Open Thread: July 12

by cv harquail on July 11, 2014


We’re baaaaack!

I know that you’ve missed the Open Thread — I can tell from all the re-directions in the comments on the posts!

Use this open thread to toss out any question or concern you haveexcept for one:  

If you are an au pair outside the USA whose host parents are somehow taking advantage of you, please read this post instead:

An Open Letter to Au Pairs without an Agency, Outside the USA

All other topics are fair game.   This thread will be open until Monday morning, July 14.  Enjoy.


“ColourByNumbers” experiential work with woollen threads,  by Peter Hindmarsh




AlwaysHopeful HM July 14, 2014 at 2:36 am

Looking for quick help. Because of a safety issue, we are going to have to go into rematch, possibly even immediately. My 7 year old will be devastated, I know. We haven’t much time left in the year, so rematch isnunkikely. I’m just struggling with how to approach it with my son. I know he will ask a million questions, and will challenge the result. I’d like to figure out how to give him enough info so he doesn’t blame himself, but not so much that processing it becomes overwhelming. I welcome any suggestions!

Returning HM July 14, 2014 at 5:52 am

Ugh I think you and I live parallel lives, since we just did the same with our male AP. we ended the match with three weeks left due to major safety concerns (and lying about it – know you had those issues in the past too). Our little guy was and is devastated too – AP left Sat night. We chose not to tell him what AP did but to say that AP was “winding down” his time with us (which is why he wasn’t working the last two weeks he was in our home) and “getting ready to go” so needed lots of extra time to bike to do things and see his friends. Our son (chronologically 9 but more like 7-8 developmentally) was very sad about the turn of events but accepted them – and surprsingly didn’t question why other APs of ours haven’t needed two weeks to “wind down.” To our older child, we told the truth as she is older and better able to understand how a good person can make terrible mistakes. She too is sad he left before and differently than expected (our first AP ever for whom we didn’t have a big goodbye party), but she understands the circumstances. I would say you know your child’s capacities to understand best, and you’ll pick how much to tell. We would like our son to remain in contact w AP (as Ap would like too), so we didn’t want to tell him the truth and expect at his age and level (he has some processing challenges) that he would be able to understand how we could really like someone but consider him disappointing as an AP.

Sending good luck to you. I remember how close you and your AP were so this must be very hard.

hOstCDmom July 14, 2014 at 10:52 am

Always Hopeful/Returning HM – Do you mind sharing the safety issue(s) that would prompt rematch 3weeks before the end of year? DUI? Drugs? Leaving child in H2O or vehicle?

Returning HM July 14, 2014 at 10:48 pm

In our case, the issues had to do with drinking/driving/falling asleep at the wheel/crashing the car and then lying about it, not to mention having a second accident (also his fault, this time involving another car that also sustained damage) only 12 days after the first. We just lost faith in his judgment, particularly as related to driving, and our job entails a ton of driving.

To be clear – we did not kick him out of the house at all and in fact were very clear with both AP and agency that he could stay with us until he goes to his extension family next week. In the end, he stayed two weeks with us while not working and then decided to go to a friend’s house for his last week, which I understand. I really felt for him, as we liked him a lot as a person, and this shouldn’t be the way one ends one’s first year as an AP. But in this case, liking someone wasn’t enough to over-ride the loss of faith in judgment and trust. All of us feel very saddened by what happened and wish we had been able to end our 5 months together (he was a rematch after our amazing AP tore his ACL and had to go home) differently. Fortunately for him, his extension family apparently doesn’t think this is a big deal and are still happy to have him, so he gets another chance to do a great job and leave on a high note next year.

Always Hopeful HM July 14, 2014 at 10:49 pm

Sorry, I’d rather not say specifically, but it was spectacularly bad judgment, and not something I could chance again.

Ugh! This is killing me!! I let AP know this afternoon, and true to form, he reacted with remorse, accepted and understood my decision, and went straight to trying to figure out how to make this easiest on HC. He really is a good guy, raised well, and kind but just impulsive and lacking the maturity to make the right calls when needed.

I ended up telling my son that AP was going to have to leave earlier than expected because the agency was requiring him to go back home (which is a little bit true, but only a little bit). He didn’t really question that, but as he processes it more, I’m sure he’ll want to know a whole lot more…

Should be working July 14, 2014 at 3:32 am

Can you tell the truth? “We really like her and she was so great at playing with you. But it turns out that she isn’t able to keep you safe, and that is the most important thing to us.”

Always Hopeful HM July 14, 2014 at 11:00 pm

Thanks for this suggestion. Unfortunately, I think my son would react to that I. The way Warm State suggested– he would vehemently deny that he needed protection, and, since he never felt endangered, would feel I am just babying him (which would, of course, be worse than murder!).

AlwaysHopeful HM July 14, 2014 at 7:10 am

Thank you, RHM and SBW. Wow, RHM, you hit the nail on the head. I’m sorry you had to go through this, too. Yes, we have been very close, and my son worships him like no other. He’s already feeling sad about AP leaving in a couple of months. Ironically, we had a big birthday celebration for AP this weekend, with my whole family and his closest friends, so I guess we’ve had our big farewell party. I really do think I have to tell my son something specific, especiallyou because he asked me again just Friday how much longer AP had, and I told him he scheduled date (true at that time). I’m certain he’s going to feel confused and betrayed so the message both from AP and from me will be really important. Like RHM, I want them to keep in touch by email and skype, and I think AP will want that too.

The other part for me is the struggle with “how could I have let this happen?” We have had some issues in the past, but I truly believed we had worked hard to move forward. I was really looking forward to ending the year on a high note, thinking “yes, here have been problems, but I know that he cares about us, and there are some lines (like risking my son’s safety) that I know he won’t cross” And then he did, and I realized I had no basis for believing that, oher than my own assessment of his personality and wishful thinking. So apart from feeling like the worst mother who ever lived, I have no idea how to trust my judgment in selecting our next au pair. So much of the selection for me is the feel I get for personality, maturity, ability to fit in our family, honesty, etc. Having had my gut check fail me here, I’m feeling a little lost in figuring out how to pick our next match.

LondonMum July 14, 2014 at 7:41 am

So sorry its ended badly. Like you, I use my gut instinct when selecting as I often feel that experience etc can be exaggerated or just totally made up! The one year I made a bad judgement on personality, looking back, it was that I did not put much effort into finding the right fit. I was very tired and stressed at work and just wanted the process to be over so jumped in too quickly with someone who seemed “ok”.

I think if you:

Decide your top 10 “must have’s”, design some questions to cover those points,

See how easy it is to “chat”,

Does their humour match yours,

If their general ethos on life and family can fit with yours

Maybe your assessment on his personality was not so off, more your “wishful thinking” that it would all be ok. I too had this issue with our not great AP, I kept thinking/wishing it would be ok and in the end it really wasn’t.

You can still trust your gut, learn from this and move forward. Each year I learn something more about what to do/not do in the matching process and, touch wood, I have not made the same mistake again! Out of all the APs you have had and will have in the future, one that has not worked out is not bad if all the others have been good. You must have trusted your gut with those ones too!

Good luck!

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 10:55 am

If you have to tell him something specific, perhaps you could tie the AP’s departure to something positive in the AP’s life back home? As in the AP has to leave early to get ready for the fall semester, etc. Your son may take an early departure better if he thinks it’s for the AP’s benefit.

