Open Thread: Memorial Day Weekend

by cv harquail on May 24, 2014

Drumroll Please, for this weekend’s Open Thread!


If you’ve got something you want to share, jump right in.

If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it may be that my All-American software has automatically held the comment in moderation, waiting until I put down my gin and tonic.  This thread will remain open until sometime on Monday, or until we hit 100 comments, or until I finish my gin and tonic. Whichever comes first.  Happy long weekend to you all!


Image: “Clark’s mile-end spool cotton. [front]” by Boston Public Library 



Always Hopeful HM May 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

So, I could really figure this out on my own, but since there’s an open thread, here goes: I’m in the process of matching for September. I’ve sent out 3 emails describing our family, asking some preliminary questions, and requesting Skype interviews. One candidate matched with another family, one may be promising, but the third I can tell from the email response is a dud-. No deal breakers, just not really clicking in he email exchange. I’m trying to figure out how to proceed. Should I just cancel the Skype call and avoid wasting both of our time? Should I go forward with it, and hope that the second impression will be better than the first? And, if I cancel, do I just say– sorry, changed my mind! I can’t really say that we’ve found another match. Just curious how others would handle it.

4th time lucky?! May 25, 2014 at 12:58 am

I’d consider several points:
Did you only just start looking / is it the first 3 candidates you consider or are you already further down the track? (i.e. how fed up are you talking to prospective aupairs?)
Seconding SBW’s point: Are you a seasoned HM? If not if could be a good experience and good practice.
How time consuming and stressful do you find the skype interviews in general?
How bad is your feeling about the candidate?

In a similar situation recently I did pull the plug after the first email exchange although here – not US – the matching process might be different and APs and HF already know a lot about each other?! [we get send AP profiles, choose those we are interested in and contact the agency, agency forward our profile, letter, photos, etc. to candidate, they contact us saying yay or nay, then we send them our first interview email which is repeating information they already got and asking about 10, to us important, screening questions.]
The recent candidate failed on several questions, not meeting hour expectations, and I wondered what ‘excuse’ to use not having to skype.

In the end I wrote: thanks for time and effort, etc. but despite this and that great trait that on consideration she was not a suitable candidate for our family (hoping she wouldn’t ask for more clarification as to why not, which she didn’t).

Good luck.

exaupair May 25, 2014 at 4:47 am

I wonder why didn’t you tell her exactly which questions she failed on, not to hurt her feelings?

4th time lucky?! May 25, 2014 at 5:56 am

Fair question!
We’ve debated this at home a bit and general consensus was to keep the ‘thanks but no thanks’ messages generic because most people don’t appreciate (even constructive) criticism, esp. in writing/ by email with much room for misunderstandings when it is sometimes tricky to get your point across.
I read on here about APs being grateful for advice they got from HP who turned them down and think it’s great if I can help them but I am also aware of the danger of ‘coaching’ and encouraging someone indirectly to lie next time round. In this particular case, the AP admitted to not liking many foods and having limited interest in food/ cooking, her English was quite poor and she came across as very young and naive and not proactive; overall, her answers provided little information and seemed lacklustre.
So I felt while I could commend her for being honest, I can’t / shouldn’t make any suggestions on the food issue; young and naive is more a gut feeling; and didn’t want to critise her English or tell her to sound more enthusiastic because I was envisioning a ‘yeah but…’ response.
I’m always happy to elaborate if any candidate gets back and asks for feedback but also glad if I don’t have to because I find hitting the right tone/ balance quite hard and it takes me a long time to come up with a diplomatic response…

exaupair May 25, 2014 at 6:59 am

I get your point. But AP interview is similar to any other job interview, not every recruiter will give you feedback and reasons for not choosing you but when they do it’s a very precious advice on what to do/not to do on other interviews.
If the girl was not enthusiastic enough and her answers were too brief she may not realize she will probably scare other families off too if she continues doing so. As for her English she may think it’s “good enough” when in fact she can barely communicate, so instead of mastering her skills before next family wants to speak to her she will do nothing about it. Many people for whom English is not the first language are convinced that as long as they understand movies and clips on you tube they’ll have no problem with understanding and answering simple questions, which in most cases is not true.
I would hope she will analyze the situation and make some conclusions on what can be improved to be successful next time, but since you’ve said she was rather passive than proactive, it probably won’t happen.

Should be working May 25, 2014 at 11:57 am

No, it is NOT similar to any other job interview. To me the AP’s answers might seem too brief, but to another family anything more would seem long-winded. Her English might seem weak to me, but to another family that doesn’t matter because they speak the native language. I might be willing to give up some desired quality if a candidate blows me away on other criteria, so why mess with this candidate’s self-presentation.

For the sake of all the other HPs out there, I likewise give non-specific feedback and leave out the specifics, unless it is something totally unchangeable (like we decided that x language is important to us after all). No coaching the AP candidates! Many will change what they say based on HF feedback, and that doesn’t help anyone. And they do this precisely BECAUSE they don’t have much experience getting jobs (most younger ones) and they might not realize that the AP/HF fit is a lot about personality and instead are focused on “getting a family”.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I generally only send advice when I’ve chosen one candidate over another. As some of you might recall, DH and I try to interview 5-6 candidates, and so that means stringing some young women along for a month or so (some drop out along the way, and we usually decide that that match was not meant to be). However, when a young woman has been holding back other HF while we make up our minds, we feel we owe it to her to provide a sentence or two why we selected another candidate. I’ll quote, “You’re going to be a great AP, we can tell that, but this time we chose someone who completed an Ausbildung and has two years of work experience with children who have special needs. We apologize for holding up your matching process, and wish you the best in finding a great match.” IMO, you need not send a critique, apology, etc to any other candidate. You looked at this candidate, she wasn’t for you, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be perfect for someone else. Or not. But if she doesn’t match this year, that’s not your fault.

Always Hopeful HM May 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Thanks to all for the advice. I skyped today with the dud au pair and the promising one, and the dud actually was better than I thought, AND I was kind of disappointed in the promising one! I don’t think either is quite right for us, but you all were right– the exercise was not wasted. Love this blog!

spanishaupair May 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Great to know that skype work out better than you thought. Best of luck choosing an aupair

PA AP Mom May 24, 2014 at 1:56 pm

I would go through with the Skype interview and see what happens. Sometimes the email conversation can be so-so with an otherwise great candidate.

Should be working May 24, 2014 at 4:08 pm

I’d keep the Skype call plan, but let her/him know in advance that it will be a brief call, like 15 min. I agree that email isn’t every AP’s best medium. Also, I can’t remember how new you are to hosting APs, but if you are relatively new it’s good experience to interview a few where you even know they aren’t the one.

BropairJJ May 24, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Also if you think about it in a philanthropic sense, you will also be giving the au pair some experience which may help them in their future interviews ;)

Skny May 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I have a question for the hosts who practice positive parenting (no yelling, spankings or time out). I am having a hard time explaining to Au pairs our parenting style and how to handle girls (such as natural consequences, choices, follow thru, etc). Specially because I recruit from my home country where spanking Is the main/only way to parent. I am not sure I can quite convey it. Any suggestions?

