for APs.

I’m sorry this happened to you, but even if you want to I don’t believe you should trust the AP to care for your children again, much less live in your house. She could seriously, permanently harm your child. She demonstrated she doesn’t have the self control to not act physically when a child is being frustrating. Even if she says otherwise. What will she do the next time your child acts like a child and is crying/having a tantrum/whining/backmouthing/being obstinate (which are NORMAL for two year olds and will happen!)– because there will be a next time. This is a childcare provider — not the parent of your child or family member who if they did such a thing might merit second chances, contingent on parenting classes, therapy etc. You should end this relationship and be glad you learned about this before your child(ren) were further harmed.

SKNY March 1, 2015 at 5:15 pm

Agree by 1000. Au pair has to go now!!!

A/B HostMom March 1, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Talk to LCC to tell her what happened and that you’re going into rematch. That AP should not be taking care of children!

ProPair March 1, 2015 at 4:52 pm

This is heartbreaking! One of my current HKs and a previous HK are both this age and I can’t imagine how someone could harm such a small person! An au pair should only bring love and education into a child’s life. Rematch now, and talk to the LCC so that this girl doesn’t end up in another family, and get her away from your baby!

WarmStateMomma March 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

She’d have an hour to pack her crap and be out the door of my house. I’d call the LCC to pick her up or let the AP find her own transportation/shelter. Child abuse is never acceptable.

SKNY March 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

That would be pack and go here. Now.

NewbieHM March 1, 2015 at 5:15 pm

I wouldn’t tolerate violent behavior period and I would rematch. I wouldn’t tell the AP just yet. I would call the LLC or the emergency hotline and ask them to pick her up. She can find out then. I would also send the video and make a police report today and send them a copy of it to the agency including the legal department. That way she won’t end up with another family, the agency is not stupid and once there is a report which was notified to them they will be liable if she does harm someone.

AuPair Paris March 1, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Tell LCC, or whatever you need to do to make it official but get that person out of your house! That is physical abuse! And the child is only two! It’s not ok at any age, but a childcare worker who would abuse a baby?!

Taking a Computer Lunch March 2, 2015 at 8:51 am

This young woman is not mature enough to be an AP. She is actually endangering your child in the process. Sorry you have to go through this, but she should not be permitted to stay in your house while you undergo the rematch process.

You will have to decided whether you want to file a police report, but sharing the clip with the LCC and HQ and explain that if the AP is not sent home pronto you will file charges, will probably be enough.

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 9:53 am

This is truly awful and I’m so glad you found out so you can get her out of your house.

I am not trying to detract from the seriousness of this situation at all, but I am curious about how you decided you needed to have the nanny cam, whether you told your AP about the camera ahead of time, and what people think about the ethics of cameras. It is covered in our orientation with LCC for a new AP. She just asks us to tell the AP where cameras are and if we use them. We have a webcam as the baby monitor so we explain about that but also that we don’t use it to spy on her, although we sometimes check on the baby from work because we miss her (the baby that is). We could use it as a nanny cam, but the baby’s room wouldn’t be the place to choose for that. :)

SKNY March 2, 2015 at 1:36 pm

I would be interested in hearing an update. As for the camera, I have never had one but don’t blame families who do. Now with ANOn situation I might consider one. Scary. I wonder if there were red flag before or if the Au pairs was great up to that point…

Mimi March 2, 2015 at 3:13 pm

I’m not comfortable with cameras, but I’ve never been in this situation and would likely feel differently. This AP needs to be gone immediately.

I’m not sure if the purpose of recording the eating area was for the AP or for something else, but it’s legal if the intent is monitoring your baby and/or your AP to thwart child abuse, or to prevent theft without violating her legally protected expectation of privacy. It’s legal in every state to make a video-only recording of anything inside your home (at any time) via a camera either hidden or in plain sight. However, under wiretapping laws, it’s illegal to record oral communication in a surreptitious manner, such as with a hidden camera or other secret recording device. (Apparently the way around this is those smiley “you’re being recorded” signs.)

AuPair Paris March 2, 2015 at 3:19 pm

If I found out that someone had filmed me while I was on duty, I’d be on the next plane out of there. But I guess a lack of trust only seems like an insult if you’re not actually betraying it. If my host parents did film me, they’d be bored out of their minds watching me do homework and play piano while off duty, and play with their kids and cook while on-duty. Once abuse is involved in the situation, I feel like the nanny cam is a bit of a moot point. You have to trust your childcare provider – but this one wasn’t trustworthy, so!

I guess maybe the answer is – if you’re so uncomfortable that you’d use a nanny cam, the relationship is pretty much over already!

spanishaupair March 2, 2015 at 4:09 pm

I agree with you if i find a nanny cam i would take leave the house straight away.

I think if you dont trust your aupair you should start to think about rematch. Other thing is the cams to check babies while sleeping.

In this case Im really sorry for you and your kids that you got this aupair and sure if i was the HM she was packing as soons as i knew it

BearCo Momma March 2, 2015 at 4:11 pm

This has always been my philosophy (in theory), but the HM here seems to say there were no real red flags beforehand that could have let her know…. As a working mom of non-verbal children , this story is my worst fear realized.
I totally understand the AP point of view that the camera is a violation of privacy and they want to feel trusted, but how well can you really trust someone you don’t REALLY know? (esp in the beginning) Sometimes you get a bad feeling and you don’t know why — a camera for a short period of time could reassure you or give you the evidence you need to end the arrangement (as seems to have happened here).
For the record, I have never had a camera.
I would still like to hear more on what prompted the use of cameras in the first place… HM said something about the child having tantrums, but was it to monitor what the tantrums were like or primarily to monitor the APs handling of them? Did you suspect she wasn’t handling them appropriately?

Anon for this topic March 2, 2015 at 4:31 pm

But how are you going to know for sure? An AP or any other caregiver for that matter is not going to mistreat a child in front of the HP, nobody is that stupid. If a HP has kids who can’t explain that they are being abused I think is asking too much to be blindly trusted with the most precious thing they have. I don’t have cameras myself since I’m at home most of the time but if I wasn’t I would definitely get them. I love our AP but I love my kids infinitely more and I’m not going to jeopardize they mental and physical well being just to spare our AP feelings. The way I see it is if I wouldn’t trust that person with my bank account information why would I trust her/him with my children’s lives. There are plenty of cases of caregivers abusing children and the only reason they got caught was because there was a nanny cam to capture it. Btw, isn’t there an AP who is still waiting trial in Massachusetts?

NewAPmom March 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm

You au pairs who say that having a camera is a lack of trust and you’d be out of there are too idealistic. You haven’t lived long enough to see some of the things we HPs have seen or know of, and until you have your own children you will never understand. Trust me, as Anon says we love our kids more than our APs, and it’s not worth risking their well being for fear of hurting our APs’ feelings. I don’t have a camera, but fortunately my son is verbal enough that he’d tell me if anything were up. I have thought about it though from hearing stories like this! Plus I grew up in a big city where we trusted no one. What I’m saying is don’t be offended if there’s a camera, you’ll understand it one day once you’re a parent.

SKNY March 2, 2015 at 10:33 pm

It is hard when you have youngsters who are not likely to tell you. I know for a fact that my kids won’t. This story also touched on my fears. We do have a live out nanny for now but if she lost patience with my little ones one day, I would never know. I have no cameras, but wonder.
I know families who have those drop cams and are just honest about it from matching. I have cameras on x, y, and z sites., and to work with us you must be ok with it. Perhaps that is an approach.
For what is worth it, I am a school physical therapist and there are cameras everywhere at my job.

Swiss AuPair March 3, 2015 at 2:52 am

@NewAPmom: I now am a mother myself, but I still feel the same way: I would leave. If you can’t trust an Aupair or nanny or whatever in your house, then just don’t hire them! I absolutely would have been offended if there’s a camera I didn’t know about. And I still can not understand why parents do this. Always treat the AP the way you would other want to treat you.

I am sure that no Aupair would be offended it the HP would say before matching: “We have cameras all over our house, except your room and bathrooms. It is really important that this is okay for you, otherwise you can not live and work in our house.”.
What would you answer if you have hidden cameras that you don’t want the AP to know, but she is asking you during the interview if you have cameras?
If you would lie to your AP, I assume that you would be fine with her lying to you as well.

Swiss AuPair March 3, 2015 at 2:21 am

When I would find a hidden camera, I would leave the house within the next 24 hours. To me that would mean that the family does not trust me. Aupair is about beeing “part of the family”, what includes to respect each others privacy, and that kind of relationship would be over. When I just think about my past: More than once (alone at home) I was running from the bathroom to my room naked (across the whole house), because I forgot the towel in my room. When I find out, that the family might have seen this, that would be incredibly embarrassing.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 3, 2015 at 8:06 am

I understand that. This family did not set out to catch an AP out – they were trying to understand why a particular child was acting out during mealtimes so they could deal with it. What they discovered, unfortunately, was that the child was telling them in the only way s/he had available that the AP was harming her.

There are some women who are too immature or who have been abused themselves and are unable to behave in a different way. They should not be APs. If the goal is to live in the U.S. for a year on a J-1 visa, there are other ways to achieve this that don’t involve childcare.

I would also like to add, that a tiny minority of APs behave like this. I feel no need to install a camera – I have trusted all but one of my APS – and she lasted 10 weeks in my house. Infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities are helpless.

Swiss AuPair March 3, 2015 at 10:33 am

I responded more in general “hidden nannycam, yes or no?”. I am very sad that there are aupairs out there doing this. But it would be better if the HP would just tell the AP that they are recording. An other way to see what the AP does with the children is for example to send a friend/grandparents/… to the house sometimes. Or just come home from work earlier (if possible).

SKNY March 3, 2015 at 10:41 am

to Swissaupair,
My last flameout (as people call it) au pair used to bolt all doors during her work hour. Her excuse is that she was worried about safety. Those bolts can only be open from the inside, and we were never able to get in the house without her letting us in. I dont think she was physically abusive. BUT I KNOW she spent all of her day in the internet and did not want us to get her (as she started locking the WHOLE house only after we told her if we caught her on internet ignoring the kids again she’d be in trouble

NewbieHM March 3, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Swiss AuPair- Sorry I replied to the wrong comment. See my response below.
I also would like to add that we have never treated our AP like criminals, on the contrary, we like to assume they are good people, kind and trustworthy and I’m sure most of them are. But at the same time I like to make sure I’m right about them, so far they have been great. Can you imagine how a child must feel when mommy and daddy puts them in the hands of someone who is aggressive towards them and not being able to tell them whats going on? To me is no AP is worth the risk.

Swiss AuPair March 4, 2015 at 1:37 am

NewbieHM: I really see your point, and as you can read above I’m a mother now myself. But now I’m curious: How often do you check the camera? Only for the first few days to be sure that the kids are safe?

exaupair March 2, 2015 at 5:07 pm

REMATCH RIGHT NOW!!!! Sorry for caps but what you’ve said is a serious criminal offense.
Give her an hour to pack and have your LCC to get her out of your house.

NewbieHM March 3, 2015 at 11:54 am

Swiss AuPair – that makes no sense. How do you think sending someone to check on the AP is going to solve the issue? She/he is not going to smack the kid in front of them. You can still hear someone entering the house. If an AP asked me during matching if we have cameras I would say that I reserve the right to have them (in fact I think in in our handbook) I wouldn’t answer yes or no and I would never tell her where are they located even if she asks. I would say that her room and bathrooms are protected but that’s it. If she doesn’t like it she can pack her stuff and leave, I would think she is doing so because she has something to hide. I knew people who worked as detectives investigating sexual crimes, the things they saw, not just sexual abuse, wouldn’t let them sleep at night. The abusers (physical or sexual) are usually the people who you trust the most.

