Rematch? You vote yes or no….

by cv harquail on May 25, 2009

When I saw this comment pop up earlier tonight, it reminded me of the story that we just discussed… so many similar issues. So I have an idea– let’s take a vote on whether or not this mom should insist on a rematch. Then, let’s give this mom some ideas about what to tell her LCC….

This will be long, so I’ll post the story, then the poll. In the comments, go ahead and give some specific advice if you’d like. Here we go:

Hi — I have two children 8 and 10. This is my first au pair from Germany. She has been here 5 months. At the beginning she was homesick and wanted to leave. I sort of had to be her mother figure to turn the situation around. Not exactly what I had planned for. I wasn’t looking for another child, just someone to take care of my kids and hopefully have a cultural influence.

sign reality check ahead.jpg To make a very long story short, now everything is about her and not about my family. If I tell her something must be done before she finishes for the day, she either has an attitude about how I am ruining her life because she had plans, or crying, or door slamming or something. If I insist that she finishes up before leaving, then I have to go back and fix everything because it is an unacceptable job and she knows better. It is only getting worse.

Today, she told me that she HAD to have the day off. I told her that my husband was away and that I had plans. I rarely get a day off from work. She cried and told me that she couldn’t possibility work because she had a bad headache. I had to make an appointment with the doctor immediately. Then her mother called yelling at me that I was making her daughter sick. Her work schedule is about 30 hours per week. She never is willing to work a weekend because she always has plans and says the kids can stay by themselves.

My coordinator keeps telling me to work with her. This is a cultural experience. Am I wrong to believe that she is working for me and my needs should come first. I am a very giving person and have a very hard time saying no, but I have reached my limit. I feel like I am working for her. How should I handle this mess?

I have a very high level executive position and I would never let a person that works for me do this, but this program has me very confused. Is she an employee? She doesn’t think so. Or is she a family member that can do what she pleases and I have to put up with it. How do you balance this? She is really upsetting my kids who will no longer listen to her. I really can’t blame them.

Also, is eating including in the hours works. She will get up in the morning and instead of making the kids breakfast, she will sit down and make herself breakfast and eat it. I am running around trying to get out the door and she feels I should feed the kids. I told her that she need to eat before she was on duty, but she informed me that she was told that she started the day with her having breakfast and it was included in the hours. This is same with lunch and dinner. She won’t eat with the kids and then I have to feed them when I get home from work. I told her to get up earlier, etc. but she said NO. This is the way it works and what all of her friends do. I find this very hard to believe. My kids are not being fed properly. Is this right??????

Is she allowed to work when the kids are not home? She said that she was told that she can only work when the kids are home. So she does the laundry when the kids are home from school instead of helping with homework. Is this true? I thought with the extra hours (15 hours) she could straighten up and do laundry before the kids came home from school so all the time could be devoted to kids activities. What do you all do?

Parents, you vote. (you can chose more than one answer.)

Should this Host Mom insist on a Rematch?

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What should this host mom say to her LCC (and herself) to make this rematch happen?

{ 27 comments }

Corinna May 26, 2009 at 5:50 am

Oh my gosh…That is awful, seriously….. Of course she is allowed to do the laundry while the kids are at school and of course she has to eat her breakfast before she starts working. She is with you to take care of the kids and not that you have a third children. I was an au pair before and I NEVER did laundry while the kids were at home and I wouldn’t even think about it to eat breakfast while my hostmum takes care for the kids breakfast. I can’t imagine that all of her friends are doing the same. The au pair that came after me she was a little bit like your au pair, not that she ate breakfast while she was on duty but when she started working in the morning she woke the kids up, she dressed the little one and then she sat down and waited until it was time to go, didn’t do anything else like making breakfast, watch that they bursh their teeth and she didn’t really care about the kids so I can tell you she wasn’t there for a really long time….
I would try to talk to her one last time and give her like 2 weeks and if things doesn’t change…Rematch.

Good Luck!