WarmStateMomma May 25, 2014 at 12:24 am

Our agency (APC) told the APs at training that it’s illegal to hit children here. I would give the AP something in writing (maybe post in on the fridge) with examples of common ways your kids might act up and what to do for those situations. In the heat of the moment, she is much more likely to do it your way if your way is clear and handy.

Seattle Mom May 25, 2014 at 1:07 am

That is pretty much how we are and I describe it as gentle discipline, which I think gets the point across. I describe how we do not use punishments or rewards to influence behavior- instead we teach our kids how to behave by talking about it. And we pay attention to our kids’ needs and recognize that when they are misbehaving it is usually because some need isn’t being met (food, sleep, overstimulation, etc). I write about this in one of my initial emails and mention that it is important to us. I have had prospective au pairs ask me about it, usually to ask more specifically what do we do when a kid is misbehaving because if they aren’t allowed to punish they aren’t sure what to do. And I like having this kind of dialogue. Occasionally I’ve had prospective au pairs say that they are happy we parent this way because this is how they like to be with kids. So far our au pairs have been good at doing things our way.. for the most part. Our current au pair is very gentle by nature, and she seems to get the kids to do what they need to do. I actually wish she would be a little stricter with them, but it’s hard to get the exact right balance. Our last au pair was a superstar but I thought she was a little too harsh and shaming sometimes… but she had such a wonderful heart and always did everything with love, so I think it was ok. Our first au pair was perfect in that department, and our second was a rematch because she had no warm fuzzy side at all- she didn’t punish but she was ridiculously strict and inflexible, and didn’t know how to play.

German Au-Pair May 28, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Can you please please make a guest post about specifics? I find this super interesting!
Would that work for older kids, who have not been raised that way, too? Thinking about a teacher-student setting here and hate the idea of punishing children because no good comes from fighting witch each other.

American Host Mom in Europe May 25, 2014 at 3:39 am

I provide links to a variety of articles on the subject in our handbook and ask them to read them. I also have a copy of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Kids Will Talk” that I encourage them to read. When mine were babies, I had my APs read “Happiest Baby on the Block”. I explain in my profile (, as we aren’t in US and don’t have an agency) some of my style and approach fir parenting, and often favour candidates who write or ask about it during the interview process.

HRHM May 25, 2014 at 11:17 am

You recruit English native speakers? Because I don’t see our APs being able to read these types of books and really comprehend. For the ones that would actually read them, that is…

Skny May 25, 2014 at 1:17 pm

They actually have those 2 books in
My native language (which is my Au pairs language too). I might buy it, although I can’t get my Au pairs to read handbook sometimes, not sure they will want to read a book

American Host Mom in Europe May 27, 2014 at 3:21 am

Yes I do, because otherwise I am the only person my kids speak English with, as we don’t live in an English-speaking country and I want to keep their English at near-mother tongue level (all three spoke it first, but now at 4,5 and 6 speak local language all day except with me and our AP). Fluent English is therefore a requirement I interview for.

Skny May 24, 2014 at 8:02 pm

And the second question: new Au pAir starts in 2.5weeks. I will still have 4 weeks of maternity leave by the time she starts. 2 weeks after she stArts hubby starts his vacation from school, and a week later we go on a vacation (where she will be working).
It is the first time an Au pair will start with parents not working (I actually was going back to work a week after she arrived, but was able to negotiate 3 weeks more at home :)). It is kind of too late to change her arrival date.
Any tip on how to start on a good note and set a good pace with Au pair (while I tend to help a lot and enjoy kids when I am off, hubby will need Au pair to be able to work independently by the time I am back, plan her day, handle the kids, etc… Plus routing in the fall will be heavy, so she must be “ready” by then…

WarmStateMomma May 25, 2014 at 12:18 am

You said you will be working from home part of the time, so maybe you can spend part of the day working from a coffee shop instead of home? Or just lock yourself in a separate room to work, as if you are not home. That would give the AP time to be on her own with the kids. If you plan those hours in advance, she can “plan her day” for the time you will be gone.

I was still on maternity leave when AP#1 arrived and handled too much for her (rookie mistake). AP#2 just jumped right in after the 3-day warm up period and we are all much happier. I wish I’d found this blog earlier…. I will look up the SAHM guidelines on here next time because AP#3 will arrive when I’m on leave with baby 2.

Skny May 25, 2014 at 5:38 am

Warmstatemomma, this was what I thought. I will not really be working, just will be home with kids. Will look for this guide too, and will try to specify moments where Au pair is solely in charge.

Seattle Mom May 25, 2014 at 1:11 am

I don’t remember how many kids & what ages you have, but if you have older kids you could get the AP to be in charge of them as much as possible while you’re with the baby. And get her used to doing some stuff for the baby if at all possible. It is going to be rough because you’re on maternity leave with a little one and want to have time with the baby.. but I remember back to those days and I would have loved to hand off my 2 year old to someone else for a whole day!

Skny May 25, 2014 at 10:51 am

Girls are 5 weeks, 2yo, 4yo and 17yo (but 17yo is not Au pairs job)

HRHM May 25, 2014 at 11:21 am

Disappear as much as humanly possible. I was home unemployed when our current AP started and I could NEVER get her to rise to the level that I needed her to be. I tried to not help, but it was too hard for my OCD, LOL! Once she was used to my help, no amount of backing off got her to go the final inch. Very frustrating but not quite bad enough to rematch as she was better than previous APs in most other matters…

Taking a Computer Lunch May 25, 2014 at 10:02 pm

If I recall correctly, the U.S. State Dept. says that an AP cannot care for any infant under 3 months old alone. So take Seattle Mom’s advice, and book your AP to take your toddler and preschooler out while you have 1:1 time with the baby. Conversely, as long as you’re present, have the AP care for the baby while you have 2:1 time with the older children (or have DH take one of the older kids off so you can have 1:1 time).

While I’ve never been in your situation, The Camel has been hospitalized for up to 5 weeks at a time. When that happens we often book the AP to care for her in the hospital for a couple of hours (the nurses do the main care, the AP makes sure it is done and change The Camel’s diapers, etc.) so DH and I can have 2:1 time with our typically developing child (and everyone is so stressed out we need it!)

Multitasking Host Mom May 25, 2014 at 11:31 am

We ran into this “problem” with our first au pair. We had recently moved and I was still interviewing for jobs when the au pair arrived. (Found one a month later.) I did enjoy spending time with the kids while I still could. But this lead me to make the mistake of not letting the AP work much during that time, and this gave her the impression that she didn’t have to do much or put in much effort, which definitely lead to issues later in the year. On the other hand, you do have the benefit of easing the au pair into the work schedule, and preventing her from getting overwhelmed. I recommend taking advantage of this time. Set aside about half a day and do something for yourself outside of the house while the AP watches the kids since us working moms NEVER get to do that. There is a whole world that happens during a weekday;) Or you can take one of your older kids for a day (leaving the rest of the kids with the au pair) and let them have some fun one-on-one time with just mom and dad. And do the reverse…let the au pair spend time one-on-one with each child so they can form a bond. And of course, the AP can dive right into the child related household jobs of doing the kids laundry, making the other kids lunches while you tend to the baby, or keeping their play areas tidy. All of these suggestions, give you what you want (spending time with your kids while you still can before going back to work) and making sure you give your au pair some tasks, so the can be ready to start the year off on the right foot.

