Selling Our House: How do we show the Au Pair Room to Buyers?

by cv harquail on April 14, 2015

(Part of a series on Moving With Your Au Pair)

When your family is selling your house, everyone has to pitch in to make the sale as easy as possible.

PANews BT_P-e92957a3-131d-4970-96de-53105df34f5e_I1This means

– being on their best ‘pick up after yourself’ behavior,
– being ready to dash out and stay out at a moment’s notice,  and even- paring down the stuff on the shelves and in the closets so that it looks like there’s a LOT of storage space.

Your au pair is likely to be completely willing to do her/his best to help the house sell. Still, it will be  it extra work for your au pair to keep the house (especially the kids’ rooms) buyer-ready.

It’s not just asking your au pair to keep her/his room really clean — it’s also helping him/her feel comfortable about somebody else ‘inspecting’ the room, snooping in the closet, and testing whether each and every window opens and shuts.

And what do you do if your au pair isn’t home, and the realtor calls wanting to ‘drop by’ with a potential buyer?

Asks PlanningAheadHM

When other Host Families have been preparing to move, how have they handled showing a house with an au pair?

With our current AP, we are very respectful of her privacy, and don’t care too much about how clean (or not) she keeps her room. But now that we’ll be showing our house, the AP room needs to be clean on a moment’s notice.

It might even feel like an invasion of our Au Pair’s privacy, since there will be realtors and strangers looking at the room.

Families, if you’ve managed a move while you’ve been hosting an au pair, how did you handle this?

Au Pairs, what would help you feel more comfortable with the idea of strangers tromping around your room?


[[ This is the first of several posts about Moving With An Au Pair.  If you have comments that go off this particular part of the topic, I’ll likely hold them for the next post.  Let me know if there are other features of Moving With An Au Pair that you’d like me to include. ~ cv ]]


Sustaining Your Au Pair’s Privacy When You Enter Her Room Without Notice

We’re moving, and must rematch. How soon do we tell our au pair?


Gretchen April 14, 2015 at 8:43 pm

We are actually trying to sell our house right now. We explained the process to her and I helped her organize her room and bathroom. We also arranged for a “detail crew” to come in and do a through deep-clean of the whole house and cleaners also come once per week to keep it extremely clean.

She has been very flexible and adaptable and loves that when we have to vacate the house quickly, we generally end up at the Starbuck’s a couple of blocks away! Where we buy everyone the drink of their choice until we get the all-clear to go home.

She is also fascinated with the home-selling process in the U.S. Where she comes from (Germany), people tend to buy a house and then live there for decades until they move out to a nursing home. Therefore, how the house looks doesn’t matter that much. Germans expect when they buy a house that they will need to do a complete renovation of every room. Location and size is all that matters. She watched in amazement when the professional decorator came to “stage” the house!

Right now it’s been on the market about a week. Fingers crossed it sells soon! Then we can begin the “Next Stage” of moving with an au pair!

German Au-Pair April 15, 2015 at 5:57 pm

A bit OT but I would like to add a “hell yes” to this. A friend recently bought a house in the US and I was so confused because just recently she’d said that she could totally imagine moving to Europe in the not tooo distant future. So I asked her about it and she just goes “Yeah sure, I can just sell it again then.” Blew my mind. We work towards buying or maybe even buildung a house for a long time and then only do so when we’ve found a place to settle.
However, our houses are made of stone so I guess they might be more expensive to build and you’d be hard pressed to find a one-story (or even two-story) house in my area. I’m not sure I have even seen a one-story house in Germany. So when you buy a house, it means buying one hell of a house (even if it’s a modest one) and I guess that makes a different. I cannot see someone single just buying a house here….

SwissAuPair April 15, 2015 at 3:31 am

My HMs Parents sold their house why I was AP and I was surprised the same way as your AP is :)
I knew that US-People hire professional decorators to make the house look nice and bigger and and and… But I thought that only “rich” people need them and was surprised when I saw the result! Before it was a “typical” old people house: stuffed with Heavy dark furniture, “old people smell”,.. and the result was so great that I would have bought the house immediately! But then again, when the decorator moved out all of “his” furniture I was like “meeeh”.
I realised that it must be very hard for americans to buy a new house. Everything looks just perfect when you go to see it and that it need a big ammount of self-control to not just say „yes, that is it!”.

I’m not a 100% sure about the price for a “average house” in the US, but here in Switzerland prices for a really basic house with nothing fancy in it (in a rural area with cheap ground) start at 400‘000$! Nevertheless, you have a solid house with a basement and all concrete or brick-walls. I did not saw many houses in the US that were as solid as Swiss/German houses are. So maybe that is why we live there for like forever. My parents live in their grandparents’ house. The house is over 120 years old and of course we did some renovation but it is still a great house.

