This Is The Open Thread You’ve Been Looking For

by cv harquail on October 18, 2014

I know it’s been a while– and questions are piling up. Time for an open thread!


Keep in mind, it can take some time to clear the comment moderation gauntlet for first-time contributors. … This thread will be open until Monday. Got to it, readers!



Image: Evan Leeson on Flickr


WorriedHostMom October 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm

So, it looks like we are going to be out of the country over the holidays and, for financial reasons, will not be bringing our au pair. Any thoughts on how to handle this? This was unexpected and I can’t even begin to figure out a good way to handle it.

NoVA Twin Mom October 18, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I imagine you’ve already done everything possible to avoid this situation, but will ask if this is something you’ve chosen to do (such as a vacation) or something you either didn’t choose the timing on or would prefer not to do (such as a sick relative overseas you need to visit and the holidays are the only time that would work).

Either is bad, but I imagine your au pair (and LCC) would understand the second better than the first – the second is more of an obligation while the first can be seen as a choice. For the record, it sounds like you’re in the second category, but just want to cover all the bases.

I’d talk to your LCC (who will hopefully be understanding) but probably the way to best “smooth this over” is to find a family friend, preferably someone your au pair already knows and likes, to take her in over the time you’ll be gone. Not to have her work, but so she isn’t spending the holidays alone. If she doesn’t already know the family in question, have them meet and get to know each other beginning now. You will, of course, leave plenty of gifts for your au pair so that the other family doesn’t have to worry about that.

I’d also leave some “experiences” for the au pair (and maybe the other family too) to have while you’re gone – tickets to the Nutcracker for your au pair and her best friend, a gift card (or cash) to cover dinner at the Cheesecake Factory or the local equivalent, a stocking with her name on it that will match the family’s stockings, etc. Whatever you can do to replicate what you would have done if you were home. I realize there’s a big money commitment here – but you’re kind of abandoning her in the time she’s most likely to be homesick so you need to “make it up to her.” (I realize you’re not doing this on purpose, but the net effect is the same, and she won’t be less homesick just because you realize the timing is bad).

Good luck – that discussion isn’t going to be fun, but you can do what you can to mitigate it. No matter what you end up spending to smooth the waters, it probably won’t compare to taking her along.

NoVA Twin Mom October 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Oh – and of course you’ll pay her stipend while you’re out of town, even though she won’t be working. And make sure that the cost of her meals are covered, whether by leaving a fully stocked kitchen/refrigerator or making sure she has money to go grocery shopping while you’re gone. Additionally, make sure she has a way to get around – which means unless you’re within a few blocks of a subway/metro station, you’ll have to leave her a car. Maybe this can be accomplished by having her drive you to the airport and pick you up -which will also save you parking costs or cab fare.

And I wouldn’t make this count against her vacation time, because if she were to go anywhere, she’d have had to start planning and reserving well before now to get decent rates (or in some cases, even a place to sleep.) Even if you said from the beginning that you’d pick one of her vacation weeks, making her take it over Christmas (and therefore one of the most expensive weeks to vacation) with only two months notice just seems… mean. Unless you plan to cover the price difference (or told her from the beginning that one of those weeks would be Christmas, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case.)

Seattle Mom October 19, 2014 at 2:55 am

I agree with the above that you need to pay her, make sure she has transportation, food, etc etc, but depending on the au pair and the situation it might not be that big of a deal. My last au pair would have been fine with it- she would have missed the kids (she always missed the kids) but she would have found a lot to do on her own. Although she was from a country where they don’t celebrate Christmas, so that might have been part of it.

I think our current au pair would be fine too if we had to leave her alone, she’s very independent and mature.

As it is we never do that much of anything for the holidays. Sure, we have a tree, Christmas morning with presents, and a dinner.. but otherwise it’s business as usual in our house. Could be because I’m not Christian (DH is), so I don’t get all into it like other people do.

caring hp October 19, 2014 at 5:15 pm

3 of our past au pairs would have been delighted with your travel plans…. they seemed to want many many days off at Christmas because they had opportunities to go to friends grandparents condos on the beach, go to ski destinations with friends and other fun opportunities or relatives visited them from overas or their parents wanted to pay for them to fly home for christmas. They found it hard that we needed childcare in late Dec and early Jan because our kids were off school and we were not allowed take more than new years day and Christmas day off from our offices. So maybe your au pair will be delighted:)
It is nice that you are pre-planning this by seeking input here and it is nice that you know as early as October so she has 2.5 months to plan stuff with her time off.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 19, 2014 at 9:32 pm

WHM – you haven’t mentioned how long your AP has been with you.Whether she is a fairly recent arrival, halfway through her year, or winding it up – apologize that you can’t take her with you and offer to help her find a place to land. You seem to have a sense that she will feel hurt. Apologize for not being able to bring her, and then offer her choices:

Would she prefer to spend the holidays with her BFF in the US? Then ask your LCC to pave the way for her to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with that family. Surprise her with a stocking (dropped off at the house before you leave) and a few gifts that show that you really thought about her as a person.

Can you tell that she’s secretly pleased that you freed her to travel with a pack of APs to NYC or another destination city? If you can afford it, then pay for her transportation or a night in the hotel/hostel of the group’s choice, or give her a pair of tickets for something (now’s the time to order tickets to climb the Statue of Liberty or a Broadway musical).

Know that she would prefer to stay at home alone? Then stock the house with her favorite foods and give her a food allowance to host a dinner – or go out to a nice restaurant. (Of course, since you trust her with your kids, you trust her to host a dinner for friends.) Give her a Christmas stocking and tell her not to open it until the 25th. Give her a few gifts that show you’ve thought about her as a person.

(DH and I had the opposite problem with AP #10 – she sniveled when we told her that if she chose not to join us on an all-expense paid w/extra time off trip to a destination city for Christmas, then we would count her trip with other APs to another destination city as vacation time. We’ve since gone into rematch, and AP #11 (coming in a few weeks) stated emphatically that she wanted to join us when DH told her that it was okay to opt out (yes!).

AuPair Paris October 20, 2014 at 5:43 am

I feel like I’m constantly butting in, in a space which is for HMs and not au pairs, but this thread has made me so happy. Everyone has such lovely ideas! And it’s so nice that you all really care/feel a responsibility to look after your au pair during Christmas. I’m a European au pair in a different European country, so I can go home for Christmas – but I’m taking a couple of people with me who are from further away, and whose host families have just said “this is a time for family… So… Find something else to do/somewhere else to go!” (Doesn’t help that nearly everyone here goes skiing over Christmas, which is really very pricey if you want to include an extra person.)

Umm, so yes. All of these ideas sound wonderful. Also, if she’s a newbie au pair, she might need encouragement to talk about it to what must be very new friends – but really most people will jump in to help and include people in their holiday plans if they know it’s necessary. Like I said, I’m taking people home with me – there’s also a group trip that’s been organised by some of the North Americans who can’t go home. Unless you’re in an au pair scarce area, I bet there’s something going on.

NoVA Twin Mom October 20, 2014 at 8:47 am

We like hearing your perspective too! I think it’s especially nice since you’re not in the US so you have a different perspective – and you’re most likely not “my” au pair so if I inadvertently propose something that you think really wouldn’t work, then “my” au pair never hears about it :)

Nbhostmom October 20, 2014 at 9:06 am

A friend of our had a similar situation. Their soltion was they offered their home for their au pair to have her family come visit her over the holidays. Au pair had her mom, dad and brother visit her over Christmas while her host family vacationed. It worked out great for them

Repeataupair October 20, 2014 at 3:29 pm

To be honnest, if it was me, I would be miserable on Christmas day, I love christmas, the spirit, the opportunity to spend it as family quality time, I am really looking forward to it, whether we do something special or no. There is no easy way, but if you want your au pair to have a chance to do something, let her know asap.
If that happens to me this year, I would send a message to my previous HF and I am sure they would be happy to have me over, it would be great for me to get to spend christmas with them, but at the same time, I really would like to experience it with my current HF. You au pair might not have this chance but maybe she knows some au pair who have a HF who would invite her over that day.
I don’t know what my HF does for Christmas, I haven’t heard about it so far, maybe I will be in the same case, but save yourself more drama and tell her as soon as you can. Whatever the reason is for you to go at that time, she would probably understand that financially this is a big deal to take the au pair with you when you travel, especially out of the country, just make sure she still feels cared about and that you do something for her.

SwissAuPair October 22, 2014 at 3:53 am

I actually was miserable on christmas while I was an Aupair in a northern european country. I bought very nice presents for all members of the family. I’ve never asked the family if we spend christmas together or not, I just assumed that it would be like that. A few days before christmas they have told me, that I should stay in my room (I lived alone in a small one room appartment above their house/ had a kitchen and a bathroom), and in no way come to their part of the house and interrupt the celebration. I was so shocked and spent christmas with prepairing my own cookies, cooking a great typical northern christmas-dinner and crying.. On new years eve it was absolutely the same. But since I’ve already expected that, I was able to book at least a dinner at a hotel.
All my Aupairfriends were at holiday in their home country, so I was absolutely alone. It was the most horrible christmas/new year, I have had in my whole life.

The relationship with the family totally changed in that moment and was never the same until I have left.

SKNY October 18, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Any tip dealing with imaturity? new au pair is great with the kids. (specially comparing with last one). The kids are attaching to her well and she genuinily likes the kids, BUT her immaturity and dramatic personality gets to me at times…

1. She is not good at keeping at the chores. She tries to impress me by doing things she doesnt have to (such organize kitchen, make MY bed without invitation to enter my room) but then it is weekend and kids dont have clothes to wear and the mini van is full of kids stuff… My approach is: you have 5 things to do during week: kids laundry, playroom, bedroom, mini van, book/toy rotation. I dont care when you do it as long as it is all done. However she is not doing and it seems like it would be wrong to give her a schedule now: like from now on you do this on Monday

2. She is insanely jealous of former loved au pair (who recruited her). She has had 2 outbursts when kids talk about her or family members do. She says it makes her feel unwanted.

