Share Your Schedules for Training Your AuPair — The First Week

by cv harquail on April 3, 2016

Looking over the many posts about getting started with an au pair, I made an interesting discovery: We have no posts with actual, recommended schedules.

We have one really solid post from 2008 (!) where I list 5 strategies for orienting your au  pair in the first week:

1. Start with the typical day’s tasks.
2. Start with the most common tasks she’s responsible for.
3. Start with the easiest tasks she’s responsible for.
4. Start with safety basics.
5. Just have her follow you around.

DailyScheduleI think this is still a really sensible post with useful information and a good attitude (if I do say so myself ;-).  But still, for parents and au pairs looking for a plan to follow — nada.

FirstTimeHostMomSC emailed to ask for such an example — and since I came up empty handed, I’m turning to you:
Who has some to share?

You could paste them into the comments, or if you prefer, add them to this google document.

AuPairMom First Few Days’ Example Schedules

Either way, we can look at them in real time and when enough examples come in, we can put them together in a booklet that organizes them by strategy or focus…


See also:

Ways to start orienting your New Au Pair: Some advice for the first two days
What if my kids overwhelm her on her first day?


Should be working April 4, 2016 at 12:41 am

I still can’t figure out how to add to the google doc! I am cutting and pasting what I wrote to our last AP before he arrived, CCAP APs always arrive at HFs on a Friday. It’s not a schedule per se, but it does let the AP know what to expect:

We will welcome you here on Friday, let you unpack and relax, have dinner, and get to know each other! Saturday we can do more of the same, show you around some, and start to show you how things work with kids. Sunday you have driving practice with an instructor, and Monday you will “shadow” me as I get kids ready for camp, pick them up, etc. So you will go with me while I drop off kids and then later to pick them up, we’ll go over stuff about morning and afternoon routines. We might practice having you drive around to the different places they go. I’ll also show you about laundry, kids’ stuff, and so on. The LCC usually visits in the first few days as well.

massmom April 4, 2016 at 2:16 pm

We don’t have a schedule written out, because we are not that organized/buttoned up of a family. :) But we have figured out what works well for us. We normally have our au pair arrive during a vacation week so we are home for her first couple of days:

Arrival day (Wednesday): She gets in around 9 PM and is usually exhausted, so we skip a formal dinner, fix her a sandwich, show her the room, and invite her to sleep in the next day and join us around noon.

Thursday: Walk into our little town for a quick tour and visit the bank to set up a bank account. Give her a tour of the house and explain the major appliances. Let her spend some time with the kids while we are busy doing other things around the house.

Friday: Drive her around and show her where the kid’s schools and activities are. Take her to Target, where we let her pick out a pillow and a fresh set of towels. We always give her a small gift card so she can pick up any toiletries she might need as well. I also take her grocery shopping and have her pick out some things that she likes, and we review the different food shopping options in the area.

Saturday: We invite her to join us in doing whatever we might be doing on a normal weekend. My husband will also take her out for a driving “test”, where they will go both around town and on the highway. He reviews the driving rules with her and highlights what might be different from her home country. It’s also a good chance to point out important places and landmarks again.

Sunday: We take her downtown for lunch and give her a tour of the city so she gets a sense of the different neighborhoods and things to do in her off time. If we have time, I will also take her to the local YMCA where many of the au pairs get memberships so she can check it out.

Monday: I work from home on this day so I can walk to school with her and introduce her to the kid’s teachers, as well as other moms and au pairs. Then I’m right upstairs if she has questions or runs into a roadblock. Usually we’re good at this point, but I might work from home a second day if her confidence doesn’t seem up to par yet.

Momof2Under2 July 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Thank you! I found this extremely helpful! Our first au pair is arriving in a couple weeks & I have prepped her room & bathroom- but I never really thought about what to do with her on the weekend. Thanks again!

Old China Hand April 4, 2016 at 7:53 pm

We try to have our au pairs arrive on Thursday night so that by Monday I can work from home and have her be pretty self-sufficient. I say this as if we have a ton of experience, but I winged it for AP1, for AP2 I did a good job and followed this. For AP3 (current AP), we had a really tight time frame and my mom trained AP3 in Hong Kong while I was in China doing field work. But when we got home, we followed this schedule for Sat-Mon (slightly different timing).

Before she arrives: We clean the room, replace toiletries that need replacing, and buy her slippers. I get the outgoing AP to give me a list of what toiletries are running low. So far our APs haven’t cared what brand toiletries they get. We supply things to keep them clean, so we are setting up the pattern we will continue. Generally I buy a supply of sanitary supplies but they use money from our petty cash envelope to keep themselves stocked. This is because they don’t want to ask HD and he does the grocery shopping. I buy pads in a variety of thicknesses. Chinese girls are terrified of tampons, even though they are sold there. I keep a box in the room in case they want to try them. So far, none have.