Gretchen April 15, 2015 at 3:51 pm

We actually used to live in Switzerland (Thalwil in Kanton Zürich)! It is a very different housing market over there. In our former community, houses “sat” on the market for a couple of days before being sold. And most of them were tear downs. They were often purchased solely for the lot size and location! How the house looked didn’t matter at all. Frequently the biggest issue was working with an architect to maximize your new view of the lake, city and mountains without blocking your neighbors view enough for them to lodge a complaint against the construction!

SwissAuPair April 16, 2015 at 12:30 am

I work in the Construction sector and I totally agree. But Zürich-Area, specially the “gold-coast” (expensive villages around lake-zurich with lake-view from almost every house) is very different from the other parts of Switzerland. In Zurich they want to buy the ground, not the house, and as you might know, the ground in Zurich can be way more expensive than the house on it :)

Gretchen April 16, 2015 at 10:21 am

Truth! Zürich real estate is crazy! You cannot but anything for under 1 million chf! If if you want to actually live in it, expect to pay upwards of 2 million!

But hey, on the plus side, not many people can say George Clooney was their neighbor, even if it was a house he only used sometimes! It was still only a five minute walk from our (rented!) apartment.

spanishaupair April 15, 2015 at 3:56 am

I think you just need to be upfront and explain it to your aupair, she should understand it and even as mentioned above in other posts she gets excited as its something new for her.

In Spain we dont change houses often neither.

AuPair Paris April 15, 2015 at 4:13 am

Oof, that would be hard for me. I do a deep-clean of my room once a week, on Sunday, but I am so messy that by the time it gets to Sunday, there are art supplies and kids’ toys lying out, and my clothes all over the place. It’s one of the areas in which the HPs and I are flexible with one another – they know I do my best, and I never let my mess migrate out of my room… And they turn a blind eye to a door closed on a room that I know is not at its best…

I guess the main thing is total blunt honesty. Just tell the AP that you’re selling the house – that it’ll involve absolute cleanliness – for her and the kids, and detail the things she can do to help. If you state it as a request for help, rather than a whole bunch of new rules it should go down well – and you can avoid the whole “it’s not required, so…” by setting a date. For example: “We are really grateful for your help with this, and we wondered if instead of running errands with the kids on Wednesday, you could help them pack some of their things into storage to create the impression of space – and do yours at the same time!”

Plus, yeah, providing a place to *go* if the AP needs to be out of the house at short notice. My friends here live a while away, and I couldn’t just impose on them at short notice. So if the HF didn’t, I don’t know… Drive the family to a relative’s house to spend time with the cousins, or go to Starbucks or a café, or whatever, I’d be stuck either spending my own money on a drink, or sitting outside somewhere, getting cold.

Also, give as much notice as possible. If you have five minutes to get out, you have five minutes to get out, obviously… But if you have fifteen, tell the AP straight away – she can pick up a book, and do a quick surface clutter clean up, if it’s not already pristine?

It’s not a fun situation for anyone, so I guess just make it clear to the AP that you’re all in it together. Also, maybe try to have patience, knowing that, though it’s hard for you guys too, you will benefit from the house selling well, whereas the AP won’t – so she’s dealing with the same inconveniences from affection and a sense of duty… Just… Be nice about it, I guess?

Nordic aupair April 15, 2015 at 7:11 am

When I was au pair in previous family, the host parents were divorcing and selling house while I was staying with them. Terrible experience don’t let me start on it.

The process in country where I am staying is I think quite similar to US, everything has to be spotless and nice and perfect. The shows took place on Sundays, and it was first every other than every Sunday from October till end of January.
If I put away the part that during Friday and Saturday I was made to clean whole house to be spotless before those visits, and than help on Sunday morning to make it perfect which was like few hours approximately 3 hours to four (even thou Sunday was my only whole free day) I would be fine with people going trough my room.

The problem was that Sunday was only day i didnt have to wake up but I actually did have to as we had to leave house (lets forget about cleaning now). So i couldn’t just stay in and relax or sleep in or do anything else.

I would suggest if you can schedule the visit make it when au pair is working and make her go to play ground with kids, swimming pool or whatever. or if it is at her free time and it is more often just give her some extra time off. I don’t mean when its twice in two months but in case it happens often on her day off just let her relax some other time. At least I would appreciate it. And if she does extra help. Like keeping stuff spotless help with managing kids while going away from house even thou she is off just show the appreciation.

Schnitzelpizza April 15, 2015 at 9:31 am

My hostfamily thought about moving while I was with them (we looked at houses and had a couple of realtors looking at the house – they didn’t move for another few years though). The whole situation really wasn’t a huge problem.

They told me they planned to move and asked me to please clean my room so that they could give it a deep clean (carpets etc.) as a realtor would be coming the following week. They always gave me plenty of notice when people were coming to look at the house and the best part was joining them to look at other houses (we looked at one which I thought was amazing – partly because the realtor showing us the house really thought I was their oldest daughter *g*). I think what was most important to me was being told in advance and being somewhat included in the whole thing. I never had people in my room on short notice or without being told and we never had people looking at the place very early (before 10 am) or very late (after 6 pm) and often on a Saturday when I was off and able to just not be around.