Seattle Mom May 25, 2014 at 1:18 am

Our au pair will be taking our kids to a birthday party tomorrow afternoon. This is the first time I’ve had an au pair do this. I have discovered that I generally don’t like going to kid’s birthday parties. The kids have fun, but for me it is soooo boring unless I am already friends with the parents. This happens to be the birthday of an older kid on our block, and his parents are nice but we’re not friends. My au pair probably knows the parents & kid as well as I do, and she’ll probably be bored out of her socks as much as I would be. The invitation said “drop off ok” but my kids are 5 & 3 and this is at a bouncy house place and the birthday boy is 8- so I’m really not comfortable leaving my kids there.. I’m making the au pair stay. Though my kids play with this big kid all the time (at his house and at ours), that’s not the issue. There’s just going to be a lot of bigger boys there bouncing around.

Anyway do you have your APs take your kids to birthday parties? How do they feel about it? I don’t think I’ll be doing this a lot.. partly because I don’t usually have the hours and partly because I feel guilty making the AP do something that I enjoy very little.

Should be working May 25, 2014 at 2:10 am

Totally appropriate for the AP to do this if you have the hours! She might be bored and it might be awkward with no one to talk to, what are your expectations while she is there? Does she need to WATCH the kids or can she sit somewhere and text her friends? Tell her precisely what she should be doing and you are good.

Our AP takes my younger daughter to dance class and has to sit there and wait for 2 hrs on longer-class days. That’s one reason I have an AP, so I don’t have to do that, it’s not quality parenting time and can be outsourced without any bad parent/child failings. Same for driving kids all around in boring traffic when they are grumpy and tired after school. And I expect her to be more cheerful about it than I would be, because it’s not one of a zillion other things she does, it’s her job and then she has free time, which I don’t.

HRHM May 25, 2014 at 11:23 am


Au pair May 25, 2014 at 11:40 pm

That’s sad, that this is a reason for you to get an au pair.. The kids I watch love when their mom comes to watch them dance, or drives them places (traffic or not) you think it isn’t valuable time,for you it might not be, for your kids it is very important to have their parents there for the “not so fun” stuff.

AussiePair May 26, 2014 at 6:00 am

No one said this was the reason that they have an au pair, it’s a perk that this family is able to have. If you couldn’t make au pairs do some of the tasks you don’t enjoy there really isn’t a whole lot of benefits for the HF. Besides I think the host mom/parent can spend better quality time with their kids than in the car, or watching an already competent and confident child practice their dancing

HRHM May 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

Obviously , you don’t have kids yet, let alone multiple kids…

If I am driving one kid across town, then other kid(s) are spending their play time sitting in the car, hardly optimal. So, yes, AP gets to fight the cross tone traffic while I play Uno. Nothing sad about it. And the kids each do different activities, so they each get time one-on-one with mom. Best reason to have an AP ever!

Au pair May 26, 2014 at 11:31 am

If you say so… I see it from the children’s perspective, and it hurts them. But this is your opinion, and they are your kids.

WarmStateMomma May 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I agree. I was the kid that got dragged along to my sister’s activities and it was awful. I love the idea that the AP can take one kid to the party or dance practice while the other kid gets time with the parent. Everyone wins.

German Au-Pair May 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Au Pair, have you experienced it yourself? In my culture children actually attend training/lessons alone at a pretty early age. Totally normal, no hard feelings. Not just my parents -there was simply no room for parents. When my children went to their lessons, me -and the moms- left to do sth else because the kids were totally occupied with their thing. Even if I didn’t leave because it wasn’t convenient, my kids didn’t even notice I was there.
I’m sure no one is saying they’re sending their AP to watch the exciting recital or concert so they don’t have to go. THAT would hurt the child’s feelings.
How many hours do you think a day has? How should a mom watch all of her children’s activities, still do her job, have some time for herself, for her friends, for her husband AND spend actual quality time with the kids? Isn’t one-on-one time ten times more valuable than sitting there and watching a child not pay attention to you.
Suggesting that those moms don’t care about their children’s feelings is just mean.

American Host Mom in Europe May 25, 2014 at 3:49 am

Agree with SBW. I usually take my kids, but when they aren’t all invited or there is some other conflict, have had an AP take them. The key is to make clear what your expectations are. I take my kids to indoor playlands sometimes (sounds like a similar venue), and my AP and I will play with the kids a bit, or when asked, but mostly sit and read or Internet surf. So if that is fine with you, it should be less painful for her than it would be for you.

Boys Mama May 28, 2014 at 2:26 pm

I think it’s absolutely appropriate to have the AP take the kids to a party. Kids love parties, I agree that they need someone specific looking out for them in that environment but it doesn’t have to be you. If the party goes well, they will be totally oblivious to the fact that you are even there… it’s social time for them, it’s childcare hours for the AP. Our APs are half my age… much happier to bounce in bounce houses and eat cake and have fun there than I am. If they aren’t so inclined… it’s still work.

As parents we make daily decisions about how our time is best spent from the perspective of all concerned. An AP who comes on this blog to insult the parenting decisions of strangers looking for advice about becoming optimal parents/host parents is most unappreciated.

spanishaupair May 25, 2014 at 7:04 am

I have taken my HK to birthday parties twice, they are very young so not usually invited to parties apart from relatives, indeed one of them was cousins birthday party and the other it was neighbours party which was more sense i went because i was the only adult at home that knew them.

I think is fine to ask aupair to do it and maybe tell her what she needs to do or not, if she can be on internet and that things. I also find it a good way to talk with other adults apart from aupairs and HF

exaupair May 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

First of all it’s within your right to have her take your children to other kids parties and stay there until the event is over. I also think it’s a great way to have her make acquaintances and mingle with other circles than APs from the same cluster. Getting to know other parents, neighbors can be actually more profitable, not only considering the cultural exchange aspect as such.

Many people on here say that their AP mostly hangs out with their AP friends, which to me is quite pointless in terms of actually getting accustomed with American culture. Those APs are not even American for starters. I’m not saying ignore your LCC and your cluster because you may need them at some point, but I’d say minimize the amount of AP mates in favour of other relationships.

I was actually disappointed with other APs and live-in nannies during my AP year, this is why my personal view may not suit all of those who ended up in a more promising cluster. What I’ve honestly expected was a group of clever, open minded people willing to spend some time abroad, what I came across was a boring bunch of really undereducated young “ladies” with no future plans talking about poops, nappies and school runs only, and most of them didn’t even like working with and being around kids :-(((. As a group we met twice, two times too many IMHO, thankfully there was no cluster as such so it wasn’t compulsory to meet up.