Thursday night: Pick AP up from airport. Kids are in bed. Dinner as a family. we try to cook Asian food but not Chinese food so it isn’t so unfamiliar as a full on American meal. We eat lots of Asian food anyway. We show her how to use the shower, tell her that toilet paper goes in the toilet, show her her room, and give her the internet info. Tell her to sleep in and call her family in the morning using some internet service (like WeChat or QQ, for China… skype for the rest of the world).

Friday: She starts at lunch time (11:30 am for our kids). I take the shadow me approach and have her start doing things as much as possible. So I have her help me to prepare lunch for the kids, help me serve them, help me get them ready for naps. During nap time we go over part of the handbook. In the afternoon I show her places she can go with the kids during the day.

Saturday: She has breakfast with us, goes with HD and kids to the grocery store. She helps with lunch. During nap time we go over more of the handbook.

Sunday: We take her to church or arrange for someone to take her if she wants. Same deal with the rest of the day as the previous ones. I try to finish all the important household content of the handbook but encourage them to read it again at their own pace and to look at the parts of the handbook to help them adjust in their free time. And to ask questions.

Monday: I work from home. They arrive in January, when we have a winter term and I don’t have to teach regular classes. They see pre-school morning routine for the bigger kid. He is driven to school and I pick him up and bring him home for lunch, so once they have helped with this, they have seen our whole routine. Over the rest of the week I work from home less and less until we are at a schedule with me gone all day Friday.

Dorsi April 5, 2016 at 2:42 am

I’m curious why you buy toiletries and sanitary products? Do you have certain chemicals you are trying to keep out of the house? I’ve never considered this part of the host obligation.

2 kids and a cat April 5, 2016 at 10:57 am

Also interested in this. Other than tp, tissues, and hand soap, we don’t provide personal care items.

Returning HM April 5, 2016 at 1:51 pm

We actually do provide anything that keeps the AP clean. It’s up to him (or her, when we hosted female APs) to get anything that is purely about looking or smelling good. I developed that distinction after one AP got a Brazilian legwaxing kit for $50, among lots of other items, when I told her we would pay for her “essential” toiletries. :-)

Old China Hand April 5, 2016 at 6:33 pm

I do it because I think it’s a cheap thing for me to provide that goes a long way in goodwill for the ap. I think I saw the specific phrasing in a handbook from this group. We don’t provide a lot of perks – no car (but a crummy bicycle), no nice phone (SIM card and bring your own phone or use a dumb phone), full 45 hours of work each week, few if any nice vacations as we require their vacation time be when we are on vacation. Anyway, it costs me very little and they seem to appreciate it. If they really cared what they had, they’d have to buy it themselves.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 5, 2016 at 11:36 am

I go to Target and stock up on the $1 toiletry samples (after checking to see what the previous AP left behind) – and do spring for a box of Tampax, an OB sampler, a small container of heavy day pads, and a small box of light day pads (because there’s nothing worse than having nothing!). I put a note in my HB that I’ve provided them for her to figure out what she likes so she can buy more of it when she runs out. Toiletries are personal supplies, and not commonly shared (like food generally is), so we do not purchase them for the AP. She is always welcome to reach into our guest drawer in the Camel’s bathroom, and grab what has been left behind by her predecessors.

WarmStateMomma April 5, 2016 at 1:38 pm

I leave a bunch of basic products, tampons and pads in the AP bathroom. (Ditto on Chinese APs behind afraid of tampons – but I’d rather they try than avoid the pool or the beach.) We don’t continue to buy these things during the year.

Any toiletries left behind by the last AP are put in a box in the bathroom cabinet – I tell her to try whatever she wants and toss the rest.

All the clothes that don’t make it home with the prior AP go into boxes to be donated – once her successor has a had a chance to see if there’s anything she’d like to claim.

Multitasking Host Mom April 4, 2016 at 8:16 pm

First a few points on training….
First point…I developed this plan after I struggled for months with our first AP and finally just threw up my hands and got through the year. The kids were always safe and she met their basic needs, but she was never a “good” AP. Looking back alot of it was due to us both being overwhelmed. Her because it was actually a full time job that involved alot of responsibility; me because I was surprised she didn’t just naturally know how to take care of children…at least to my standards;). I do not like to micromanage, and I really do want the au pair to really “own” their job. But there are a few (ok…several) things that I want done a certain way. I realized if I do alot of training up front. I can be pretty much hands off the rest of the year.Trust me. The AP and I are both much happier with that scenario.