3. If things dont go her way she has mini tamtrums… like she got yelled by a cop and ran into her room crying that she was going to go back home. (which made my 4yo cry and very anxious)… or my husband requested English only at dinner table because he wants to partiicipate in dinner conversations, and she had a mini tamtrum over being her right to maintain her language and it is not natural to not be allowed to speak her language in front of another native speaker…

4. and finally, she cant hold her tongue. I used to find it refreshing before but is starting to tire me up. She has to say all she thinks at all times. She cant keep it or pass some censor… or whatever. I know it is terrible but it gets tiring at times… I got a message on my cell at 3AM saying the other au pair was getting on her nerves (she was out partying… or how depressed she was at not being allowed to go to parties because she is under 21… or everything all guys she is talking to say to her…

SKNY October 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm

just to add though… she does try hard and go beyond her duties and tries her best to impress (although I just wish she would do the basic I ask and leave rest). Anyway… she does surprise me with dinner at times (very appreciated) or organizing something… etc. She is not bad. But she is clearly immature and likes a little drama

AlwaysHopeful HM October 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm

As I read through this again, I wonder if the problem is that she thinks of you as her BFF and not her employer. To be sure, a strict employer-employee relationship does not work well for my family, but it is important to have clear lines even in the context of a more friendly, familial relationship. As I read your posts, it sounds like she does “extras” that she thinks you will like, but if she’s not also doing her job, she may be just viewing those things as favors for a friend. I’m not really articulating this well, but I think you need to make clear to her that you think she’s great, you love her relationship with the kids, etc., but she still has a job that must be completed. If you feel uncomfortable introducing a schedule now, maybe you can point out that the job is not being completed, and ask for her input on how she can make sure she is fulfilling her duties. Re: the tantrums, you can also remind her that a part of her job is to be a good role model for the kids. Good luck!

LondonMum October 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I know how all these little things can add up and be very annoying when you are sharing your home with someone. I have very different views to many contributors here, but this is how I would deal with this:-

1. It’s not too late to make a schedule, you could say that it’s for you because you need to know each day what has been done so you can focus on the tasks that you need to do each day (even though that’s not the case!)

2. This is a tricky one, the fact that you say “former loved” AP must be annoying for new AP. It’s great that you have a wonderful relationship with former AP but if new AP keeps hearing about it I can see how it could make her feel not good enough because she’s not the same. Maybe talking about old AP could be done when current AP is not around. I think you do need to make the effort to be sensitive about this. I know my comments won’t be popular but it’s my 2 cents.

3. I would just ignore the tantrums if possible, literally don’t respond. If she questions it you could just say “oh, I didn’t think you were wanting a conversation, I thought you were just venting”. As for speaking English, ask her how she would feel if she couldn’t understand what was being said in her own home with her own kids and partner.

4. This is a really hard one, when she makes negative comments maybe ask her why she feels she needs to voice that particular opinion. Even refer her to the last post here about how a negative personality can change the dynamic of the whole house hold. She’s probably not even that aware of it and how it brings you down. Also, tell her not to text you at 3am unless it’s an emergency! And maybe suggest she should talk to her friends she’s out with about the guy that’s being annoying, it’s really not your problem!

I hope there might be a grain of help for you somewhere in this! Good luck.

NJ Mama October 18, 2014 at 3:46 pm

I agree with LondonM – definitely not too late to do a schedule. Just tell her that you realize things would be better for both of you this way. I used to be very much “I don’t care when the laundry gets done as long as it’s done.” And for some APs that’s fine. But in the last 2-3 years I’ve been more explicit — please do laundry Mondays and Thursdays (or in the summer, with camp and swim team, I finally just told them do the laundry every day. It’s just better that way). Same with other chores. Just write it all down. In addition to spelling out which days to do laundry, etc., you might even consider doing a very detailed daily schedule. It’s a pain at first but it really helps. The expectations are clear and it’s obvious if she’s followed through.

2-4 are almost all related to your main theme – her immaturity. You may consider a tough love stance. This may sound cold but I really don’t have patience for APs who get jealous of former APs and even APs on their way out getting jealous of the new ones. You can flat out tell her that her behavior is setting a bad example to your children and that she needs to rise above it. Also that one of the wonderful things about the program is the bonds families form with all of their APs.

As for 3 — this is going to sound funny, but treat a tantrum by an adult the same way you would a tantrum from a child. Ignoring is one way. Or even say – I see you’re having a hard time here. Why don’t you take some time to pull yourself together, and then come back and we can talk about it. You can tell her that while you understand she’s upset, that her meltdowns are scary to the children, but that you can help her figure out a way to cope. Ask her what her biggest fear is (was she afraid the cop was going to arrest her? Or was she afraid you would be mad and want a rematch?) And you can help her break down those fears. Even asking what set her off and suggest ways she could react differently — taking deep breaths, etc.

And I agree again with LM above about the negative comments. Again, if your daughter was acting like that, how would you react? Probably by pointing out that what she is saying is insensitive or not nice.

It’s a tough one SKNY. I hope some of this helps and I wish you luck!

This is going

AlwaysHopeful HM October 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

If you come up with a solution, please share with the group! I’d love some tips!???? No, really I don’t believe you can make someone mature more quickly, but you can work around it. For the chores, a schedule sounds like the right move. Have you talked with her about the fact that the chores are not getting done? If so, maybe you can suggest sitting down together and figuring out the system that works best. For my previous au pair, I didn’t do a chores schedule, mainly because he would “mostly” keep them up, but I did do a getting-my-son-ready-for-school schedule because they were having trouble getting everything done and gettig out of the door. Former AP wasn’t a good planner, so I developed the schedule myself and just invited feedback, but I think doing it together would be better. For current AP, I am about ready to pull my hair out about laundry. AP actually said he thought it would be helpful for him to create a schedule. He hasn’t done it yet, which is why I advocate doing it together!

For the dinner conversation, what if everyone spoke English but her? Do you think she might eventually come around, especially after she’s been here a while and has become more accustomed to speaking English? It may give her some comfort for now to know that she’s allowed to “be herself.”

For the constant chatter, how is your relationship with her? With prior AP, I would have felt comfortable saying something like “I love hearing about your friends/ your life/ your adventures…but not in the middle of the night! Let’s pick a time to grab a coffee, so we can chat and gossip to our hearts’ content!” Would something like that work?

4th time lucky?! October 18, 2014 at 9:08 pm

By no means do I intend to defend or justify the constant chattering and gossiping (nor do I have a better solution to any mentioned – they sound all worth a try!) but, boy, what would I give for someone who is talking and sharing too much! Seem to be stuck on a run of the silent, sullen, too reserved and private type, which makes connecting so much hard work (and at some point, if nothing’s ever coming back, I just lose interest and can’t be bothered anymore to put in the effort).

Re schedule: I agree that it’s never too late, just depends how you package it: as suggested before, make it about yourself not her (I need to have these things done and think a schedule would help both of us…). We also introduced a very detailed check lists with AP #2 (different ones for each day / part os day depending on activities, e.g.morning before daycare, after daycare, end of shift, etc.) after I found certain tasks just didn’t get done and that he was a poor planner and organiser. [Unfortunately, didn’t work out with this AP as he struggled reading and following the instructions. One comment:”wow you really have to read these lists very carefully…” – needless to say we ended in rematch].

With subsequent APs I went back to my usual ‘benefit of the doubt’ attitude and tried to introduce schedules later, although I agree with comments here that it’s always better to start off tough and ease up later than the other way round, just finding it hard to start off assuming someone is incapable… ;-) will definitely introduce lists and schedules right from the start next time round.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Oh- forgot about the former au pair jealousy thing. We have that, too. I try to limit what I say about former AP, but for example, I’m facebook friends with both current and former, so current sees former “liking” my posts or commenting on a photo, etc. Also, my son misses former terribly, and says so. He also tells current all the things current is not doing that former did. Of course, much of it is imaginary, wishful thinking, like “former would take me to McDonald’s and for ice cream everyday, why won’t you?” Or “former never made me do my homework; you’re just being mean.” Current understands that those things aren’t true, but still feels inadequate and anxious because he knows former was a beloved member of the family. For us, that’s a tough one.

Skny October 20, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I Think for once she does think of us as BFFs. Yesterday I was very frustrated with something and yelled at half of the house (but not her, of course). 10 min later she came to me laughing: “so honey, are you more calm now?” And today she opened a box that arrived for me… I will think of a gentle way to set it right, without hurting her feelings…
As for former loved Au pair, was just a way to say here, to mean not the last former one who was awful and we rematched

OzHostMum October 18, 2014 at 5:49 pm

How do I prevent HD from “spoiling” our next AP? We’re in the process of interviewing hard for our replacement AP after number 3 upped and left (with about 12 hours notice) after not quite 3 weeks with us. We’ve had a less than average run in our hosting journey with some so-so girls and some just plain bad luck. We’re currently enjoying a short term “stop gap” AP who is spending her last month in Oz with us, and I see the pattern forming that I will do the training (I’m a WAHM about to stop work for a while with new baby set to arrive soon) and HD is classic Mr Nice Guy, too good a host, and acts as though he’s there to guide a teenage daughter through life rather than find the balance that allows these young women to learn and grow, by letting them stand on their own 2 feet, and take responsibility for their actions. For example, AP was late to start her shift one morning this week and I had to rush out the door to a prenatal appointment at the same time he should have left for work. She had to be woken up 15 minutes after she should have started (we were rushing around and lost track of time). I found out later that he stayed back after I left to help her out as she wasn’t ready to start the day. Kids aren’t school age and had nowhere to be, were already eating breakfast etc. He was just being nice. Which meant that he went in late, stayed back late to make up the time which had a flow on effect to the rest of the evening as AP was only scheduled to work for the morning and went out as soon as her shift was over. This is just one example in a string of many, and I don’t want AP4 to start out right (under my watchful eye and expectations) and then slide into the self entitled behaviour that seems to come about with HD clearing her dishes after she eats, fetching drinks, sitting there chatting while I clean up after cooking the meal (when normally he would be helping with the clean up, but he’s trying to be sociable). I could go on. Short of telling him the next time we find ourselves in rematch with an AP who doesn’t cut it, he will ALSO find HIMSELF in “rematch”, I don’t quite know what else to do!! I’m sure I’m not the only HM who has to play bad cop to HD’s good cop, but I LOATHE it!!!

Should be working October 18, 2014 at 7:28 pm

I have dealt with this a lot. DH cleans up after AP, helps out AP, gives a lot of support to AP. It messes with her sense of her responsibilities and makes me resentful sometimes. I’ve talked about it with him a lot, he seems unable to help himself.

But it has improved over several years of hosting APs, as my husband has seen what it leads to. Still, he can’t seem to help it. During training period I have found it easier to have him out of town, which only happened by chance but it did a lot to solidify the AP’s sense of what is required.

I also TELL the AP that DH interferes with things and that it is important to me that she learn the way *I* want things to be done. I also say out loud things like, “Great that you two are chatting, but I have things to do. Who’s on cleanup here?”