Should be working May 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Three of our five au pairs HATED other au pairs. They said they were catty, cliquey, whiny, and boring. They were disappointed at the start of the year that at AP meetings the veteran APs signed in and left, which set a tone that the meetings were lame. It was sort of funny, because the one who hated other au pairs the most was great at helping me sort through profiles for her successor. She wanted the kids to get one of the “rare good ones”.

exaupair May 25, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Agencies require some level of education plus X amount of documented childcare experience and APs who go to the US have done jobs that require childcare, so by default they are not people who can’t stand kids.

When it comes to websites anyone can log in and set up their profile, sometimes those are people who had nothing to do with children in the past, and what they are looking for is a free place to stay in one of the big cities, free food and oh by the way few hrs of wiping babies bottoms here and there. NOT everyone is like that of course, I’m sure there are many rock star APs on websites too!
But bases on who I’ve met in person, 8 out of 10 APs and nannies found 4 hrs a day with a toddler a torture.

Quite a few families “match” with their APs after exchanging four emails and a brief skype interview, literally ending up with a random person “dragged off the street”, whose job turns out to be not up to scratch. One family who picked me wrote an email, I wrote back, and they replied with “ok, so we are set, right?” lol.

Seattle Mom May 25, 2014 at 11:49 pm

“so by default they are not people who can’t stand kids. ”

I wish that were true. I had an AP who grew up in a day care run by her mother (so lots of experience) and when she got to us she clearly did not like or know how to play with small children. It was strange to me because I know people who grew up with mothers who run day cares and they have always been good with children. Now I no longer make that assumption.

Seattle Mom May 28, 2014 at 7:55 pm

My first au pair had great au pair friends.. but they were a select group. She complained about a lot of the other au pairs she met around town.

Our last au pair had an American boyfriend and was the only Thai person in her Thai boxing dojo.. she was probably the only non-American person there too. She had au pair friends, Thai immigrant friends in the Seattle community, and American friends. Probably one of the most active & social au pairs ever!

My current AP seems to hang out with au pairs mainly from her home country. I understand the impulse, but I agree that it’s not the best way to acclimate to American life.

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Good point about making local friends instead of only AP friends. Our exchange students were badgered by their program to hang out with other exchange students. All.the.time. It really inhibited their “American experience.” Once the boys started complaining, we blew off most of the events. The kids who skipped the city-wide exchange group events to hang with kids from their school made deeper friendships and felt more connected to their community.

German Au-Pair May 28, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Haha, I agree, many APs are horrible company. I made sure to only have a few I liked, some more that I could stand (if one of the others wanted to take them along) and ignored the rest.
Most talk abiut partying and drinking all the time. But when you do find some of the good ones, it’s an amazing chance to get to know other cultures, other POV…I miss that so much.

Always Hopeful HM May 28, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Our AP has both au pair and American friends (as well as a couple of foreign student friends). No one from his home country, though. For the most part, the APs seem to be fun-loving and adventurous, but with a sense of purpose. Every one of the Americans so far has seemed to be kind of aimless, just out for a good time hangers-on with no real goals or sense of direction.

HRHM May 29, 2014 at 12:10 am

I think it depends on where an AP “picks up” their friends. Many of my APs’ american friends have been found at nightclubs, not exactly the spot for intellectual giants and motivated individuals (not to say there are none, but not the majority) When my AP has found local friends in other locations (my hospital’s internal med residency program, church, local university, etc) they’ve been pretty interesting and energetic people.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 29, 2014 at 7:32 am

AP #8 had a series of American grifters onto whom she latched, including a homeless guy with whom she had a relationship (he wasn’t sleeping on the street – but couch surfing).

But, interestingly, of the APs I have hosted who have developed relationships here, only half did with native-born Americans. The rest fell in love with foreign-born Americans or residents. The more extroverted developed wide networks of friends, while the introverts had a couple of close AP friends and that was it.

Seattle Mom May 26, 2014 at 12:19 am

Thanks everyone! She took them to the party today and I think it was all fine. We actually have one of the most agreeable au pairs out there.. she also genuinely likes the kids. I did ask her to watch the kids to make sure they didn’t get trampled by the bigger kids. But I didn’t expect her to watch them constantly.

Normally I would have gone, especially since I would have liked to get to know my neighbors a little more. But we had plans to go on a grown-up hike with friends. Tomorrow I am with the kids all day, and AP is out partying all night tonight. So it works out.

JenNC May 25, 2014 at 8:54 am

I always take off at minimal several days when my aupair first arrives, and I think a good week or more is fine, I go about my routines and drag her everywhere, that way she learns as she goes, I also go ahead and leave her with kids after a few days, so I can run errands, do appointments, work on projects, go out to dinner with hubby. If you are going to have a driving aupair this is a good time to get her acclimated to driving around with you, to where kids have to go etc, normal routes…. This took several weeks with my 2nd aupair for me to feel comfortable with her driving kids solo. Heck take the opportunity to nap, sleep in with the baby, even if your not working doesn’t mean you can’t keep her busy, if you haven’t gotten the other kids clothes organized or their rooms Instill her help show her what you want so that she can help with these things on her down time. Maybe work in the kitchen so she can learn the kitchen gadgets, help with meal prep etc. let this be a great time to bond and create a good relationship, while stilling showing a busy working household and just communicate that when you go to work she will have to “this this” on her own. Enjoy your time off!jen

NNTexasHM May 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

New Topic:
This is a delicate question – but does anyone have a recommendation about talking to female Au Pairs about how they handle having their period specifically whether it limits their activities?

So far, 3 Au Pairs (2 from Europe 1 from South America) have told me having their period affected their ability to participate in activities – particularly swimming or even being near a pool or ocean.

I do NOT ask Au Pairs to watch my daughter in the water as she is an advanced swimmer and I do not leave that responsibility to other people (including grandparents). But, during a working vacation one Au Pair told me she could not possibly spend time with us by the pool in a gorgeous resort and instead stayed in her room with the lights and shades drawn. When I asked if she was sick she said no, it was her time of the month. This was not only uncomfortable but awkward to explain go my child and other friends who were with us who were wanting to make her feel included (she obviously was fine during meals so I couldn’t claim “she is sick”). Another was supposed to do a family outing day with us at a fun water park (we had paid for tickets because she expressed interest) but again, bowed out for the same reason and the 3rd made it clear that she never went in the water during that time as it was universally known to be “unsanitary”).

My question – should I just expect this general attitude from future Au Pairs? Should I ask whether they are open to being around the water and if so, any suggestions how to ask such a personal question?

exaupair May 25, 2014 at 10:23 am

” As a family we often spend time by the pool and we go to the seaside during summer holidays, at some point we will require you to come with us as a part of your job. It’s important for us to find someone who is a keen swimmer and likes to play in water. As a woman myself I will need to ask you how are you feeling about swimming or spending the whole day at the beach during your time of the month”.
Not the most delicate approach but then again you’d need a straight answer rather than disappointment later on.