Second point….I know that people learn things in different ways, so I always try to if I can deliver the same information in different ways. I tell them, I show where the information is in the handbook, and I have them do the task themselves.

Our training schedule…
Before arrival: I email the new AP a copy of our family handbook and our state’s driver handbook.

Friday: AP arrives in the evening. We take them out to dinner. Afterwards it is now pretty late, and we are all tired. So we lug the au pair’s luggage up to their room and tell them goodnight.

Saturday: I tell the AP the night before when we will start training…normally we start about 9:00. I give them a hardcopy of the handbook.
We spend the morning giving a tour of the house. We make sure they know how to use all appliances. I also use that time to transition to practical matters. For example…learn to use dishwasher—talk about what can’t go into the dishwasher—discuss the kid’s responsibility with clearing the table after a meal—discuss what rooms the kid’s can/cannot eat in—talk about what the kids normally eat and when—discuss our normal dinner routine that involves AP—etc.
In the afternoon, all the family with the AP pile into the car, and we drive into the nearby large city to see the sights. We normally stop at one or two tourist attractions. While we are having fun, us parents also use this opportunity to see how the AP is interacting with the kids, and see if we need to give any encouragement in a certain area. One of my kids has anxiety issues, so as we do things together, we host parents will give the AP suggestions/model different ways to interact with the host kid.
Evening is normally spent with the AP driving my husband around, as he does an informal assessment of the AP’s driving skills. We also then discuss car rules.

Sunday: Training starts later this day, about 11:00. Often the AP goes out with other APs the night before and wants to sleep in, or they spend the time in the am getting settled in their room. I really concentrate on getting the AP ready for the next day (a school day for the kids.) We go over what to pack for the kid’s lunches, the things that need to be in their backpack, etc. We then drive the normal route of a typical day. I point out the school, and other places that the au pair would normally take the kids such as the park, library, rec center, etc. Also, we go to the grocery store and discuss what we normally eat and pick up a few goodies that the AP would like to eat.

Monday: The past few AP cycles this was the last legal working day of our outgoing au pair, so the new AP will shadow the outgoing AP through the day. That way they learn the process from someone who actually does it everyday. I do take off work and I am nearby enough that I can jump in where needed.

Tuesday: The AP is on their own working a full day with the kids. My husband works from home that day, in case the AP would need something.

Beyond the first week: I do check in meetings every Friday to see how it is going with the AP. If they need help with a situation involving the kids, we can brainstorm ideas and hopefully come up with a solution together. Also, if something is being done or not done that I think can be improved upon, I discuss with the AP how they can get back on track. We keep up these meetings until the AP feels comfortable with their job.

Returning HM April 4, 2016 at 9:22 pm

I couldn’t get the googledoc to work either, because it is “read only,” (I fixed it!!!!! – cv) so here is a write-out of the starting schedule we use. I send this to our incoming AP before he leaves home, so that he has a good idea what to expect that first week. I also want him to know that there will be time to see friends right away, so he is welcome to make plans with people he meets in training school. It’s also important for him to know that we expect him to work right away, so there is no illusion that this is a vacation.

Friday afternoon – Arrival around 3:30pm. All four of us (and our dog) meet AP at the bus stop with a big welcome sign. We come right home (15 min away). We have red, white, and blue balloons waiting and a welcome basket and other things. We do a quick tour of our house, bring AP’s stuff upstairs, then come down for a snack and chat. We then send AP to his room to settle in, skype with home, etc. I check in once to make sure AP has all the stuff he needs for his room and tell him to make a list of anything he needs. I tell the children not to disturb AP. Usually he wanders down the hall to their rooms to visit when he is unpacked and settled in.

Friday evening – dinner out, then ice cream in our town (walk from our house, so AP can see our neighborhood).

Saturday morning – Up at 9am, breakfast as a family, then AP drives with DH. When they come home, we go into the city nearby for sightseeing. Home around 4:30pm. AP can rest, skype, etc.

Saturday evening – dinner at home as a family, then AP is welcome to go out. I usually drive AP and pick up anyone in our town whom AP wants to see and bring them to town. Then either I pick up/drive all home or they can walk home to our house and then I drive everyone home.

Sunday morning – breakfast as a family then more driving practice, this time to children’s schools, practice sites, speech therapy/OT.

Sunday afternoon – outdoor activity (water park/hike, beach, pond, etc).