I wouldn’t tell him about the safety issue. I imagine a kid saying “I’m not a baby; I can keep myself safe.” And then hiding safety concerns from you for a future AP he adores. Kids don’t perceive or judge risk the way we do, so they’re less likely to be impressed with “we booted your idol for your own good.”

You should feel good about making the tough choice to let the beloved AP go and choose someone safer. It would have been easier to just ignore the problem for his last few months, but you’re taking the tougher path because it’s the right thing to do for your son. You’re a great mom!

Angie host mom July 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I would have a hard time telling my kids – even the 7 year old – anything but the truth. Any lie you tell will give the au pair you are firing a chance to make you look like a liar to your kids. When kid is 10 or 11 and skyping independently with ex-aupair, you don’t know what will be said. It’s a lot easier to defend honesty than not.

Au pairs come to our house and au pairs go on afterward, but they stay part of our lives forever – at least so far 7 APs and 10 years in. AP broke the rules of the house, so you still want them in your life but they can’t stay in your house. AP knew it when they broke the rules on purpose.

Personally I don’t think it is bad to enforce with your child that you mean what you say even when it hurts you to follow through.

Anonymous in CA July 15, 2014 at 12:09 am

So sorry you’re going through this! We had 2 APs come and go in rapid succession (one stayed for 3 weeks, the other for 6) and in neither situation had DS formed a real bond yet, so it was for sure easier. [I found this blog only AFTER the second one left…then realized I’d made every single mistake in the book as a new HP! At least I’m in good company!]

Regarding what to say to child about AP’s departure….I am probably in the minority with this.

I understand the parental drive not to lie, and on a certain level, I do agree with that. However, I also strongly feel that we should not make children inadvertent participants in the adult world. Children need to know that the adults are in charge and have everything under control … so that the children feel safe, secure, and so that they know someone is in charge. My experience is that if a child doesn’t think the adult has everything under control, the child wonders if he /she is in charge…and that’s a terrifying thought for a child. So, while I really do understand the desire not to ‘lie’, I think it is equally important to protect childhood and not let too much adulthood seep in prematurely.

I wonder if there is any explanation needed at all. I am sort of thinking out loud, without having totally thought it through, but I wonder if you can just say, “AP has to leave; I know, it’s super sad and we’re going to miss AP a lot, but we have the next (day / week) to make sure we take lots of pictures and have fun so that we will remember AP. So, what should we do first?” Acknowledge it’s sad, then redirect child and model a ‘departing on a high note’ take…child (will, might, may?) follow your lead in that regard. ? Like I said, I’m thinking out loud on this one.

Good luck!

Tristatemom July 15, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Chiming in because lying and breach of trust are my number reason to rematch. We went into rematch twice over lying but our kids were too little to really ask questions.
If it happened now that my oldest is 9, I would probably tell him that AP had to go because she lied. I would look at it as an opportunity to teach that lying is bad and has severe consequences. If it is not child-appropriate to tell what the specific lie was, I would tell my child that.
One more thing, I seem to be in the minority here but I do not let my kids be in contact with APs that we parted with prematurely. There is too much risk for the kids to be hurt because I don’t think the APs have the maturity to think about the child’s welfare. Anything is fair when their feelings are hurt.

Returning HM July 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I have no concerns whatsoever about our AP not handling contact well with the children. In fact, he emailed me yesterday and asked for their email addresses (which I monitor), and I gave them to him, because I completely trust how he has and will interact and share with the children. In our case, our AP was and is a smart, mostly responsible, incredibly hardworking, very nice guy who showed incredibly poor judgment in two off-duty circumstances – judgment he owned, has apologized for, and ultimately paid for in having been sent to rematch. We have already invited him to stay with us if he wants to come back east next summer, before he flies home, so it’s likely he will talk with my children, whether over skype or email or phone or in person, without me supervising anyway. If our circumstances were different, I’d agree, but this really was a case of someone we like a lot who just really screwed up the way 21 year old guys can sometimes do.

Skny July 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

Has anyone had panic/anxiety issues during rematch?
I am very nervous. What if I can’t find the right person? What of we are the problems? Do I have too high expectations? What if the next person does not work also? What if no one works? (I know it is crazy but I am in a high anxiety thing…
I actually (in a half panic thing) contacted my former loved so much Au pair, and offered her an absurd amount (basically what would cost agency) to return. It will probably not work for all the reasons we all know (plus she has her life), but that is how I felt this morning.
Am I crazy? Has anyone gone through something similar?

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 9:50 am


I felt the same way when AP#1 was departing and AP#2 was arriving the same day! I sobbed with relief after dropping AP#1 off at the airport, although she wasn’t half as bad as your outgoing AP is. I felt exactly what you described about AP#2’s arrival, but she is wonderful. I kept waiting to discover something terrible, but it hasn’t happened. Our only disappointments have been that she hasn’t passed the driving exam and she’s lost some enthusiasm for cooking.

If you’re crazy, then I am too. But it doesn’t mean the next AP will be a disaster. :)

AlwaysHopeful HM July 14, 2014 at 9:54 am

Skny, I’m feeling that way right now, except I haven’t got a former loved au pair to fall back on. I’ve been in the match process for a while now, and there is one woman who seems to check all of the boxes, except that I’m not wowed by her personality. I was thinking this morning that maybe I should just choose her. Sorry, no solutions for you, just commiserating…

One thing I will say with respect to your most recent (current?) Au pair…your expectations are certainly not too high! You gave more than most would even consider, and even then she couldn’t succeed. Not an expectations failure at all.

NoVA Twin Mom July 14, 2014 at 10:23 am

Have you had a chance to talk to your LCC yet about rematch? I hate to say it, but there’s probably a Brazilian au pair out there in rematch that will be so happy to come to your house instead of where she is. The only thing that will hurt you is your need for an infant-qualified au pair, as that may shrink your pool of available candidates. (Others here have had great luck with rematch au pairs, even needing infant qualified au pairs – my experience rematching when we needed an infant qualified au pair was that although the pool as a whole was OK at the time, very few of them were infant qualified, and none of those had driving experience I was willing to work with.)

Based on your past posts, I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that in the long run, you’re going to be better off *no matter what you get* than you are right now.

NJ Mama July 14, 2014 at 10:25 am

Skny –
I have definitely, most definitely, had anxiety issues during rematch. In fact, our next au pair is due to arrive in less than two weeks, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a little nervous!! Even though we corresponded for nearly a month before matching, all these crazy thoughts keep popping into my head. Did I ask her about X? I asked her about Y, but was she being straight in her answer? Is she ready for this? And on and on. After all that you went through, try to go easy on yourself (always easier to tell someone than actually do!!)

I don’t think you have high expectations. I used to think that 1) my older child (who has anxiety) was way too difficult and 2) we can’t offer enough perks (we have an au pair car but we don’t go on vacations, we have a small house, we all share a bathroom, etc., and we live in a very wealthy area. so it’s hard). and I thought we were a difficult family to match with.

One thing I will tell you is that we have had a beloved former au pair with us for the last two weeks. And omg what a difference. It reminded me that yes, there are good au pairs out there. There are au pairs who will truly love your family and your kids — warts and all. And they will appreciate you, and you will appreciate them. And your family’s expectations really aren’t too high.

I think at the start of my chronic rematch period, first we matched too quickly just to get a seemingly “good” or “high-demand” candidate. Then we ignored our gut feeling about an au pair we thought was middle-of-the road and went with someone that was highly recommended by her area director (always trust your gut!!). Then we went out of country and matched with a girl who checked all the boxes — but didn’t have an engaging personality. She ended up incredibly homesick.