Please note that some young women don’t like to use tampons for some reason, and with a sanitary pad you can’t even wear a swim suit (yes, even with a pareo round your hips), let alone get into water.
Plus painful periods can actually affect the ability to participate in activities, not only in water but in general and not everyone is willing to spike themselves with painkillers that will ease pain but make you feel numb and dizzy. So I believe you should ask about this too, because the worse you can get is an AP who is not able to work AT ALL for several days.

NNTexasHM May 25, 2014 at 11:34 am

excellent advice – thank you!

Should be working May 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Also HPs should consider that if they have adolescent/preteen girls, the AP’s attitude about her period might be something HF daughters are paying attention to, and you want good modeling around that (I say from experience . . . ). If the AP takes to her bed with the heating pad for 3 days a month, a daughter might get the wrong idea as to what is appropriate or even possible around periods.

My daughter is just starting her period and it is important to me as well that APs are comfortable helping her with that, like the time the dog got into the bathroom garbage and tore apart a used maxi pad in our main hallway. My daughter was SO embarrassed, fortunately the AP was pleasant and all business, and made a point of telling how similar things happened to her. Hooray for AP!

cv harquail May 25, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hi NNTexasHM:

We have a great post on the blog about this issue: Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms

See also:
Swim Safely, by following my sister’s rules

NNTexasHM May 25, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thank you CV!

Taking a Computer Lunch May 25, 2014 at 10:32 pm

I had this happen after a (Chinese) AP arrived. After the first period, I took her aside, and said, “If you can’t get a tampon in your vagina, then I expect that you will get The Camel in and out of the pool so she can swim,” (the pool is a small above ground pool, and it is possible with a pole, to bring The Camel to a point where she may be safely lifted out of the pool without entering it. When the AP made noises about not being able to work, I replied, “I have never taken a day off from work because I have a period and I expect you will be able to work, too.” Yes, I know there are people who are crippled by pain for a day or two in their menstrual cycle, but I was not about to take 2 1/2 weeks of leave for an AP to spend the day in bed!

My advice, if an AP wants to stay in bed for a day because she has a period and you can swing the day off, then fine, but ask that she use the day as a vacation day, because she is not “sick.” Chances are, she’ll make the effort to work (because she’ll do the calculations and realize she’ll waste her vacation days in bed. Part of the task of experience American culture, is to realize that most Americans don’t treat having a period as any different from any other day.

For the record – none of my either APs made their periods an issue (2 South American, 6 European).

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 11:59 am

Yep. I think periods are cultural. I have added this to my list of things to address when searching for my next AP. Knowledge of tampons (and alternatives), birth control (for period control or contraception), Midol, and general medical knowledge are pretty limited in some countries.

I wouldn’t take the day off work because the AP cannot manage her periods. What on earth would I say to my boss?!?! APs come here to learn life skills; sharing strategies for managing periods helps her to develop life skills. Just imagine the difference it would make in her life to not have to lay around feeling sick for a week every month.

AP#2 decided not to join us at the pool because she wanted to avoid a tan, which makes me worry that she’s going to avoid bringing the toddler to the pool all summer. And we have a beach vacation planned for later in the year. I may buy her a big floppy hat and a rash guard to get them outside.

Skny May 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

I had that happen and had to go in the water with the kids while Au pair sun bathed by the side.
Never again.
It is part of the interview process. I ask specifically: we go to the pool a lot in the summer: are you ok to enter the pool during your period, or wet your hair on a day you may have a date later on?

Should be working May 25, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Hehehe, good point about the hair!!

Seattle Mom May 26, 2014 at 12:01 am

Any au pair who is picky about swimming should come to Seattle. We just don’t have the weather for it here. I’ve never needed my AP to swim and I don’t really expect to!

That said, I would be pretty nonplussed if an AP told me she couldn’t work on her period. I would show her where I keep the midol.

Old China Hand May 26, 2014 at 7:27 pm

That’s pretty funny! I went to grad school in Seattle and went swimming only a handful of times. Our AP just drinks lots of hot water when she is having her period. We are ordering an electric tea kettle before the next one comes. On a side note, our AP is going backpacking for her vacation (starting tomorrow) and has never been before. She thinks she’ll have her period and she’s backpacking with 4 guys. She’s from China. I use a keeper when I have my period (reusable menstrual cup… most awesome invention ever!) and have talked with her about it. She likes the idea of saving money and not buying disposable pads because she is from a rural and less wealthy part of China. I suggested she get one before the trip and showed her mine. She thought that sounded like a good plan but then mentioned to me that she needed to buy the pads and I tried to explain that the cup goes inside you and she doesn’t need pads. She was horrified and thought it might hurt. I suggested that maybe reusable/washable pads would be a better fit for her and instead talked with her about bear bags and taking along extra trash bags for her used pads for the trip. They sell tampons in China (OB only but they are there – I have bought them – even in backwater cities) but they are not commonly used.

Seattle Mom May 27, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I am a diva cup user myself, and have been for over 10 years. If only I had known about it when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa, my life would have been more convenient. I always thought it would be great for developing countries, if not for the cultural norms.. I never saw tampons for sale outside of western markets in the capital city. And I’ve thought about telling my APs about it but the conversation never comes up, and we haven’t gotten to that level of familiarity.

That is my one complaint about Seattle, that the water never really gets warm enough for swimming. My kids like to splash around in the freezing Puget Sound, but I don’t think they will actually swim in that water. It’s going to be community center swimming lessons, all the way.

Skny May 28, 2014 at 11:59 am

Ok off topic on the tampons, how hard to place and hygienic are they? Does it make a mess to place/take off?

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I would guess most middle and high-school girls start using them; it’s not difficult or painful. Less mess than a pad and less risk of a leak. I think the only hygiene issue is washing your hands afterward, but most people do that anyway after using the restroom.

One of the other posters here is an OB/GYN so she might chime in.

hOstCDmom May 28, 2014 at 4:15 pm

SKNY – were you asking about tampons generally, or the “keeper”/”diva cup” options mentioned above?

Taking a Computer Lunch May 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Tampons take some practice to place, and those of us who use them regularly have our favorites. I always place small sample boxes of OB and Tampax in the AP’s bathroom before she arrives – usually they are gone completely when I go to clean out the bathroom after she has completed her year. Our Bodies Ourselves has a good guide for the first-time inserter.

Seattle Mom May 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm

I’ll be honest I had trouble figuring out how to use a tampon through my whole time in high school. I realize now that part of the problem was that my mother bought me a type that was COMPLETELY inappropriate for a teenaged beginner- she got me the highest volume capacity with the cardboard applicator. Ugh! And i didn’t feel comfortable asking her for advice on how to use them, or my friends, because I was shy. It actually took me a few years to figure them out. But once I did I was hooked, and I used the OB without the applicator for a long time. It really isn’t that messy, though you do want to wash your hands before & after. No worse than pads, and I think it works better.