HRHM April 15, 2015 at 10:51 am

Our process was quick and not too painful for everyone EXCEPT our AP at the time who was by all accounts, pretty much a slob. Her room normally was a disaster (which I ignored) and she NEVER actually cleaned in there or her bathroom (although it was written into her duty hours!).

When the realtor came, I had her attend a meeting with him where he explained to both of us (mainly for her benefit – we’ve moved 19 times in 23 years!) that the house had to be spotless 24/7 because the showing realtors would just come whenever they wanted and use the lockbox on the door.

We had the stagers in and they rearranged her furniture (I think she was pretty put out by this but it did look much better even if she didn’t think so) and asked her to declutter her tabletops and dressers. They did the same with my stuff too – all over the house.

The real challenge was getting her to do it day to day. I left for work before the kids were up and it was her job to get them out the door to school in the am and then IMMEDIATELY straighten their rooms (they make their own beds but not “show-ready”!) and get the kitchen and dining room back to normal after using them for breakfast. I would occasionally come home at 10 and she’d be at the gym or starbucks and the house would still be like a cyclone hit it! We sat down about three times over this, since she just couldn’t seem to grasp the concept (like I said, cleanliness was not her forte’) Eventually she got about 90% of the way and I just decided she would never get any better than that. But since it was SOOOOO much better than her baseline level of clean, I accepted it.

Once we did have an offer on the house and a contract signed, I didn’t tell her. She was finally keeping the house to the level that I kept it when I was in charge of the kids (making the kids pick up their toys, cleaning up dishes right away, making sure her room and bathroom were clean, wiping up spills when they happened instead of waiting). DH and I just kept pretending that we weren’t sure yet and that we all had to keep the house-show ready. And I finally, for a brief 4 weeks, actually got her to do her job to my satisfaction. As soon as we moved, she went right back to being a complete slob.

Didi April 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I guess it depends on maturity level of an au pair. Selling house its draining process and it is hard for an host parent to focus on everything on top of trying to make your au pair feel good about it.

I would recommend what all the other girls already did too, sitting with her and explaining process and how big impact she has on everything.

Depending on what kind of energy and relationship you have, offer your weekly bonus of 10-20$ for extra work until house is sold, or pay for her Starbucks for every time she has to abruptly leave the house.

Multitasking Host Mom April 15, 2015 at 12:44 pm

We were selling a house with when we were hosting one of our au pairs. (My husband was transferred so it was a surprise) It frankly didn’t go that well. Keeping the AP room clean was’t an issue. I explained the process to her, and told her that people would be looking at her things when they toured the house, and might even touch them (although they shouldn’t). That was enough for her to want to hide everything that was normally cluttering all surfaces. As long as you didn’t open any drawers the room looked tidy.
The big problem was the fact that she had to leave the house often on short notice when the house was to be shown to buyers. She felt that was a major disruption of her day. (This is when I saw a lot of things on her personality profile from the application really come through now that she was getting stressed.) I was understanding of this. I tried to give her suggestions of things to do and allow her to drive the car further than normal, but she was constantly worked up about the fact that she could not just hang out in her room when ever she wanted now. The thing is before she was one of my best au pairs, yet she really made this selling of the house all about her…like the rest of us were not also stressed about the fact that we were moving.
For the record she was ending her year soon, so was not going with us to the new city.

German Au-Pair April 15, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Well, while her reaction cleraly wasn’t mature and I get why you resented it, I also somewhat understand where she was coming from. Not only didn’t she get anything out of it, it also made the whole process of saying goodbye, enjoying your routine of what is now your life for those last final weeks etc that much harder. Plus I know it’s a really emotional time for you and it may be harder than usual to react appropriately.

UKAu Pair April 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm

I’m English so I think it works in a broadly similar way here.

As has already been said, this is going to be a stressful time for all of you. It’s stressful for the parents, it’s stressful for the children and it’s stressful for the au pair, especially if she’s not naturally tidy (or the move means that you’re having to schedule her to do more cleaning than usual).

I think the most important thing is to sit her down at the beginning of the process, explain how everything works and what she can expect, and what you’ll expect from her. Be prepared to help her sort her room out if necessary (if she’s never deep-cleaned or she isn’t used to using American cleaning products she might need a hand- I’m used to carpets and leaning to clean stone-flagged floors in Italy was completely new). Explain to her that she’s not the only one making sacrifices- highlight everything YOU are going to have to do, as well. Make it clear that you’re a team and working together. If she feels like she’s doing all the work she might become resentful, especially if she’s slightly immature or has never moved house before and don’t understand what a big job it is.