A/B HostMom March 1, 2015 at 10:51 am

How much does your AP interact with you and the kids when she is off duty? Mine does very little. I understand it’s her time off and respect that, but if I’m home alone with the kids (baby and toddler) and she’s holed up in her room, sometimes it would be nice if she made an effort to interact with them more, or offer to lend a hand. Not like she’s doing anything anyway! I would never say anything though because like I said she’s not on duty. I think I have an AP who sees it as a job when is convenient and sees herself as a family member when is convenient (like eating all the food in the house if it isn’t labeled).

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 12:27 pm

A/B Host Mom – I would gently suggest that you stop thinking about things this way, because it’s not fair or appropriate. She’s not “not doing anything anyway,” she’s spending her time off duty in the way she wants to, which could include just relaxing. It doesn’t mean she’s not being a family member and the food thing is not similar – her job is to work with the kids when she’s off duty and as part of your compensation for her to do that job, you feed her. You wouldn’t expect her not to eat unless she’s on duty, right? And how would you feel if your boss felt you should be doing extra work for free on the evenings and weekends because he knew you were just sitting there watching TV anyway, so why not?

I get that the HP/AP relationship is different from a professional boss and employee, but I say all the more reason to respect your AP’s free time. If she’s out to dinner with you in her free time, I can see expecting her to cut a kids food to lend a hand, sure. But what you’re implying means that she literally never has a time when she’s off duty that she can just hang out without you expecting her to work more. With this attitude, I bet she starts finding a reason to be out of the house every minute of her off time so she can actually relax without expectations.

Sorry to be harsh, and maybe I just misunderstood you, but I think this assumption is really unfair as I read it.

SKNY March 1, 2015 at 1:16 pm

I agree. I understand where you come from, but it is not a fair expectation. What I used to do was that if I knew there was a time I would need help (like hubby would not be home till later), I would twist au pairs schedule (like leaving 30 min early or starting 30 min later… Which meant some days I would get ready for work holding on to baby and yes, tv would be on for other 2). And this way I had left over hrs to have help when needed.
Other idea is a neighbor middle or high school helper. In our area you can have a 8th grader from our neighborhood come by and play with the girls for very little. If all you need is someone to distract kids while you do laundry or… It works.
But if your au pair has worked her hrs and is off, she should be allowed to do nothing in her room.

spanishaupair March 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I would resent if my hf expects that. I was an aupair with a 7 months old baby and a three years old girl and spend all day ith them and its a hard job. When i was off duty i would hang in my room or go out and sometimes spent time with them abd obviouslly interact with kids. But if my HF started to ak me to do that would be different as they are asking me to work.

Indeed when kids were a bit older the oldest started swimming lessons on saturdays and they started to ask if i could stay home with baby as a favour just because I was home studying, first time i didnt mind but when started to be a routine i started to resent it and getting mad, i was really working extra hours and days just because i was home.

AuPairNJ March 1, 2015 at 4:24 pm

As an au pair myself I feel this is very disheartening of you to say. If you feel like you need help when you are home alone- you should be scheduling her in (if you have enough hours to do so) As an au pair who works the maximum 45 hours a week I can tell you as soon as i’m off -I’m off. I’m going to my room to relax, we spend all day looking after the children and I think it’s necessary to have a break away from the kids as soon as your day is over.
It is entirely her own decision what she does in her free time and you should respect that. As for the food thing – you’re au pair lives in your house , you have to feed her and respect that as an adult she’s entitled to eat food whenever she likes!

american au pair abroad March 3, 2015 at 3:14 am

Hello A/B HostMom,

I’m replying here to a couple of your messages. First, I’m very sorry that you’re not happy with your au pair! That must be very stressful, and not having kids of my own, I realize that I am not in a position to fully understand what you’re going through.

That being said, the idea that my host parents were judging me for how I spend my time off and for things like not folding my laundry before I put it away would make me extremely uncomfortable. How would it make you feel if your boss lived in your home with you and during your time off observed your actions, then made judgements like “oh, Ms. so-and-so left the dishes for morning, how lazy” after you had a rough day at work or a rough day with the kids? To be completely honest, if I even had an inkling that my host parents felt the way you have expressed, I think I would be stressed and exhausted to the point where it might impact my job performance. In that situation, I don’t see how I could ever truly relax and at least for me I think the cumulative stress would be difficult. Also, if I may I would like to politely suggest that maybe the time in her room is being used more productively than you think it is. For example, I spend a fair amount of my free time on weekday evenings on my computer learning German – I’m hoping to start a Master’s degree there in the next year or two. For all I know, for the first few months my host family thought I spend all my free time on BuzzFeed.

I think it’s really important for a good relationship that both sides try as hard as possible not to be judgmental. As an au pair, I sometimes over hear phone conversations, see my host parents snap at the kids after a bad day, see dishes left in the sink over night, and I try to realize that these people are human, that I am living in their house, and that they have bad days sometimes and a right to feel like they won’t be judged in their own home, just like I do.

Some of your concerns seemed much more valid and should be brought up with her separately I think. You should definitely not feel bad about telling her you would appreciate it if she ate less of the specialty foods and that you’re not comfortable buying extra-expensive items for her.

I hope that the situation gets better!

A/BHostMom March 3, 2015 at 10:49 am

Thank you for responding, but I’ve got something to tell you–in life and the real world you are always being judged and someone will always have an opinion about you. I have a right to have an opinion about how she spends her weekends, and the beauty of the Internet is that I can come on and anonymously vent about it! TBH, while I think she’s sometimes wasting her time, it’s her life and she can do what she wants! Also, I am my own boss, so I am always being judged! The boss is tough on me. When I was referring to the laundry I was referring to the childrens’ laundry, which is one of her duties. I don’t care how she does her laundry. But it is irritating when I take care to organize their drawers and fold everything properly, and she completely ignores this and throws the clothing in whatever drawer (yes I’ve brought this up).
I don’t care what she does in the evening. If I could retreat to my room at night I would. I was just referring to the weekends. (I don’t think she’s working too much on her English because the written English hasn’t gotten better.) anyway, she’s a very nice girl, an ok au pair, not amazing, but does what she needs to do, sometimes with reminders and doesn’t usually go the extra distance. She never complains, and does try, I just think that her personality is not what we ideally wanted. It’s been a learning experience for us.
You should remember though that a lot of us HP come on here to vent. That’s the beauty of the Internet. So relax a little and don’t get in such a tizzy saying you would feel stressed if you were in such a house. Do you really think I’m such a terrible person? Our AP is very happy; we do a lot for her and I’ve learned to put up with the things I can’t change. I am human as you said, and it is normal human nature to form opinions about people and what they do.

TexasHM March 3, 2015 at 11:27 am

A/B HM I hear you and have been reading through the threads on this and yes, it’s clear you have some less than ideal AP behaviors and I completely understand and actually agree with a lot of the things you have said but here is the problem I think – tone. It’s clear that the tone of the original post sent some folks (APs and HPs both) sideways and I am sure that wasn’t your intent but the genius of what CV has created here is that it’s NOT a place where HPs come to vent. This is where HPs (and APs) come to get constructive criticism, support and ideas for how to have a better year.
Yes, an occasional rant will trickle in but by and large this group is very good at seeing both sides and putting themselves in the other’s shoes (which they have done here with several HPs trying to defend the AP position and I would implore you to find me another site where that happens!).
You obviously have some frustration and that is natural and I totally get where you are coming from and I would be frustrated in your situation too but I think the problem is this chain reads like you aren’t interested in dissenting opinions or wanting to hear other possibilities for the behavior and I don’t know if that is the case.
I thought american AP abroad’s response was respectful, constructive and genuinely helpful and she is entitled to her opinion and it seems from your response to her that you might be a little more frustrated/on edge than you realize. She wasn’t judging you and she never said you were a terrible person. She did her best to not make it personal at all, but share another (AP) perspective that perhaps you hadn’t considered (and might potentially shed light or improve your situation).
APs often say they don’t post as much on here because they are afraid of getting singled out or piled on by HPs and I just felt the need to say something because I didn’t feel like this response was in line with the tone/purpose of the blog. You will note that CV even posted above “please follow the comments policy and be kind”. :)
There are LOTS of threads on this site already about managing/surviving/molding a mediocre AP and if you can’t find them I am sure if you reply as such one of us will look them up for you and post the links. I wish you nothing but the best, we had a mediocre year and it was maddening at times and it sounds like you are right in the thick of it and for that I feel for you. Hang in there!

Mimi March 3, 2015 at 11:38 am


BearCo Momma March 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm


This blog will become a lot less useful as the learning/supportive community it currently is if APs (or HPs) become afraid to offer their perspective for fear of being personally attacked in response.

(Not so much referring to this last comment but the previous one which appears to have been deleted now)

A/BHostMom March 3, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful response, and I actually had not read the comments policy and was not aware there was one, so thank you for pointing me in that direction. I’m sorry if my tone came off the wrong way. I was just getting frustrated that few people seemed to actually answer the original question, and instead chose to give my advice, their opinion, or insight on my situation which I was not really looking for. Is there such a place online that exists for HP to vent? Because I haven’t found one. There’s the au pair confessions page on Facebook but that is not for HPs.
Anyway, that is all I have to say on this topic.

NoVA Twin Mom March 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm

If you’re just trying to vent – we DO do that occasionally. We usually preface it by saying “I’m venting here”, or “I know there’s nothing to be done about this, but I need to vent somewhere, so…”. And since all of us like to talk … a lot … we tend to give advice and tell of our own experiences whether it’s asked for or not :) Kind of like having a best friend that will tell you when you’re “out of line” – we don’t mean it in a bad way.

But sometimes someone else’s experience or even wording will help you get past a problem you’re having.

TexasHM March 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm

A/B HM you raise an excellent point in that we all do need to vent sometimes. In my case I found that going to lunch once a month or so with other host moms in my area was immensely helpful assuming you are all on the same page. We all seem to struggle at different times and what is said at lunch stays at lunch. Before I met a couple others I vented to our LC and she was new so that didn’t really get me anywhere but if your LC was experienced she could help you sort through your frustrations (what is a reasonable ask/expectation and what is too much or not enough). Also this can be a great resource to vent with some prefacing as was mentioned. We do get so used to the normal question posts that we do all tend to go into discovery questioning/problem solving mode right away so I can see how if you weren’t really familiar with the blog we could come across as motherly problem solving advice sharing piranhas! ;) So to that end, vent respectfully at will and keep in mind that APs read this too and obviously it is an internet forum so for more private and specific venting I’d find another local HM and share stories over wine!

AlwaysHopeful HM March 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm

A/B Hostmom, goodness knows I’ve done more than my share of venting here! I guess the point is just that we all try to be gentle with each other. Sometimes though, things don’t come across as gently in writing as they are intended, so feathers do occasionally get ruffled. Still, one reason I love this blog is because it is a safe place to give and receive information, advice, support, etc.

With that said, there is a site that gets really vent-y (and sometimes downright offensive) if that’s your thing, or even sometimes your thing. It’s on the DCUrbanMoms site– there’s a nanny/au pair section. I have viewed the site to find answers to questions, but haven’t ever posted there because, man, some of those posts are vicious! But since you asked… :)

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Sorry – her job is to work with the kids when she’s ON duty obviously.