I could go on but you’ve all heard my story before. Try to slow down. Take a deep breath. And try to take your time. I will also say that I have been incredibly lucky finding interim care through, and supplemented it with help from a neighborhood high school girl. It was expensive but we got through. Occasionally I even broke down and asked a friend for help. And honest to god it wasn’t a big deal. My motto is: Some how, some way, I will get through this. And you will too. :) Good luck!!!

Should be working July 15, 2014 at 5:55 am

I get anxious and a little obsessive in matching and rematching, and really as soon as I feel like anything is not going well. I wish I didn’t. I know it is not necessarily the case that obsessing makes me more careful and judicious, but I can’t seem to separate these out. Anyone with suggestions, let me know.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 9:45 am

I need some advice/ideas:

AP#2 has been with us for 4 months and can’t drive legally here anymore. She arrived with a Chinese drivers license and could legally drive here for the first 90 days after her arrival without a local DL (which she did often). That time has passed and she still hasn’t passed the driving exam. Our first AP couldn’t drive and made zero progress in learning. AP#2 can control the car (used to have her own in China) but is still learning “defensive driving.” She’s made progress, though. She’s taking the exam for the 8th or 9th time tomorrow and it’s a huge inconvenience for her to take the exams because I now have to go with her (she can’t drive alone) and then sit in the waiting room with the squirmy toddler for an hour or so while the AP takes her exam.

I’m pregnant, busy and exhausted. We are moving (to another suburb of the same city) in less than two weeks and it will become even less convenient to drive her to the DL office. Highway driving will also become more important in the new location. Public transportation is not a viable option here.

I paid for an afternoon with a driving instructor two failed exams ago, but it’s really expensive and he didn’t point out anything she was doing incorrectly. I’m not too interested in wasting money on that again. AP#2 practiced driving with a retired friend, which seemed to help, but she won’t be able to practice with him again before we move. After the move, it will take almost an hour to get to his house, so it’s not really an option (the entire family has to go with her to drop her off because she can’t drive solo). AP#2 is not extending because she has a career and life to return to in China, so I also have to question how much money we want to invest into her dwindling months of potential driving ability.

AP#2’s personality is a great fit with our family, my toddler adores her, and she pitches in all the time (taking the toddler outside to play while we cook dinner, etc.). Mandarin is now our daughter’s dominant language and we really want to keep up the language, which means that our next AP will probably come from China and won’t know how to drive when she arrives. A rematch now would still not get us a Chinese driver in the next month or two. I don’t want my toddler or AP#2 housebound, but I also don’t have the time/energy to give the AP driving lessons or travel to the DMV for her exams when there is no end in sight.

What do I do with this AP? Next time around, should I tell AP applicants that I will pay for he first X hours of driving lessons but they must pay for the rest? It’s expensive for me, which means it’s even more expensive for them. I feel bad about asking them to agree to pay for driving lessons because I know they can’t drive but they don’t. Driving appears to be the biggest challenge to our daughter’s Mandarin development, which is depressing. So I’m really hoping the experienced and thoughtful HMs here have some creative ideas.

WestMom July 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

Going on a whim here… but have you considered looking for a Chinese-speaking AP coming from another country? An Australian girl with Chinese parents for example?

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I search by language. So far, I’ve only seen a handful who aren’t from China who claim to speak Chinese. One was from Malaysia with a Chinese last name, so there’s a solid chance she actually speaks Chinese. The others were from Thailand (with Thai names) and couldn’t really speak English, so I assume their Chinese was pretty terrible as well and just something they took in school. We’d consider an AP from any country who could speak Chinese (even Cantonese at this point), but just about all the applications for people who at least claim to be Chinese speakers are from China or Thailand.

I have a fantasy that next time around we find an AP from France whose parents are from China; she loves to bake and study the finer points of Mandarin. :) She also has a drivers license from Europe.

WestMom July 14, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Sorry for the repost… Original response in the wrong place!

Would you consider searching outside of the agency Websites? I personally use greataupair and aupairworld to widen my pool of candidates, and once I find a match I ask her to register with my preferred agency. Check out and do a quick seach for mandarin speakers. You can then filter by their country of residence. Know knows, maybe there is one in France studying at a patisserie school :)

All that aside, is it typical to take the test 8 or 9 times? Or do you think this particular AP is simply not a very talented driver? I would hope that it would be faster next time around and you wouldn’t have to invest so much time and money into it.

German Au-Pair July 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Not sure how much that differs by state but I took the written test once without studying for it and the road test was just a drive around the block so especially if she has had a car before I find it pretty disturbing that she can’t pass. I understand if one doesn’t have much driving practice but if you OWN a car it shouldn’t be that hard.
Only questions I couldn’t answer without studying were those on the allowed blood alcohol level because it didn’t matter to me anyway.

WarmStateMomma July 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm

You’ll never believe it! There is a 20-yo French AP who lived in China for most of her life. She is studying law and Chinese in Paris. She bakes and she has a French drivers license. She even has the same outdoors interests we do. Unbelievable.

Angie host mom July 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I think you need to decide if you are willing to give up having a driving au pair in the short term, in which case you give up and just say you won’t drive her to the dmv or lessons or anything, and schedule your life so it works for you. If it doesn’t work, you need to rematch and pick someone who can drive….It is very hard choices ahead!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 14, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Suspend driving privileges altogether – but make it clear she has to get places under her own steam (I hope you have public transportation nearby). If she wants to learn to drive, then she can hire a driving service (they usually come with their own vehicle). You’ll be on the hook for getting her to classes if you don’t have public transportation – same with cluster meetings.

Meanwhile, ask her to come up with a daily plan to get the baby out of the house – going to a nearby playground. Is the library in walking distance? accessible by bus?

I had a Chinese AP and driving was one of the issues we had with her (she caused minor damage while on her first driving outing – an eventually became an advanced beginner driver). We had her pay for half the cost of a round of driving lessons and the agency paid for the other half – because they had certified her as a driver and she wasn’t. (This after we split the costs with her on a round of lessons and the instructor – an off-duty police officer – said her driving still wasn’t good enough to pass the test.)

We had enough other issues with her that at month 6 our LCC advised us to stop pressuring her to acquire her license and see if she would do it on her own. She didn’t, and at month 8 we used it as a reason not to extend. She managed to find a family that didn’t need a driver with whom to extend.

Take the pressure off and see if the isolation is enough for her to deal with it on her own. You have more than enough on your platter now.

WarmStateMomma July 15, 2014 at 7:44 am

The problem is we don’t have public transportation and almost nothing is within walking distance. The neighborhood playgrounds, pool and fitness center are within biking distance. If she’s feeling ambitious, she may be able to bike to a nature trail or smoothie joint.

I hauled AP#1 around town for her classes (with a cranky baby in tow) and wasted hours in traffic or waiting at Starbucks at bedtime with the baby for the AP’s class to end. If AP#2 can’t get herself to class, she either won’t take classes or she’ll take the weekend travel courses. The new neighborhood has an LCC and an AP living there, so AP#2 can probably catch a ride to AP cluster meetings.

Angie host mom July 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

warmstatemomma, it sounds like you really need a good driver. Hate to say it, but it is rematch time then….

I find it very hard to screen on driving skills – except we hire from countries where it is difficult to get a license, so if they can get a license there they can probably get one in the US.