But now that I use a menstrual cup I will not go back to tampons. The problem with tampons is that they absorb all moisture so they dry you out. And you can wear them swimming but they get all soaked through and you have to take them out right afterward. A menstrual cup is a medical grade silicone cup that fits inside your vagina and catches everything but doesn’t absorb anything- so it’s a lot healthier and feels better once you get the hang of it. The thing is that it is harder to learn how to use at first, and while you are learning there could be some leakage (a back-up panty liner is a good idea on heavy days). Also if you have a very heavy period it could be messy when taking it out, if you’re not careful. But aside from being healthier the great thing about a menstrual cup is that it holds MUCH more than a tampon or pad. I used to go a whole day without emptying it, but since having kids my cycle is too heavy for that. There is nothing to throw away or buy- it’s about $35 and you can use it for years. I’m totally hooked.

Sorry for the OT- but you never know when this information helps someone :)

Always Hopeful HM May 28, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Okay, since we’re on the “cup” topic, my question is, how do you clean it between uses? I’m thinking of times when you’re in a public restroom…do you dump it, go out of the stall to rinse it out, then back in the stall to re-insert it? Sorry for the imagery…I’m just not understanding how it all works!

Should be working May 29, 2014 at 12:57 am

My question as well. How often does it need emptying anyway? And what about at work, the washing issue…

Skny May 25, 2014 at 11:06 am

My new Au pair is actually required to enter pool once a week to assist 2yo in swim lessons. So we discussed this a lot

NNTexasHM May 25, 2014 at 11:38 am

I appreciate hearing that – thanks!

HRHM May 25, 2014 at 11:30 am

I think this was talked about last year or maybe the one before, so you might want to search back for the thread. It was an invigorating conversation :0! I think this is something you have to screen for because once you have the AP in your home, you can’t force her to be reasonable and it is unlikely that you’re going to be able to change her cultural norm about menses. I think we (Americans) don’t realize how backwards thinking is about periods in other countries.

AmericanAP in Germany May 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm

I was really shocked to read that period thread…Because I’m an American who doesn’t go swimming while I’m on my period! I didn’t even realize this wasn’t the norm. And I use tampons! It’s not that I feel like I “can’t” or “shouldn’t,” but the idea of a water-soaked tampon….really grosses me out. That being said, I also really dislike swimming, so that probably colors my unwillingness to go in the water.

This actually did become a minor issue with my host family because though we NEVER discussed swimming before matching, I was informed that while on vacation I was expected to go in the indoor pool with their 12 year old daughter. I don’t even own a bathing suit! (That’s how much I hate swimming). They kind of acted like they weren’t going to force me, but really guilted me into it because they didn’t want to go in the water, so I had to wear a very ill-fitting old bathing suit of my host mom’s. Not the highlight of the vacation ;)

exaupair May 25, 2014 at 7:09 pm

I’m not a big fan of swimming too, plus I pick swimsuits based on my rule looks before comfort – they are designed to look nice when you enjoy a drink by the pool but not very comfortable when you actually try to swim :-) If I felt the pool loving family was otherwise perfect I’d match with them and buy few sporty swimsuits I wouldn’t normally wear.

NNTexasHM May 25, 2014 at 11:39 am

HRHM – completely agree – I am definitely not going to skirt this issue or vaccinations as I learned how unpleasant it is to find out AFTER the fact that an Au Pair might not consider getting a flu vaccine (at her mother’s insistence) even when I offer to pay for it!

BackHome May 25, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Well, I think the flue shot really is a different topic… ;) I got all the (in Germany) recommended vaccinations but I’m not going to get the flue shot for several reasons: 1. I’ve never had the flue before. 2. The flue shot only protects you from a few specific germs and only for a short period of time (so you could still get the flue from different germs). 3. A lot of people feel weak and sick for a couple of days from the vaccination (Why would I want to go through that once a year if I never had the flue and probably won’t get it that year either?) 4. I don’t belong to a high risk group (low immune system, elderly,…). I really don’t see why you would want your Au Pair to get a flue shot if she doesn’t want it. If one of my host kids or another family member had a medical condition causing a low immune system I would probably be willing to get the flue shot, though.

WarmStateMomma May 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Flu shots are mandatory in my house, I pay for them, and we share this requirement before matching. My daughter is under 2 and I am pregnant, so it’s important to reduce our risk of exposure. HPs should not have to use their vacation days because an AP caught a preventable flu. I’ve had flu shots for the past 15 years and never had anything worse than a tender spot on my arm; feeling sick for days afterward is not common.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 25, 2014 at 10:39 pm

We’ve discussed flu shots elsewhere on this Blog. In my house the flu vaccine or flu mist is mandatory (we pay for it) because The Camel is medically fragile. Any au pair caring for a child under 2, who is in the high-risk category shouldn’t quibble about getting a vaccine – she wouldn’t want to give the flu to an child. In my experience though – the first year of kindergarten was the worst! Nothing like 20 kids who never washed their hands properly together in one room!

RepeatingAuPair May 25, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Hello everybody
I have been reading this blog for a while and right now I’m in need of some advice.
I have been an au pair for 4 months, this is actually my second time being an au pair in the states, my first experience was awesome, I didn’t have any complains about it either my host parents, they even gave me a recommendation when I applied again and my current host mom talked with my former host mom before matching.
My concern right now it’s about driving, in my first au pair program I didn’t have any problem about driving, my host dad tested my driving abilities the next day when I arrived to their house and I was responsible to drive the kids all the time, I never had any accident or ticket while I was there, I continued driving in my home country everyday and I consider myself a good driver, the problem is my current host parents don’t think I’m a good driver.
It’s frustrating because I have been driving for about 5 years, the first time I went out with my HD to drive he wanted me to be able to get to the girl’s school without using any navigation system which I think was not fair because I never drove there before and the roads where I live now are complete different to the roads where I lived before (Wisconsin).
They don’t need an au pair to drive because they have a babysitter who pick up the girl from school and stay here for 3 hours a day because they need more than 45 hours a week of childcare.
I have Fridays off but I can’t go anywhere, I live in the suburbs and the closest bus stop is 1 hour away walking, it’s also very dangerous to walk there because there is not sidewalks!
When finally my HD approved my driving, my HM thought that was a good idea for me to take the state driving test, I passed the written test but the appointments for the road test takes about 6 weeks, now they said they need to put me in the car insurance but they are asking me for documents that are not even available in my country.
I love the girls I’m taking care of, they are really special to me but I feel like my time here in the us is not what I was expecting, I cannot go to the library to get books for the girls or the bank, my host parents tell me if I want to go somewhere ask them for a ride or ask my friend, they say they are happy to have me here, my host mom is always saying thanks to me for the help but I feel like nobody cares about me.