A/B HostMom March 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm

I think you misunderstood my post. I said in the second sentence that I get she’s off duty and respect that, and actually never say anything nor suggest that she be working with the kids when she’s off duty! But I have seen how friends’ au pairs are with their kids and they interact with them and help the HP sometimes even when off duty. I was just wondering if others did the same. Instead she almost ignores them. And the food thing I mean she eats EVERYTHING in the house, helping herself to specialty items to the point where I need to label stuff because she doesn’t seem to believe in moderation. But I’m not going to get into that! It’s just irritating where when I’m home alone with the kids, she’s happy to eat if I offer to cook for us (she knows it’s a challenge if no one but me is watching the kids), but then doesn’t bother to help clean or watch the kids for 1″ so I can clean. Anyway, needless to say I’m not cooking again she can prepare her own dinner (there’s plenty of food in the house) if she doesn’t want to help afterward.

spanishaupair March 1, 2015 at 1:04 pm

Wow i think there is a big difference in just interacting with kids and help around meal times if she joins them. My HP didnt want me to help with cleaning so i always took kids out of the kitchen and entertained them while parents clean and tidy up after meals

A/B HostMom March 1, 2015 at 1:32 pm

Gees, I don’t think anyone actually READS the post. I said I never ask her to work when she’s off duty nor do I expect her to work! What I’m talking about is maybe just acknowledging the kids more when she’s off duty, me for that matter (sometimes I talk to her and its on deaf ears because she’s too involved with her phone), and if she saw I was struggling would offer to lend a hand. Common courtesy. We do a lot for her and I feel like she does the minimum. I have never asked her to do any of this off duty. I was just wondering if all APs are like this since I’ve seen others who weren’t. This is a tough crowd! And I wish she would get out of the house more! (See above post.) the original question is how do other people’s APs interact with the family?? No one has actually answered my question, instead I’ve been criticized harshly.

spanishaupair March 1, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Answering your question that now i understood more, sorry i understood different.
I usually had my life go out on trips and that things. But when home i had diner with them and helped with kids when they were cooking and tidying/ cleaning their choice. Watch some telly with them and interact woth kids. Never refused when kids asked to play/colour or do something. And helped/ offered help if parebts were busy for any other reasons.

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Ok thanks for the additional information. I was reacting to the following, which I still maintain is unfair on many levels, and which I did read in your post. I agree that you also said you have never actually said that to your AP. But it’s clear that you think that’s what she should be doing.

“…she’s holed up in her room, sometimes it would be nice if she made an effort to interact with them more, or offer to lend a hand. Not like she’s doing anything anyway!”

But to answer your question, my au pairs have pretty much all hung around the house, mostly in their rooms, when off duty for the first month or two, and then do about a 50/50 combo of being out with friends and Skyping/watching TV in their rooms during their off hours. So what you describe sounds normal to me. Our APs have all been very helpful at dinner times, especially when I cook, which is frequently. So that’s been nice. But by helpful, I mean helping to clear the table after dinner. Then they’re right back to their room or sitting on the couch or something.

But maybe there’s more going on than we can tell from your posts? The phone thing in particular makes me think you’re irritated with her for other reasons. Sorry, I simply don’t think the things you wrote in that first post are appropriate expectations. Helping to clean up after a meal you made? Yes, appropriate. Acknowledging you and the kids when she comes upstairs on her off duty times, yes. Speaking when spoken to and putting down the phone when spending time with the family? Yes. But “lending a hand” on her off duty time simply because she doesn’t have plans? Your question was what do other host families see from their au pairs in this regard, and my answer remains that I see a mix of hanging around with the host family and spending time on their own, but either way, I don’t think it’s fair to have any expectations of au pairs on their off-duty time with regards to helping with the kids.

NJmama March 1, 2015 at 2:38 pm

A few years ago I would have responded differently, but after having one AP who did this and then have it end badly I see it in a new light.

We had an au pair who was great with the kids, and then when she was off she was OFF. I have no issue with that – I get it. But in my case as weeks passed we saw her less and less of her during her off time. It got to the point where I’d come home from work and the AP would stop whatever she was doing and leave. It was off-putting. The kids noticed of course and asked what was up. Eventually she withdrew more and more while on duty too.

Now I’m not saying this will happen to you. There were other things going on (this was the au pair that got engaged and turned into Bridezilla and ultimately dumped us). But when I look back on her time with us I think two things: that i should have seen it as a red flag that she didn’t want to be with us at all during her free time and that maybe I should have tried to involve her more. Look – we work all week and weekends can be hard. There’s a lot of running around, and with little ones it’s harder. But if this were to happen again I may say, “Hey we’re going to the mall /movies/ beach on Saturday. Would you like to come?” Or “we’re going to make cookies this afternoon. Would you like to join us? Do you want us to save you any?” We did this of course in the beginning but as she detached more and more I didn’t make as much of an effort because I didn’t see it as a bad thing at the time. But eventually it got awkward.

I guess what I’m trying to say is there’s a difference when the au pair is in her room during her off time and keeps her door open and talks and interacts with you for part of it, and when she shuts the door all weekend and rarely comes out even for dinner. The first gives the impression that she’s more than just a border. The second gives the impression she wants nothing to do with you. And week after week after week of it isn’t a good thing.

Maybe you should talk to her and ask if she’s stressed or tired or comfortable or if there’s anything wrong. Also you may want to ask the LC if she’s heard of any issues.

A/B HostMom March 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Actually no, I don’t expect her to be lending a hand. I just think it would be nice and courteous if she did. And by lending a hand I mean for example maybe talking to my son for a minute or 2 to entertain him if she sees me struggling with the baby. I don’t know if you understand what I mesn–I think some of the others who replied do. I don’t expect her to do anything work like in her free time, I had just hoped she’d be the type to give a little bit back if that makes sense.

Skny March 1, 2015 at 2:55 pm

NJ mama I see where you are coming from but I think that depends on a variety of things. Like how many kids you have and what ages. With 3 kids under 5, there is always noise, kids noise and kind of mess around. I specially have one (just turned 3 this month, so isn’t she supposed to drop the terrible 2 thing?) who is a screamer.
For a family with pre-school and school ages kids it is different, but watching 2 or 3 infant and toddler combo for 8-10hs on a roll is hard. Even if my 3yo was not a screamer would still be hard. I don’t blame an Au pair who worked 8-10hs on a day to want to stay far away from the kids. I need a break from them sometimes, and I am the mom. Even on their time off the Au pair can still hear me yelling at the kids, or them dumping toys, or them fighting over a silly toy, or baby crying. So it is really not 100% zone out.
I don’t mean the Au pair should ignore the kids. None of them did. They all came up at some point, gave hugs or hello, pretended interest in watch ever they were showed by the kids, and ran away fast. And they need it that way…

SeattleHD March 1, 2015 at 2:54 pm

We’ve had both ends of the spectrum, and there’s no doubt that having the au pair interact with the kids even when off-duty and help with some aspect of dinner, whether it be making it or kid-wrangling while somebody else is making it is a huge difference in the mood in the house.

I don’t mind when the au pair disappears to her own room – our au pair room is quite attractive, a decent size and has a lot of amenities. Sometimes I just think of it as having a teenager in the house (which they pretty much are).

We’ve never had much of a problem with food, but if that ever happens it will get old fast.

So – you have my sympathies – maybe reset a few expectations about what it means to be good housemate?

Peachtree Mom March 1, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Our aupair retreats to her room with the door closed on her time off also. Like Seattle Mom I think of it as a teenager thing. What does bother me is that usually I grocery shop Sunday evening after mass. My 6 year old and I haul in bags and bags of groceries and put them away. I do get resentful of that (mad really)….I consider the groceries a family affair and she eats every bit of what is in those bags. Our other au pair would come out of her room and help carry in the groceries and put them away. She would talk for a few minutes and then go back into her room or putz around the kitchen. So this Sunday I skipped grocery shopping and will do it Wed evening after work.

CoffeeCapitolHM March 1, 2015 at 7:32 pm

This is my first comment – please be gentle! This resounds with me, because we are currently in rematch with our first au pair. We tried and tried with her, and it couldn’t work. The reason I have to speak up with this is that I noticed the same behavior from the start, she didn’t want to interact at all with the kids when she was “off duty” We have a 1.5 yr old and almost 3 yr old. I figured like others said, she has had a long day and needs a break, I get that. However, I always had this sinking feeling that if she was truly interactive and loving during the day – how could she just switch it off at night? Well, after things went really sour and realizing that we are going to have temp nannies until we find a rematch, we put up a nanny cam. We also told her about it. I am guessing she did not understand. What we saw was so sad. She does not abuse the kids, but she definitely neglects them. She has been on the phone for 2 hours at a time while they play by themselves. She isn’t even in the room. My 1.5 yr old cried once for a full 2 minutes before she came to see what was wrong – what if she was injured? The only thing keeping me sane is the thought that it is likely worse now since we are in rematch – and that she may not have been loving and kind all along, but hopefully she was in the room supervising at least. I think back to several injuries that she couldn’t explain – I thought at the time sure you turn your back one minute sometimes and things happen. Now of course I question everything. So, while she is not working, I would suggest trusting your gut. You can’t turn off your personality, if she isn’t the person you want her to be when you are there, she isn’t the person you want her to be when you are not there.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 3, 2015 at 9:09 am

CoffeeCapitalHM, I’m sorry to hear about your situation! This is what I worry about with my son, although he is older. It’s impossible to know what is going on 100% of the time with our kids, and that is really scary. Thet only thing we can do is listen to our guts, listen to our kids (however they may express themselves) and be vigilant. I have to work from time on occasion, and during those times, I get a little window into the interaction between my son and the au pair. I find it helpful — sometimes reassuring, sometimes helping me focus on areas to be addressed.

With current au pair, I’ve posted here a lot about my frustrations. I don’t think my son is getting the experience I would like hIm to have, but I’m satisfied that he’s okay. He doesn’t adore this au pair, but he likes him well enough. Again, he’s older, so as long as he’s safe and clean and comfortable, we can hold on until next time for our great AP experience.

exaupair March 2, 2015 at 6:22 pm

I did read your post, I kind of get your point about eating family dinners. I agree that if you eat as a family and one person did all the cooking someone else should set the table and another person should tidy up after the meal. I would expect that from the au pair just like I would expect it from my partner and my children (even a 4 year old could help setting the table!).
Don’t get upset but your first post really sounded like you would like her to do some ‘work’ when she’s not working and I understand why people got the wrong end of the stick.

I think you are no different to most host Parents. They don’t want to ask the AP to do extra ‘work'(i.e. like someone above said staying with one HK for a while when the other HK needs to be taken elsewhere), but all of them silently wish their APs offered little extras here and there without being asked (just like an actual family member would?).
The only way to get that is to specifically ask about how the candidate sees the ‘member of the family’ part of the deal. A/B HostMom, did you screen for that? Some people will only do the bare minimum they are actually being paid for (in cash, not in additional perks that the Host Parents provide), you can’t really change anyone’s personality nor attitude, I’m sorry.

Now to answer your question about interacting with my HF during the time I was off. With the first family I didn’t interact at all. I literally treated them like a bunch of strangers hanging around my house, no joke. I really despised the Host Parents and I was glad I found a rematch.
The second family that I really liked never expected me to contribute when I wasn’t working. If we had a meal together I would either clean up or do something with my HK while the meal was in process. I also spent an occasional Saturday or Sunday with the HK when he asked, but the Parents never asked me to stay with him only because I happened to be in the house. If they did I think I would, but obviously I wouldn’t like that to become a rule.