If you have to leave the house at short notice, try to have standby ideas ready (taking the children swimming, going to the park, going for coffee etc) so that she isn’t stuck outside in the rain. Give her as much notice as you can, even if it’s only ten minutes.

In general I think make sure she’s included, treat her like an adult and make your expectations clear from the outset. Clear communication can really help (with a follow-up in writing if necessary, so that she can double-check instructions and look up any unfamiliar vocabulary).

AuPair Paris April 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm

I agree with all of this except one point: I would probably not focus on *my* sacrifices if I were a host-parent talking to an au pair, unless the au pair seemed really, really, self-absorbed and un-self-aware. If I were the au pair in the situation, I’d be fully aware of the sacrifices the host parents were making, and trying to take it into account. BUT if it were brought up in a conversation about how hard *I* was finding it, I’d feel like the host-parents were ignoring the fact that they are the ones who are benefiting from the sale of their house…

Basically if my host-parents are stressed for any reason, I try and help out. But imagine, for example, a similar situation: it so happened that at one point I suddenly had a ton more work because the Host Mum had just got a GREAT promotion at work, which added a ton to her salary – but also her working time, and therefore also my working time. Now I didn’t get the salary boost, and I took on the extra work because it was necessary, and because I love my HF. As it happened, it was fine. I coped, didn’t need to complain etc. If I had complained, my host mum would probably have said “look, I’m sorry. It wasn’t anticipated, and I feel bad, let’s talk about what we can do to help”. And that would have been fine too.

Now if instead she’d responded “well I’m sorry that *you’ve* got a ton of extra work (with no salary increase), but do you know how stressful a promotion (with large salary increase) is for me?!”, I think I’d have been a lot less amenable, you know?

And similarly, I probably wouldn’t gripe about having to work much harder than usual to sell a house (the profits on which would have absolutely nothing to do with me)… But if I did, I think it would get my back up if the response was “you think you have it bad? Do you know how stressful this decision that we’ve made to benefit us, which doesn’t benefit you, is for us?”

I know this sounds harsh, and it’s all in the hypothetical, because my host family never would react like that, and I really do believe in ALL parties extending kindness as much as possible. But I just don’t think responding to a complaint with “well think how hard it is for me” is ever useful – but especially not in a situation where you benefit and the complainer doesn’t…

UKAu Pair April 15, 2015 at 2:28 pm

That’s a really good point, thank you. I hadn’t considered it from that angle.

I suppose point I was trying to make was that it’s much easier to put up with a lot more work if you know that everyone else is pulling their weight. In my head the conversation was more “This is going to be stressful and it is going to mean that you need to be much tidier than usual and may need to leave the house at short notice. I’m going to be doing XYZ to make sure that everything is ready, and it would really help me if you could make sure that ABC are done. I do appreciate that it’s deviating from your usual responsibilities.”

More of a ‘yes, I know this isn’t great and I completely understand because we’re all going through it’ and less of a ‘yes, this isn’t great but you can’t complain because we hired you/ we’re doing more’. I honestly hadn’t considered that anyone would ever respond to a complaint (and I wasn’t envisaging the AP complaining, either, if everything had been explained in advance) with an unsympathetic ‘well it’s much harder for me’.

I completely understand your point. Thank you for pointing it out, because I wouldn’t have considered it otherwise.

Mimi April 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Just a small point- not everyone benefits from the sale of their house. Many people transferred for work or military service often sell at a loss and many home sellers are not necessarily moving because of a promotion or raise.

UKAu Pair April 15, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I’m curious Mimi- in the US do military personnel have to buy and sell their own houses every time they’re posted to a different area?

My Dad’s military, and in the UK most soldiers live on base and just transfer to a new base every three years. Still a pain because you have to up sticks just as you’ve finished unpacking, but you don’t have to go through the selling process.

NoVA Twin Mom April 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

I”m not Mimi but sometimes moves aren’t anticipated. Some military families don’t live on bases – certain bases don’t have enough housing for all their families, certain families don’t “fit” in the housing available (I had a friend in the US Army with 10 kids – their family didn’t fit in any housing on any base, so they always lived off base but generally rented).

In the Washington DC area there are enough military bases that military families will sometimes buy houses because even if they get transferred to a different base, there’s a good chance it will be one close enough that they can commute from where they live or rent their house to another military family. But if a family suddenly got transferred to Texas? They might need to sell. Sometimes the government helps them sell the house, but they’d still have to show the house. (When I say “helps them sell” – it means they help pay the costs, not that they actually do the selling after the family leaves).

A lot of military families living off base rent so that they don’t have to buy and sell houses, but even if they rent they sometimes have to make the house available for showings so that the landlord can find new renters for after they leave.

Mimi April 15, 2015 at 3:40 pm

NoVA Twin Mom did a great job addressing this. I’d add that my family members always lived off base because many of their postings didn’t have adequate housing for them or they could afford to buy and build some equity, but it would depend on the location and cost of living. I think there is also a military/former military HM here that might be able to add more info.