OpinionatedHM October 19, 2014 at 10:41 pm

This one is tricky because it touches on so many aspects of the family and couple dynamics. The biggest issue to me in your scenario is that helping the AP in the morning causes more work for you in the evening. So by trying to be thoughtful to the AP, he is not thinking of you and the ripple effect it causes throughout the day.
When I find my family falling into this pattern, there are usually a few things at play. 1.My DH is usually thinking the AP needs help and is a young girl who is still learning and needs patience. I usually remind my DH that at the AP’s age he and I were both working full time, paying our bills, and living independently. I can’t imagine my boss ever thinking he needed to give that kind of help to me, I wouldn’t have had a job after a week if that type of help had been required.
2.My DH is thinking I’m a competent, capable mom who can handle it alone and therefore his effort is best expended making sure the AP gets it right with the kids. I remind him that the AP is a temporary fixture while I am a permanent one, and his efforts should be spent making our life easier, if he can help the AP and not add to our collective burden, then great, otherwise it’s a no go. It kind of subverts the purpose of having an AP if we are always trying to make things easier for her which results in adding to our workload.
3.My DH is also a problem solver and there is nothing more satisfying than solving the problem at hand and feeling good about helping someone out at the same time. It’s much more difficult to predict the future problems that might be created by staying a little later to help out in the morning. I’d return back to explaining to DH that you need his help too. It would be one thing if he was clearing your plate too, but it sounds like he’s treating the AP like a guest and leaving you in the lurch. The trick is finding a way to explain this to him without taking away the good feeling he probably gets from helping. Maybe when he does help you out, you can thank him profusely like the AP (hopefully) does so he can get the same good feeling from helping you that he probably gets from helping the AP.

Or you could start sitting with the AP being social while he cleans up after dinner. That might get some clarity faster than any talk you might have with him!

JuJu October 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

Our Aupair completed her first year and is now in a 9 month extension. As required by the program, she completed 6 credits before the end of her first year however, one of the classes she signed up for during the extension got canceled so she will not have an additional 6 credits during her extension.

Her Aupair friends have advised her that she really doesn’t need the additional six credits. Do you know if this has negatively effected other Aupairs?

As a side note, she completed more than 6 credits during the first year so (in total) she will have 12 credits however, she was advised that the additional 6 credits needed to be taken during the extension – not before.

WestMom October 19, 2014 at 8:17 am

Hi Juju- someone might know better than me, but aren’t the credits required to officially complete the program and have the agency pay for her flight home? That’s the part I would look into- if the agency will agree to pay for the flight if she doesn’t complete the terms of the program…

Single HostMom October 19, 2014 at 9:52 am

No…it’s not a condition of the flight home…but she will not get a “fully completed” letter from the agency.

Julie Dye October 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

I don’t know about all agencies, but at Cultural Care, excessive credits beyond 6 from the first year, apply towards the extension. She would be done. If you are with another agency and they are telling you it doesn’t count, I’d first ask to see that rule in writing. If an au pair doesn’t complete their credits (though again, I support that yours has), it’s possible, though not probable, that the agency would refuse to pay her flight home because she has not completed the requirement. If they do buy her flight, I can tell you that CCAP au pairs would get a certificate of completion for her first year and a certificate of participation for her 2nd year. I’m an LCC and host mom so if you do have any questions, just let me know.

AussiePair October 19, 2014 at 10:29 am

Not sure what agency you’re with, however CCAP recognized the extra credit that I had completed in my first year and let it carry over into my extension. I’m not entirely sure if the repercussions of not completing the credits (I believe a lot has to do with what the LCC reports to the office), I’ve seen a few people in my clusters not complete the extension credits and still have their flight home paid for. I do have suspicions however that it would cause problems for them in the future of the wished to do the repeat program. Like I said though, these are all just here say and suspicions. The best person to ask would be your LCC, some are sticklers for the rules so you’ll just get the generic agency answer, but many will actually tell you the truth of the matter. Good luck

AlwaysHopeful HM October 19, 2014 at 11:14 am

I don’t really know either, but isn’t it a state dept/ visa requirement? Might it affect the au pair’s ability to enter the country later, if the visa requirements this time were not fulfilled?

AussiePair October 19, 2014 at 6:28 pm

I think so, that’s mainly what I mean with affecting doing the repeat program. Not entirely sure if it would be a problem, but I could definitely see it potentially becoming one, especially for people from countries with higher flight risks. I.e “you couldn’t stick to your visa rules the first time, how do we know you won’t go against the rules again?”

L. October 21, 2014 at 8:35 am

As long as any agency would issue her another DS-2019, it won’t matter to the consular officer next time around. They only care about overstay and breaking the law (like DUI). If she went home early for homesickness, family emergency, or whatever, I can’t see why it would be held against her in future visa adjudications. I am a former consular officer, now an immigration attorney.

Julie October 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

Hi L., that’s not actually correct if she wishes to return on the same visa. If she wants to return on a tourist visa, it’s not a big deal to not complete the au pair program requirements. She would not be allowed to return on a J1 au pair visa if she did not successfully complete her year (we have au pairs try if they return early–they cannot come back again as an au pair). They may, however, be able to return as a student on an F1, as you pointed out. Ever since going digital, we’ve had a lot more au pairs have problems upon their return–especially if they failed to pay taxes and are coming back with a student visa. They are asked to pay as they enter the US!

NewbieAuPair October 19, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I have recently started working as an au pair outside the USA, and due to the lack of regulations in this country, I feel I am being taken advantage of. I got this job online, not through an agency, and therefore have no support in this country.

I am being paid well (approx 300 USD per week) and have my own room, and share a bathroom with the kids. The kids are very sweet and usually well behaved, and I am in a great location with good access to public transport and a bike. Car access is limited, I share a car with the family and although I can use it, I need to ask before using it every time.

When I accepted the job, I was told my role would include helping to keep the house tidy, in addition to looking after the kids. However, I have found that the family’s definition of helping to keep the house tidy includes washing, drying and folding the whole family’s laundry (not just the kids’) and making sure the table is wiped and all dishes washed/ put in dishwasher at every meal (including meals when I am off duty, out of the house and did not eat, they leave the dishes for me in the sink). On days when the kids are off school and parents are at work, I am responsible for the kids from 7 in the morning until 6 in the evening, and on nights I am also babysitting I can be on duty until 9, a 14 hour day with no break.

Last weekend I was asked with just a few days notice to babysit one of the kids for most of the day, even though I was off duty and it was not an emergency (they were prepared to give me a night off babysitting in return). I explained that I already had plans, and although they did not force me to work, they were unhappy about it and said that the reason they had au pairs was for the flexibility. I feel that I have already shown that I am flexible e.g. by minding the kids for 20 minutes whilst the parents went out to run errands, and supervising them in the pool, even though I was off duty at those times, and feel that they are being a bit unreasonable expecting me to cancel my plans when I am off duty. I am now anxious about making future plans during my time off, in case the family ask me to step in at short notice again.

I am also being constantly criticised for minor mistakes, such as folding the laundry wrong, stacking the dishwasher wrong, putting things away in the wrong places etc. In addition, the host mom hates me talking about my home country, and every time I tell her something about my home life she makes it very clear that they do things differently here and she isn’t interested. I speak the same language in my home country as my host country, but with some small regional differences. Every time I accidentally use a word from my home country that is different here (I don’t even realise, I am learning new words every day) I get told off.

My friends tell me that I should give notice and find another family. My family also think I should look into finding a new family. I don’t know what to do.

Nbhostmom October 20, 2014 at 9:32 am

I agree your tasks a more than a bit much, how many working hours did you agree to up front, was it discussed? Although this doesn’t sound like the ideal situation, I don’t see it being an emergency (ie “get out now”). Can you take a look around for other positions in the area quietly and see how they compare to yours? This may give you some perspective as to how your host family compares to the local norm. It may also make you feel more empowered knowing you have options. Finally, regarding work hours, I’d sit down and talk to the family about it, let them know you’d like to balance your social life and their needs. As for the HM’s attitude, I doubt there is much you can do, either decide to ignore or move on…. It likely outside the sphere that you can influence. You have some decisions to make, decide what you’re looking for, what you can live with and what you cannot… Then make your next move

NewbieAuPair October 20, 2014 at 6:11 pm

I have spoken to a few other au pairs to compare my situation.

As far as I can see it, my pay is slightly above average, however I am the only au pair who is expected to work weekends, and babysit for no additional pay (others are given the option if they wish to earn a bit of extra cash but no pressure is put on them).

I am in my mid twenties, and am a qualified teacher with experience, so I am really disappointed to find that I am being used more as a cleaner than for childcare. The family told me I would be helping to keep the house tidy, but that they had a cleaner who did the majority of the heavy cleaning. They do have a cleaner, but they only come for a couple of hours once a week, and I am doing more cleaning than the cleaner.

I was also told the hours would be on average 35 hours a week. I understand that obviously this will vary from week to week, however I have calculated the average hours since I have been here (a month) and it is closer to 40. Whilst there is no legal maximum for au pair hours here, I feel I have been taken advantage of, and this was not what I agreed to.

Like you said, it isn’t an emergency situation, I have somewhere safe to live, and I am being paid on time. However I am not very happy with the situation I am in, and am not sure I can stick it out for the next 5 months.

exaupair October 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Sit the host mother down and tell her that you don’t wish to be expected to cancel your plans on your days off – can’t think of any easier solution to the thing that’s bothering you.
Many host parents stick to au pairs instead of sitters because of the flexibility, even that needs to be within a reason. The thing is that maybe your host parents don’t mean wrong – they behave in a certain way because you keep quiet about the things you don’t like, so they think it doesn’t bother you at all.

If talking to your family doesn’t change things, next time the parent’s try to leave kids with you on your day off without asking you first try to say something like ” if all of us are about to go out who will be staying with the kids?”.

HRHM October 20, 2014 at 11:29 am

You don’t say which country you are in, but all have regulations regarding the pay and the work hours.

What tasks you do outside of the US are not confined to “child related” like they are here in the US. They are wide open to negotiation. Most of the APs I’ve known who worked outside the US were more chauffer and housecleaner than child minder. If you agreed to house cleaning tasks before you took the job, then they are within their rights to expect that of you. As for the HM being critical, you aren’t going to change her personality. You will not get along famously with every boss you ever have. If you do what she asks you to do, they WAY she wants it done, don’t worry about the rest.

It sounds like the location and set up are otherwise good and the kids are great – you could do ALOT worse (read some of the horror stories posted here by APs!) As long as the hours and pay are in line, do your job and do it well. Then, enjoy your time off and try to forget about the rest.

Abba October 19, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Tips on how to deal with a great au pair who has made some judgment lapses with regard to her romantic life? We love our AP; she extended and will be with us for another 8 months. She is much like a family member at this point–she’s not perfect, and we still have our moments, but all in all, pretty great. We were clear in our handbook that male guests were not to spend the night. (she is plenty old enough to do whatever she wishes were she living in her own apartment, but I don’t want random dudes in my house). A couple weeks ago, she texted me to ask if “two friends from [major city a couple hours away] could stay over after a party.” I said sure, assuming the two friends were female and not wanting anyone to drive home after drinking (we live near the center of a college town and our AP frequently hosts other AP’s here on weekends). The next day, I found out that the “two friends” were guys. I didn’t have time right then to address it (should have made time, obviously) but was unsettled by this. Last night, I was out of town but my husband was here with the kids. She texted him to ask if the “two friends” could stay over with her and another AP. He said yes, not knowing, like me, that it was two guys (the same guys). He came home today and found one of said guys playing in our basement with our son while the AP was in her room. Whaaaaaat? how to handle this? As I read it, it sounds awful. But this AP is incredibly skilled, generous, kind, flexible, creative, energetic, and all-around helpful. We plan to talk to her in a couple hours. Any ideas on how to speak about this in a way that’s firm but respectful?