Seattle Mom May 26, 2014 at 12:13 am

That is a very tough situation and I really can’t see you being able to live there without driving. Have you told your host family about how difficult it is to live without driving? You have no freedom if you can’t go anywhere on your own. I think you should tell them how hard it is for you, and how bad you feel with no independence. Maybe they don’t realize. I do think that you have a valid reason to want to go into rematch, but it would be best to try to improve your current situation first (since you like the kids etc). If you don’t ask it will never happen. If you don’t feel comfortable having that conversation you should ask your LCC for help. Maybe your host family can let you practice driving locally without the kids in the car, and then let you show them how much better you drive when you know where you are going. And then maybe they will let you drive places on your own, and eventually with the kids. That’s how I have handled au pairs with less-than-stellar driving. I let them practice without kids and then eventually they can drive the kids. It also helps that we live in a city with a great bus system and lots of busses near our house, and plenty of places to walk to.

How are they about giving you rides places? When you ask do they take you? Do you feel comfortable asking for rides? How do you get to your classes?

Another thought- would it be possible to bike to the bus stop, or to other places? I know that a lot of places in the US are not safe for biking, but it’s an idea. Maybe your HF would either buy you a bike or help you buy one.

RepeatingAuPair May 26, 2014 at 1:11 am

Thank you for your reply Seattle Mom, well I don’t feel comfortable asking for rides, they have a lot going on when they are at home because they have twins who are turning 2 and a 4 year old so most of the time I have to ask my friend who is also an au pair, she is the au pair of my host parents friends and she is the one who drive me around, it has becoming a little bit awkward because their host parents are getting uncomfortable about her asking for the car to take me somewhere, of course I help her with the money for the gas.
The classes are another story, due to my schedule I only could take classes at night, it was really difficult to find classes after 7 pm (that’s the time I’m off) I found a ESL class from 8 pm to 10 pm Monday to Thrusday, my HM arragended with my friend’s host mom that we will take turns to drive to school since my friends it’s taking the same class, but it just didn’t work, my friend has been driving to school and just last Thrusday my host dad gave us a ride.
When I ask my host dad what he thinks about my driving he says I do it good but I feel like they have really hard time trusting people, I have been here for 4 months and sometimes it’s challenging, my HM even ask me to do not talk to the other au pairs if I have complains about my situation because most of the host parents around here know each other and if I complain they will hear about it.

exaupair May 26, 2014 at 6:01 am

And when it comes to your classes you had no choice but to take what’s left, regardless whether you’re interested in the particular class or not…..
Again, as sweet at the family is, unless you are OK with spending evenings off in the house and you have no problem with doing random classes only because the fit in your schedule, I’d say rematch.

And there’s this: “my HM even ask me to do not talk to the other au pairs if I have complains about my situation because most of the host parents around here know each other and if I complain they will hear about it.” I’m always sceptical and suspicious so I’d probably start considering rematch based on the one sentence only :-(

HRHM May 26, 2014 at 11:28 am

Are they first time HPs? They sure sound like it! If they think you are ok to drive, then they should let you drive while you wait for the practical test. If they don’t, then they should help you find a driving instructor to get you ready (they pay for evaluation and then if he feels you NEED lessons, you pay for those). Either way, I suspect they don’t have a dedicated AP car and you will have a hard time using it often even when you have a license. I think this is a family that offers a car without really intending for their AP to use it. And it sounds like in your location, you need one that is often available.

caring hp May 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Some insurance companies need an american license to insure a driver. Even if they will insure an international license they may take away all the host family clean driving record discounts and charge the hf hundreds if not 1000+ extra to insure an Ap.
Some insurance companies need a letter or print out from ap home country driving license office or police to confirm she has no violations. Otherwise they may charge for and classify her as a new teen driver. So before you slam the HF here remember this can be a difference of a few hundred versus 2000+ bucks a year depending on zip age country of origin insurance company type of vehicle hf history ap history etc.

6 weeks isnt long. I suspect they might be punting to try to get her an American license to make it more affordable or even available.

Find out if they will be more flexible when u have an American license

In meantime take rides and see if u can get a bike at a thrift store for 20 bucks or borrow theirs.

Also go to your license office with a letter from LCC and HF begging for an earlier appt for the road test and state in letter that u need it for your ap job. Or go to license office at a time they are not busy or an hour or 2 before they open and wait in line to see if someone who had an appointment didn’t show up. U may get license quicker than 6 weeks

HRHM May 27, 2014 at 12:47 am

Caring HP: “When finally my HD approved my driving, my HM thought that was a good idea for me to take the state driving test, ”

While I know that what you say may be true in some situations, it doesn’t sound like that is the case here… AP has been with this family 4 months per the first post.
I certainly don’t mean to “slam” anyone, but honestly, if they are new to hosting, it’s likely that they may not have realized how essential it would be for an AP to have ready access to a car in their location. It can be the show-stopper to an otherwise fine match.

exaupair May 26, 2014 at 5:51 am

Sounds like where you live you either have a car and drive it or you’re trapped in your own house. For me it would be either a use of a car starting from now or a rematch. I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking a friend for a ride every time I wanted to go out of the house.
What are those documents they need, which you can’t provide? Did you ask other APs which documents they were asked for before they were put in a car insurance? You could also call the insurance company directly to make sure. Insist on the talk with the insurance company even if the HPs say they will handle everything for you. Your HPs sound a bit as if they were trying so hard not to let you drive on your own.
As happy as the family is to have you over, it’s your year and you wouldn’t want to waste it.

Taking a Computer Lunch May 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm

It seems to me that you need to have a quiet conversation with your HM and see why she has imposed the need to get a state license. If her reason is legitimate, then you’ll have to acquire the necessary documents – if you’re from a country for which there is not a reciprocal agreement with that state, you may need to pay for an official translation. If you don’t understand everything that is required, then ask your LCC for help.

You are going to find that the rules have changed since you were an AP the first time, and accept it. After 13 years of hosting APs I am always surprised at the new Department of Motor Vehicle rules, new interpretations of the State Dept. education requirement, and other minor changes. I depend on my LCC to make me aware of changes.

Finally, the requirement to get a license, as another HM said, may depend on your HF’s car insurance. While APs are permitted to drive in my state for one year on an international driving license or its equivalent, my car insurance company, has required a state license after one AP caused an accident. Because we usually host APs who come from a country with a reciprocal agreement, it is not a problem (e.g. they don’t have to take a driving test – just turn in their license).

But, are your feelings of isolation just due to driving? If you feel that no one cares about you, then it sounds like something deeper.

caring hp May 26, 2014 at 6:13 pm

RepeatAp, I forgot to respond to your comment on the HM asking you not to discuss your HF with neighbors/ people in the cluster.
This is common sense and also common for Hfs to remind APs about. Many HFs I know even have the AP sign a household rule book that covers “confidentiality” and prohibits the Ap from discussing the HF or from posting about them on social media. The agencies say they also train APs about this in orientation. I as an employee of a company and as a volunteer at various schools and organizations must also agree to resolve my complaints in a certain way and not talk about the affairs of my employer or these organizations by talking to friends or others.
Firstly, if u have a complaint or concern talk to your HF and LCC. You are entitled to do so. Your LCCs job is to help APs with complaints.
Secondly, I agree w the HM. Clusters of APs are dens of gossip, sometimes intended sometimes unintentional.
I am tired and mortified to realize how much gossip other neighborhood families learned about me from my Aps talking to their APs over the years. I am very private and I was so, so sad and embarrassed to find out that my neighbors knew about a private medical condition someone in the family has; that people know who snores in our house; that the AP was venting about the extra work washing sheets from our childs bedwetting etc etc (although we usually washed the sheets but sometimes she had to make the bed back up). Thanks to these Aps talking and gossiping despite being INSTRUCTED and requested not to, I started to turn off the AP program. It is one of the reasons I am happy to hopefully be leaving the often unprofessional unkind gossipy AP program soon. I love some parts of the program but so much of it is a burden and outweighs the benefits.