A/BHostMom March 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Thank you, I think you understand what I’m getting at. Yes, we did try to screen for someone who would be more like a family member–I guess we didn’t do a great job! ;) honestly, I think our AP is just lazy and that’s why she doesn’t help clean up all the time after dinner. It’s the same reason why her room is a mess, the laundry isn’t folded or put away properly (in an organized fashion), why she sits in her room instead of going out, etc. I think it’s just her personality. We’ve matched with our next AP already and looked for and found someone who is more energetic, positive, and has a vested interest in children. Hopefully she’ll be a better fit!

Thankful HM March 3, 2015 at 11:40 pm

To answer your question, our current AP sounds like the total opposite of your AP.

She adores our kids and chooses to play with them on weekends or evenings when she is off duty. Even when she is not on-duty she simply stops to acknowledge and often spend some quality time with them. This astounds us because she is the first one to do so (we’ve had 6 APs thus far). We have liked our prior APs but she is by far in a different league just because she cares and enjoys the company of our children. The kids will invite her to a card game and she’ll say, “yeah why not?” or they want her to snuggle with them while they watch TV and she obliges. She is a bit of a kid herself so it seems totally natural for her to hang out with them. She does not seek her room and does not seem to need to run away from it all (like prior APs have done).

I totally understand your post and the question that you are asking is a valid one. It feels so wonderful to have this caring young woman in our midst. It is so hard to screen for this trait and we are thankful that we found someone who doesn’t view the “job” as that much of a burden and in fact quite the opposite, she loves it. Needless to say, every time we ask for extra babysitting so I can go to the gym or so we can go on a date, the answer is always “yes!”

We are having an amazing year and BTW we realize this is unusual:)

AlwaysHopeful HM March 1, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Just to come to A/B Hostmom’s defense… We’ve had both social and anti -social (with us) APs, and i find the latter to be unsettling and irritating. Current AP sometimes spends entire weekends in his room, emerging only briefly to grab something to take to his room to eat or to leave the house. It sometimes seems like he can’t wait to get away from us! I agree that his off time is his free time, and that he is not required to spend any of it with us, but I admit that it makes me feel resentful (and then petty for feeling resentful). Like A/B Hostmom’s AP, he also eats a ton. But usually not when we are around and not anything in particular, so I have a hard time gauging what to buy more of. It sometimes feels more like a rooming house that a family home.

Our first AP would stay in her room until she was ready to go out each Saturday, and would be gone for the weekend. During the week, though, she was interactive or at least not standoffish. And most recent AP was gone most weekends, but was very interactive and involved with the family when he was at home. Both APs one and two pitched in without being asked when they were at home and not busy skyping, watching a movie, etc. So, maybe my expectations are unreasonable or were skewed by prior experience, but my idea of the AP program was not to just provide food and shelter to a worker who shuts off as soon as the clock strikes 5.

NJmama March 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I agree with AlwaysHopeful. I think it comes down to an AP who wants to feel part of the family and one who doesn’t. My kids are older and they love just talking to the AP when she’s around and not working, saying Hi to their parents when they Skype, helping them pick out what to wear when they go out and see what they bought when they shop. Believe me – I get it. I work really long hours and I have a long commute and all I want to do on my downtime is veg too. And I’ve been on the other side with an au pair who wanted to discuss her boyfriend situation all night and every night when I got home from work and the kids were asleep and all I wanted to do was go to bed myself. But I would never not speak to the au pair or act dismissive of her. I think it’s more of a vibe than anything. It’s one thing to disappear when you’re tired and want privacy. It’s another to disappear altogether. The kids pick up on that too. But if that’s what your au pair wants to do, and she’s happy with it and you can’t seem to draw her out, then I guess you have to adjust your expectations.

exaupair March 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

I totally get your point. I’m not a host parent, and if I was, I would, sadly, prefer the AP to be as independent and non-invasive as possible (maybe even shut in their bedroom for the whole weekend if they had no other plans).
I can’t imagine a lot of potential APs queuing up to waste a year of their lives with my family :-(

Seattle Mom March 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Honestly your first post reads much different than this one- now that I have read this comment I understand what you were trying to say. But if you read your first one without the benefit of already knowing your situation it sounds like you are complaining that your AP stays in her room when she is off-duty.

But as to your real question… I have it in my handbook and I discuss it when my APs first arrive- I consider off-duty time when they are in common areas of the home (kitchen, livingroom, etc) or out with us as a family to be “shared time.” Someone else introduced that concept on this blog a while ago and i thought it was a great idea so I stole it :). Basically “shared time” means the AP isn’t required to be there, but if she is there then she is there as a member of the family and has to be present and interact with all of us nicely. Ignoring the kids just because she’s off-duty is not ok. It’s one thing if she’s running out the door to go somewhere, or running to the bathroom to take a shower, but if she is sitting in the livingroom or helping herself to food in the kitchen then she can’t act as if we all don’t exist. If my 4 year old asks her a question, I expect her to respond.

I would say that all of our au pairs have been good about being pleasant with us when they are hanging out. Some are more helpful than others by nature. One of our au pairs was not around that much in her free time (she went out a lot) but when she was she ALWAYS played with the kids- she would take them outside and push them on the swing when off-duty, and it was really because she loved them, not because she was doing us a favor. Our last au pair was not as energetic, but if a kid came over and sat in her lap she would pay attention to her :). Our current au pair is a really nice mix- she is extremely gracious and helpful. Actually yesterday she asked me if it would be ok if she came with us to swimming lessons- I told her I was planning to get in the pool with the kids for the open swim after the lessons, and she said that sounds great- she totally came in the pool with us and helped with the kids! It was totally above & beyond, because it was her one day off. She didn’t have plans and she didn’t want to sit alone at home. But I can tell you that she is the first au pair to actually initiate coming somewhere with us- and she is our 5th au pair.

I would have a problem with an au pair ignoring the kids, or acting like they didn’t want to be bothered when they are hanging out in the common areas. If they really feel that way they can go to their room.

SKNY March 1, 2015 at 2:03 pm

As far as meal times we used to have a “rule” that anyone who would eat assisted during meal times. I have an 18yo daughter so I kind of have built in help, but I usually say that husband watches kids while I cook, teen does the dishes, and if Au pair eats with us id love for her to help clear the table. If it is only you and her in the house with kids maybe ask if the nights she eats with you she would rather cook, do the dishes or watch the kids so you can do both. Assuming host dad is not around. Otherwise i would suggest host dad gets a job too.

SKNY March 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm

I feel that most Au pairs start as members of the family participating in all times and helping. Within weeks most will go to ther rooms as soon as they are off, as stay away most of the time. The good Au pairs will know to socialize at least a little before hiding or going out.

Repeataupair March 2, 2015 at 1:34 am

It depends, my HD told me he wanted alone time with the kids (aka without the au pair), which has lead for me to go to my room when he gets home.

AuPair Paris March 1, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Amalgamating a few ideas from this thread, has made me think of something I’m concerned about: I worry that my host-parents think I’m anti-social or rude. I’m rude and awkward with my host-parents sometimes, simply because I’m embarrassed of my language skills. That is, I’ll be abrupt because I can’t think of how to say something, or I’ll just stare in response to a well-meaning comment or question from my H-M (*very* off-putting), because I can’t formulate a complicated response. Then, when I feel she’s been waiting too long, I’ll say something short and simple – something that she knows I must be able to figure out and say much more quickly.

With the kids, it goes the other way! I love the kids a lot, and we have a great relationship – but I’m only supposed to speak to them in English, and this is really, really hard – for them because they don’t understand it, and for me because they then start having tantrums, and because you can’t have a conversation about anything that way. When I’m alone with them, I mix language and set aside special English times… But when the host-parents are there I can’t speak to them at all really.

I’ve been trying to conquer my fears about the language issue and *just speak*. But it’s really difficult – I feel horribly self-conscious and uncomfortable. And I really like and respect my host-parents, but I worry that they think I’m dull or dim or ungrateful because of it.

Do any host-parents who host non-English speakers have any tips for what they wish their struggling au pairs would do while learning the language? My French is pretty good now, but complicated conversations with adults are still difficult – and mixed with an ingrained fear/quietly respectful attitude towards authority figures… I’m struggling.

ProPair March 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I love this question because I think its something a lot of au pairs struggle with!

In order to gain confidence in French, I would suggest first taking a language course if you haven’t already. I know au pairs in France get one of the smallest stipends, but there are free ways to practice your French as well. Consider looking online for conversation groups or a Tandem partner, because these will be people who understand what you’re going through.

I also found speaking to the kids in only English difficult. Like you say, if they’re being naughty things are even more difficult. I wanted the kids to learn English as well, so I reserved their native language for when they were REALLY misbehaving or being unsafe (ex. “You need to wait at the intersection” “I have to be able to see you while you’re on your bike”).

Hope this helps!

ProPair March 1, 2015 at 4:41 pm

PS-get yourself some French young adult novels as well. They’re interesting, the vocabulary isn’t too complicated and reading lots will help your brain “switch” to using French in thoughts as well as speech, a key to confident conversation.

AuPair Paris March 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Definitely good advice, ProPair! I do take a language class – and it’s one of the highlights of my day. Great teacher, great people, and I feel like I’m progressing. I would have drowned if I hadn’t! I’ve been getting books out of the library too – but I haven’t actually been reading them lately, so I may need to recommit to that. (And to watching French TV!) I think it might be more of a confidence issue. I can speak to my teacher, or the kids, but to my host-parents I just can’t. It’s partly that they speak very fast, but honestly, I think it’s mostly the fear that, if they think I’m stupid, they won’t trust me to look after their kids.

They’ve never given me any reason to fear that they think this… It’s my own insecurity, I suppose…

Maybe another reason is that I see them at the end of a work day when I’m tired – or maybe that my French brain switches off a little when I feel like I’m about to be off-duty?

Did you have a similar issue with your non-native language?! It’s good to hear it’s not just me!

ProPair March 1, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Almost identical. My only regret from my year with my first host family was not practising my language skills more. In retrospect I would suggest initiating small talk when they first come in the door, using topics within your comfort zone (weather, kids, work) to get your mind into “French miode”.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 1, 2015 at 4:53 pm

Ha! My last au pair did the staring in response to a question thing in the beginning. I didn’t think he was rude, but I did think it was a a little weird. His English was good, so it didn’t occur to me that he was struggling to formulate a response until later in the year, when our conversations became more two-way. To his credit, he took every available opportunity to interact, to help build his comprehension and confidence.

AuPair Paris March 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Sometimes I do it because I haven’t quite understood too. Usually when I’ve caught the key words, and am struggling to rearrange them into a question that makes sense!

Taking a Computer Lunch March 1, 2015 at 10:15 pm

There is a reason why I ask my AP about her day, what interests her, and what she did at the weekend. While it may appear completely nosy – if she’s been alone in her room all day, then chances are she spent most of her time in native language (it also helps me to know what to buy as a reward, when I know what she likes). She then has the opportunity to practice small talk, listening and responding in English, and — when she has trouble finding the right word – the opportunity to expand her vocabulary. I use a lot of idiomatic English – so if she listens and asks questions, then she’ll take her use of the language to the next level. For the most part, the APs who were least willing to talk with me, took the language to acquire good receptive English skills and nearly their entire year to have an easy conversation. Those who speak more readily, were able to participate in dinner table conversation within a few months.

HP – you can clue your AP that you are talking to her/him by saying his or her name first. By using their name, you signal to APs to listen. I do this especially during dinner table conversation during the first few months.

APs – even if you don’t want to hang out with your HF all of the time – having meals or joining them for family events is one of the best ways to improve your English. You may struggle just to understand what is being said at first – and it will be exhausting, but keep at it and one day you’ll discover that you’re able to join in the conversation.