Seattle Mom April 16, 2015 at 12:59 pm

My cousin’s husband is in the Navy, and all I know is that they owned their house in the DC area and had to sell it when they were transferred to the west coast. They sold right after the huge collapse in the real estate market- they took a big hit and it has taken them over 10 years to be able to buy another house again.

So yeah, some people move and sell their house and it is not a big windfall. Sometimes it’s awful.

HRHM April 16, 2015 at 2:28 pm

In the US, the vast majority of military live off base while in the states, either buying or renting. Very young enlisted may be required to live in the barracks but only if single. Once you marry or exceed a certain rank, you cannot live in barracks. Officer housing is very much lesser in numbers and at some bases, only the base commander has a house on base. Of note, if you do get a house on base, it’s size is based on your rank and number of kids. You would not get a house with an additional bedroom just because you had an Au Pair, so most folks living on base wouldn’t be able to accomodate an Au Pair.

Some of us buy and then (if we think we may come back and can afford to ) keep the house and rent it out after moving on. Some buy and sell at every set of orders (used to be a lot easier when the housing bubble was in full swing) and some just rent at each duty station to avoid the potential loss with a sudden unexpected move. We’ve done all three at some point in our careers.

AuPair Paris April 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm

Mimi – you’re right, I know – I thought that when I was writing – in fact my parents sold their house when I was young, and it took them more than a year to find a decent buyer, they ended up selling at not quite a loss, but with no profit, plus had lost all of the money invested in making it purchase ready.

My comment was just a bit too long to acknowledge all that – and I think my point stands that the host parents are the ones who make the decision to sell the house (whether it’s an indirect career decision or not). Even if it’s only benefiting by being able to stay in your chosen career, it’s something a host-family has made a choice to do and the au pair hasn’t made that choice.

Of course, if the host parents are extra stressed because of a transfer at work, or military service I would hope that AP and everyone around them would try to step up and help! And I hope that in any case. But my point remains that it’s something a HF have made an active choice to do (even if pushed by work), and the AP has no choice about it really.

I guess also if it becomes necessarily to add a ton of duties to an AP’s schedule without adding any benefits to them *even if this is because of something very inconvenient or totally out of the control of the family*, it’s still asking a favour. And the response to a bit of grumbling about the fulfillment of that failure should probably still be more along the lines of “thank you for doing this favour” and less along the lines of “this is so hard for us!”. Even if the latter is true.

(In the same way that if I ask for a favour – like time off to visit a sick relative, when I don’t have any holiday left – if my HF said yes, but grumbled a little about how hard it was to find childcare, I’d probably respond “you don’t know how much it means to me, that you’re being so kind and doing me this favour”, and not “well how do you think *I* feel?! My granny is in hospital!” It works both ways…)

Seattle Mom April 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm

I think you are making an excellent point- empathy & gratitude go a lot further than one-upmanship in all situations.

exaupair April 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

You’ve made a really good point here.
I was thinking about my answer to it and now I’m 100% certain that no ‘look I’m sorry…’ kind of thing would make me feel as compassionate about HFs selling the house as a ‘raise’.
It’s not my property and still I’m one of those who need to get up and leave sometimes at a very short notice. That could potentially ruin my day if I wanted a quiet down-time in bed. If I had to cooperate I would like to be paid a bit more.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 15, 2015 at 10:56 pm

I think that any AP who rose to the occasion, as “a member of the family” and cheerfully participated in the extra work that goes into a move, whether it be extra childcare so the HP can pack, having to up and leave at a moment’s notice so the house could be shown, or forgoing a weekend lie-in because the Open House starts at noon, would find her HF being more generous with time off, tickets, or a special outing with her friends before her departure.

I’ve not moved house since I began hosting APs, but I have had several occasions when I’ve had to ask the AP to pitch in extra hard as a member of the family – for years The Camel was hospitalized for any length of time between 1 day and 5 weeks. I made sure that I didn’t overstep the bounds of the program, but if an AP had requested extra money for having to work more hours (still under 10 a day and under 45 a week), for spending a few hours in the hospital so DH could spend a few hours with child #2 or have a lunch together, it would have quickly soured my relationship with her.

When a HF has a crisis or a period of stress (and next to the death of a spouse or child, a move is up there), the AP who willingly pitches in and maintains a cheerful demeanor – no matter how much she wishes she could grouse – benefits enormously from relieving parent’s stress. The AP who complains, pushes back and makes life more difficult, makes it exponentially harder for the HF to maintain the balance necessary to endure the crisis or stress.

Most of my APs have received far more than 2 weeks off. The best ones have received gift certificates to their favorite restaurant (or cuisine that they really liked) to take friends out for dinner. The ones who didn’t failed to cooperate during periods of stress, or worse, made life more difficult by purposely doing the opposite of what was being asked.