WestMom July 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Would you consider searching outside of the agency Websites? I personally use greataupair and aupairworld to widen my pool of candidates, and once I find a match I ask her to register with my preferred agency. Check out and do a quick seach for mandarin speakers. You can then filter by their country of residence. Know knows, maybe there is one in France studying at a patisserie school ;)

All that aside, is it typical to take the test 8 or 9 times? Or do you think this particular AP is simply not a very talented driver? I would hope that it would be faster next time around and you wouldn’t have to invest so much time and money into it.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm

I will check those sites out. I know others haven’t enjoyed the experience, but we are looking for a pretty narrow skill set.

I can’t imagine it’s typical to take the test so many times. HD thinks AP#2 is good enough to pass now and that we should find another DMV location if they fail her again tomorrow. I also wonder how much of the problem is language – my AP speaks standard English, but has a hard time with the slang, expressions and accents used by most of the examiners.

TexasHM July 14, 2014 at 1:42 pm

WSM I didn’t enjoy the experience because it was too overwhelming because we don’t screen by country or language, for HPs looking specifically for a language or country I have heard good things about going the outside website route.
Quick question – are YOU comfortable with her driving? Meaning even if she somehow passes (we had an examiner feel sorry for our AP and look the other way and pass her!) would you be ok with her driving your toddler regularly?

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

She can definitely get around the master-planned community safely. So the pool, playgrounds and the pediatrician’s office are all accessible as soon as she’s licensed. I don’t think it would take much practice for her to get safely to the community college. She needs more experience on the highway, though, to get beyond this narrow bubble.

Should be working July 15, 2014 at 5:52 am

How about a bicycle with a toddler-trailer to take your child around the planned community?

WarmStateMomma July 15, 2014 at 7:45 am

Yes! This is a great idea.

hOstCDmom July 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

Great idea SBW, and probably a reasonable/good investment for a HF that has Chinese APs, and thus anticipate that they may often match with an AP who will not be able to hit the ground running re driving! HP can also use it, and it will encourage AP to get out w/o a car even if/when she can drive and model healthy behavior for Hkid! Thinking out loud and along the “good investment approach” I would urge you to buy one that 2 kids can ride in, even if your expected baby will not be able to ride in it for X months (a year?).

WestMom July 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I personally have been very happy with the selection. All but one of the 5 APs we found on these sites were already registered with an agency. We have pretty specific requirements too, and I find that it offers me a lot more choice than my agency alone.

It can be a bit overwhelming bc AP candidates can contact you directly. Many of the request we receive (4 out of 5) don’t even meet our basic requirements (age, language, driver). But in the end, it’s still a much wider pool, and we definitely found a few gems! And in the end, the agency still does all the proper background checks/interviews, etc. so I feel I am safely covered.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 2:14 pm

I just checked out aupairworld and saw an application for a Taiwanese woman who earned a linguistics degree from the University of Georgia! I don’t know if she’d be willing to live with Florida Gators, but I have hope that quality candidates are out there for us.

WestMom July 14, 2014 at 3:00 pm

FWIW, I start looking a good six months in advance on those sites to give myself the time to find great candidates over many weeks/months. Best of luck!

caring hp July 14, 2014 at 1:24 pm

New thread… pilferage:

Question to HF’s:
How have you dealt with, or gotten mentally comfortable with the pilferage that many APs (I KNOW, NOT ALL APs) seem to engage in per our experience and experience another HM I’m friends with?  I always start out by trusting each new AP and adjust as needed based on what we notice after they settle in. In cases where we have noticed pilferage, we decided to not confront the relevant APs. Instead I responded by trusting the AP less; not leaving Petty Cash or HF Credit Card with AP unless carefully monitored; reminding the AP if she forgets to leave us a receipt for a purchase made on our/kids behalf; no longer leaving extras of certain items clearly sitting in our Household Supply cabinet and just bring them out as needed so it was more obvious when things went missing; and labeling items such as “HOST KIDS DAYCARE SUNSCREEN”; or “Sharpie for Kitchen Use”; and unfortunately, locking away certain valuable items and personal papers. It left a bad taste in our mouth and I wonder if we were just unlucky, or if we notice more details than others, or if this is just ‘all part of what to expect’ and we need to just assume this will happen.  A HM I know well had a couple of situations like this happen too.  I like to trust people and when my trust is violated I feel bothered and so I would welcome your thoughts to help me come to terms with this. 
Question for other APs:
If you know APs who’ve talked to you about any pilferage, or who you’ve noticed pilfered, do they think the HFs don’t notice (HFs usually know what they bought or what is in their house and what was pilfered even if they don’t confront about it)? Do they feel they are very underpaid and this is their way of indirectly putting a few bucks back in their pocket (that’s what 1 AP I know explained to me – not our AP – an ex-AP I become friendly with)? Or is this just ‘the norm’ in some countries and APs don’t think there is anything wrong with it?  I had 1 AP was very over-honest to the point we had to tell her a million times to help herself to certain things, but our other APs have all, it seems, engaged in some form of the pilferage examples listed below.
Here are the types of pilferage situations we’ve had:
–         AP sneaking a bunch of stuff home in her suitcase to her home country where these items probably were not readily available. The stuff wasn’t big or expensive to my knowledge. I’m talking about certain specialty food products and toiletry items that I know were in the house the morning she flew home, and were not there later and nobody was in the house but me and her in between. After she left we noticed a few household items missing too – yes, they might have been lost but once you have confirmstion of certain things being taken, it makes you wonder about other things too. Of course there’s no point in saying anything once she is gone but it makes me hurt to think I trusted that person, and if ever asked for a job reference, I would not give it now.
–         Office Supplies we use for the Kids Homework/Household disappearing at twice the usual rate.  HK is young and had mentioned “AP loves xyz items” and I asked “why” and HK said AP always puts lots of them under her bed.  I figured ‘lots’ meant 1 or 2 items HK had noticed and I brushed it off until following week AP asked me to reimburse her $25 for stocking up the Household Postit Note/Sharpie/Pen supply “again”. I let it go as it is ‘just small stuff’ and she was heading home soon afterwards but it certainly reduced my trust. Again, these are items that would not have been readily available in her country without going to a specialty store in the Main City and paying a lot more than in the USA. I know she was saving all her stipends for a big trip and had not spent a dime in months and thus I was not surprised that even though she wanted these items to take home, she was unlikely to use her own money for them.
–         AP taking bottles of specialty sensitive sunscreen we had bought for HK for Daycare.  HK started to need replacements faster than before.  (Upon arrival we always give AP a gift box of Cosmetics, Toiletries and Sunscreen (same brand I use, but different to the sensitive skin one for the kids which is considered top of the range) and tell her in writing, these are to get her started and after  that she must purchase her own, with her own money)
–         Batteries, jogging lights (the $15 kind runners wear at night) and other such small items seem to disappear more than usual too especially in the weeks prior to AP departure home.
–         Gas/Car Mileage: We got tired of APs not chipping in for gas appropriately… coming back from a weekend away to an empty tank and AP saying “I only drove to the gym once” when in fact the odometer showed the car had a LOT of miles put on it.
–         Petty Cash: With 1 AP we tried a box in the Kitchen typically stocked with $100 for gas, items the AP would need to pick up for the kids here and there etc.  I could never figure out if she was just weak at basic math or creaming a bit here and there for herself but it was constantly off by $5, 8, $12 dollars versus the receipts even though we showed her how to put the receipt in for money she took out. She also started to pop 1 or 2 personal items onto the shopping bill for herself and reimburse herself out of the petty car for the whole receipt. We got rid of that system and had to leave out the specific amount each time and specify “please leave the receipt”.  I don’t like that, I rather have a level of trust and also not have the inconvenience of having to monitor, and dish out cash each time needed. I’d much rather give an AP a small-limit credit card, or a wad of petty cash to avoid the hassle of transaction-by-transaction.
–         Gas Transactions – I think we’ve had APs using cash we left for gas and prepaying at the storefront as you have to do for gas/cash transactions here, taking the receipt and then going back and somehow not filling the car with the full amount and taking the cash refund back from the attendant, or driving a buddies car up behind ours and filling it with the ‘leftover’.  Hard to prove so I said nothing and started to just fill up the car myself instead of asking the AP
–         Emptying the Quarter/Coin drawer we keep in the Car when there was no need to use the coins for family/car use (no parking meters or tolls)

The APs involved above are a mix of 3 different APs we’ve had. All pleasant, friendly, cheerful nice ladies, Christian, church going for the most part, and in 1 case, the girl was extraordinarily frugal saving every nickel and dime although she was from a very wealthy family (granted from a fairly poor ).