UKAu Pair March 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

TACL, the point you made about saying the AP’s name when you start to talk to them is really important.

Spending a whole day in a foreign language is really tiring, and even though both my French and my Italian are fairly fluent I still struggle in large groups when I tend to focus more on the language used and not what is actually being said. If someone says my name it gets my attention and I know that I need to listen to what it said in order to formulate a response, not merely to get the gist (and, of course, that’s always the only sentence of the conversation that I can’t understand!).

A/BHostmom March 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm

I can understand that. The point I was making in my post was that she was the only other person in the room with me and was 5 feet away! Was just too involved with her phone. If I wasn’t talking to her, to whom would I be talking?

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 1:13 pm

I think that a lot of this is about whether you are focusing on the foreign language. If I randomly hear someone speaking Chinese, it isn’t automatic to me to assume they are speaking to me. Even if they are speaking to me and I know no one else is around, I need to mentally switch from whatever I am doing in English to the conversation in Chinese. Saying my name first clues me in to that.

I noticed this with our AP at a small party the other night at our house. She was speaking with one of the guests and understanding him reasonably well. After they hadn’t been speaking for a few minutes, he asked her a question and she looked totally blank. It wasn’t that she couldn’t have understood him, just that the rhythm of the conversation was not something she had currently been clued in to.

I’m not trying to belittle the dynamic you have with your AP, just explaining my perspective as a foreigner when not using English. From the general tone of your comments this weekend, it sounds like you are getting resentful about some major things and the more resentful you get, the more little things are bothering you. That probably makes it worth a reset conversation with AP so that you can get going on a better foot.

AuPair Paris March 2, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Yes, so, so, so much about starting with the name! I can understand well, when I’m concentrating! When I’m not concentrating, and I come back to life halfway through a sentence, it’s just a no-go!

Also, A-BHostMum, this wasn’t really directed at you! Just something I worried about myself – possibly your post reminded me of it though! I don’t know your dynamic with your AP as you do – and even if it’s not what you think exactly, as OldChinaHand says, it sounds like something that might not so much get on your nerves if there weren’t other problems.

German Au-Pair March 1, 2015 at 11:18 pm

I would actually tell your HP just that! Maybe in writing to make it easier and more eloquent. Once you know they know about the issue, you may feel more comfortable. Telling someone you are aware of your mistakes (opposed to thinking they may think you’re flawless but really aren’t) may make you feel less self-coscious.
When I first met a friend whose English was not at the same level as mine was at the time, she actually said that she was aware of it but wanted to try her best to do it anyway so she could learn. She invited me to correct her if she repeatedly made the same mistake and once we got that out communication became much more effortless and mistakes were funny anecdotes.
My English is pretty fluent even when I speak but I can guarantee that everyone has those days when you feel like you simply lost all ability to speak the language, when you make the dumbest mistake ever (like when I said disposable thumbs instead of opposable thumbs and it made my kids’ day).
I always felt better about it when I communicated that I was aware of this so I would be seen not as dumb but temporarily incapable :D
And if you are not certain about a certain phrase then just ask. I also offered different suggestions when it came to preopositions (“I go to/in/on the market” -for lack of a better example). Great learning opportunities.

I do hear you though. Even though I could communicate pretty effortless most of the time, sometimes it was really frustrating how limited your ability to share knowdlege and opinion are by the second language. I love nature and animals and are pretty knowledgeable about it so I was frustrated when I simply couldn’t come up with the word for an animal I knew in my native language. Same goes for every-day words you simply haven’t learned in school (and never had a reason to learn in a different context) but that are suddenly missing. I hear you. We all have been there.

AuPair Paris March 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

That’s a simple, but pretty good idea. My HM just came to talk to me about something, and I did mention in passing that if ever I don’t respond when she asks me something, she should assume I haven’t understood, or just need time to think. It wasn’t exactly a deep confession of all my insecurities, but it might help a little – at least, since neither host-parent has ever actually shown irritation with me, and it’s mostly all in my own head, knowing she’s aware that I struggle sometimes might help me!

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 9:56 am

This is interesting – our AP hides more when DH is around, and I think that is basically because her English is mediocre and he doesn’t speak Chinese. I don’t think he finds her anti-social, just that he doesn’t see her personality as much as I do. Last night when I had my students over for dinner, I finally shooed AP away instead of having her help clean up because I knew she was tired, couldn’t follow the conversation, and wanted to go to her room, but she thought she had to help clean up. My students were capable of doing that. But I could see her worrying that it was anti-social if she left.

AuPair Paris March 2, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Ha! I am not invited when there are guests for dinner! (But it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I rarely join the family for dinner anyway, though we hang out at other times – sometimes for after lunch coffees and such – and I think it really is because they know the conversation wouldn’t interest me. And that I might not understand it.)

But yes, I can imagine that an academic discussion might lose me, a little! (I love discussing philosophy and politics and all the areas that I studied at uni, but doing it in French might be a little much… Let alone an area I didn’t study, like maths or engineering or IT!)

ProPair March 2, 2015 at 5:11 pm

This brings up another interesting, related note on language: in the Netherlands, I didn’t have one Dutch friend. Now that you’ve mentioned this, I wonder if it was partly because I couldn’t fully participate in a group conversation about the deeper topics I love in Dutch?

WarmStateMomma March 2, 2015 at 5:13 pm

I was too shy to speak much to the wonderful HPs during my study abroad experience in France, so I completely understand your feelings. But as a host parent now, I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to watch our exchange students or APs make strides during the year. We thought one of our exchange students would end up leaving within days of arrival because his English was so bad – but he made huge progress and is doing well at an American university now.

The most effective thing is also the hardest – putting yourself out there and risking embarrassment. They hired you to speak English well, not French.

Other strategies that worked exceptionally well for my classmates: get drunk and brave enough to speak, watch Friends en Francais over and over until you can say every word like the voice-over, or date a native speaker.

Seattle Mom March 3, 2015 at 3:17 pm

I don’t have great tips… all of my au pairs have started with very limited english skills, and I can always tell when they are really working on improving the language and I really appreciate it. Yesterday I was working from home and I saw my au pair sitting at the kitchen table with her ESL books, a notebook and dictionary. She was obviously working so hard, and I was very impressed! Her reason to come to America was to improve her English and I can tell that she is very motivated.

One of my au pairs watched a lot of American TV and she really improved her english that way. She used to sit with us at the dinner table and listen to our conversations a lot, and contribute when she could. Same for our current au pair. I can understand how it would feel uncomfortable, I hope that your host parents are a little understanding. Both me and DH have lived overseas in places where we were learning the language, so we are understanding. It is tough when you are with people who don’t get how hard it is to just talk to native speakers.

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Ok, sorry if I’m misunderstanding. I agree that it would be odd if an au pair literally never engaged with us off duty and since I’ve never had one like that, perhaps I don’t understand the severity of it. All of our APs have been very friendly and have helped with dinner clean up and such like any normal housemate would, but none have played with the kids while I make dinner when they were off duty, for example. None have come upstairs when they were off duty and asked if I needed help with the kids. They might play a game with us or watch a movie wth us or something like that if we’re home.

Our current au pair is very engaging, and will tickle the kids or something as she walks by and chat a bit, but mostly on her off duty times, she’s in her room or out with friends. Would it be nice if she helped more? I guess, sure, but she works hard during the week and I’m happy she’s having fun and/or relaxing when she’s off. I just think you get into dangerous territory wishing or expecting anything beyond basic social etiquette like saying hello and chatting. Then anything beyond that is gravy.

But like I said, it sounds like there’s more going on here. How happy are you with your AP’s job performance? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – time and time again it seems like when someone starts picking at off duty things, they’re not happy with how their au pair works with the kids or don’t feel like they’re working hard enough on duty. Any of that happening?

ILHostMom March 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Host Mom in the City, I really like your point about how HPs tend to pick at off duty things when something isn’t going well with performance overall. My husband and I have lately found ourselves constantly complaining about our current Au Pair. We complain about how she will literally be gone Friday night to Sunday evening (with our car), only to show up for dinner. Or about how she consistently puts herself first, even always before the kids. On snow days, she makes play dates with her other Au Pair friends instead of my son’s actual friends. There are a lot of little things that our starting to get on our nerves, and I find myself getting more irritated every week. I think it boils down to us transitioning from a rock star Au Pair, to this probably very average Au Pair. But what I have found is that I am working so much harder at home to make up for this difference and its really starting to be exhausting. We have had multiple “meetings” with her to show her how she can step up, and while she has a great attitude about it, not much changes. I really think that she plays on the phone, talks to friends, etc., when the baby is napping, even though we have stressed to her that’s a time when she should be getting things done (laundry, organizing toys, etc). I think if I came home to a clean house, the laundry done, homework done, toys organized, etc. I am on my own 90% of the time, and we really stressed while matching that we need another adult in the house, but I feel like we got a 21 year old teenager instead.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 1, 2015 at 5:27 pm

On a somewhat related note, do most people prohibit their kids from knocking on the AP’s door when off-duty. I’ve talked to my son about respecting AP’s private time and not being a pest, but it seems a bit irrational to me to tell him that he cannot ever knock on the door if it is closed. Still, I have the sense that this is the rule for many. If so, how do you reconcile with HKs the notion that AP is part of the family, but of AP is not working, don’t speak unless spoken to?

spanishaupair March 1, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Difficult one, i think part depends on what kind of relationship you have.
In my last family my room was in another floor and kids simply couldnt get in, they were young and there was that kind of door to keep little kids out of stairs, i appreciated the privacy but also missed the fun that i had with previous family.
With my first family i was in same floor next door to kids without a lock, i had almost no privacy but loved all the fun we had even when they got in my bed at 6 in the morning to play.

So two opposite experiences and even though i loved both, i hadaybe a more close relationship with the kids in the first family.

Host Mom in the City March 1, 2015 at 5:53 pm

That’s definitely our rule. We make it clear that we will respect our APs off time and personal space, and assume that if she wants to hang out, she’ll come out. Our kids have never questioned it – we just say she’s busy or taking a break or relaxing.

Au Pair in France March 1, 2015 at 5:59 pm

I don’t have a problem with them knocking on my door when I’m off duty, as long as they have already seen me that day – I don’t want to be woken up early on a Saturday morning to be shown a drawing (though if it’s something cute like the little one coming up to say he’s made me breakfast he’ll be quickly forgiven!) If I’m up though, they can always knock, and if I’m not doing much I’ll often play a game, or read a story for a while.

Taking a Computer Lunch March 1, 2015 at 10:56 pm

Child #2 knocks on the AP door every night to see if she wants to join us for dinner or not. Otherwise, I don’t think he’s intentionally bothered an off-duty AP to hang out with her – until he was 9 he wanted me – and afterwards he wanted everyone to ignore him while he looked at the Internet. The Camel isn’t capable.

Read your AP – and this will change from year to year – if it’s clearly bothering her, then help her draw the line. I have a quiet rule in my house on weekends – to a point – and then all hell is permitted to break loose!

German Au-Pair March 1, 2015 at 11:07 pm

Let me add that “closed door” does not have the same meaning in different cultures. I always always always have my door closed (sometimes even when on duty -kids were older and would just barge in when needed) and it has never meant that I wanted privacy. I close my door when I’m home alone, too. So when my kids would come talk to me I would always welcome them in and I would also come to their rooms. I did tell my HP about that preference just so they wouldn’t find it weird but only because I knew about the American meaning of a closed door.
I can see how it might be different with younger kids who might be inclined to get on the AP’s nerve abit after a 10 hour day but I would definitely talk to the AP about that door thing and maybe talk about how a closed door could actually mean “leave me alone” and a cracked door means “come in if you want to”. As long as you make it clear that you absolutely expect her to want privacy when she’s off and that you really just want to know in order to avoid unwanted situations, she might just tell you.