In all the years I have hosted, several friends of my APs moved with their HF to new cities because the HP were forced to relocate, needed to move closer to an aging parent, or lost their job and found a new one elsewhere. No one moved across town to a better house. Does it happen? Sure it does. But many families move out of necessity.

WarmStateMomma April 16, 2015 at 4:43 am

We moved to a different suburb of the same city last year (to escape a neighborhood sinking quickly) – in August, when I was pregnant, with 2 dogs. The new location was closer to downtown and one of our AP’s friends, but farther from Chinatown (food!), pretty public spaces, and shopping. So not a clear win to anyone but my husband whose commute is now much shorter….

Leaving to show the house on a moment’s notice was miserable (in the car with 2 labs in July who are frantic about where they might be headed and nowhere to take them…). Hanging at Starbucks sounds like an unimaginably luxurious way to pass the time after that ordeal. I ultimately stopped allowing showings until we moved out.

The move is what made us love our AP (although we liked her well enough before). She just laughed off the inconveniences, insisted on helping me pack up, and entertained my toddler while I managed the movers. There’s no way we would have survived without her.

I did everything possible to repay her kindness – scheduling my errands during my daughter’s naps so she was watching her during the “easy” part of the day, offering her really short hours and extra vacation during my maternity leave, tickets to a special event, not making her pay for her car accident, sending my husband to drive her to the airport at 5am for that cheap flight she booked….

It seems like the best relationships and experiences happen when each side “rounds up” in favor of the other. (A nice phrase I learned from another commenter on this site!)

AuPair Paris April 16, 2015 at 5:05 am

I wouldn’t ask or expect a raise for going above and beyond – but what makes me willing to do it is a genuine acknowledgement. I agree – round up on both sides! But if my host parents do me a favour, I’ll thank them. With flowers or chocolate, or just a really, really heart-felt thank you. I don’t need gifts or extra money for this, but a genuine “we are aware that we’re asking for above and beyond from you and we really, really appreciate all your help”. (As opposed to “well you *are* helping out, but this is stressful for all of us, and I rather do think you should take *my* stress into consideration”.)

I think this attitude is coming from experiences in my abusive family though – where I was expected to work 12 hours a day for six days a week because of repeated “oh, just this one favour” style requests – and was then criticised in my fulfillment of those requests, rather than thanked… I don’t think the kind of disgruntled ingratitude applies to anyone on here, probably.

AlwaysHopeful HM April 15, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Our family did move to a nicer home ‘across town”, (really, the neighboring county), but it was in large part to save money. Although the home was nicer, it was farther away from the already somewhat distant closest desirable city, which made it less expensive. The neighborhood schools were better, meaning I could stop sending my son to private school, and we are closer to my aging parents — who also happen to be our primary back up care. Staying where we were wasn’t financially feasible, so the choices were: move closer to the city (and my job) into a much smaller, more expensive home, where there would be no room for an au pair, and use before and after care rather than host an au pair, or move farther away, get a better place, with more physical and financial space to host an au pair, have a bit of a longer commute and be closer to my parents when they need me or I need them. Staying put was not an option. Either way, we were going to move, and the move was going to inconvenience everyone in the house. Though it may have seemed like we benefited, I saw it as a matter of staying afloat.

Our au pair at the time was finishing her year, and dragged her feet a little about packing up and putting away her things, but she did do it. I think the issue there was less the pain of moving, and more the pain of having to rush through her final days, as German AP mentioned.

We were really lucky. Our AP was super organized and clean as a rule (much more so than I am), so keeping things neat was not a problem. She was actually thrilled with how the house looked once it was cleaned and staged. And, I had an awesome realtor who priced my home well and had offers above asking price within just a few days of listing, so the pain was very short-lived.

Host Mom in the City April 16, 2015 at 8:51 am

I don’t have any experience with moving with an au pair, but I just wanted to say thank you to the au pairs who have chimed in here! I always really get a lot out of hearing the au pair perspective, and feel like we don’t always get it on some of the posts. Thanks to the au pairs for sharing their opinions! It helps me as a host mom consider my au pair’s point of view.

TexasHM April 16, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Agreed! Was just thinking the same thing (love getting more AP feedback). We moved days before our first AP arrived so she got to walk into the house being in disarray and not having furniture until the next day and the general stress of a move in progress but didn’t have to deal with showings or anything at our old house.

Having said that, I already told DH if we ever move again I am selling the house as is and walking away from anything we can’t load into the cars! Moving is the WORST! I think like most gray areas of the program the key is just being honest and communicating with your AP. The more they are in the loop the more they understand and can help and generally once we start to explain they cut us off and make it clear that they are there to help any way they can. Just giving them the courtesy of explaining the situation as an equal adult in the household and noting that we realize its an inconvenience is usually enough for them to stop us and ask what we need and how they can pitch in (beyond childcare duties which we appreciate and decline).