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I haven’t had this happen.

My first AP used up all the guest bathroom toiletries because she’d been pouting too much to ask me to pick up more supplies for her. I was embarrassed for her because everyone knew who the culprit was as soon as our guests informed us the toiletries were missing; she just wasn’t bright enough to anticipate this happening even though we’d been talking about these guests arriving long before she raided the supplies….

Second AP went grocery shopping with my cash and left a receipt on the counter. I was annoyed about the missing $10 change, but later discovered that she’d put it in a drawer where I’d originally left the cash for her. So glad I didn’t say anything!

HRHM July 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Our first AP blatantly stole from us – I won’t dignify it by calling it pilferage. Cash back when she used the AP debit card (now no longer supplied), taking clothes, toiletries, toys and jewelry and packing them in her suitcase to take back home (90% unused with tags still on), video camera… you get the picture.

I have since wised up and with 2nd and likely 3rd AP there were no problems. With AP4, there was the gas issue, so later in the year we converted to a system where each week, I calculate how much gas she used for work travel and pay her based on the current gas price, in cash. Then, it is up to her to keep the van gassed up for both work and personal use. This only really works because we have a dedicated AP vehicle. We have used this for 4, 5 and now 6.

Tried using the petty cash box for 4 & 5 – had similar issues of the box never quite tallying up correctly, but more like 5-15 dollars off. I never (during their individual year) squared the balance, since I figured it would just keep dissapearing. Toward the middle/end of AP5’s year, I stopped using it at all and just asked her to bring me a receipt whenever she wanted to be paid back for something. I don’t ask her to shop for us but when I need her to buy a box of eggs or bread, I’ll leave her a 5 and ask for change and a receipt after. We have memberships to most everything and the kids are in school/camp full time, so there is little need for her to pay for this routinely. We will keep this method for AP6.

As for toiletries – so variable. Some have just used the girls stuff (more common when they share a bathroom, not so much now that they have their separate ones) and just last week I saw “our” sunscreen in AP5’s room again. I didn’t say anything, since she was leaving that week, but this is a frequent finding in her case.

I will say that I have become much less trusting about valuables. During AP5’s reign, my wedding set, pearl earrings and diamond studs went missing. It had to have been her (low on my list), her brother (he stayed for a week with us just prior) or one of her friends. I now keep all my jewelry in a safe…

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 2:52 pm

HMRM: for the two that blatantly stole from you, were there any warning signs or common traits that you avoid now with the benefit of hindsight? I’d be crushed if my wedding set was stolen….

HRHM July 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

So for AP1, I was a brand new HM and there were TONS of red flags that I just didn’t see and/or ignored because I tend to be a “benefit of the doubt” kind of person. She lied to us (about her first HF – rematch reasons etc), about us (to her friends and family in emails and texts), in front of us (to her friends and others), etc. She was always cleaning, even non-kid spaces/stuff and therefore, I frequently couldn’t find things. She always “needed” to buy stuff for the house and the kids. After her departure/deportation, I immediately became much more “boss-like” with our APs and let them get away with a lot less crap.

With the jewelry theft, as I said previously, I don’t actually think it was the AP. I tossed her room as soon as I found the stuff gone and there was nothing there to lead me to believe it was her. In addition, a couple days later, her mom called from Germany to verify that it wasn’t her trying to buy $2000 worth of computers – her CC was stolen as well. She was a less than stellar AP, but I don’t think a thief. My first guess was her brother, although once her CC was shown to be stolen, I think her friends are much more likely. Sadly, when you open your home to an AP, you also let in anyone she has the urge to bring in. All she had to do was go to the bathroom to put on makeup or take a shower and that would have given her friends long enough to cross the hall, open my dresser and rifle my stuff. The boxes were left behind, only the jewelry gone – easily slips into a pocket and no one is the wiser…

Taking a Computer Lunch July 14, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I haven’t had this happen – but the best revenge is not paying for the overweight luggage allowance when she gets on the plane. If her suitcase is over 70 lbs, then the airline won’t take it, and she’ll be forced to open it and remove items. I suggest taking her into the airport with a large bag – that way when she opens her suitcase you can help her by retrieving your missing items.

If this young lady is departing soon, then I suggest that her office supply allowance be eliminated immediately!

exaupair July 14, 2014 at 5:04 pm

I probably shouldn’t be laughing, but I LOVE your idea of resolving missing items problem!

HRHM July 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

The other answer is, she nas no intention of taking the stuff with her, but rather removed it from sight so she can ask for cash to replace it, then pockets the cash and puts the stuff back so it looks like she bought more. Much more likely scenerio with postits and pens…

NoVA Twin Mom July 15, 2014 at 2:13 pm

A slight twist to this idea –

When our last two good au pairs were leaving, I was in and out of their room a bit while they were packing – helping them figure out if everything would fit, helping them read our old luggage scale that has the scale on the front instead of a digital readout on the top, making suggestions about what could be mailed rather than packed, in one case bringing in empty diaper boxes to use to mail things to her extension family (she did NOT approve of using the diaper boxes, but they’re sturdy and free, so I didn’t see an issue) :). In their case we had NO problems with pilferage (we even had a “student reloadable debit card” for the last one – the previous one didn’t have one only because I didn’t know about them at the time).

If you had concerns about this type of thing, you could make excuses to go in and help pack – always knocking in advance, of course, but maybe you could knock and offer use of your luggage scale, realize that – whoa! It’s way overweight! What DO you have in here? Do you need to mail something home instead? Shoes in particular tend to weigh a lot but mail well, you know… At which point, her willingness to open her suitcase and have you help look (or not) will likely tell you something.

Maybe it’s just how my mind works, but the first thing I thought of is that it would have been SO easy for me to see what was in their suitcases by playing dumb.

Angie host mom July 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Depends on the stuff, no theft but definite added costs of another person in the house.

Pencils, pens, etc, I chalk up to another person in the house using the supplies.

Gas money I reimburse, honor system, no issues.

Food, they eat what they eat….it is what it is.

Cash? Never been a problem, if it was I would be very worried.

Kids special toiletries – I’ve caught one at this, she was embarrassed, I just asked her to buy more when she went out and told her where to do it. Again, I see this as cost of another person in the house. Yes, they are supposed to buy their own. But whatever.

NJ Mama July 14, 2014 at 6:19 pm

wow! I find caring hp’s post really disturbing.