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 9:58 am

“American meaning of closed door” made me laugh because one of my older, male colleagues knocked then walked in after I said “just a sec” the first day I was pumping at work after my maternity leave (last month). I ALWAYS have my office door open, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. I had to make a sign (cow that says “do not disturb. milking time”) to put up when I pump. So much for common understanding about closed doors. Anyway, totally not related but it made me laugh and I am procrastinating about work right now.

German Au-Pair March 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

Haha, was that an American? I guess then my theory doesn’t hold up :D In my experience Americans respect a closed door and Germans wonder why their HF won’t ask them down for dinner (not be but AP friends).

NoVA Twin Mom March 2, 2015 at 11:15 am

One way we’ve gotten around the “closed door debate” at dinner time is to text our au pair that dinner is ready. If she’s awake and “accepting visitors” she’s probably also watching her phone :). If she wants to join us she gets the information – if she’s sleeping or otherwise “not accepting visitors” she can disregard the text.

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 11:30 am

We text for meals too.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 2, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I sometimes text for things that are not time sensitive, because AP checks for messages infrequently. I feel a little uncomfortable texting someone who is right down the hall, though. Our last AP complained about a friend’s HF who texted her from the next room, rather than talking. I’m sure there was more to that dynamic, but afterwards I made a concerted effort to not text if I could talk instead. I think I’m stuck in that mode, and need to reconsider!

Taking a Computer Lunch March 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

I personally wouldn’t text for dinner – we always send a child to call out, and if he’s not home, we do it ourselves. If she’d prefer to nap or has plans to go out, then she lets us know immediately.

TexasHM March 2, 2015 at 10:52 am

This is a really good point (closed doors). I was just thinking that I never felt like our APs holed up in their rooms during all their free time but then I realized why – their door was always open! The one AP we had briefly (burnout – I need to come up with an alias but Pointy Boots was genius and already used by CalifMom – gosh I miss her COME BACK!!!) always had her door closed and a few times the kids knocked and she welcomed them in no problem but just having the door closed all the time really did make her seem closed off whether she personally was or not. Yes, our APs occasionally closed the door to Skype with boyfriend back home or take a phone call from the LC but that made it really easy to know when they weren’t to be disturbed. Also made it easy to know when they were up in the mornings (all opened or cracked their doors as they were getting ready and bathroom is across the hall).
I can’t relate to the AP that doesn’t acknowledge or pitch in. Even the burnout helped clear the table, engaged the kids in conversation in off time or joined to watch a movie or go out to eat. We tend to teach our kids to be aware and proactive (if you see something that needs doing, do it or bring it to someone’s attention) so I don’t know if the APs do it to match the vibe because kids and HPs do it or if they are that way at home as well but either way, it REALLY helps the relationship because then when the AP needs my time or a favor its no big deal because we help each other all the time and everyone wins.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 2, 2015 at 11:50 am

Yes, I think that’s it. Our other au pairs left their doors open most of the time, so a closed door was a clear signal that privacy was desired. My son was able understand and accept that pretty easily. Current au pair left door cracked in the beginning, but now it’s pretty much closed all the time. And on the occasions that we have had to knock, it does seem to be a bother, especially if my son is the one doing the knocking. In our case, it’s not that AP NEVER comes out– it’s just that it’s rare and extremely brief. Or, he’ll talk to me, but seem inconvenienced by HK. On a positive note, if he joins us for dinner, he does help clear the table!

AlwaysHopeful HM March 2, 2015 at 11:53 am

German AP, this is interesting to me. If the door is always open, but you are accessible, how does one know when you really don’t want to be disturbed?

AuPair Paris March 2, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Ooh, my door is always closed too! Just a habit, I really didn’t think it could be perceived as a “keep out” signal! If I really don’t want to be disturbed, when people knock, I’ll go to the door and say “hiya, what’s up! Just sleeping/reading/doing homework/whatever right now, but do you need my help with something?”. That usually sends the signal that if it’s not urgent, I’d rather be alone! The worst that could happen is I have to say “hang on, give me a minute!” if I’m changing or asleep or something…

The kids I look after *were* forbidden from knocking at first, I think, but then since I invited them in a few times of my own accord, they’ve taken to knocking if they want to play. I’m never in there when on duty anyway…

German Au-Pair March 2, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Mhm I don’t know. At home with my own family I tell them when I take a nap so they won’t disturb me. Other than that there is no time at which I am not disturbed. (Except when they haven’t seen me yet and I might be sleeping in.) (We also knock and enter right away…annoying sometimes but I’m used to it).
In the US I only napped when the kids were in school so no issue there. The kids were older and probably not as needy of me than younger children might be so we never ran into a problem with essentially always being accessible. They could swing by whenever they wanted but spent most of their time with their computers anyway. Had they constantly disturbed me during my off time, I probably would have told them I cannot play with them right now, but wouldn’t have minded them asking. Since I also didn’t work my full 40 hours by a long shot, I also helped send them to bed and make them brush their teeth when I was off whenever I remembered or felt like it so it was pretty easy going.
I personally don’t think it’s a problem when kids ask because I feel comfortable saying no if I really don’t feel like it. I would find it weird if they couldn’t talk to me just because I’m off. Sometimes kids don’t want to play but just share incredibly exciting news and I feel like this is something they could and should do. I might see it differently after having worked 10 hours and just wishing for a little peace and quiet but I never ran into any problems with that.

Nordic aupair March 2, 2015 at 5:48 am

I think there MUST be a balance.
As an au pair i dont want kids to be prohibited to knock on my doors when they want to play or show me picture (Now i live in separate apartment few minutes from family so its impossible for them to just come over) but in previous family I took care of three really loud kids (2,4,6) and they often came to my room on my time off during weekends at 7 am or 6 am or on my time off at 8 pm when i was getting ready for my evening run and just hang out there while the parent was home on his laptot etc. I have to say that bothered me a lot specially because i worked more than full hours. (I am in Europe so the rulers are not that strict here) I basically never had time off that is how it felt, the parents didnt come for them or didnt call them out of my room even if they noticed i am actually talking with my family etc.
I found this really bothering and stressful, so much that i moved to different family where i have kind of live out position…
On the other hand in previous family the kids came quite often too but mostly to call me for cake they made or to show me something to to hang out there for an hour or more and that i found really nice and sweet.

Seattle Mom March 3, 2015 at 3:26 pm

I wish we could have a balance, but with my younger daughter that is not really possible. She is a loud, precocious 4 year old who thinks in black & white about the rules- if she is allowed to do something once then she thinks she is always allowed to do it. My older daughter (6) has always been better about understanding social subtleties.

For this reason we have tried to maintain the au pair’s bedroom as off-limits for the kids. It helps that it is up a steep, narrow staircase, and there is no reason for the kids to go upstairs ever (our office is up there too). But lately they have become more daring about that. I do not let them go upstairs to the au pair’s room, but if the au pair allows them up there to play or hang out even once in a while it becomes A LOT more difficult for me to keep them away. I can’t go chasing them upstairs all the time, especially if it seems like the au pair is ok with them being there. My solution has been to tell the au pair that if she doesn’t want them in her room she needs to be firm and tell them that she needs to have private time- if she ever allows them in, then it becomes her job to kick them out when she wants to be alone. It seems to be working ok with our current au pair, who enjoys spending time with the kids.

It also helps that the kids don’t really have any need to go upstairs, so they don’t think of it all the time. They are usually too busy playing in the livingroom or basement.

WarmStateMomma March 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

My oldest is 2, so we tell her the AP is taking a nap whenever the AP is off duty and not downstairs in the common area. My daughter will occasionally knock on the door anyway, but not often enough to be a nuisance. We do send her to announce to the AP that dinner is ready, but not breakfast since we’ve learned the AP prefers to sleep late or lounge in bed on her days off. I text her with an invite if we have decided to go out somewhere before I’ve seen her up and about.

dcmomof3 March 3, 2015 at 10:39 am

As I think every long-term host family will agree, APs tend to vary on what they want to do in their off time. I’ve learned over the years not to judge. While I personally would not want to spend every weekend at the mall or on the computer, its also none of my business if that is how the AP wants to spend her time.
As for hanging out with the host family, APs also tend to vary on how much they want to do it. But, I think this works both ways. There were times in the past when my kids were smaller when I did want the AP to be around while not working – whether for companionship (my husband is in the Army so always gone) or for another set of hands. And, I have some amazing memories of times with my APs when we were just hanging out, on trips together, or watching TV after the kids were asleep. I’m totally grateful for the amazing women who shared their time with me when I needed it the most! Now that my kids are older, and I am older and the gap between me and the APs is now at least 20 years, rather the than 10 or less that I had when I first started hosting, I tend to want my privacy and family time on the weekends, rather than having to also consider the AP in our planning. Over the course of this year, I’ve actually had to adjust my thinking on this and make myself more open to including our AP and sharing with her during her off time because she seems to want and need that family connection. I’ve found that I am being rewarded by getting to know our AP as an awesome person through spending more time with her, even though my first instinct would be to just be alone with my family.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm

I think what I’m finding is that I’m having more difficulty than I imagined with the part of the family aspect of having an au pair. It’s a shame because that is the aspect that draws me to the program most. I really don’t need or want a professional child care professional. I want someone who wants to build a relationship with our family, who will love my child through his challenges, and who will have the ability to separate (or maybe successfully merge) being an employee and being a family member. That’s part of why the no-knock rule for the constantly closed door bothers me. It also bothers me when I hear statements about being certain to invite the au pair to do things, but making sure they feel no pressure to have to say yes. I get that the dynamic is skewed, but I feel like with the right fit, a lot of this tiptoeing would be unnecessary. And if it is necessary, by extension, maybe it’s not the right fit. I would like to treat our au pair like I would my similarly aged nieces or nephews. Yes, they are independent people with independent lives and interests, but as a part of the family fabric, there are just certain expectations.

I also know that many people prefer a more reserved, professional relationship, so… maybe this is just me. I’m not even venting, really. Just reflecting… Hey, it’s an open thread! :)

AuPair Paris March 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

I think for me, some of the rules that I really feel *need* to be in place, are not rules that I need to actually have upheld. I needed the rule to say the kids couldn’t come into my room at first, because it told me that my host-parents respected my privacy and my need for personal time – but I still invite the kids in and play with them – pretty much whenever they want. I *need* to have host-parents who will have a schedule in place and my hours worked out, because I need to know that they respect what I’m doing, and the hard work it takes to do it, and don’t just think of me as a lackey – but knowing that they do respect that, *of course* I’ll go off schedule if it’s needed. Likewise, I need there to be a rule that they’ll pay for things like groceries and activities I have to take the kids on – but that doesn’t mean I won’t go out on a limb and take us all out to the cinema or the zoo one day. And I needed the family to ask me to events and meals at the beginning to know it wasn’t annoying to them to have me around – but when it slowed down later, as we all figured out each others’ likes and tendencies, I wan’t upset or offended.

An au pair, I think, *can* be part of the family, and can be flexible – but the rules need to be there to begin with – to make an AP, who is in a vulnerable position, feel like they have basic rights and securities to fall back on. And then, the AP certainly doesn’t have to make use of all those rights! (I have the right to free speech, for example, but that doesn’t mean I make use of it *all the time*. Sometimes I choose *not* to speak for various reasons – and that’s kind of how I think about my right to alone time. Sometimes I’ll use the right, and sometimes I won’t, but even if I’ve declined to use it, it’s important to know it’s there to fall back on.)