Anna May 26, 2009 at 8:22 am

I think 5 months is a long enough time for giving chances.
I would rematch, and I guarantee it that no other family that is not new to the program would tolerate what you did for so long. If she is going to find another family, she is not going to last long with them

Calif Mom May 26, 2009 at 9:19 am

Congratulations, you’ve ended up with a princess, a special subset of self-delusional young women who think they have what it takes to have a wonderful au pair year, but tuned out anything they might have been told about working during their au pair year.

I’m sorry, did you say HER MOTHER called you?! As my 9 yo would say “Whatever!” with a big ol’ eye roll.

I have made the same mistake and ended up with two princesses in my hosting career. One lasted about 3 months, the other 4.

The meta problem is the agency recruitment materials emphasize that the au pair year is all about the girls — they will learn English, study, and travel (usually to the Grand Canyon, which I’ve been to several times personally but hello, people, it’s in the middle of nowhere! apologies to any hosts in Vegas area, but come on, it’s even a schlep for you!). But I digress.

So, because of these recruitment materials and the diversity of maturity levels in young women who are interested in pursuing this au pair idea, you can end up with these girls who just sort of tune out all the messages about caring for kids, having to actually work. But they are smart enough to have decent English and tell you the right answers during the interviews.

None of this helps you now, though, except that I feel your pain. Having pleaded with one of these princesses to stay with us because I really couldn’t bear the thought of rematching and ended up convincing her to stay about another month, I have a word from the wise: don’t prolong the agony. You have set expectations, you are not seeing results. This type of au pair is NOT going to adjust her expectations or suddenly see the light. She might do better with younger kids, or maybe just one kid. Or maybe going back home (but that won’t happen, she has too much fun ahead of her and her mom says it’s not her fault anyway).

And I totally understand about your kids too — this situation is tough with older kids, and of course you don’t blame them for not listening to this whining, negative person. So they start to subvert things, too. This one sounds like a bad substitute teacher who has no power and just lashes out. And all of that mishegoss just makes the whole thing worse. She’s the type who is NOT going to deal well with the added hours and sibling issues that come along with summer schedules! Unless you’ve got the kids booked back-to-back in camps, this is going to get even uglier. Even if you do have the kids booked, it’s going to get uglier.

Send her packing. If you can, you might be able to schedule yourself a break without any au pair at all before the new one starts, and give all of you a little breather before starting over.

Personally, I think rematch is a great way to find an au pair who can deal with your family — and I insist on meeting candidates in our metro area so we can interview them in person. Warts and all, for them and for us. There are harder-working girls out there.

Best of luck! This is not a fun way to end the school year…

Anonymous May 26, 2009 at 9:20 am

This is one reason I prefer 2nd yr or ext. au pairs. I know they are not homesick because they have chosen to stay another year and I have the ability to talk to their previous host family. They also seem to understand this is a job first. We have been lucky going this route so far.

I would tell your LCC that you ARE going to rematch now! Your au pair has had enough time to “change.” Start the ball rolling for your next au pair. This is a good time of year because in the summertime, the pool seems to be bigger. Good luck but move forward! Also in rematch talk to the previous host family, if possible, or consider a 2nd yr au pair. They can be placed pretty quickly too.

Calif Mom May 26, 2009 at 9:33 am

As for what to say to the agency: “I’m done. We’ve tried. I’m an executive, I know how to manage staff, and she is not meeting expectations, even substantially lowered ones. What needs to happen next to find us a replacement and get her out of here?”

Don’t open yourself to any more “trying”. If your counselor still pushes back, be firm and let her know you’re happy to call corporate and explain why if she needs you to (pretend you don’t realize that that would be a really bad phone call for the counselor if you were to make it). The counselor will usually stop talking about “have a conversation with her” at that point. The counselors don’t look good if unhappy hosts call corporate, but some of them are pretty lame and just don’t get it until you spell it out for them.

cynthia May 26, 2009 at 9:46 am

If your LCC is not working to get this horrible excuse for an au pair out of your home, I’d suggest threatening and if nothing happens, following through with changing agencies. You have to be feel secure that you’re going to be backed up and supported with your next au pair as well. I’d definitely give this girl the boot as soon as possible! They are supposed to be a part of the family, but you don’t pay your family members – she is in fact your employee and like you said, you’d never allow an employee to behave this way. She has had no consequences to her actions, I’d certainly ensure no one else go this girl either!