I had one AP who was very frugal. I keep a little cash in an envelop for APs to use when needed, and they’re supposed to provide receipts. Well this AP made me a cake for my birthday, which was really sweet! but then I noticed later that she used the money in the envelop to pay for it. DH said, “Well at least she gave you the receipt!” She would also use some of my toiletries. I tolerated it because it wasn’t over the top and she was good with my kids. And for subsequent APs I put stronger language in the handbook about what they’re responsible for and what I’m responsible for paying.

I had another AP, the depressed one, who started going to Whole Foods to pick up snacks. Stupid me — I didn’t realize at first that she was using money from the envelop! I think the big reason was that she made it clear that the Whole Foods food was “hers,” and we didn’t touch it. The weird thing is that some of it was more expensive items that I buy at the grocery store (millk, apples, etc). (and it wasn’t like she ever talked about being big into organic or whatever)! So she was spending $40 for a bag with 3-4 items. Well I was pretty angry when I realized it and told her Whole Foods was on her, and it stopped. I got better at checking the envelop after that.

With the most recent one — the Bridezilla — I would notice things gone from time to time. Like all of our smaller tupperware containers disappeared. Or she would make a big show of making cookies with the kids (with the ingredients I bought) and after giving my kids 2-3 she’d take the rest to the boyfriend. It was a little annoying. My favorite story is time we were talking about how we both had dry eyes. And she showed me the eye drops she was using. And I said, “That’s funny – those are the same kind I have.” And I opened the medicine cabinet and … well it was obvious “her” eye drops were mine. She had that deer in the headlights look, and they reappeared the next day. It was odd because if she had asked I would have let her. Perhaps this was all a sign of things to come :) I’ll never know!!!! (and I swear the last bit of my small tupperware containers disappeared that week she moved out. Makes me laugh all over again!)

All that said, I would say that for the most part, my au pairs have been very honest about the money envelop. But whenever you have a bad experience you definitely start off the next time with less trust and more rules, which is a shame. It sounds like your AP went way too far. If anything it’s a reminder (for me as well) to beef up the handbook language and be explicit about what you pay for and what they pay for. And then of course you have to call them on it when you see it. It can be uncomfortable that’s for sure.

caring hp July 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Thank you all for the helpful thoughts. I also found a related old thread here that gave additional perspectives.

Dorsi July 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I will also add that of 7 APs, we have never had an issue with this. I wonder if your APs come from a certain part of the world where this would be considered acceptable behavior?

We almost never give APs cash. They rarely need money for kid related things. If for some reason they spend their own money on something (or like the other day, they give me $5 cash because we were in a pinch and I couldn’t use a credit card), I electronically pay them back. Our online banking doesn’t charge us anything to transfer money to the APs account, so I will send them their weekly stipend, and then any bits and pieces they are owed separately.

I also would argue that arranging a friend to be at the gas station to take advantage of the HPs gas card goes far beyond pilferage and into the land of stealing.

NoVA Twin Mom July 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm

For the au pair you have now – and I realize there’s a cultural avoidance of confrontation you’re going to have to work with – can you spell out for her what you have here and give her some sort of deadline? Tell her flat out (I know that’s the cultural issue :)) “I don’t want my toddler or you housebound, but I also don’t have the time/energy to give you driving lessons or travel to the DMV for your exams when there is no end in sight.”

And is the issue that she can’t pass the written portion of the test? Is the driver’s manual available in Mandarin? I know you’re not anywhere near DC, but DC’s driver’s manual does appear to be available in Chinese (not sure if it’s Mandarin though) – google DC DMV Driver Manual Chinese – would studying the rules in her own language (yes, a different state’s rules, but they’re largely the same from state to state) maybe solidify her understanding, then she can study the manual for your state in English and maybe some of it will make more sense?

Good luck to you in any case.

NoVA Twin Mom July 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm

that was supposed to be to Warm State Momma with the au pair having trouble with getting a DL, sorry. Not sure what happened with the spacing.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 2:20 pm

The written exam is no problem – it’s in standard English. The road test is the problem. The examiners are a mix of native and non-native English speakers, but the native English speakers are the ones my AP can’t understand very well. I don’t think she can ask for non-native speakers without royally offending the whole batch.

I know we need to have a talk with the AP, but I hate going into it with a list of gripes and no answers. So I’ve been procrastinating….

NoVA Twin Mom July 14, 2014 at 2:49 pm

As I”m re-reading what I said I realize that it’s SO easy for me to say since it’s not my au pair – yet I know I’d have the same problem. Good luck!

happyhostmom July 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm

I’m wondering if you could call the DMV and ask them for a Native Speaker and just explain the situation. It’s for a good reason, perhaps that is the reason she is failing. I know my AP, who is perfectly fluent in English, has hard time understanding non-native English speakers.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm

My apologies for being unclear. The problem is understanding the native speakers who don’t speak English clearly. Their slang and accents are too hard to for her to follow. She said the native speakers seem to make a jokes at her expense (she doesn’t understand them, just that people seem to be mocking her). Only the examinee is allowed in the area where they conduct the exams, so I can’t watch out for her or get a completely accurate read on what’s going on.

happyhostmom July 14, 2014 at 3:51 pm

sorry, that stinks. Wish I had more advice for you.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Maybe she should ask to take the exam with a Chinese-speaking examiner, if that’s an option.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

If you are paying for the lessons/test/whatever, then you should have the right to quiz the instructor/examiner about the driving issues and ask, “In your experience, what is the best means to correct this?” (Make them the expert and you’re more likely to get the answer you want!)

But personally, I’d stop. If she really wants to drive, then she needs to make the effort.

WarmStateMomma July 15, 2014 at 11:54 am

Relief!! AP#2 passed the driving test today. She is safe enough to get to most necessary places (not the downtown attractions or APs) where we live now and the absolute basics at the new house (pediatrician, playgrounds, grocery store, pool).

The plan is to have her drive as much as possible on the easy highway near our current house before we move, so she is ready to move on to more complicated roads next month. I think she’ll be ready to drive to the college campus near the new house by the time classes start, if not before.

I still think the bike attachment would be a good investment, for the times when I’m running errands in the second car and for when the next AP is still practicing her driving.

hOstCDmom July 15, 2014 at 11:58 am

Suggestion – give her a “assignment list” of places to drive for her practice. I’ve found when I just ask APs to go out and practice driving they don’t really know where to go/where I want them to go/end up not driving places that will be useful for them to know how to get to. I started doing this a few APs ago (for new AP, first week driving practice) and found that it really helped if I gave them a daily assignment of both places to go, and assignments of not only how to go from HOME to place A, HOME to place B, but also PLACE A to PLACE B *without coming back home*!

WarmStateMomma July 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm


This is a great idea! I will make up the list today while she’s still riding a wave of enthusiasm from passing her exam. Thanks for this idea.

happyhostmom July 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm

New Post: How do you handle when your child prefers your AP over you? My oldest has been doing this alot lately. I understand it and get it, but it can get awkward for AP and me, especially when I come from work and want to play with her and she’d rather spend time with AP. Again, we both get it and there are no issues, but not sure how to handle it.
I think alot of it stems from my younger one old demanding alot of attention and also I can’t always play with her when it’s “my time” with her, I always have to cook, clean, pay bills etc. Yes we do play but not as much as I would if I were home all the time. I know it’s not my fault and totally normal, but I feel so guilty.

WarmStateMomma July 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm

You have to separate yourselves from the AP for some one-on-one time. Go take a walk together, go to the park, spoil her dinner with a surprise trip to the ice cream place, whatever.