Should be working October 19, 2014 at 7:14 pm

On one hand this sounds sweet, AP’s friend plays with kids. Maybe she’s got really nice, kid-friendly friends. On the other hand, you aren’t comfortable with unknown guys in your house and playing with your kids.

I would say based on what you wrote that you need to make your rules and expectations more clear. Maybe AP thought that “male guests may not spend the night” referred to romantic partners only. And you didn’t tell her it wasn’t ok to have two guy friends over after the first incident, so why would she not repeat the request?

The only problem I see is that the AP was in her room during work time. Not sure how old the kids are, but with an older kid this would be ok with me, except I’d make clear how I feel about unknown guys in the house.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 19, 2014 at 7:23 pm

I wouldn’t worry too much about this. It sounds like it could be cleared up with a simple reminder about the rules. Since she’s been around for so long, more than a year at this point, there have probably been areas in which you’ve relaxed some of the rules, or she may not be as focused on the letter of the rules as she was at the beginning. If she didn’t know the rationale behind the no males rule, she may have thought this was one that could be loosened (especially if she didn’t have any romantic interest in the 2 guys– not clear from your post). Since she’s reasonable, flexible, etc., she probably will just apologize for the mistaken judgment and all will be well. I wouldn’t make a big deal of it in your talk with her, unless you think there’s something more there– you think she was intentionally blowing off the rule, the guys seemed untrustworthy, etc. I would also remind her that she is in charge of your kids, and she shouldn’t leave them with someone else unless you and HD have met that person and given specific approval. (Of course, if HD just happened to come home during the one minute that she ran up to her room to grab something, that’s a different story).

exaupair October 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

What is the difference between male and female guests? I don’t really get why HPs allow female guests but not men, it’s not like all women in the world can be trusted, is it?
What is the reason for not allowing male guests, apart from the very “obvious” i.e. the AP having really loud sex with one of her bloke visitors, making the rest of the family feel uncomfortable in their own house? Mind you, the obvious doesn’t happen very often I guess.

OpinionatedHM October 19, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Ditto TACL on rules are rules. I also feel that we’ve run circles around this topic with you before, exaupair, in an earlier post – so I would recommend that everyone go re-read that post before we rehash this here. I think Abba was asking how to handle telling her AP it’s not okay with her, I don’t think she was looking for a discussion on whether it should be okay for an AP to have male guests.

OpinionatedHM October 20, 2014 at 7:28 am

I found the post. It’s “When your aupair wants to bring home a new romance” and it’s from February 2014. Exaupair gives some good aupair perspective and a lot of HPs chime in on the various ins and outs and personal reasons behind why they allow or don’t allow male overnight guests.

WarmStateMomma October 20, 2014 at 8:29 am

In our family, we see male and female guests as different. Statistically, a guy is far, far more likely to physically assault (sexual or otherwise) someone than a woman is. HD and I lived together for a long time before getting married and we’re both pretty liberal about that kind of thing, but If the AP had a boyfriend knew (maybe he came over for dinner or joined us on family outings) then we might make an exception for an individual guy. But she’s free to spend the night away from our home – no questions asked and no judgment passed.

Seattle Mom October 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Yup, same here.

I always felt that maybe that feeling was wrongful and biased, and then I read Gavin DeBecker’s Protecting the Gift. It’s pretty well documented that men are statistically more likely to commit assault. Not that we need to ban all men from our lives, but we should at least meet them and get a chance to use our intuition.

Abba October 21, 2014 at 7:00 am


Taking a Computer Lunch October 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Rules are rules. Quietly, after the kids are in bed, explain to her that you love her to bits and consider her a great member of the family, but…

That being said, your rules differ from mine, as I do permit male guests. I permit male guests, and some of my APs’ boyfriends have been fantastic with my son. They were certainly welcome at my table. AP #9’s boyfriend spent 3 weeks at Christmas with us, and was such a fantastic house guest that we invited him back – and he came for another 2 weeks in spring.

(I’ll be honest, DH and I lived together for 3 of the 6 years we were together before we got married (22 years ago, so I know we’re going to be more flexible than most on male/female relationships).

But, rules are rules. It’s okay to ask her to accept your rules. But, if you state that breaking them again is grounds for rematch, are you really prepared to follow through?

AlwaysHopeful HM October 20, 2014 at 10:49 pm

@Abba: How did it go?

Abba October 21, 2014 at 6:59 am

So nice of you to ask. Thanks to all for their input, and especially to those of you who correctly surmised that this had everything to do with communication (a struggle for me sometimes) and less to do with hard-and-fast rules. I realized, after reading over the responses, that I had indeed relaxed this rule on earlier occasions and that this had more to do with me not knowing who was in the house and around the kids. We had a very nice, brief talk; she apologized (there was more to the situation backstory and context than I went into, so an apology didn’t feel over the top), and we made a plan for moving forward (no strangers around the kids; more information about overnight guests with enough notice to think about it). It was a great conversation that left me wondering why I was so nervous about having it. Probably partly because I wasn’t totally sure I could articulate what I was upset about, and partly what has continually been challenging for me about hosting: communicating in a way that’s authoritative and firm, but also warm and not patronizing. I struggle with the last one in particular as we sometimes have language-related miscommunications and I never know if I need to repeat things more than once or if she’s long since gotten it. In any case–thanks again to everyone!

4th time lucky?! October 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm

“what has continually been challenging for me about hosting: communicating in a way that’s authoritative and firm, but also warm and not patronizing.”

Tell me about it!!! So hard. I can get quite nervous about these talks and probably sound agitated and antagonistic – not a good start.
I also tend to keep repeating stuff, just in case, but also aware that it might be overkill. With the last AP I put the blame on me and said, this is just how I am and that I used to communicating this way at work, esp. with non-native speakers, and I would hope that she wouldn’t take it personally. By no means do I want to imply she is not doing the job already… Not sure if it helped.

WestMom October 20, 2014 at 10:46 am

New subject…
We are in transition for the first time in 6yrs (I guess statistically, it was bound to happen). We are leaving on good terms, and I want to be fair with departing AP. I am planning an informal family dinner a few days before her departure from our home, and I got a thank you note and gift certificate to Cheesecake factory. DH will drive her to her friend’s house where she is intending to stay until she finds a new family. Seems sufficient but I thought I would ask the experts on this board…

WarmStateMomma October 20, 2014 at 2:19 pm

That sounds like a nice goodbye. Maybe you could also share any nice photos you have of her (email, Shutterfly, whatever’s easiest for you) and ask her to share any photos she has of your kids with you.

Julie October 20, 2014 at 11:39 pm

As a 7 time host mom and LCC, you are being very generous–most families don’t do anything for a departing transition au pair, but I applaud your efforts. Do not feel you need to do more. I hope the au pair appreciates your thoughtfulness!

AussiePair October 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

I agree, this is super generous, I’m sure your au pair will appreciate it. A lot of rematch au pairs don’t even get a “thank-you for the help while you were here”

TexasHM October 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm

I am working on getting ready for AP#4 in a few weeks and trying to create an onboarding schedule to help me, current AP who is training new AP and new AP cover as many bases as possible that first week since that is all the time we will have before travelling out of state for 9 days for Thanksgiving family trip. Does anyone have a template or checklist to share? I have handwritten notes to remind myself of the things I have botched in the past (check DS2019 for active date before trying to get drivers license, go first thing in the am to social security office, etc) but would be nice to create something I can use every time a new AP arrives. Our previous LC sent me a document I have used before but it didn’t have timelines, just a list of things to do the first month which helped but I would like to drill down a bit more. Thanks in advance!

ChiHost Mom October 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

We are getting ready for a new au pair in a few months and for the first time will be dealing with a former au pair on a travel month. I’m not sure of the extent of overlap of the travel month au pair and the new au pair but I would love advice on making this work the best way. We may have other local housing available for the traveling au pair. Thoughts? Things to avoid?

HRHM October 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm

It really depends on if she’s “traveling” or not. The one AP that we’ve had who didn’t extend, spent 2-3 weeks staying with other AP friends in other cities (we had moved during her year and she was going back to our old town to visit.) Has your outgoing AP asked to stay at your house during this time?

In my situation, I don’t know that I would allow more than a night or two of her on the sofa/in the guest room, while new AP is trying to get acclimated. I don’t think it’s fair to new AP or the kids. Also how would you work the car, the cell phone, etc.

It’s easier to just make the transition quickly and cleanly and move into the “new year” in one fell swoop than to have old AP hanging around. The one AP I met who had a one month overlap with the old AP HATED it. Old AP was supposed to be training her but really was just making it difficult for her to bond with the kids, taking the car so new AP could never go anywhere in her off hours with her new friends, etc.

My 2 cents.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Most of our au pairs have left the morning after their last day for their travel month (with the exception of the AP who was too broke). I always drive them to the airport. Every AP has been invited to return and stay on our guest futon when they return and before they fly home. I usually encourage them to stay 48 hours to give them time to 1) unpack, wash their clothes, and repack, 2) say one final goodbye to friends and other families with whom they have become close and 3) purchase last minute gifts for friends and family back at home. Most have driven the new au pair to shopping malls or other places she might not have discovered yet. If the outgoing AP chooses to dine with us, then we try to cook a favorite meal for her – but don’t make it a big farewell party.

By opening your house one more time to a returning AP, you show your homesick AP the potential for a great relationship.

I do have one rule about the guest futon: No overnight guests may sleep with the outgoing AP (the current AP has to walk past the futon to get upstairs and that would be too uncomfortable). This has been a deal breaker for at least one AP.

In general, by the time the outgoing AP gets back from her travel month, the incoming AP has settled in. The kids get one final goodbye, but they’ve already bonded with their new AP.

Host Mom X October 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm

We’ve had an AP come back as a “stop-off” during her travel month, between trips to other places, and then once again before her flight home. We were all just so happy to get to see her again a few times before she left – it was wonderful for the kids and us. We didn’t have an extra room, though, so she just bunked with the kids – which was so much fun for the kids, as we had always banned them from AP’s room when AP was still the AP. They had been dying to climb in bed and snuggle with her in the mornings, and they finally got to do it. She also volunteered to spend a day with the new AP and the kids to help show the new AP around, and that was actually enormously helpful to us in cementing our decision that we had to rematch with that new AP right away. Former AP gave us some really good feedback on the issues with new AP.