Sunday evening – dinner with our close friends whom we have dinner with every other Sunday, then AP and I go through Handbook, which prompts us to talk through appliances, safety, and the various guidelines that we discussed during matching.

Monday – up early and AP shadows me for the full day. This includes an outing to Target for anything he needs for room or in general, and to grocery store, for AP to get any foods (I also ask in advance), and then we go to the bank. Usually we have lunch out at a favorite local place, so AP can see the sorts of places we go to. AP is welcome to go out in the evening or welcome to have friends over (our house tends to be the hang-out house, and incoming APs know this from the previous AP). Often friends of previous AP come by to say hi (this is one of the benefits of hosting males – no shortage of young female APs eager to come welcome them!).

Tuesday – up early and AP is on alone/shadows me taking children on an outing or for back-to-school errands, depending on AP’s comfort level and my comfort level with AP. LCC usually comes Tuesday night.

Wednesday – children start school and I am back at work (in another city) for a long day, so AP is on alone — this may entail calling on my friends to help with driving if AP isn’t able to drive on highways yet

Thursday – I work from home, children are in school, AP is driving all day and getting sorted and is pretty much handling job with me in background.

Friday is Labor Day weekend, so we leave early to go away to our beach house, and it’s a crazy weekend of our family, my sister’s family, our other friends’ family, and AP will either fit right into the mix or not — we will know after this weekend (9 times of 10, it’s been yes). AP is free to do what he wants, and we give him a bike to take around the island and explore. In most cases, there are other APs our previous AP has met who are still out on the island, so we make sure AP can meet up and go out with them. During at least part of each day, AP hangs out with us at the beach so we get to know him better. Important part of this is DH teaching him to throw a lacrosse ball around and how to play football :-)

TUesday after Labor Day – I am back at work fulltime, which means I am gone three days/week completely in another city, and AP is off and running.

WarmStateMomma April 5, 2016 at 1:41 pm

This is what I sent to our AP last year, a few weeks before she arrived:

The First Week

Friday, March 20 – You arrive at 6:30 p.m. We will meet you at the airport and then go to dinner to welcome you to our family and to [STATE]. We can’t wait to meet you!

Saturday, March 21 – Sleep as late as you want. You had a busy week at training and probably still have some jet lag. Later in the day, we will go to the store together to buy the foods you like and any items you forget to pack. We will also show you around the area where we live.

Sunday, March 22 – We will try to do something fun this day, so you can get to know HK1 and HK2.

Monday, March 23 – HM will be home to show you what a typical workday should look like. Expect to work from 8am to 5pm.

Tuesday to Thursday, March 24-26 – You will take care of HKs alone from 8am to 5pm. When HPs return from work, we will briefly discuss how the day went and any adjustments that need to be made.

Friday, March 27 – You and HM will meet for an hour while HKs nap. We will discuss how everything is going and what adjustments need to be made.

Saturday, March 28 – You do not work on this day. We are planning to participate in a walk/run in the neighborhood to celebrate the Easter holiday in the morning. You are welcome to join us or make your own plans.

Sunday, March 29 – You do not work on this day. We are planning to attend a major art festival. You are welcome to join us or make your own plans.

The Second Week

Monday, Wednesday and Thursday – You will take care of HKs from 8am to 5pm.

Thursday evening – You and HM will meet for 30 minutes or so in the evening to talk about how everything is going and any adjustment that need to be made. We will continue having weekly discussions but they will become shorter as we become adjusted to each other. We can be flexible about the time/day of the week for these discussions, but it’s easiest to talk when HKs are asleep or with HD.

Friday or Saturday evening – HPs will have a date night and you will watch the kids from 7-11pm. We generally have a date night two times a month and we try to be flexible about the scheduling so that you are free to join your friends on nights they are available.

Taking a Computer Lunch April 11, 2016 at 10:33 pm

Now that I have two teenagers, my AP’s first week is very different than when they were little. I host through APIA, so my APs arrive late on Thursday, long after The Camel has gone to bed. I permit them to sleep late on Friday (The Camel gets up for school at 6:00 am – the AP will get her first taste of that on Monday), although my current AP insisted on getting up and watching the routine. Most of the APs I have hosted have taken advantage of the offer to sleep in, unpack, and Skype with their family. Even though both my kids are in school all day, I take that Friday off – nothing is worse that waking up all alone in a strange house, not knowing where anything is – especially after the “high” of being in orientation. The year seems very long on that first Friday. Once the AP is up, I encourage her to eat and then show her house. When The Camel returns home, I introduce the AP to the bus driver, show her how to get The Camel off the bus, and go through the afternoon routine. APs who have had more experience are anxious to get started (and that has been most of them). We usually have an American meal (and as a vegetarian, I mean foods that come from the American continents, NOT hotdogs and hamburgers or pizza).