Which in a long-winded way, I think is agreeing with you, Always Hopeful HM. With a good fit, tiptoeing *is* unnecessary. But it takes time to figure out the fit, and to make sure that the security is there sufficiently that a more easygoing regime will be ok.

hOstCDmom March 3, 2015 at 4:37 pm

+1. Wonderful post AuPair Paris – very well said!

German Au-Pair March 3, 2015 at 6:25 pm

It depends on the character of both the family and the AP though. I feel like I can say “no thank you” but some APs may not. Combine that with a HM who clearly knows what she wants and oozes a feeling of dominance (not in a negative way…some people just have this dominant aura) and it may not be so easy for the AP.
I agree about the tip-toeing though. I would make it clear once and state it in the handbook that when she is invited it is purely optional. Since I’m also very direct I might even add that it’s okay for everyone to hang out whenever they want but also for both parties to ask for some alone time without the other taking it personally.
I would not emphasize every.single.time. that she can but doesn’t have to join. Sounds exhausting to me.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 3, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Thanks. I agree with what you’re saying about the rules on schedule, private time, etc., and those things are in my handbook, and I abide by them. The concerns for me are the less tangible “what does it mean to be a family” ones.

I have to say that it really does bother me to have to always consider AP in our plans, when he is free to join only if he’s got nothing better to do. I get that in the beginning, but it gets old. It sometimes makes us (me) feel like lackeys who should feel grateful that he has graced us with his presence. Really, that’s just an irrritant, not a big deal, and a manner that I would expect from the age group. If it were a niece or nephew i would just say something like “hey, what are we? Chopped liver?” and would probably stop feeling annoyed as soon as i said it. The difficulty with the AP/HF dynamic is that I couldn’t say that without stressing out the AP, which makes me feel squeezed on both ends– I have to ask, but I’m not allowed to feel disappointed by a no.

I think I’m probably sounding pretty crazy! Believe me, i really do want our au pairs to go out and have fun and relax at home, etc. I want them to grow and mature and become more indeperndent. But I also want to enjoy the pepole living in our home, want to share experiences, and want them to learn that a big part of adulthood is accountability to, not distance from others. So for now, I’m trying to figure out how to convey that during matching so that later on we’re not just stuck with a fine structure, but no real relationship.

German Au-Pair March 3, 2015 at 11:06 pm

AHHM, you sound like you would have been a great HM for me. I am pretty indepedant and could adjust easily to my HP not being the kind of people who have or want to have close relationship with their AP. I am grateful to them because they were great HP, just not the kind I pictured going in. I would have loved to spend more time with them.
So I get exactly what you mean and you don’t sound crazy at all. I have never actually thought about this aspect before (which is why I love this blog so much). It must be pretty weird to basically have to invite someone to make them feel welcome but not be allowed to expect them to actually take you up on it. I’d probably stop invinting the AP eventually if I saw there wasn’t a lot of interest in joining.
I also think when you have a good relationship you can and should make time for occasional activities and not just wait and see whether you find something better to do. But then again I’m also not one of the cool kids who goes out to clubs every weekend.

While I think many APs have weird views on this whole thing, to be fair it can also be very hard to figure out how much time spent together is actually wanted. As a straight forward German it was always hard for me to tell whether someone was being friendly to me because that’s what you do or because they actually liked me. I consider myself not half bad at reading people, yet it took me forever to figure out who was actually interested in spending time together. The few American friends I made had all lived abroad and therefore were “less American” and easier to read. When it comes to the other Americans I’ve hung out with and with whom I had a lot of fun, I still can’t tell to this day if they only accepted invitations out of courtesy. While Americans are sooo much more pleasant in every-day encounters, I also find it so much harder to assess the depth of a friendship.

DowntownMom March 3, 2015 at 11:13 pm

I am glad you also don’t completely agree with the AP always being welcome to join but not required. Being welcome to join and not required is something that I emphasize to our APs all the time, and then it really bothered me when some of them would only come along when there was something in it for them. I am fine with paying expensive entrance fees for my AP, but it is sad when she doesn’t even hide that she is only coming along for the free ride and could care less about the family.

FriendlyConfinesMom March 2, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Not sure if it’s too late (it says weekend thread) to post here for advice…. I’m a first time host mom 7 months into our first AP. Current AP’s last day is August 10, 2015. I’m thinking of taking a few months break from hosting and starting with a new AP in December. Just wondering if this is a bad month to have someone start? I remember hearing the best months to choose a good AP are summer months. Anyone have a good experience with starting at this time of year? Are all the good ones picked over? I’m guessing most AP’s are ready to come in summer due to school and travel issues? We are most interested in speaking to Brazillian AP’s if that makes a difference, and we live in the cold Midwest. Thanks for any advice!

Multitasking Host Mom March 3, 2015 at 9:04 am

From my experience hosting a few au pairs now from different parts of the world (but not Brazil) that the normal school schedule in their country really makes the difference of when APs are available. Europeans seem to mostly be available in the summer since their school vacation/ summer break occurs then. South American APs seem to have their long school break from late December to beginning of March. January seemed to be the time that these APs wanted to match. This all said… For the first few APs we hosted we matched at on “off season” time and never had trouble finding great APs. I did start searching for our next AP four months before we needed the AP to arrive since there was a smaller pool of candidates. But I actually liked that their was also less host families looking for that arrival date and thus less competition;)

TexasHM March 3, 2015 at 11:40 am

We had a great Brazilian AP start in Dec a couple years ago. There were a lot of brazilians available at that time as said, due to their school year ending and we had another brazilian we matched with in Dec (she had been available) and come in Feb. We have never had a summer match/arrival in 5 years of hosting so maybe I just don’t know what I am missing but if you feel like you aren’t finding good candidates I would make sure you were with a larger agency so you have a bigger pool – just my two cents. :) We had a Nov arrival with a smaller agency and by then they only had one orientation per month with less than 20 APs in it! The larger agencies have almost weekly orientations and the largest ones even have orientations on many holiday weeks so there is plenty of supply/date options/rematch candidates in the pool etc.

NoVA Twin Mom March 3, 2015 at 11:49 am

We do a short break between au pairs annually and find it really makes us excited about the next au pair’s arrival. I’d just have one caution – be a little careful about arrival right at Christmas – even (maybe especially) if you don’t celebrate Christmas. There once was a discussion here – I think this is it – that outlined the perils of arriving shortly before Christmas and actually recommends more of a 12/26 or 12/27 arrival rather than late November/early December.

TexasHM March 3, 2015 at 11:51 am

We did this as well (Dec 30th arrival at our home).

Doris March 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Because of an extension with current AP, we will be on track to match the first part of December this year (for the 9th time!). I will probably try to cobble together childcare until after the new year. Starting an AP is stressful and eats up a lot of my spare time (and emotional real estate)- and I just don’t want to deal with it around the holidays. I also don’t want to celebrate Christmas with an AP who has been here a few weeks – that early relationship awkwardness will color the holiday, as well as the homesickness that is likely. I think we are much more likely to have a good start in January.

Anon for this one March 2, 2015 at 2:27 pm

The LCC is on our way to the house now. I called the emercency line last night and she recommended waiting to have the LCC start the converstion because they can be very emotionally charged. The person I talked to last night was very supportive for us and said verbatim that “We don’t want her watching your children or anyone else’s children”. We didn’t say anything to the au pair last night other than she wouldn’t be working today.

However, right now I’m having a difficult time becasue our LCC is implying different information. She told me we have to house her for 2 weeks and essentially implied that she would be going into the rematch pool. As of this moment I do not know what is happening, but I am very disappointed in our LCC’s response because this is a no brainer. We have told her we would be more than happy to post the video on you tube and tag the agency.

We don’t have permanent cameras. My husband put them up because he wanted to check on the kids, we knew our 2 year old was having a lot of tantrums particularly around meal times. We captured a total of 3 mornings, maybe an hour or so (the battery doesn’t last very long). The other mornings she was glued to her phone, but meh, whatever, that’s a perfomance issue we should have addressed. This was different, she was still texting in the video, but this was clearly her reaction to my daughter having tantrum and a generally difficult morning.

There were no obvious red flags that I picked up on. However, there is actually one that I see in hindsight. Our youngest does move my hand when I stroke the back of her head while we are watching TV or something. I never would have ever thought of pulling hair as a punishment so I never correlated her response to my touch to something else that was going on. Which does indicate to me that this was more than a one time occurrence that we just happened to catch on video.

Should be working March 2, 2015 at 2:42 pm

Anon, stick to your guns and ask the agency to remove her NOW, this MINUTE–like write to the HEAD of the agency plus also the regional director. The LCC is small potatoes and only a contractor with the agency. No waiting, she is gone NOW.

The conversation with the LCC can wait, it is immaterial with respect to everything. If the agency gives any pushback tell them you are calling the police with this video and posting it online, as suggested above, with the agency tagged. Maybe you should be calling the police anyway, some of the law enforcement people on here may have views on that.

You do not have to house during rematch an AP who is a danger to the children. She is a danger to the children.

Should be working March 2, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Also you do not have to house an AP who is not a candidate for rematch–and if that’s not the case in this instance, WOW. I actually can’t believe that the agency would rematch a case of physical punishment that is so clear-cut. I thought physical abuse gets the AP sent home ASAP.

Any LCCs or anyone here know what are the criteria for immediate return home? I thought crime is one, like drunk driving. Shoplifting? Disturbing the peace? Selling drugs?

Child endangerment and abuse would seem to be immediate tickets home…

TexasHM March 2, 2015 at 3:07 pm

Supposedly it varies a little bit by agency. For example, I know of an AP that got a DUI but was allowed to stay (APIA). I don’t know why or how but she is still here (happened a few months ago). I know of another AP that was a minor that got in trouble for drinking (not driving) and was sent home (CCAP). Supposedly being a J1 visa holder any crime could put their status in jeopardy but I would think crimes directly impacting a minor would be held to the highest level of prosecution allowed in the rules. Meaning if your 19 year old AP holds beer for a friend in the bathroom and gets a minor in possession ticket that’s a lot more forgiveable/defendable than an AP PULLING A BABY’S HAIR!!!!! And your story about your baby not liking your hand on the back of her head anymore made me tear up. This is not ok in any sense.
This sounds to me like the LC is perhaps less experienced and/or reading from a script and/or has downplayed the incident to the area director (as in she is saying “HPs claim AP did this” vs “there is video” FACT so perhaps area director is advising LC to hold the line not getting the full story but either way, you have video and could file charges and I would call the emergency line again and talk to someone higher up. This is huge liability for the agency. Any idea how long this LC has been doing this? Dare we ask which agency this is?

NoVA Twin Mom March 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I’m going to sound like a broken record here – but GO TO THE POLICE, particularly if the LCC doesn’t seem to be taking this seriously. That’s what their non-emergency line is for – you don’t need someone to come in with guns drawn, but you do need to make a report and show them the video. Then, if the LCC isn’t taking you seriously, give them, their supervisor, and the head of the agency a copy of the police report (and the video). The phrase “police report” should get through to them if nothing else does.

If nothing seems to be making a dent, I’d seriously consider going to your local news channel’s “on your side” reporter – by us there’s a reporter that does stories of people “wronged” by companies. This would seem to qualify – BUT you’d be burning serious bridges with your agency and probably wouldn’t be accepted by another one. Which is the least of your problems at the moment.