Another AP ended up staying in the country (though she moved to another city after a few months), and she didn’t take a “travel” month, but she comes over whenever she’s in town and sometimes takes the kids out, etc. I felt it might be a LITTLE awkward the first time she came over within a few weeks after the new AP’s arrival (which was not during the “travel” month period, since we had taken a pause between APs), since our middle child in particular was insanely attached to that former AP and really missed her and talked about her all the time to the new AP, and we didn’t want the new AP to feel bad/worried that she wouldn’t be able to bond with middle daughter. But it was fine – new AP was very mature and used to kids, and I think she knew that “her turn” would come to be first in middle daughter’s affections!

So, these were great experiences, but I don’t know how I would react to an AP who requested to just stay with us for an extra month, but wasn’t actually doing anything or travelling anywhere. If she were a great AP who we had really bonded with, I don’t think we’d say no, but she’d have to stay on the pull-out couch or bunk with the kids for a month, which doesn’t sound very fun to me. I also can’t actually imagine a situation in which that would happen with an AP on our “good” AP list, though!

ChiHost Mom October 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Finding out more info, it looks like I’ll be in the “former AP is back for a day or two before her flight” situation. I like TaCL suggestions on laundry, etc. Staying for an extra month with us wasn’t an option we gave. :-)

WarmStateMomma October 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Message to APs: please TALK to your host families early about your travel plans before you make plans (and before you turn down a great experience).

I asked our AP about her travel plans since she hasn’t taken any vacation yet and I can’t take much time off before our baby arrives. She said that she turned down a trip with friends because it falls just a few days after the baby’s birth. Our AP thought we’d need her to be home so she told her friends she couldn’t join them. The truth is, HD will be home with me at that time and my parents are visiting, so I’m going to have lots of help. I’d actually prefer for the AP to take her vacation when I have so many extra hands around (and to be here when I don’t). She was able to book a ticket to join her friends and is looking forward to a great trip, but it almost didn’t happen.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 20, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I tend to be pro-active, not only about holidays, but about life changes in the household. Several years ago, a few weeks before the Camel was slated to have major surgery (we knew she would be hospitalized a long time – it turned out to be 4 weeks), I sat my AP down and explained how we would need her: that while she would not be caring for the Camel at all most days, we might need her to drive our other child around, and be there to provide him with emotional support. We told her that when the Camel improved, we might schedule her to sit in her room while DH and I went to lunch to get a break. Having the care outlined helped her see how much she would be needed (she had assumed it would be a good time to travel) and she really pitched in when the time came. In fact, she came to the hospital almost every day and joined in our family dinner (the one time of day when we could all be together, sordid as it might seem).

I am also pro-active about holidays. I tell the AP several weeks out how we celebrate each holiday, and usually offer her the opportunity to make a special dish that she enjoys eating for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our city has special events in the spring and summer – and I encourage the AP to attend these and not book a trip during them.

My advice – don’t wait for your AP to flounder and miss something special about your city. Tell her a few weeks in advance when an event that’s special for your location is about to occur, so she can make plans.

Likewise, when your home life is about to change in any way – surgery, new baby, grandparent visit, etc – sit her down at a quiet time and explain how her role might shift a little and how you could use her help. (Grandma and Grandpa think they’re a big help – but I’m going to rely on you to make sure the kids actually eat lunch on time and take a nap! They’ll want to take the kids to the museum. Please go with them and help them control the kids!)

WarmStateMomma October 20, 2014 at 11:13 pm

“Grandma and Grandpa think they’re a big help” – LOL! This is my MIL to a T! I asked our AP to be secretly on-call when my MIL last visited and wanted to be “on-duty” with my daughter.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 20, 2014 at 10:42 pm

New topic: Okay, so I talk a good game to other host parents, advising others to keep the lines of communication open, make sure your expectations are clear, etc. But for myself, I’m a mess!

Current au pair is doing (or not doing) a bunch of little things that are driving me crazy. I know I need to address them all, but at this point, I don’t know how to do it without making him feel awful. They are all things I have addressed before (as in, make sure to do x, y, z), but I don’t know if he realizes how bothered I am that he hasn’t kept up. For example, it took forever for hIm to recognize that my son’s clothes needed to be washed. That was after me saying day 1: “how is it coming with the laundry? day 2: HC has no clean socks; have you had a chance to get the laundry done? Day 3: please make sure to do HC’s laundry today. Once it was done, it remained crumpled in the laundry basket until…actually, it’s still there since last week, despite my reminder this morning.

Another example: This evening, I came home to lights on all over house, bedroom doors open (we close them when we’re away so the dog doesn’t have accidents), and the back door unlocked. Son and AP had been out for a couple of hours, and returned shortly after I got home. In addition, i get the sense that if i dont remind him to look at our electronic calendar daily, and tell him what’s on it, he would never remember. And, although he read it quickly during match, I don’t believe he’s looked through the handbook since he’s been here. (When I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, he said something along the lines of “yes, I should go back and read that.”)

We haven’t had a lot of discussions about how things are going because I prefer to wait until my son is in bed or outside playing. But, AP tends to head to his room immediately after dinner, or during the day if hes not working, or go out with friends. I can schedule time to talk with him, but I really feel like I’m impinging on his free time. Plus, in the one long talk we had, he seemed so overwhelmed and anxious about building a relationship with my son that I’ve kind of held back on the other parts of the job. So, I’ve kind of loosely said “let’s plan some time to talk this week” and then it never gets done.

I guess my question is– what kind of conversation do I have with him at this point? I know that I’ve been kind of mealy-mouthed about what’s not getting done, so I think a harsh reset conversation would be too much. Plus, despite all ive said here, he really seems to try very hard to do the job and especially to make headway with my son. On the other hand, too soft is not getting the message across, and i’m ready to pull my hair out! Open to any and all suggestions…

WestMom October 21, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Our current AP needs to have a detailed schedule. So we sit down every Friday. It’s hard if your AP is never home- but if that the case, schedule an extra 30min for planning the week ahead…

During our meeting, we review the following week day by day (I print out the electronic calendar), and discuss all activities, chores, meals, pick up responsibilities, etc. I haven’t had to go as far as making a to do list, but it sounds like that might make sense in your case.

After the schedule, we do feedback. I ask questions (how are you feeling? is this experience what you were expecting? do you miss home? is your room warm enough?), and then I provide some feedback as we go. (It’s important that you provide variety when you prepare kids meals, there should always be at least one veggie…, I have noticed the kids are running out of clothes, let’s pick a day when it makes the most sense to do the laundry each week and you have time to complete your task fully.).

I found that that if I do this regularly, it just seems like a normal conversation, and no so much HM nagging…

I would suggest to focus on fixing the big things (like the kids laundry), and let go of the little things (like leaving the lights on). We are 6yrs into it and I still turn off the lights after everyone. I have made peace with it…

WarmStateMomma October 20, 2014 at 11:08 pm

It may be time to create a daily log/checklist so things don’t fall through the cracks when he’s busy with your son. The checklist does the nagging for you.

4th time lucky?! October 20, 2014 at 11:34 pm

I agree re introducing a log/ checklist.
We had a similar situation with AP#2 who was great with kids, worked hard and tried really, really hard to keep up with the chores and do them as and when required but just didn’t get it – didn’t get the importance to me/ us and how this would contribute to the general running of our household, didn’t get that this was part of his job and (wrt other issues) to his role as a roommate/ family member. I created laminated lists (different for each day depending on schedule/ plans) with space for ticking duties off as completed. To no avail, though, the instructions didn’t get read properly or the AP sometimes just made ticks at the end of the day despite not having completed duties (and didn’t get that with most chores it is rather obvious if they had been done or not)…

If you want to tread carefully, I would probably start the conversation from the angle that things are going well, you and your son enjoy having AP there and he is being a real help (or whatever positive things you can bring yourself to say with a certain sense of sincerity :-)) but that you feel he is struggling a bit with time management and could need some support with certain chores around the house that are really important to you and necessary to keep your household running smoothly. You would suggest to go over the handbook and together identify areas that need attention and come up with a plan – together. One option that you have found helpful for yourself in the past are checklists and you are happy to make some for him (or with him) listing the most crucial (i.e. all, really) duties/ chores he needs to do each day. Also, suggest times when they are best carried out.

AlwaysHopeful HM October 21, 2014 at 6:31 am

Thanks! I like the approach of “I see you’re struggling a bit” versus “you’re not getting these things done.” He and I actually have talked about making a schedule for the laundry, but we haven’t sat down together to talk since that day. I had hoped to do it together, but I think I’ll just put one together and give it to him. Most of the things though are not so much time mangement/ “check off whether this was completed today” things, or at least they’d be so granular that the checklist would become ridiculous. For example, checking to make sure interior doors are closed and exterior doors are locked could be something that needs to be done once (and is dutifully checked off) or 8 tImes (at which point I’m sure the check list will be forgotten). Likewise, what is the checklist for “when you fix yourself lunch, clean up after yourself, which means more than putting the pots in the sink for me to wash when I get home, and leaving your dishes on the table.” And, the best/easiest place to keep a checklist would be on our electronic calendar which he doesn’t seem to read.

I think I will start with the struggling remark, and encourage him once more to read the handbook. Then, I can give him examples of where I see him struggling, and provide him the detailed laundry schedule (I found out the hard way that it will need to remind him that wet clothes cannot sit in the washer– they must be transferred into the dryer, and that dry clothes must be folded and put away). Maybe instead of telling him what’s on the schedule each day, I can ask him to tell me what’s there, which may begin to encourage him to look at it. I can also explain (again) for things my son should be doing, that my son is responsible for doing them, but AP is responsible for making sure they were done– like checking to confirm that my son closed his bedroom door. Thanks! I feel better about having this talk now, especially because there’s a way to do it without sounding hyper critical. ????

WarmStateMomma October 21, 2014 at 7:02 am

The checklist item for lunch dishes is “Have the dishes been washed?” That’s in the daily section, but we also have a weekly section (“Has HK’s laundry been washed and put away?”) We keep a stack of these forms and AP fills one out every day she works. There is an optional section for her to add anything to the shopping list, mention anything significant that happened, etc.

I don’t know what you do about him just checking things off that haven’t been done. That’s an honesty issue.

HRHM October 21, 2014 at 9:53 am

In the military, all counselling is done via the “$h!t sandwich”. First you start the conversation with a positive “I see that you and Junior are really bonding and he so enjoys his time with you” Then you move on to the problem (s) “While you are here to care for Junior, you are also here to make my life easier, and because you are not getting A, B, & C done, that part isn’t really happening” Finally you end the conversation with more positive, “I’m glad we had this talk – I know that you can make the changes we talked about using the tools I presented (check list, strict schedule) and we’ll revisit this in (2 weeks, 7 days whatever) and see how it’s going.