On the flip side we keep our APs business private. When we had an AP who had a mental health issue we never told anybody outside the agency and when she had to go home early due to it, and told APs and other people something bad (untrue) about us to cover up her departure, we let it go so she could save face. We really wanted to set the record straight in the cluster community but doing so would have caused more gossip about her and her mental health.

To make a long story short, the LCC and Agency staff are there to mediate Ap and Hf day to day routine or rematch material complaints and issues. It is not fair on anybody if either hf/ap take to the gossip circles or talk to other cluster participants to discuss these issues as a general rule. Exceptions apply for danger or urgent situations where an LCC is not reachable or it is a 911 type situation of course. All agencies have 24 hr help line numbers when LCC is off too.
Sounds like you are worried about more than the car. Maybe a rematch is best but discuss w your LCC. Be sure to discuss these things w new HF. They may also not want u talking about their household to the cluster so check before u match.

Always Hopeful HM May 26, 2014 at 10:12 pm

I know that the notion of not discussing the HF is a view reflects that of many host families, but personally, I find it a little unrealistic and/or unfair. There are a million little things that may be bugging an au pair– many of which may not be worthy of a call to the LCC. Add that to the fact that while some LCCs are terrific, some other seem to just be playing catch as catch can, AND the fact that the problems the au pair is experiencing are probably common to the au pair experience or at least best understood by someone who also knows what it feels like to be an au pair. Given all of that, I actually expect my au pair to gripe about us to his friends. While I hope he has the discretion and respect to keep our most private info under wraps, I wouldn’t be offended to learn that he has told funny, even somewhat embarrassing stories about us, or that he’s complained about things that go on at home. Otherwise, I imagine the loneliness, confusion, and isolation could be staggering. For something like the HF throwing up hurdles regarding car usage, I’m not even sure how the AP can avoid discussing it with the AP from whom she’s been bumming rides (and who happens to be the AP of the HF’s friend.

AussiePair May 26, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Not to mention sometimes being an au pair (and the experiences with your host family) are all that au pair friends have in common. It’s kind of the glue that holds a lot of the friendships between au pairs together, or at the very least it’s what sparks friendships and gets them talking to each other. One of the first questions any au pair will be asked is how many children they care for and what their ages are, usually this will be followed by “how are you liking your family”. For an au pair forbidden to talk about the family; I would have to imagine that she would begin to dread au pair meetings and that they would become quite awkward for her. If she tells them she can’t answer because her host family don’t want her talking about them the au pairs will come up with their own ideas on how the family is, and if she instead just says nothing she will be isolating herself. Doesn’t seem right does it? Besides, an au pair could simply answer “I really like the kids, but I’m a little frustrated because I’m not allowed to drive yet and that makes it hard to go out and do things so sometimes I feel stick and lonely”, to me this isn’t gossip, it’s simply conveying the truth and how she feels.

I once lived with a family who forbade me from telling people that I was their au pair, I was supposed to tell people that I was a family friend who was helping out with the children. This made me all sorts of uncomfortable, one because I didn’t like lying, two because people would find that situation hard to believe and three because I had trouble agreeing or seeing the host parent’s reasoning (they believed people would think they had lots of money if they knew they had an au pair and therefore would charge them more).

So I really don’t think itt’d fair for a host family to ask their au pair not to speak about them in any way shape or form..

HRHM May 27, 2014 at 12:59 am

I don’t see how an AP who’s only friends are other AP’s can be expected to not talk to her friends about things that are bothering her. I wouldn’t want her spreading lies or rumors about me, but then again, if she’s sharing truths that are embarrassing, maybe they are things she shouldn’t know about in the first place. I’ve had miscarriages, fights with DH, discipline issues and protracted rows with my sister during our time with an AP, none of which she was aware of because I kept the truly private stuff private. If there was something that I had to let her in on that wasn’t for public consumption, then on a case by case basis, I think it’s fine to sit her down and say, “AP, we know you know that I’m (having chemo, pregnant, won the lottery) but we are not sharing that information with anyone else just yet and we’d like you to not share it either.

It’s the cost of having a stranger inside your family, unfortunately.

Old China Hand May 26, 2014 at 7:32 pm

New Topic:

Our AP (from China) is finishing up 18 months with us this summer. She wants to stay in the US as a student (legally) but needs to enroll in an ESL school to study for the TOEFL before she can go to school to become a Montessori teacher (what she actually wants to do) and to get a master’s in education. She has contacted schools and they told her that because her visa is 2 years but she is only using 18 months, she needs to go back to China for 6 months and then apply to come here again. That doesn’t sound right to me, because, among other things, her status is only valid for 18 months. My dad knows an immigration lawyer who we are going to ask as well, but I’m wondering if you all have any knowledge about this. She has saved the full amount for the visa change and to prove that she can support herself and her parents have enough money to help her if necessary. Thanks!

midwest aupair May 26, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I have experience with this, because I did it, so I can help you.
Before I start I have to ask a couple questions:
1. When does her visa expire,
2. When does she want to start school (summer or fall semester?)
3. Does she already have a bachelors degree?
4. Is she planning to go home during her time studying in the US?

cv harquail May 27, 2014 at 4:50 pm

From OldChinaHand:

Hi Midwest Aupair,
Thanks for your response. I’m asking CV to help me to get to you directly because she closed the comments. Here are my answers to your questions.

1. When does her visa expire,
11 July (her DS-2911 ends then, before her month of travel)

2. When does she want to start school (summer or fall semester?)

3. Does she already have a bachelors degree?

4. Is she planning to go home during her time studying in the US?
Doesn’t need to.

Thanks again!

midwest aupair May 27, 2014 at 9:20 pm

If you like, you can give me your e-mail address, and we can discuss that way. Maybe CV can send it to me? Or mine to you?

Old China Hand May 28, 2014 at 9:59 am

I talked with a lawyer yesterday and figured out the problem – although her paperwork says she isn’t subject to the 2 years in home country rules, the US Embassy in Beijing messed up her visa and it says on her visa that she is subject to returning home. So we know now how to start the process of getting that fixed. Thanks again for your offers of help, though. If CV sends you my email address, I can get you in touch with our au pair directly. She’s on vacation right now but will be back on Tuesday. Thanks again!

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