Anonymous May 26, 2009 at 10:08 am

Rematch now. You should not have had to endure this for 5 months. If your LCC keeps insisting you “work on it”, go above her head and demand the agency put you in to rematch immediately. We went through a similar thing in our cluster (not our family, a different family), where the AP was engaging in similar behaviors – crying, throwing fits, hiding out in her room, and even hit one of the kids. The family begged our LCC to rematch, and she kept saying “work on it, work on it, work on it”. They finally dropped completely out of the program and hired a local nanny, forfeiting the remainder of their agency fees. What is the deal with these LCCs that do this? Clearly you’ve tried, given it your best, and it hasn’t worked. I wouldn’t hestitate for a second to contact your agency directly and tell them “NO MORE”.

Emma May 26, 2009 at 11:03 am

” Or is she a family member that can do what she pleases and I have to put up with it.”

If your child acted this way would you put up with it? Or tell them to get their act together and get their chores done?

(I had more written after this but I found I was just being redundant with the posts above. I agree with everyone above me, for the most part.)

Anne May 26, 2009 at 11:42 am

At this point I think the issue is between you and your LCC, because there’s no point in trying anymore with your au pair: this au pair is not cut out to take care of children (or even herself!).
You say you would never let an employee act like the au pair does: it’s time to treat the LCC like an employee. You paid the agency lots of money and I think they owe you their services.

PA Mom May 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm

A little good news – many au pairs are NOTHING like the young “lady” you describe. We’ve had 4 APs, all with different levels of maturity in different areas of life, but with only one exception all helped and all had something special about them that provided something to our family that I wouldn’t trade. This AP needs to go elsewhere and let her parents deal with her the rest of their lives – sounds like they are going to have to. A hint on rematching – we’ve found that APs with siblings (same age and/or younger) are most flexible with the kids. If you can get them to talk about their family – try and sound out their sibling relationships – did they argue, what did she learn from it, etc. One of our APs had remarried parents and the AP learned tons from being around her younger siblings and it was invaluable when shared with us. She really helped me understand “sister” relationships and had a real pulse on pre-teen girls. Also make sure you have someone who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty as you might say. Even the APs raised with live in help have been marvelous (my surprise) so long as you find someone who lives life without expection of being a princess and who knows what needs to be done and understands that it’s her role to keep you afloat. I wouldn’t part with my current AP for all the tea in China or the world for that matter. Good luck and listen to the candidates and their emails – they tell you a lot about their personality.

Anonymous May 26, 2009 at 1:23 pm

This sounds exactly like my au pair!! She is also from Germany. She was told that this was a cultural experience and that she would be part of our family. This apparently means that she doesn’t really have to work but should be enjoying America. She needs all American holidays off so she can experience them. Her needs are always first. We spent so much time interviewing and talking to her before she came. She had the perfect answers to all the questions.
She has finally admitted that they told her how to answer the questions. Our lives are so busy and we can’t have a disruption in child care now. Every week is a challenge. I think about requesting a rematch, but it is so much work and from reading this blog, I might even end up with someone that is worse. I don’t believe the au pairs are really being told what is expected. I have talk to several other au pair moms that all have the same complaint. I asked what they teach you in au pair school and she said nothing, just stuff about babies. My agency fees include a week of school. I would hope that they would be setting the right expectations. Does anyone know about this? At the first meeting with the LCC, she spoke a lot of about all the things the AP could do while she was here and the meetings that they have. She asked if she read the handbook and some standard questions off a form. What is your experience?

mama May 26, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Just remember – The au pair is in your home to make your life easier. This behaviour is ridiculous. I know you are desparate to have the situation covered, and that rematching will be a total pain. But do it for your family and your sanity.
And I would definitely involve national regarding the LCC. Do it quickly – Our agency says you can’t rematch after 6 months or something to that effect.
Good luck.