It feels lousy, but it will pass.

happyhostmom July 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Great idea Warm State Momma. I think we could use some one on one time, taking her out will be great. That way I won’t have the usual house distractions or little sibling distractions either. :) Thank you!

Caring HP July 14, 2014 at 4:27 pm

I almost had this happen for a while – my kids saw me/Husband as the workers (which little kids see as “BORING”) because we were the ones making lunch boxes, making their food, tidying their clothes, switching their clothes when seasons changed. They saw the AP (or back then, it was a nanny) as the FUN FUN person who would play games and paint and color with them. We changed focus and now we ask the caregiver to take care of those kid related tasks under our guidance/supervision and free ourselves up to go ‘play’ with the kids more. If you are not already asking your AP to do some of the reasonable kid related tasks you are personally doing, why not start training her to do them. As long as they are somehow kid related, its fine. She can use nap time, or other hours that are under the 45 maximum to do these tasks. You can also pick a special part of the house (the corner of a walk-in closet, or any little cubby is find and little kids love small safe spaces) and designate it as Mommy-HK’s den and put the child’s favorite books or toys there and spend some time there away from everybody. My child picked such a spot and loved to go there for Mom only time. Great memories of that tiny cubby resulted. It is hard when another adult lives in your home full time, especially if that person does not like to go out in the evening or does not travel ever on weekends. Suddenly it is hard to get HK-HM time.
We actually encourage our APs to take time away from the family (in such a way as not to make them feel unwelcome, but rather to ‘explore’ the USA and have fun and adventures) and to help them with that, we try to work the schedule to suit their weekend travel plans. The breather without the AP around gives the HK a chance to be with parents and re-bond, re-connect and re-establish the original family unit. No matter how dearly we care for certain APs it is good for the AP, and good for us/HKs to have a little break apart on a regular basis. In turn the APs return more refreshed and reengaged usually. Good luck. you sound like a busy, and great mom and HP who really cares for AP and HK. It will work out….

On another note, I recently started reading “Lean In” and the related blogs and articles about “Leaning Out” at home. That has further inspired me to carefully pick what to “lean out” from and to actually go ahead and do so. I am trying to Lean out from admin/kid chores to permit me to “lean in” more career-wise AND more importantly to gain more “face” time with my kids.

I also noticed I was never in photos with my kids – I’m always the one taking them. I generally dont like being in pictures but it is so important for kids to have photos of their mom in pics with them. A friend who was sick realized this and said that if she passed away from the particular illness (she didnt) her kids would have had very few photos of her. I tended to snap cute pics of AP and the Kids on outings but not be “in” the pics. The kids would then look back on the Pics as a day they had with the AP and little kids more easily forget that it was the woman behind the camera who made the day happen. So do a bit of PR for yourself and get in some pics with your child and print them for her and stick them up in your secret Mommy-Child place or around the house so she sees you in her life more too:) Good luck again.

happyhostmom July 15, 2014 at 9:59 am

Caring HP! Thank you for your kind words and advice! Very much needed! I love the Mommy/Kiddy cubby. I do have her do reasonable kid stuff, but I do tend to when I get home do the tidying up that’s left over, while AP plays with the kids. I also have to be better at “leaning out” of work when I am home from work and save it for later.

TexasHM July 14, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Maybe I am naive and uptight but this is shocking to me. We have not had any of these things happen and trust me, I am a control freak and would notice (maybe thats why mine haven’t done it?). We’ve had APs from Brazil and France and if anything they do lean toward the asking to use too often side of the spectrum. They chip in for gas on their own and with all 3 we have had a time where we told them no, we were getting it because they were chipping in too much!
As far as handling it I can’t help myself so I would likely ask outright. If she asks for $25 to restock all that I would ask what happened to the original stash. Change in the car missing? Ask where that went. Not psycho confrontational but confused-looking for it tone. Anything that showed malicious intent would likely cause me to meltdown. I will tolerate A LOT for an AP with a great attitude but the minute I think I can’t trust and AP she would likely be gone. Sorry!
Maybe add something to your handbook explaining that these scenarios are stealing – just trying to think the best and perhaps the APs didn’t think these things were really wrong (they are). Did you tell the LC about these (particularly with the departing APs helping themselves)? If you aren’t going to have a relationship going forward anyway I would think the least they could do is ask her to pay for what she took or if she contested, give you a hundred dollars off your next round of agency fees or something.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm

I don’t have an “envelope” or a “box.” Because DH works from home 2 days a week he can easily run to the store. So, if he ends up working in town all 5 days, sometimes we run out of things. Because he does the shopping, he has an idea of what things cost and gives the AP cash to make the purchase (usually the bread she likes or the milk The Camel needs) – and she hands back the change and the receipt. The same goes for AP things – the required pre-licensing course, the cost of the driver’s license, and the flu shot. She buys, hands us a receipt and we give her cash on the spot. We do pay for her college course up front.

In general, we do a big shop once a week and buy the foods the AP likes. DH will pad that mid-week when he restocks the house. We’ve had some issues with “borrowing” (like baking Christmas cookies with a friend – with items purchased on her dime – but using our favorite “soup leftover” container to send the friend off with cookies. How was she to know? And our having to ask, weeks later, what happened to it. It comes back.) I’ve never felt, even with the APs who have had no common sense, that pilfering was an issue.

exaupair July 14, 2014 at 5:53 pm

@caring hp, as a former AP I can honestly say that I probably “pilfered” twice or maybe three times, with o bad intentions at all. One time I remember exactly: there was a cupboard in the bathroom with toiletries and cosmetics. I wasn’t feeling very well and needed to brush my teeth but realized I run out of toothpaste. Going out to the shop was out of the question, so I simply went there and took one of the travel toothpastes, and from that day onwards I kept using that one until I finished the whole tube. I never felt guilty about it, I don’t know if anyone noticed the missing tube or not, either way no harm done.
Another time I needed to replace batteries, so I just took two from a big box full of different batteries.
There were probably few more times when I unintentionally nicked something, most certainly few pence change from shopping on the rare occasion I went to buy bread or milk.

You’ve spotted your office supplies were going missing more often than usual, and I wonder how much did the AP have to snatch for you to notice. I’m sorry to say, but either you count every pencil or she has taken few boxes of pens and the like at one go.
Petty cash is a different story, you say the AP frequently reimbursed herself for the whole receipt when she only added one or two products for herself. It is kind of annoying….however, the level of my annoyance would depend on the price whole lot, i.e. the receipt is for 5$ and APs items cost 2$, so nearly half of a relatively small amount – I would suck it up and most certainly forget about it the same day, wouldn’t go bankrupt without that fiver in my pocket anyway. On the other hand – let’s say the AP paid 50$ alltogether, but her items cost only 3$ of it, and she still reimbursed herself for the whole amount – I would absolutely confront her on it the first time it happened.

Some people just feel entitled to most items in the house (sad but true, probably cultural thing), and it’s only up to you what you’d treat as pilferage. You can give it a blind eye if the things are of relatively low value, which is what I would do. More than the items I value peace, quiet and an atmosphere without any tension, so if a bottle of shampoo or few hair bands disappeared and I discovered them among APs things I would have just let it go. No point even starting a conversation over something so insignificant.

JJ Host Mom July 14, 2014 at 11:39 pm

New post: How and when to have a reset conversation

Our au pair has been here coming up on a year now. She was great for most of the first year, but lately has been slipping. Just little things, like she’s not as attentive and short-tempered with the kids, she has stopped emptying the dishwasher even though it’s her chore, and today she spent the day scouring the malls for her clothes for her with the kids, instead of doing something that’s fun for them.