If you aren’t using him for 45 hours of childcare, my advice is to “schedule” his non-direct care tasks. So after school drop off there is one hour of household care every morning – clean up kitchen from breakfast, make sure Junior didn’t leave his wet towels on the carpet, turn off all the lights left on… Then at the end of his shift there is one hour of the same – make sure Junior picks up his games and puts his bike in the garage, etc. Then pick one day (we use Friday) and schedule 4 hours of laundry, bedroom cleaning, bathroom cleaning. I make it very clear in my instruction that laundry isn’t done until it is folded and sitting on DDs bed for her to put away. And if AP wants to let it sit and get wrinkled, she can but then she will be ironing it!

FWIW my DDs are 6 and 10

AussiePair October 21, 2014 at 12:56 pm

They teach you this for bringing up problems with your HF at CCAPs training school, they definitely didn’t call it that though lol. But it’s definitely a good strategy for introducing topics that might not be well received in any situation!

AlwaysHopeful HM October 22, 2014 at 6:34 am

Thanks everyone, for your great advice! I put together a list of detailed bullets (e.g., “sort clothes by color, wssh and dry clothes, fold them and put them away in closet or proper drawers” and “remove lunchbox from bookbag, throw away eaten perishable food, place ice pack in freezer, return uneaten nonperishable food to pantry, remove any silverware or dishes from bag and rinse them and place them in the dishwasher, throw away any napkins or other trash, rinse recyclables and place them in recycling bin”). I tried to be as detailed as possible, because none of it seems intuitive to him. The only chores that belong to AP really are my son’s laundry, preparing his breakfast and lunch, and occasionally emptying the dishwasher. But, he is responsible for daily commonsense things like cleaning up after himself, and locking the doors when he leaves. He also needs to ensure that my son has carried out his duties properly (like cleaning out his lunchbox).

By the way, re: leaving the doors inside the house open… When I put my son to bed last night, he casually mentioned that the dog had an accident in his room earlier that day. He then showed me the spot that NO ONE had tried to clean up. My son explained that they couldn’t find the cleaning solution (fair enough. ..I had moved it), but 1) it never would have happened if the door had been closed, and 2) why not at least tell me, so I can make sure to clean it as soon as I get home???

I had hoped to talk with AP last night, but he was feeling really tired and went to bed right after dinner, so I’ll schedule a talk tonight. I’l try the sandwich method and see how that works. Fingers crossed!!

Taking a Computer Lunch October 22, 2014 at 7:09 am

We have found that when we need to have a “reset your attitude” discussion, it is best to ask the AP which night in the week it would work. Let them control the night – and give them a time after your child’s bedtime (now that I have older teenagers, I ask for a time after the musical instrument practice and homework are done – as my teen is likely to retreat to his room to listen to music).

Because I never use 45 hours any more, I don’t worry about the check-in time, but when I did – I tried to make sure that I didn’t go over 45 hours in asking for the conversation. Free time is free time, but the children also don’t need to hear the HP-AP negotiation, because when times are really tough it can undermine AP authority.

NoVA Twin Mom October 20, 2014 at 11:23 pm

This is actually an arrival gift or Holiday gift idea, but those threads are (I think) all closed – I found a book that is kind of like a photo album but is sized for ticket stubs. I know I have a multitude of ticket stubs that I feel guilty throwing out, but don’t quite know what to do with. Au pairs would collect a lot of these over the course of their year.

Enter the “Travel Stub Diary”, sold on amazon. There are also “sports ticket diaries” or other themes, but this one seemed the most generic. Had I known about it in time, I would have sent it to my au pair at orientation (as that’s when they start amassing these) but alas, it will be a Christmas gift.

I ordered one for myself, too. I’m looking forward to having a place to put all of these!

AlwaysHopeful HM October 22, 2014 at 6:40 am

Similar to the ticket stub book, for one AP, I gave a ribbon with pins from every state AP visited during the year. It was kind of neat to see how they added up! AP seemed to really like it.

Host Mom in the City October 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

How much practice driving do you do with your au pairs before letting them driving the kids? We only match with au pairs who are experienced drivers (all of ours have been driving for 4-5 years before they arrived). But of course, laws and traffic patterns are different. Do you take them driving just the first weekend and then let them loose as long as you’re reasonable comfortable they are safe drivers? Or have them practice driving on their own for a couple of weeks or so before driving the kids?

TexasHM October 21, 2014 at 10:38 am

Totally depends on their ability but we don’t let them drive the kids alone until they have a state drivers license. I might have let our current do it a couple times because she’s from a country that does the license exchange (so she doesn’t have to take the test) but that was after us riding with her several times and our departing AP riding with her for a week and giving her two big thumbs up. In fairness, she was driving the kids with departing AP in the car but again, that was after several great rounds with us without kids. So first with us (couple days), then with departing AP (couple days), then departing AP with kids (minivan) for 3-4 days then she was good to go.
Previous AP needed a little more practice so it was 4-5 days with us, 4-5 days with us and kids and then passed test. First AP took almost 3 months don’t ask I still have PTSD. ;)

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm

DH takes them on a spin and if they can managed to negotiate 3-lane open roads and a four-lane highway, in addition to turns, parking (after one AP scraped another car but good pulling out of a pull-in parking spot), and a stretch at using the GPS to navigate, the AP is good to go. We give her as many practice runs as she needs to feel comfortable doing the middle-school carpool run, the drive to our local hospital (for The Camel), and navigating to the local library, grocery stores, post office, etc. We do a separate practice session for the car with manual transmission (we call it the AP car).

Until the AP gets her state license, she needs to stay within a circumscribed area. While our state permits APs to drive with an international license for one year, after AP #8 nearly wrecked the AP car, our insurance mandates that she obtain the license. We make it a priority for the new arrival.

7 out of the 10 APs we have hosted had been Europeans. In general, it is so much harder for them to get licenses in their home country that they have been excellent intermediate drivers at the start of their year – and advanced by the time they finish it. One European was a distracted driver – blew past a school bus with flashing red lights in front of another parent in the middle school carpool and then pulled out in front of a vehicle which had the right of way to nearly wreck the car. We told her that paying for a session with a driving school was mandatory to stay with us – he told her to turn off the radio and focus on the road. Other than that we have been very fortunate with our au pairs.

NJ Mama October 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm

We have a very similar system where DH spends the first few days driving to and from all the regular places. They practice going to all the places they need to over and over again until the AP can get there without consulting the GPS or written directions. By then they’ve gotten pretty acclimated to the area. We only take experienced drivers b/c a lot of what my AP needs to do is drive.

In NJ the APs have to get their licenses within 60 days or we pay higher insurance rates (or maybe that’s just my insurance company. In any event, that’s our rule – they have 60 days to get their license). I also have a rule where they can only drive during the day and locally until they get their license. But honestly I enforce it depending on how well the AP drives. If she’s doing well I’ll let her drive her friends to the movies. I did have one occasion where I had a very good driver who was really lax in getting her license, so I imposed the rule until she went and took the test. Only once we loosened it too soon — it was during our unlucky stretch. We didn’t have a lot of time to take off to get the driving up to snuff. DH can be a bit of a softy and allowed her to take the car to a mall in the pouring rain, and she got into an accident a few blocks from our house. She didn’t last long for a variety of reasons.

A lot of European countries do have a more rigorous test to get their driver’s license. I’ve had 19-year-old German girls who drove better than most American 25 year olds. And our current AP is from the UK and had no problem acclimating to the “wrong side” of the road. So … maybe this is one area where I’ve been more lucky than not!

AuPair Paris October 22, 2014 at 6:06 am

As an English girl, if you can’t drive better than your parents (who have had time to forget things!) you don’t get your licence here. It just doesn’t happen! Most people take several attempts to get their licence. Only one of my friends got hers on the first go. My brother took five attempts! (Maybe a family thing. My dad had about six goes in various parts of the UK, and then moved to Canada and got his licence there.) Of course, this doesn’t mean that teenagers don’t still get careless once they have their licence. They still have the whole invulnerability delusion and all that. And you still have less experience. But as far as the technicalities go, you have to be basically perfect.

I should say, this isn’t bitterness speaking – we can’t learn til seventeen here. I was one of the youngest in my school year, and, with all the saving up for lessons as well, didn’t even have time to take the test before university, so I still don’t drive..! Which seems like it’s sort of unthinkable for an American twenty-something?

WestMom October 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Knock on wood, we haven’t had any serious issues with driving. All our APs have come from Western Europe with strong driving skills. They take a few practice runs with DH during the training weekend, and then we let them go (with the GPS of course).

Should be working October 21, 2014 at 1:42 pm

At some HM’s suggestion here (TaCL maybe) I started paying for a 2-hr driving lesson/evaluation in the first 3 days. I tell the instructor what routes to practice, intersections to review, and what freeway to try the AP out on. I ask for a clear eval from the instructor and go from there.

It saves SO much time and discussion on HD’s and my part: let a professional do the evaluation and the training. They actually taught our APs some things I hadn’t thought of. $150 well spent in my view.

Host Mom in the City October 21, 2014 at 8:27 am

How much do you put your life on hold during an au pair’s first month versus expecting your au pair to make her own experience from the beginning? We are a very busy family, as I’m sure many of you are. We both work full-time, the kids both play an instrument and a sport, are in school (nightly homework and birthday parties seems like at least once a weekend) and there’s house maintenance and our own social lives and such.

I don’t think I really realized it until our fourth au pair arrived a month ago, but it’s very hard to put our lives on hold to orient a new au pair. Of course, we include her in everything if she’s interested (she even came to kid’s birthday parties and gymnastics class the second weekend just to have something to do). But we didn’t plan fun things on the weekend or at night to keep her busy or anything like that (our au pairs don’t work weekends or evenings). We do have dinner together every night, but nothing fun or fancy. I think I expect that our au pairs will want to get out and make friends, and our previous au pairs have.

Our current au pair has been here a month and appears to expect us to lead her life more than we’re used to (and frankly, more than we want to). She hasn’t made an effort to make friends and mostly just stays home Skyping with her family and her boyfriend back home. She asked me the other day if the weekends she’s seen are typical for us – implying to me “don’t you ever do anything fun?”

We sort of don’t :) Not because we don’t want to – we’re all just exhausted (kids too) by the weekend and staying home or just going to the park or a neighbor’s house is really all we’re up for. But it’s making me feel a little guilty that we didn’t try to plan a few fun activities (pumpkin picking or something?) for our au pair’s first few weekends. Like maybe I have more of a responsibility to prevent homesickness than I thought about. Do you all try to keep your au pair engaged and change your routine up for the first period? Or just keep going with the routine and expect her to find her own fun?

HRHM October 21, 2014 at 9:58 am

Our AP always arrives during the summer which makes the “fun” more a part of everyday life. We put all scheduled sports and activities on hold during the summer to free up time for spontaneuous road trips, zoo days and daily pool runs. We don’t however, alter what we would normally be doing just because she is there. I think this really depends on your kids ages. If your kids are grade school age, chances are you are GOING to carve pumpkins and trick or treat. If they are older, maybe not. It sounds like your AP just isn’t making her own social life and that by itself isn’t great. I don’t think it’s you.