As others have said, good will and giving a little extra (on both sides) goes a long way and while I can totally see how this would be frustrating to an AP I would also think most HPs would appreciate them taking it in stride and would look for ways throughout the term to pay back the consideration, or at least we would. :)

Returning HM April 16, 2015 at 3:51 pm

We have moved six times in nine years, which I thought was a lot until I read HRHM’s 19 times in 23 years (wow!). Naturally, many of these moves have involved APs, and three of them entailed selling a house that I loved and moving to a place far away where I did not want to move at all, so not one of these moves was easy emotionally or physically!

Two moves were particularly complicated: The first was in 2009, when we were hosting an extension AP who had come to us with great references but who didn’t seem to be so great for us. And then, two months into her year with us, my mother who had cancer took a dramatic turn downward, and everything blew up. My mother ended up moving in with us, but because she couldn’t walk up the stairs, we had to put her in our living room. So in the midst of a busy household of a 6 year old, a 4 year old with SNs, a wild golden retriever, a rabbit, and two fulltime working parents, we now had a formerly extremely active grandmother with no hair and an oxygen tank who needed her lungs drained daily. As if that weren’t enough, in the middle of this, my husband announced that we were moving YET AGAIN, so now we had to put the house on the market. So not only did we have to get the house set up and the children out of the house for showings, but we had to move my mom who was clearly dying and the rambunctious dog, plus hide the rabbit, every time we were showing the house. I won’t bore you all with the details, but you can imagine the size of the checks I wrote to that AP each week and the amount of thanks and praise I lavished on her. She simply was amazing through this whole hellish time, including when my mother died and now I had to clean out and sell TWO houses at the same time (one of them the house my parents had built and had lived in for forty plus years) and then deal with the move. This AP has come back to visit and we stay in close touch with her – she was just an angel, and I could not have survived this terrible time without her.

The other move was a few years later, when I thought we were done moving. Out of nowhere, my husband was offered his dream job in a faraway city and in particular in a city where I had said I would never move. So now we had to sell yet another house, move far away yet again, and this time just as we were getting ready to move, one of our dogs developed a brain tumor. We ended up scheduling the move around an appointment with a canine oncologist in our new city, only to have AP and me arrive in a car with the two dogs, literally having to carry one 80 lb dog because he was so sick, to be told that there was nothing they could do for our dog. So while the movers were unpacking our belongings, there AP and I were at the vet, having to put our beloved lab to sleep. Our AP held our dog’s paw, cried along with me, and then bucked up just as I needed to, to unpack as much as we could and get the house ready for the children to arrive in our new city the next day. This AP was one of our favorites, and she remained so throughout that terrible move and awful experience. She and I were always close, but the bonding we did having to move from our beloved city to a new city while our dog was dying really cemented us forever.

In both cases, I was very generous with gifts and money, but more than anything, I was generous about making sure the APs knew how much I appreciated and NEEDED their help. I could not have done either without them. Both of these moves were complicated by deaths at the same time, which themselves would have been traumatic experiences, and both of these APs really rose to the challenge. There is a reason they have both come to visit, are in frequent touch with us, and will be members of our family forever.

NJ Mama April 16, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Omg I was crying as I read that. Wow!

I have not moved with an au pair but I have a sort of similar story. When I first got into the au pair program, I had just landed a full-time job in NYC– entailing a long commute. I had been out of full-time work for awhile and it was a relief to get a full-time job. It just so happens my mom was dying of cancer at that time too :(.

Our first au pair was the party girl. She clearly was in it for a good time. It was a disaster. We rematched with this German girl – I just can’t say enough good things about her. Here I was commuting to NYC every day and then going to Pennsylvania on the weekends. I was hardly home. My kids were young and didn’t really understand. There was a lot of change and uncertainty. And this au pair – 19 years old – walked in and was just everything we needed. My kids were upset and she just loved them. It’s hard to explain – she just took such good care of them. She came up with activities for them and diverted their attention, and whatever I needed she did. My mom died just three weeks after the AP arrived. We had already given her off the weekend of the funeral -and she traveled to Pennsylvania with my husband and kids to attend. I had to miss Halloween and she made it extra special for the kids. And when I came back home after my mom died she made me a special dinner.

When you go through times like that, you never forget the kindness of others. The kindness I received from this 19 year old was beyond the beyond. She just … loved my kids so much. She understood the tantrums and what not were not personal — they were grief. And she was the one who saved us last summer and came to stay with us for a month when we were in between au pairs. She walked in and it was as if she had never left. She will forever be part of our family.

I’m usually such a cynic but I’m feeling really sappy right now :).

Seattle Mom April 16, 2015 at 11:37 pm

Ok, now I’m crying!

If someone out there is reading this and deciding whether to get an au pair, I think they’ve just made up their mind.