So far my husband’s been talking to her because he can be less emotional about it. She’s admitted that she’s having a hard time because her friends are all leaving, and she’s going through a bit of a depression that she says the agency warned her about and is normal. I’m willing to give her a little slack because I do understand culture shock but it’s seeming more than that. It’s been getting gradually worse for a couple of months.

In a few days we’re all going to Hawaii. Our last trip to Hawaii with an au pair was frustrating, at best, and I really don’t want to ruin the vacation by having her be mad at us the whole time, but I do need her to up her game, and I specifically want to make sure she knows that this is our vacation and that we’re paying for her to go so that she can help us relax.

What’s the best way to approach this in a calm, productive way that doesn’t lead to more stress for all of us? Any advice welcome. Thanks!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 15, 2014 at 7:10 am

Sit her down and tell her, “We’re taking you to Hawaii because you’ve been a great au pair all year. We know it’s hard to say goodbye to all your friends, and that you’re both sad and happy about the end of your year and returning home.” And then, I’d add, “But, we want to end the year on the high note and that’s going to require you to keep maintaining the same high quality of childcare that you’ve given the kids all year. Remember they love and are going to miss you as long as you continue to treat them well. We want to you to remain a member of our family forever, even when you no longer live with us.”

I would set her schedule in Hawaii before you leave, telling her that you will be flexible to accommodate last-minute requests on her part if she also provides the same flexibility. We’ve talked about bringing au pairs on vacations on other threads. Tell her “This is my vacation, it is not your vacation. You are working. We will make sure you have free time to explore and down time away from the kids, but we expect you to work.” Make it clear to her that even if she joins you in family activities when she’s off, she’s still off and not expected to provide childcare (if she’s a truly great au pair, she’ll continue to help), but when she’s on – even if you are there – she’s the adult in charge. In my experience, APs don’t do a lot of pre-trip planning, and while that can lead to lovely discoveries, sit down and tell her about the activities that are available near your hotel, public transportation. Purchase a copy of Let’s Go Hawaii, which is aimed at young adults on a budget. Help her figure out what places are accessible from your hotel. Remember, even if it’s not her vacation, it’s probably the only time in her life that’s she going to Hawaii.

The last month in an au pair’s life is an emotional rollercoaster. Friends leave – and even if they’re from the same country, she may not see them much again. If she’s always lived in the same place, she may not have experienced the short-term intense relationships of young adulthood before. The farewells are distressing. The minute you sense the quality of childcare is off-kilter, have a chat. Great au pairs will reset their attitude, mediocre ones will require constant job coaching until they get on the plane.

JJ Host Mom July 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Thank you for your reply TACL. It helped me get some distance from the situation and have a chat with her this morning. It went okay… could have gone better. She got defensive and (rightly) accused me of being critical lately. I hope my request that she approach the job in a more professional way sunk in despite her reaction. Somehow whenever I approach a tough topic with any au pair it turns fraught. I don’t know if that’s just how these conversations go or if there’s something about my personality or approach that just doesn’t work, or if au pairs and host moms are generally like oil and water. She does better with host dad conversations but nothing really changes after those either so…

I realized I forgot to say that she’s actually staying for another year. So I need her to up her game long-term.

TexasHM July 15, 2014 at 3:25 pm

JJ Host Mom I SO feel for you right now but I had to chime in – we had a similar experience, awesome AP lost steam at the end of the year, friends leaving, homesickness and next thing I knew we were in rematch. I would highly suggest (especially considering you and HDs reset conversations have not squashed it) that you consider calling it quits when her first year is up or do like we did – pick a date 60-90 days out and start interviewing for next AP immediately. Although I will say, our AP did her job and bent over backwards to help us accommodate. Ironically, we ended up in rematch because her dad was rushed to the hospital and they weren’t sure he would make it so she left about 9 days later (earliest agency would give her a ticket) so likely would have ended early regardless but her heart just wasn’t in it anymore even though she was doing a great job.
Being short tempered with my kids and spending all day at the mall would be a direct to rematch mediation conversation for us. As others have said – an AP is here to support you and make life easier, this one is not and we found our rockstar AP in rematch about to be sent home by the agency so there are awesome APs out there with enthusiasm for the job and eager to find an awesome family like yours. She can’t cope and thats unfortunate but also not your doing. The fact that she didn’t immediately apologize and give 200% tells me that its not going to get better. I wish you the best of luck.

JJ Host Mom July 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Sigh. I really really don’t want to rematch. We’ve been through so many of them and this au pair is so much better than the others we’ve had. I think, like you said, she’s just lost steam. The question is really whether she can/will rally.

I will just continue to keep everything crossed that things will work out. I want so badly to believe in the au pair program, and it’s so great when it works out. But I am utterly baffled as to what to do when it’s not going so well.

Multitasking Host Mom July 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm

I do have to second the above comment. We had a fabulous AP and we were beyond thrilled when she extended. By month 13 she started to loose steam. A lot of it was personal…her friends had all left by then and she couldn’t seem to get the strength to put in the effort to make new ones…this lead to a few weeks of questioning what direction her life was going in….which lead to a lot of complaining and an irritated attitude. She was gone within three months of her extension date. It makes me really regret that the extension occurred because instead of ending when we still thought she was a great AP, I now look back and think about how disappointing it all was that it ended like it did.
I know that there are extension APs that are great. But I worry you are starting to see some warning signs from your AP. If there is still a chance, my advice would be to cancel the extention with her. As the saying goes…Quit while you are still ahead.

NJmama July 15, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Things started going badly for us with our Brazilian au pair not when she first got engaged – but weeks later, once she started her extension period. I had recently found this blog and read about the reset convo and decided I needed to do one. But at that point she was so quick to disappear whenever I or DH got home, and of course she was gone all weekend until late Sunday when we were usually going to bed.

So…. That and because I tend to talk too fast, and her English wasn’t great, and in general I’m better when I put some thought into things and write them down, I wrote a carefully worded email that I sent to her when I sent the weekly schedule on Sunday. It was all very “now that summer is approaching I want to remind you about how the schedule will change (fewer hours overall but starting and ending later in the evenings); the weeks will go by quickly and I want to ensure that you end your time with us with the same enthusiasm as when you started; and that includes remembering to do X, Y and Z (things like putting dishes away before she left for the night – little things that were starting to add up and bug me).

She got very offended, and at the time I thought I had screwed up by not doing the reset in person. This was about the time that I TexasHM started encouraging me to cut ties and move quickly with a match. But as you know I listened to about half of her great advice. In retrospect I think it would not have mattered if I had the reset convo in person. I think if she had been committed to us then things would have improved at least a little and she would have finished her commitment. I think maybe if yours doesn’t turn around you may have a very long extension before you. Definitely bring in your area director if you haven’t already. I completely feel your pain about having AP issues and not wanting to go through another match – that was a big reason why we extended. But if things don’t improve soon you may be headed there anyway.

Angie host mom July 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Two ways to do this = directly or indirectly.

Directly, tell her to get her game back on.

Indirectly, start stepping in more (which drives APs crazy) and scheduling things for her to do with your kids at more of a micro-manager level. Tell her you figured she needs your help with planning since she took the kids to the Mall shopping she doesn’t have better ideas since she’s feeling depressed. Set her daily schedule for a week or two. An au pair who can manage herself and the kids well but who is just slumping will be driven mad by a hm who is a micro-manager. If she complains, just let her know you are ok with backing down as long as she shows she can manage the schedule herself.

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