RI mom May 26, 2009 at 3:10 pm

My au pair is also from Germany. While she is nothing like this one, she also does not want to work hard or get engaged with the kids. She is not good on details, and our life is all about details.

My job required me to work Memorial Day weekend–Sat and Sunday. She asked me if she was needed Monday–since it was a holiday. It didn’t occur to her that I had just worked 7 days straight, and was looking for her to cover the kids for a few hours so I could relax briefly.

In my experience, avoid the age 19 or 20 Western European girl. They are not here to meet the needs of an American family. The agencies do not prepare them for the amount of work they will need to do or the demands upon them. Then the agencies market au pairs as the most cost-effective childcare, even though many are just not aware of the responsibilities they will have.

Darthastewart May 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm

This sounds like my first au-pair.. Keep trying, keep trying, keep trying.. ARGH. NO MORE. Never again!
My suggestion is that you find backup care locally- nanny agency, babysitting agency, after school care, whatever you need to have coverage while you look for something better. Then drop the boom, and get her out of your house.
I’ve had au-pairs for almost 11 years now, and it’s only very recently that we’ve gotten our ducks in a row, and have reliable backup plans – it’s quite the sanity saver.
Good luck.

Calif Mom May 26, 2009 at 4:29 pm

As for back-up plans — now is a great time to find a local college student desperate for cash and with time on her hands. Look for job boards at the local universities’ websites, often through the associated student body rather than the main school website. I’ve had great luck with that.

Bruna May 26, 2009 at 6:51 pm

I’ve been an au pair and can I just say this is ridiculous. Just kick her out of your house. I wouldn’t trust my kids (not that I have them but anyways…) with such a lazy, unrespectful person.
Just to help you on the work thing, I never did laundry while the kids were home, and I always had breakfast WITH them, but AFTER I got them whatever they wanted to eat. Simple as that.
Good luck. Seriously.

Mom of 2 Girls May 26, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Precisely, Bruna. The kids’ needs are met first, and the fact that you ate breakfast with them is wonderful. It kind of lets everyone ease into the day, get ready for whatever the routine will be, and helps reinforce that mealtime is for being together as a family. When the kids awaken at 6:30 or 7, we can’t expect them to wait until the au pair starts at 7:45 for them to eat breakfast (one leaves for school at that time) but it’s becoming annoying that our feels she’s entitled to a leisurely breakfast when she starts duty, leaving the younger one to fend for herself. It’s in our handbook, that you need to be ready to start at the scheduled time, and we expect you to get up and eat breakfast before then – our previous two au pairs did not have any problem with this, but we just can’t seem to get the point across to this one. I’m tryng to let this go, and focus on other things which are more blatant infractions of the rules, but it irks me because in real life, you don’t get to go to your job and then eat breakfast while you’re on the clock!

sunnyvah May 27, 2009 at 4:47 am

I´m very sorry you ended up with such an immature au pair. And I can absolutely understand that you want to rematch. But just to be fair I think you should tell her: “We love the idea of you as our family member, as this is special about the au pair programm BUT you´ re here to work for us and make our lives easier. That´ s why we pay you. So i need x,y,z to be changed. If you´ re not able to help us the way we need- I ´ m sorry but I think then we need to rematch.” I know a lot of people here said that you shouldn´ t try and try again and I think it is right that you shouldn´ t make any more compromises, but I´m always for the “last warning”. Maybe she doesn´ t realize HOW bad her behaviour is (and it seems like she´ s not the most self- reflecting person…) So she should know that you´ re not going to take this any more. Maybe that´ s just my opinion but as I made the experience of being in a host family who just couldn´ t tell me what they dislike (and i always told them that I can´´ t read minds and that I don´ t think I´ m perfect…), I feel like open talks (you know- the rude german side in me ;) ) are the best you can do in difficult times. Also if that may lead to a rematch (which you should do right away if she doesn´ t change), but at least you gave her one last shot.