Anon for this one March 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm

I talked to the regional director and that didn’t go much better yet. I can very much tell the regional director is treating this as “the host family is making this claim” rather than “hey the host family has a video”. Their tune better change when they see that we do have video evidence. Because they want to get the “au pair’s perspective”. I’m fuming, but I do expect she will be gone today and I’m waiting to see how this is ultimately handled.

Yes, if they put her in the rematch pool there will be a public outing of the company tagged in the video.

NoVA Twin Mom March 2, 2015 at 3:30 pm

I’m hoping they’re just following procedures to the letter and are treading very carefully here, but would be persuaded once they see the video (have they seen it yet, or have they only heard you describe it?).

But you need to keep your kids safe, and you have a (virtual) community backing you up here. Call the police, then get her out of your house (it will be easier to make the report when you know where she is), then move on to next steps. Keep us posted.

hOstCDmom March 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Call the police department and inquire about the how/what you would need to do to file a report given the circumstances. If you aren’t ready to file one, then don’t yet. BUT, then you can honestly state to the agency that you have contacted the police regarding next steps for filing a police report.

In my area, a few years ago, an AP (not mine) left a 2 y o in the car while going into a pharmacy – windows down, autumn day. This was clear negligence on the APs part — and I would argue less intentionally harmful than what your AP did – gross negligence but not intentional harm like physical abuse of a toddler! — and someone in the community saw the child in the car, called the police, reported it with license plate etc. The police then contacted the owner of the car (HP). In such a case, I understand that the police report about the APs actions was fundamental in her being sent home.

Does anyone on AuPairMom know if the agencies (including their contracted LCCs) are mandated reporters? I could imagine they might be, and they may need to report abuse of a child to the authorities themselves!

SKNY March 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I second calling agency and threatening to do a police report (and follow it up and make it if needed. This young lady cannot go to another family. This is serious. And please let us know the agency so I can steer away from them IF they insist in rematch her

TexasHM March 2, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Honestly they can get “au pairs perspective” from the LCs house or wherever else she is besides your house. I have to concur now that you need to call the police. Whether or not that results in you filing, you need to know what your options are and the agency needs to know you are serious about protecting your family and potentially pressing charges. I am astonished that the agency is being so flippant about this!

WarmStateMomma March 2, 2015 at 5:31 pm


This is not a “bad fit” issue, performance issue, or any other kind of 2-week thing. Abusing a child is a crime and the woman is a danger to your children. She must be removed from the premises, either under her own power or by the police. The LCC has agreed to house unwanted APs – I would let the LCC know the AP is out on the sidewalk waiting for a ride from the LCC or the police.

Dorsi March 2, 2015 at 6:35 pm

I do think it should be mentioned that while most HF do not hit their children, in most states it is not illegal to physically discipline a child. I fully agree that the Anon posting is right to demand the AP out of her house, today, and that the AP not go into a rematch pool. However, it is not necessarily true that a crime has been committed.

hOstCDmom March 2, 2015 at 10:24 pm

I agree that most states laws permit PARENTS to physically discipline a child; and some permit schools to do so; but I would imagine that the law is at least grey, if not prohibitive of 3rd parties physically disciplining a child. Also, hair pulling might not fall under “physical discipline” (such as spanking etc.)

Also, keep in mind, a complainant does not need to know if a crime has been committed to file a police report — that is what the police investigation is for! One should only file a police report in good faith, but the OP certainly has grounds to call the police, and likely to file a report. Whether or not the police determine there is enough evidence to substantiate a crime having been committed and forwarding the case to the prosecutor is another question…but the police report alone is a HUGE. RED. FLAG. for the agency putting them on notice that this AP is a potential danger to children.

exaupair March 2, 2015 at 7:21 pm

you have no obligation to have her stay in your home for any second longer. If I were you, she’d be collecting her suitcases from the driveway this very minute, whether she had a place to stay or not.
And actually, you should call the police. This AP proved herself incapable of working with children, and shouldn’t be allowed to have a similar job again (or at least for as long as she learns to control her emotions!).
I’m sorry for your child, but what’s done is done, right now you should get her out of your home.

NoVA Twin Mom March 2, 2015 at 2:54 pm

If both your LCC and agency are insane enough to allow this candidate into the rematch pool and/or insist that she must stay with you – look up your local hostels. Or even corporate housing. While it might cost you an arm and a leg, I’d rather put this person up in a hotel at my own expense than have her in my house. Then hash out with the agency about who pays. I bet they’d rather have her housed with the LCC than somewhere else.

And I’d be on the phone with the non-emergency line at your police department. At least get this “allegation” (though we all feel it’s more than that) on the record so if they DO let her go somewhere else and she does this again, there’s a REAL record of it happening, not just buried somewhere in your agency’s records.

NoVA Twin Mom March 2, 2015 at 3:01 pm

And – make it abundantly clear that she will NOT be caring for your children anymore. That seems to be a “red flag” for determining if a candidate goes back into the rematch pool, and should be a red flag for any other family interviewing her. To be clear – I DO NOT

Host Mom in the City March 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Agree – you need to be on the phone screaming until someone listens. And if they try to rematch her, I want the name of the agency posted here so we can all know which agency would try to rematch a candidate that is on video abusing a two-year-old.

NoVA Twin Mom March 2, 2015 at 3:05 pm

(I got cut off somehow – this is what that should have said)

And – make it abundantly clear that she will NOT be caring for your children anymore. That seems to be a “red flag” for determining if a candidate goes back into the rematch pool, and should be a red flag for any other family interviewing her. To be clear – I DO NOT think this individual should go into the rematch pool, I’m just trying to advise putting up as many “road blocks” to her rematching as you can just in case.

When we had an au pair for three and a half days that luckily was honest with us about her feelings/insecurities so we could stop having her care for our kids before any abuse happened, they did let her rematch and she wound up staying with us (which is why I’m giving you ideas that didn’t occur to me at the time). But we wound up moving the KIDS to my parents’ house 500 miles away (the closest backup care I could find) so she couldn’t have further contact with them. Had everyone in the agency not been on vacation that week, things would have happened differently (au pair would NOT have been staying with us, though we probably would still have had to move kids to the backup care).

NewbieHM March 2, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I’m going to repeat myself – CALL THE POLICE!!!! file a report and send it to every department in the agency. Don’t give them any excuses to put her on rematch. You don’t have to house any person who you consider a threat to your kids. If she refuses to leave the police can escort her out the door for you.

Seattle Mom March 3, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I have found in the past that cc’ing some state department contacts helps get a better answer from your agency. In this circumstance I think it is warranted because the agency is not following best practice (or even the law) by requiring an abusive au pair to remain in your house, and insisting on allowing her to rematch.

Here are some emails that I found on the website:

I know that I used to have a better email.. I once used it. Now I can’t find that old email! But I think just putting any “” email in the cc line can really let an agency know you aren’t kidding around.

Anon for this one March 2, 2015 at 5:13 pm

The au pair is packing. She will be staying with a friend. I do not know what her situation will be yet but she will be out of our house today.

Should be working March 2, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Good for you for being persistent! You must be exhausted.

Looking forward to hearing the details–who reacted how to what? Did the video get seen by LCC? Were police called (Nova HM is in law enforcement, so I would listen to her!)?

Mimi March 2, 2015 at 5:23 pm

I’m glad this seems to be moving forward for you. What was the AP response to this?

Anon for this one March 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Sorry I really don’t have any, my other half took care of the conversations today.

LCC came over, talked to him for a few minutes, saw the video. (He said she really didn’t react, but it is kind of surreal and happens very quickly. Like something that is natural.)

Went and talked to the au pair privately for a long time and came up and told him she was packing and would be leaving.

Old China Hand March 2, 2015 at 10:09 pm

Thanks for the update. I hope your family heals well. I can’t imagine how awful this situation is for your family.

WarmStateMomma March 2, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Good for you! I can’t imagine what this experience has been like for your family.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Good. I am glad she is out of your house. I do hope you will still consider calling the police. In the relief of having her out of there, and some of the shock and drama wearing off, it would be natural to start to second guess yourself or begin to downplay the events in your mind. Please don’t lose sight of the fact that this young woman physically (and possibly emotionally) injured your child. There is no one but you in this equation that has an incentive to make sure she can’t be in a position to do this again. The agency will want to quietly send her home and preserve it’s reputation. She is hardly likely to advertise what happened to the world. And, of course, now she has full time child care experience to tout. Obviously, I’m not saying that you are responsible for protecting all future childen from this woman; I’m just saying please consider that if you don’t say anything, it is likely that no one will.

hOstCDmom March 2, 2015 at 10:29 pm


Anon for this one March 3, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Rest assured, I am working on the agency aspect of things, it’s just slightly lower on the priority list.

My first priority was to get her out of the house and sever our match.

My second is to secure childcare in the short term.

My third is to deal with the agency. They are holding us to the contract on the pricing as if this was a standard rematch. I reached out to a former au pair to see if physical discipline was covered in a contract the au pairs sign or if it is just said verbally, because I am curious.

My plan is to upload the video (with a capture in slow motion) and give the agency the link. If they don’t start treating this as an actual offense instead of a bad match, the agency will be tagged, I will make the video public, send it to clearinghouse, report it to the BBB.

Hindsight is 20/20. Right around the time the video was captured I gave her the opportunity to tell me she was overwhelmed. We discussed my daughter’s tantrums and I tried to empathize because I know it’s really freaking hard. I discussed strategies that I use when it’s getting overwhelming for me. The video recording was a complete whim and I never in a million years expected to see that. We have never recorded our previous au pairs and it’s not like we are new to this either.

Incidentally, I noticed while brushing her teeth last night that her top row 2-year molars are almost completely in. Which might have been the reason for the meal time tantrums, they were probably just breaking through at the time the video was recorded.

I’m not concerned about the au pair using this in her home country to tout full-time childcare, that’s not her interest area and she’s too old to enter the program again for a second time.

AlwaysHopeful HM March 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

This is outrageous. How can they even consider holding you to the contract fee???

Seattle Mom March 3, 2015 at 3:59 pm

When you are ready to deal with the agency, a cc to a State department official can help you get a better response. Since there’s a legal issue involved (child abuse!) it’s justified, imho.

German Au-Pair March 3, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Not trying to side with the AP but just recently there was an issue about an AP being recorded and it couldn’t be used as evidence as there was also an audio record which was illegal in that state. The AP actually filed a complaint against the family and making it public (if there’s audio) is probably not the wisest move. Just wanted to make you aware of this in case you didn’t already know.

Anon for this one March 3, 2015 at 6:38 pm

It’s not always specifically all audio that is a problem, some states only protect private conversations. Which is left to a pretty broad interpretion.

But yes, we do know the law in our state.

New HM in Chicago March 3, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I am a new host mom and we are currently already on our second au pair. Some background, we have four kids ages 5, 4, 2, and 3 months. Our oldest is in school all day and our 4 year old is in school 3 days a week until 1:30. The first au pair was here for 3 days while I was not back to work yet and asked to be rematched because she thought the 4 kids was too much. So we went into rematch right when I started back to work. We rematched with what we thought would be a better match overseas and waited another month for her to get here. She is a great girl and seems very motivated, however, on day two she said she is not very comfortable with our infant. Understandably four kids is a lot and an infant can be scary to take care of, but what I am frustrated by is that each time the au pair has said they were comfortable with infants and then seems overwhelmed by it. Is this just not a good program to be in with an infant? We thought it would be great with the flexibility and cultural exchange for the kids, but so far it is not working out that great. Any advice on if we should move on or hire a nanny just for the infant until she is older and the au pair can take over would be great!

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