Returning HM April 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

So sorry for your loss, NJ Mama, yet so glad this AP was there for you as well as your family in your time of loss.

I had the same take-away – these 19 year olds who had never experienced loss of their own were somehow there to support our family, me in my 40s included, to handle the losses we were facing. And somehow they did this with grace, empathy, and total disregard for their own schedules and job parameters. The first AP mentioned in my post insisted that she would not accept payment for watching our children during my mother’s memorial, so that I could focus on celebrating my mom and being there for the hundreds of people who had gathered, and the second AP mentioned got down on the floor with me in the oncologist’s office, holding our sweet sweet lab, as we talked to him and sang him off to forever sleep. I am teary as I write this, but honestly, nothing in the AP job description can prepare someone for these situations, and yet somehow these young women – yours included – just got what is needed in the moment. Wow.

NewbieHM April 17, 2015 at 2:22 pm

It’s wonderful how some AP really become part of the family! A fantastic AP can be a rock for a family while a selfish AP can make things worse.
That sounds a lot different than my experience with our first AP. We have moved many times but only once since we joined the program. In less than two months I had a baby, lost my father, my husband lost his job while on paternity leave and as a result we had to move. Fortunately head hunters are always after him, so we decided not to tell the AP this so she wouldn’t worry unnecessarily about him loosing his job. We decided to put the house for sale after we moved to spare us from having to show it. With 2 babies and a newborn, plus dogs it would have been too much. We packed what we needed for a few months and the day we were loading the truck our AP didn’t come out of her room until the afternoon when we texted her it was time to leave. She said had already packed a few days before so I know she was just hanging out in her room. Then comes with her luggage so my husband can load it in the truck for her. She never offered a hand with the babies while we were packing and loading. Never asked if we needed help putting some things on the truck. Couple of months later she left because she signed up to live in a big city and we moved to a small unsophisticated city (her words). She was mediocre at best from the very beginning, not very smart nor sophisticated (lol) and had an uncanny ability to make you feel depressed. We should have rematched within two weeks of her arrival but we decided not to complicate things any further and to give her a chance. We were actually happier after she left and without her help. The house felt brighter and lighter and dinners were pleasant again. She thought she was a wonderful, dedicated AP judging by comments she made. Our current AP is different and we are very happy with her. I would like to think she would have been a lot more helpful during such a difficult time.

NJmama April 17, 2015 at 9:43 pm

NewbieHM – I think what TACL said above is true. A good AP can enhance the whole experience in a good way.. Or unfortunately a bad way. Good lord you went through a bad time. Hopefully you got the bad luck out all at once and I hope you have a great long stretch of good things :)

TexasHM April 17, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Just because I can’t resist piling on the AP lovefest… :)

One year at Thanksgiving my AP was outside with my kids and my brother playing with his dog when my brother had a seizure (no history) and hit the pavement jerking. My AP saw his expression as he went down and in a fraction of a second managed to distract my kids, get them in the house and get my mom’s attention (she was in the yard) to get him help. She called for my husband and I in a voice so calm we didn’t realize anything was wrong until we walked downstairs and saw her face. She took the kids upstairs while we called 911 and the EMTs stabilized him and took him to the hospital. When we got back in the house we realized the kids had NO IDEA that their uncle had a seizure, let alone that he was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance. Our poor AP shook like a leaf for hours afterwards and words cannot express how grateful we are that she had the quick thinking to react so that our children wouldn’t be traumatized and that he got help. Same AP about 5 months later was with us when I was dealt a major blow and not only did she immediately notice that I was struggling to hold it together but she kicked in and basically kept the household afloat for a couple of weeks until I could get my mojo back. Again, kids never noticed that mom was hanging on by a thread. Incredible! We nominated her for AP of the year.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 17, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Lovefest time. Our best AP ever (because she was so comfortable in her skin from the day she arrived), had a horrible morning one day. Not only did The Camel’s g-tube come out (allows us to feed her directly into her stomach, bypassing her mouth) forcing me to do an over-the-telephone talk through replacement (it’s not hard, but the red gaping hole into the stomach is gross the first time you see it), but she discovered child #2’s hamster on a glue trap meant for House crickets (some of you might know them as camel crickets). This AP hated, hated, hated the smell of peanut butter, but the only way to release a small mammal from a glue trap is to liberally apply the substance to the animal (and then to it’s fur to release the last of the glue). She made a video of herself giving the hamster a peanut butter bath after releasing it from the glue trap.

With love like that, believe me, when this AP made a request, we said yes. I also came home with lots of rewards for the AP – and a hug – because her ability to see through two gross crises in a morning without forcing DH or I to leave work and come home was not only fantastic – in the case of The Camel, it was necessary.

NJmama April 17, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Ok I’m full on crying now… But in a good way. It’s good to relive and share all of these moments.

As ReturningHM said … Wow.

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