Greg May 27, 2009 at 8:30 am

I have older kids too. I think they present a little different challenge to start with – especially when they are busy. I also had very similar challenges. My kids would get home from school, and instead of letting them do their homework, the AP would take them grocery shopping – something I gave her on duty hrs for when the kids weren’t around. And for some reason she had to grocery shop every day. I’m now looking for my 2nd rematch for similar circumstances. The first (18) couldn’t handle my kids (ages 9-13) plus the shopping thing and the 2nd lied about her ability to drive. I’m pretty frustrated with the whole program and am looking into other alternatives.

Susanne May 27, 2009 at 11:32 am

I’m really sorry that you ended up with such an au pair, and I also think you should rematch. Her behaviour is just ridiculous from my point of view. Of course she can be required to do laundry, chores, etc. when the kids aren’t home, as long as it doesn’t exceed her 45 hours.

I would just like to ask everyone not to succumb to stereotypes, e.g. start avoiding all au pairs under 20 in general.
I’m German myself, I was just 19 years old in 2007 when I came to the US as an au pair, and would NEVER EVER behave like the girl you’re describing. It never even occured to me to postpone breakfast until I’m on duty, not eat lunch with the kids, wanting every holiday off and everything else that you described. This is immature and really “princess” behaviour which I would not tolerate anymore.

I also think your au pair is lacking a lot concerning good manners… I would always help out when some extra help was needed, do chores that weren’t actually my duty and work a little overtime if the parents were late. For me, all this goes without saying! I wanted to be a family member, so of course I have to behave like a family member, help out when needed, treat everyone with respect and compromise if things don’t work the way I want them.

My hostfamily had never had any au pairs younger than 23 or so, but they liked me a lot on the phone so they took the chance, and they never regretted it. On the contrary, we have had and still have a absolutely wonderful relationship. I will always be like a true family member to them and have a second home in California.

Calif Mom May 28, 2009 at 9:34 am

Greg– sorry you’re dealing with less than stellar au pairs. Been there! Maybe with the current economy it’s easier to find a high quality alternative, and your school may have before/after care, so all best wishes if you do decide to go that route. For my kids, even as they get older I think they do better when they have someone who is looking out for them, rather than being in another group of kids. I also think that excellent au pairs are out there, and that the key to finding them is in spending a lot of time on the selection process; figuring out your must-haves and how to really dig down and uncover those traits. I’m disheartened but not surprised by the AP who posted elsewhere this week that the agency had told her how to reply to parents.

I’m going to be launching our next search very differently from how I’ve done it in the past, using tips from this community. I’m “0-fer” on choosing first-time au pairs and find it odd, but take a certain pride in my ability to manage and select rematches! :-) My lemonade recipe, I guess.

I think another problem with older kids is that they are smart and have more experience with au pairs and other sitters through the years — experience enough to subvert your agenda for the day. You know how hard it is to say no to the kids all the time, and I think they wear down/charm the au pair into not doing what Parent has instructed. I found my eldest has been making her own frappuccinos after school and calling it a decent snack. (Not with coffee, TG!) No wonder homework wasn’t getting done and she was falling apart by the time I walked in the house. She was on a sugar crash. Hmm. Has anyone tried a behavior chart with their au pair?! ;-) If the kid finishes homework before Parent gets home, au pair gets a shiny gold star? I’m totally kidding, au pairs, but sometimes that how it feels to us parents. We just need certain things to actually get DONE on a regular basis. Otherwise we’re up at 11 p.m. doing it. And we’re tired.