TexasHM October 21, 2014 at 10:49 am

When the AP first comes I keep a close eye on enthusiasm level because it is a hard job and a lot to take in. When I see them start to fade I throw everyone in the car and we do something fun (small scale) – fave restaurant, something Texas-ish, something active – change of pace type stuff. No big tours of the metro area or grand excursions. They need to learn their responsibilities, driving and bonding with kids. After all that is out of the way we have more free time and love for AP (because she’s now bonded and we are jazzed she has it mastered) and can maybe plan something once a month that’s unique/fun. We have certain annual family events that are big/fun ex:TX state fair, Christmas events, bluebonnet trail in the spring, wild animal park memorial day, etc. We find its a nice balance because it gets us motivated to get out of the house about once a month and there’s plenty of opportunity for AP to do her own thing too.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm

We used to spend the first weekend having the AP follow DH grocery shopping on Saturday and then take her on a special trek into our city on Sunday. That doesn’t work for us right now – with two teenagers who expect chauffeurs, we don’t have the time. That being said, we do try to take her into our city within the first 3 weeks – show her how to use the buses, the Metro, to navigate. We also invite the AP to join us in family activities. We happen to be a big “family game night family” and those are often a perfect time to include the AP. We play enough European board games, that most APs are generally familiar with them – even if they’re in the wrong language. We have one international geography game in 4 languages, and let the AP read her questions in her favorite language (or we try to sound out the question in her preferred language). Some of our favorite APs chose to play board games with us rather than go club hopping on a weekend night (they’re the ones that get the biggest box at the end of their year).

That being said, we spend a lot of weekend time running around with kids taking them to their activitities, so it doesn’t leave us a lot of time for “exciting” activities. I’d say, if an AP isn’t motivated to organize an outing with AP friends at the weekend then she’s in trouble – not you!

WarmStateMomma October 21, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Since we have a toddler, we have a lot of family outings instead of sports and birthday parties. We invite the AP but it was just the first couple of weekends that we planned activities specifically for the AP to enjoy. A lot of weekends we aren’t doing anything an AP would find interesting because the Tired just wins out.

Emerald City HM October 21, 2014 at 3:14 pm

We start our year in the summer too, so it’s sort of natural to have a little more free time, and being in Seattle, well we try to get out in the sunshine as much s possible the three months it is here. :).

We usually do something touristy (that is free) with the au pair and the girls and use that as a time to let her bond with the girls too. When she first arrives we probably do something every other weekend. Then as the fall rolls around they seem to make more friends and we end up planning one “bigger event” a month. Then most of our weekends are lazing around the house or going to the playground anyway.

4th time lucky?! October 21, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Very timely question for us as latest AP just left and one of the reasons he gave was that it didn’t feel like much of a family. I do think this is partly due to how we conduct our family life, very much like any of you mentioned above: during the first few weeks, we make an effort to show AP around and do a few more things than we would normally do; after that, it’s back to ‘normal’ and often we are just happy to be around the house or local park. Our activities are tailored towards the age of our kids and might not rate high on the fun scale of a tween.
We do usually ask if AP wants to join us for weekend activities, even the mundane ones, but usually they already have plans with friends – and fair enough too! But then don’t complain about the lack of family feel if you’re never there! I guess a lot of them don’t realise what life in a household with younger kids is like and that after a full week of work (probably way longer hours than their parents work) you often just want to kick your legs up and enjoy your family. One thing we try to make clear from the start is that we don’t want to be travel guides or weekend planners and that we would find it odd if the AP chose to spend all his free time with us, almost twice his age. We just had an applicant turn us down because of that; she wanted a family who were doing more (fun) things together. And I know they are out there, also depending on age and interest of kids, but might be a tricky one when you’re working full time, have chores to take care of in your time off and weekend sport and social engagements.

I agree with the HMitC’s sentiments: Maybe more input is needed to bust homesickness at the same time I don’t have the time or interest to do that. It comes back to the maturity question and the necessity for the AP to realise that they are adults now and as such in charge of their own happiness. So join us / spend time with us if you want to, even if we are just in the garden or at the neighbours, but YOU have to make the effort.

Tristatemom October 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Don’t feel so bad – that particular reasons is being passed around AP websites amongst APs that want a rematch and need an “acceptable” reason.

4th time lucky?! October 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Thanks :-) I needed that!
This is all very fresh, hurtful and disappointing – kids are still sad about AP leaving and I am annoyed. Yes, the “family” reason seems naff and made up but it is also something that could really be worked out if the AP had had the guts and interest to put in the effort (or even just the decency to talk to us earlier and not just with friends and family). Instead an immature, rash, selfish decision – I hate young people ;-)

Host Mom in the City October 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Ugh – that’s what I’m afraid of. Sorry “4th time lucky?!”! Although honestly I’m not totally thrilled with this AP anyway and having some trouble maintaining host mom mojo. So maybe that’s coming through with the amount of time I’m motivated to commit. Honestly guys, I think I may be done with the program. If this one doesn’t work out, I think we’ll be pursuing other methods of childcare :(

TexasHM October 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Bummer ladies. :( I remember a post once about the phases of the AP year and I was just thinking that there are definitely HM phases as well. I was just emailing with NJMama talking about how I am freaking out because we have AP #4 coming in 3 weeks and now I am in the throws of buyers remorse/what I have we done?! :) My current AP finds it endearing and hilarious and never thought the HPs worried about it working out, well now she sees it first hand! In the last couple of days I have asked her (current AP) “what if she is a psycho?” “what if she is a voodoo high priestess?” and my husbands favorite – “what if her mother’s body is embalmed in her basement and she carries on conversations with her daily?”. Yes, we have had good and even great experiences with the AP program but I do have to admit, at this point 3 weeks from picking up a stranger from the airport from a foreign country to care for my children full time for the next year yes, I start to think we might be nuts! :)

4th time lucky?! October 21, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I hear you, HMitC. I think the main reason I am willing to give it another shot after this one is some crazy, deluded idea that it just must work at some point and that it can’t get much worse.
But I am also worried about effect of constant change in APs on the kids. As they get older they will become aware of the rather short periods the AP stays with us (if it doesn’t work out) and it will be more difficult to come up with an explanation that doesn’t put us, kids or AP in a bad light. (So far we got away with: they miss their mum and dad and want to go home or: they want to visit other parts of the country, but the latest AP is looking like he’s rematching closeby – awkward)

Should be working October 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I second Tristatemom. It’s what APs know they can say and still be seen as good candidates for another family. That’s not the real reason, I would wager.

4th time lucky?! October 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

So possibly real reason is something they don’t want to admit to themselves? That they made a bad decision, that APing isn’t for them, that they are in over their heads…? Not sure if this makes me feel better or worse ;-)

Should be working October 21, 2014 at 6:07 pm

No, I don’t think that this is about what they won’t admit to themselves, I think the use of this excuse is conscious and pragmatic. Probably the real reason is that he wants a gig that he sees as better.

That said, I think male APs have a really hard time finding matches, and a male AP in rematch might need more than 2 weeks to find a family. Maybe he has pre-matched with another family. It would be interesting to ask him in 2 weeks what he will be doing.

HRHM October 21, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Or something they CAN’T use as a reason, like “I just took this to get to the US, but I’m really looking for a gig in Cali” or “I am looking for a gig where the family is super rich and I will have a BMW SUV to drive, an apartment suite to live in and get to travel with the family to Hawaii and Switzerland.” or “I want a family with one kid in school full time so all I really have to do is shoot hoops with him a couple hours every afternoon and pour him a bowl of cereal in the morning”

Nina October 21, 2014 at 4:53 pm

How many months upfront do you usually start looking for a new Au Pair? Ours is leaving beginning of March.

TexasHM October 21, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Depends on if you get easily frustrated with the process, what agency you are with and how far in advance you like to plan. :) That didn’t help at all did it?! We matched 6 weeks before our first and that was a whirlwind, 3 months before our second but thought we were 4.5 months out (finished early – engaged and went downhill), 3rd was 7 days total (rematch due to AP family emergency) and next we matched in June for arrival Nov 10th (a shade under 5 months).
I do like that we matched further out this time but will say that the agencies and the APs often want the 3 month range. We were rejected by several candidates that wanted to come sooner (so if that doesn’t fluster you then do it). It has given us a chance to get to know the AP better I feel like and she’s had a chance to plan and adjust over time. For example, she got two jobs over the summer to save up as much as possible for her travels after speaking with us and current AP about how expensive things are. I had one other candidate also say she liked the idea of more lead time knowing where she was going so it varies. It is a little harder because I have to remind myself to send her something every week or so to keep her engaged but she has managed it beautifully (Ive been slammed this month and last which is part of why we matched early – plus I didn’t expect to find someone in 2 weeks like we did, thought it would take longer). Some also talk about timing from a candidate pool perspective – aka maybe larger pool in June because they graduate but I have found the pool to be pretty consistent because different countries have different school years and cycles. If you want a particular country research their major event dates or ask your agency and they can tell you when to look to hit the larger pools of those countries. I also vary our cycle based on my bandwidth – aka when do I have time to vest in the process so I am not hurried and I properly vet them. For me this year it was June/July lighter then slammed Aug-Oct with arrival early Nov so I knew I wanted to be matched by the end of July. Started looking early June, matched mid June. Being that you are looking for early March you might think about looking early like November before the slowdown of Christmas/New Years or if you are more adventurous or don’t take as long to match or have backup coverage you can try looking the first week of January. There is a spike in new candidates and rematch candidates in January due to school years/jobs ending at the calendar year in some countries and for whatever reason, many APs and families try to tough it out through the holidays and then rematch the first week of January.

4th time lucky?! October 21, 2014 at 6:11 pm

TexasHM, was it you who swears by quite an intense interview process, incl. loads of email questions? Do you keep this up with rematch/ in country APs where there is possibly time pressure?

TexasHM October 22, 2014 at 1:06 am

Yep that’s me – the neurotic interviewer and yes actually I was able to hit all my rounds with our awesome rematch AP but in fairness, she was focused and super responsive because she was running out of time and living with her LC (family removed from program). I looked afterwards and compared our exchanges and process with her to previous AP and ironically the number of emails exchanged (about 110) and Skype rounds (about 6) were almost exactly the same just in a shorter time period. It definitely can be done but you have to stick to your guns and fight the panic! I have a HM friend in theNYC area that only does rematch APs after 3 failed out of country and 5 successful rematch APs. I’m not ready to be that ambitious but I do find her points interesting (good egg rematch Aps are often grateful, less entitled, understand the program more, less idealized, more appreciative, often try harder, sometimes already have DL, often are more resilient and flexible – ex if they fought to stay after a bad situation vs giving up their goals/dream and going home as many do).