I’m a delegator by nature, Greg, which works against me when it comes to APs. I have been working on becoming more directive, and I do think that explicit directions in writing along with a regular time for what amounts to a staff meeting are really helping me tighten up the operation here on the home front. Yes it takes more of my energy and focus up front, but the smaller pile of niggling little frustrations is worth it. My AP is happier, too. (Note to self: remember to write out that list of approved TV shows she asked me for…)

Susanne– Amen! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a host (there are many, but this is a big one) it’s that age does not equal maturity. Two of the biggest whining, self-oriented, fast-tracked-to-rematch APs we’ve had were both 25 or so. And I have friends who have hosted 19 year olds who were salt of the earth. As they say, YMMV.

Deb Goetz - LCC with AuPairCare May 28, 2009 at 9:33 pm

My hair was standing up on the back of my neck as I read this one! If this au pair was in my group I’d sit her down and have a nice long chat about what it means to be an au pair and get her on track with what the au pair program is all about and how it works. It is first and foremost a J-O-B! I’m shocked to hear that this host family’s LCC would be telling them to keep working with her. I know there is often another side to the story but PUH-LEEZ! If this au pair has such a disrespectful attitude I’m afraid the writing is on the wall and the family needs to move on and make a change a.s.a.p. If this situation was taking place in my agency (AuPairCare) I would advise the family to make a change before they hit the 6 month mark in their program year so that they would qualify for a free replacement au pair.

Clara June 4, 2009 at 11:38 am

OMG. There is no excuse this behavior — by the host or the au pair. After one sit-down talk, if this attitude continued, the au pair should be gone. I’m a veteran of 9 successful au pairs and 2 rematches — and none of them ever had this kind of attitude. I attribute that to the interview process. My husband and I — and sometimes even the current au pair — have conversations during the interview process with the applicant. I’ve never accepted an app without having had at least 2 hours of conversations with her over a period of a few days. And I’m very clear what the schedule is, what the expectations are. And when language is a barrier, I get the au pair (we only use French aupairs) on the phone to translate for me. I give her “what if” situations: what if you don’t like getting up at 6:30 to work, how will you handle that? What if you suddenly have friends leaving town early Friday for a weekend jaunt and you know I work that day? We go thru a bunch of potential problem areas. She’ll get a strong does of the expectations right there. I also have a 10-page guide to responsibilities that I’ve written and that has grown over the years and I rquire the au pair to look at it ahead of time before we match. Also: I’ve caught some bad ones through the process of calling references. I call all 3 references, always, and I get a translator to help if I can’t do it myself. Amazingly, they aren’t all p.r. people and they do give you some honest answers (like the smoking habit denied by app, like the boyfriend the app says she doesn have, like the arguments they had when she babysat for them, etc). And another resource is the agency person who does the interview in-country with the applicant. Their name and number is on the application — and I call them, if I have any doubts about what they’ve said in the app. This has all worked for me. And I hope you don’t give up on au pairs because of this one experience — you can avoid this kind of disaster by doing the upfront interview work.

AnnaAuPair June 4, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Every time I read stories about Au Pairs like this I can just shake my head and wonder where they get their information from!!?????
@ Clara: I like it, that you adress the “potential problem areas” right in the beginning. For me it’s crystal clear, that if I have to work at 6.30 that I have to work then and if my friends go out and my hostmom has to work then I am working – that’s what I am here for!!! But apparently there really are Au Pairs out there who think they can do what ever they want to – this is after all a job!!!!! Sure, there is the family-part – but foremost we come over here to work and make our hostfamilies live easier and not harder ^^

Mom of 2 Girls June 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Thank you, AnnaAuPair, for stating what so many seem to forget:
“We come over here to work and make our host families’ lives easier, not harder.” I wish more AuPairs “got” this basic premise of the program!

CV June 5, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I note that, of the 112 people who voted as of today, only 1 said “give it a few more weeks”. Hmmm.
I’d love to hear how this situation turned out… mom, wanna fill us in?

Francielle Silva February 12, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I am looking for a new host family. I had some problems in this and its not my fault… They love me and I love they too… If some family is intereted PLEASE contact me and you can call to my host families and ask them about me. fran_hondjakoff@yahoo.com.br

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