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2014 at 9:10 pm

I start looking when the AP gets her extension/return home packet at the 8-month point. Usually we’re begging our APs to reconsider their decision to return home one last time (if we love, love, love the AP – we ask her the first time at the 6th month point).

I must say, in looking for out-of-country APs in October, I was surprised that the quality was higher than in April – perhaps the competition among HF’s is lower, which gives us a little more flexibility.

Host Mom in the City October 21, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Both times now that I’ve matched well in advance (5 months prior), I’ve regretted it. I had the impression that I would scoop up the planners and then have a long period of getting to know the AP by email and Skype. Both times I wish I had waited. It’s hard to email and Skype for that long for one.

The pool of candidates that want to come so far away is very small. We got repeatedly rejected right off the bat by candidates that wanted to come in 2-3 months and didn’t want to wait. All the rejection and the small pool made me somewhat desperate I think and caused me to settle both times after searching for a month or two with no prospects.

And also, both times our child care needs have changed slightly in the interim between matching and arrival. Honestly this time I think I would have not had an AP for a couple if months to reevaluate, but we had matched so early, I was stuck. Both of the APs that we matched far in advance with also met boyfriends between matching and arrival and for one, her life plan changed significantly in that period too.

Anyway, all that to say that I know it works for others, but I will never again even start looking until three months prior to the date I want someone to arrive. If we ever get another AP that is!

TexasHM October 22, 2014 at 1:17 am

I think I tend to agree that 3 months seems to be a sweet spot. By that though I mean matched at 3 months. I think you won’t get turned down as much (because at most you’re asking them to delay arrival 4 weeks vs months) and you still have some buffer in case it takes you awhile to find your match (you’ve got until 2 mos out before things get hairy). So my wild guess at a magic number is about 3.5 months out. ;). That gives you 6 weeks to interview but I think most would agree on average it takes 2-4 weeks if you are heavy screeners like we are. For HM that asked above that would net out to mid November for her to start looking and I thinks that’s what I said above, or start first week of Jan but buy yourself another month of buffer with backup care and have new AP come end of March/early April.

Returning HM October 22, 2014 at 9:03 am

We actually prefer to match early and seem to get earlier and earlier each year! Back in our first stint of hosting (2005-2009), we matched 2-3 months out, and the process felt very rushed. We were with an agency that did not do exclusive matching, and we often found ourselves losing good candidates who were just desperate to match and didn’t want to take the time I needed to interview and “check my gut” about things. We left the program for two years after three very bad matches quickly in a row – one bad out of country and two total disasters of rematches (both of whom were sent home for really egregious issues), and after that, I swore the matching process was just too fraught and complicated and we could never do it again.

Our schedules are such that it made hiring a nanny or babysitter too complicated (mostly we need 25 hrs but then boom – we have a week of 45), so we ended up coming back to the AP program in 2011, and since then, we have matched at least five months out or even more. March, March, February, and February, for late Aug arrival, to be exact.

For the last two years (with Feb matches), I started looking in late January and just took my time. It enabled me to proceed slowly and carefully, and also, I could tie up an applicant’s application for a week or more (we are with CCAP now, so it’s exclusive matching) without worrying that I was ruining his chances of finding another family if I didn’t pick him. I only looked at applicants whose preferred arrival dates were July, Aug, or Sept, so I also didn’t encounter any issues with APs preferring an earlier date; we actually had to negotiate our selected AP back to August since he preferred Sept arrival!

I have really enjoyed the period between matching and arrival, to get to know the APs and especially have them get to know us. During that time, they can observe us via my FB page, we exchange weekly (sometimes more, occasionally less) emails, and we skype every now and then to check in and keep up. I have found this extraordinarily helpful, as by the time they come, they have already seen the cyclical, feast-or-famine nature of my work, they understand my daughter’s insane sports practice and meet schedule, they understand our weekend routines, and – most importantly – they have come to truly comprehend, from having seen it for six+ months, that while my son is chronologically 10, he is actually more like a 7-8 year old so they aren’t surprised when they come and don’t find a typical 10 year old to take care of (I tell them this and they see it over skype, but it’s helpful to have many months of seeing this and watching him and his activities to truly know it).

That said, there is definitely the issue of matching so early that things can change. Last year’s fabulous AP tore his ACL just two weeks after we matched with our AP for this year. It turned out he had to go back to Switzerland for major surgery, thus ending his year. I would have loved to have been able to look out of country for a new AP or to have taken an AP who had more than five months left, but we felt bound to the AP we had selected, which limited our options in rematch. It turned out fine, and our rematch AP turned out mostly good (until the very end when he crashed our car twice), so I won’t cry over spilled milk, but this was a definite downside to having matched so early (but then again, how often does something like this actually happen in an AP’s year??). I still expect we will match again early for next year (we do not extend).

ChiHost Mom October 22, 2014 at 9:31 am

We usually begin the process a week or so after we get the paperwork in month 8. For our first Au pair we looked in late October/early November for a late December start. It was a bit rushed but not too bad. For our second we looked in August/September for a January start. And for our third we just matched for a January start. It tends to take us a week or two to revise our letter and pictures. Then we go over our question list. During this whole time I usually am reading profiles and favoriting them to show HD. Once we start the interviewing process it takes under two weeks. We skype round one once with all of us including our Great Dane and then usually round two with just me and HD. There are emailed questions throughout. After matching we’ve continued emails and skype conversations. As a college prof I would never consider matching farther out than 3 months, it doesn’t seem realistic. And on the other side we interview intensely and quickly because we’re busy.

Returning HM October 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

I’m curious why you say “As a college prof I would never consider matching farther out than 3 months, it doesn’t seem realistic.” I am a college professor too, and I match 6 or even 6+ months out, so I am interested in your thought process. Is it that you think college-aged students don’t typically plan that far in advance? Or that your own schedule changes so much (this is why I mentioned “feast or famine” in my previous message – mine varies radically depending on my teaching load each semester, plus I travel 4+ hours to my univ each week and stay over so my schedule definitely changes). Just wondering what your thought process is on this…Thanks!

WarmStateMomma October 22, 2014 at 10:43 am

The first time, we started 2.5 months prior to arrival. We didn’t really know what we were looking for, so we didn’t screen very well. The second time, we started looking in early November for a March arrival and matched around Thanksgiving. This time, I started looking as early as July for a March arrival because there are so few candidates who meet our basic requirements (most agencies have zero Mandarin-speakers who can drive). We want to match in November and I have 3 finalists on my list now. My goal is to match by Thanksgiving because baby 2 arrives in December and holidays+new baby=craziness. We just won’t have the bandwidth to conduct a proper search in December/January and it’s not easy to find qualified candidates.

Taking a Computer Lunch October 21, 2014 at 9:02 pm

This is why I host au pairs…. AP #10 is leaving on Thursday – bad match – her moping affected the quality of her work, she ate like a 4-year-old and my teenagers commented on it, and I got a lot of push-back on a 5-hour Saturday shift — after a 30 hour week! Despite warning her that we were slobs, she’s holding it against us (sorry, I’m always going to choose spending time with the kids over cleaning my house – it’s just more fun).

Nevertheless, we’re using a service to provide care for The Camel, who has absolutely no self-help skills, in the interim. Tonight the woman who has accepted the position called and asked if she could start 1/2 later. Uhm – no! When I explained that she needed to be here in time to take The Camel off the bus, and that if she couldn’t be her by the agreed time, then she needed to tell her supervisor she could not accept the job. She says she will make it work. I don’t trust her already. 2:30 is 2:30 – it’s not 3:00, or 3:30!

Fortunately AP #11 arrives in 4 weeks, has already enthusiastically stated she wants to participate in some of the family activities at which AP #10 turned up her nose.

Would you? October 22, 2014 at 6:39 am

I know, I am late to the party (and it’s not even Monday any longer) but maybe…

For the last decade (wow I am old), I have been screening au pair candidates for my old au pair agency. It’s something I love and mostly the interviews are fun, the applicants are great and I really enjoy the two hours I have to get to know them.

Just recently, at the end of one of these interviews, an applicant told me, she had been diagnosed with leukemia a few years ago but was now totally healthy again and her oncologist supported her idea to become an au pair. She was a lovely girl, adequate English, adequate child care experience, nice to talk to, intelligent, patient, active, sportive. Her previous treatment for leukemia was the only draw back.
I reported exactly that to the agency and don’t know if she was accepted into the program or not (I don’t get feedback on that). A bit of research suggests that there are agencies out there who accept applicants with chronic diseases / previous cancer diagnoses and there are others who don’t.

Would a previous cancer diagnosis be a no-no for you as a host family? Would you even consider an applicant who had been treated for cancer? Would it depend on the type of cancer? How long ago it was? Would you consider applicants with other health problems? Or would you think it’s too much of a risk to take?

WarmStateMomma October 22, 2014 at 10:51 am

I think it completely depends on the health issue. Some are going to pose a high risk of recurrence and others won’t. A distant relative of mine went through chemo and the whole deal 20 years ago and hasn’t had any major health issues since. She runs marathons and recently had a beautiful baby.

Frankly, none of the AP applications I’ve reviewed have mentioned any health issues so I’d be impressed with a candidate who was honest enough to disclose it.

WarmStateMomma October 22, 2014 at 10:45 am

I’d love some insight on which candidate to go with, as we’re down to three choices:

#1 – Has true child care experience (working at an American-run orphanage in China for babies and toddlers with special needs). She seems likeable and gives off a very sincere vibe, but I sense that cultural differences will be a bit bigger than with our current AP. Her driving experience is less than what we’d like, but more than most Chinese APs have. Eager to match. Skype didn’t go well because of a poor internet connection; limited spoken English didn’t help.

#2 – I have no idea if her child care experience is bogus, but she asks all the right questions. She also sends me photos of art projects and food she’d like to make for my daughter (this is proactive on a level I’ve never seen from a Chinese applicant). Her description of her driving experience doesn’t give me much comfort. Eager to match. Skype didn’t go well because of a poor internet connection and terrible spoken English.

#3 – She is honest about the fact that she is just now getting her child care experience (at a daycare/preschool). She has a bachelor’s degree in math from a prestigious university and wants to improve her English to get accepted to grad school in the US. (HD understands all the math theory and programming lingo she uses and is super impressed.) She seems to have real driving experience. Her email responses are incredibly well organized and she avoids a lot of the flowery expressions the other Chinese APs use. Her parents are both college professors and her dad served time in prison for showing Tiananmen Square protest footage in his class. We are going to Skype after my family’s upcoming vacation, but I don’t expect it to be very productive.

FWIW – my current AP would rank these candidates with #3 first (because of her background), #1 next (because she seems so sweet), and #2 last (although she hasn’t seen the fantastic questions this one asks). HD would take AP#1 in a heartbeat. I hate turning anyone down who has invested so much time in interviewing with us (a LOT of emails), but it’s the nature of the beast.

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