On Saturday, DH takes the AP shopping and does a test drive for a couple of hours.

On Sunday, if it works out, a couple of us take a trip into the city and tour a bit – sometimes that gets postponed a bit.

On Monday, DH takes the morning off from work and trains the AP. He teleworks on Mondays, so if she needs to ask a question during the day (when the kids are in school) he’s available. I take the afternoon off, and run through the afternoon routine. 9 times out of 12, the AP has been ready to hit the ground running by Tuesday (although DH doesn’t leave for work until she is well into The Camel’s morning routine, anyway). I make sure I leave work on time that first week, which gets me home shortly after The Camel does. If either DH or I sense a problem, we’ll take some extra leave, but we don’t do, just supervise. If I sense a real problem, at any point in the year, I’ll just show up unannounced.

We have check-ins for the first few weeks, and when we sense a problem, or an attitude that needs to be reset. Depending on language skills, I’ll either go through the handbook with the AP after the first check-in, or wait a month.

Our APs used to have to chauffeur child #2, but no longer do. How much they interact shows to me whether or not they are a true family member. (Right now child #2 happily cooks dinner for the AP when DH and I go out on date night. Child #2 even cooks around the AP’s preferences. AP #8 arrived in my house with no household skills whatsoever. Since then I’ve been determined to prepare child #2 for independence!

TexasHM April 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

I have a color coded spreadsheet/planner for the first week (of course I do and yes I hear you that know me snickering). ;)

Green – onboarding activities, Blue – working hours, Tan – family activities that she is welcome to join but are completely optional, White – free time.

Onboarding schedules last round included (our APs arrive Friday night) – Saturday 930am bank account setup, later that afternoon 1.5 hours driving assessment/practice then break and then 30 minute handbook review. In between was breaks, free time and kids games. Sunday was church – optional, then welcome lunch out at our favorite place, then driving practice again, afternoon long break and then AP assists/learns bedtime routine and we have our first Sunday night weekly AP meeting. Monday she is on duty and I work from home to monitor/assist if needed and drive or at least ride along until she gets license (last round she got it that first week which is ideal for us as we need lots of driving).

Things I have learned over the years – if driving is an important part of your APs job then get her in the car the first day for a driving assessment and do AP and you a favor and send them an online driving course before they enter the country. I have lots of friends that ignore this advice, figure AP will be fine and then are shocked when there are big differences and they are struggling and then end up doing the online course when AP is here. That’s fine but why not go ahead and help AP ramp faster and save them the stress of making mistakes in front of you that they don’t know are mistakes because no one showed them? It’s cheap and makes a HUGE difference. My APs ramp and pass the road test within DAYS of arrival to my home. I watch their AP friends take weeks and months and have fender benders and close calls. Ok off soapbox.

Secondly keep in mind that orientation is a rush of adrenaline so even though they seem like they aren’t jet lagged and are full of energy the night they arrive they will crash and burn and it will be at your home. They finally have a real bed (not a shared hotel room or bunk) and reality is setting in about the decision they made to join the program. When they arrive give them a hug and welcome them, feed them, give them the quick walk around the house so they know the basics and then cut them loose to call/Skype home, unpack, shower and go to bed. Make sure to ask them if they were able to reach their family because if they were not they will be distracted until they are able to do so (plus their families will be stressing hoping they made it to your home). Yes they need to ramp up but a little grace in the first couple days makes all the difference and calms them down.

Day two let them sleep in (again they are coming off jet lag and sky high adrenaline from orientation for four days) and then get them doing whatever your #1 priority is (driving, infant care – diapers, bottles, etc). Make sure that first full day that they can do the most important job duties because if something is a deal breaker you want and need to know day one. I had a HM friend that needed a driver, got a new AP and they were struggling with AM routine. I asked if AP could drive and HM said she hadn’t had her try yet (this is one week in). I told her get her in the car right this minute! Sure enough AP couldn’t even back out of her straight, flat driveway and after almost hitting mailbox and garage blamed it on driving a manual back home. :/ Needless to say that made the rematch conversation much easier and made it a no brainer for my friend who previously had struggled through a week of the AP not picking up on anything else or bonding with daughter.

Schedule breaks in between onboarding/training stuff. Driving with host parents in the car evaluating takes a lot out of them. It is stressful (think how stressed you were taking your driving test – now imagine your boss is the examiner) so after each big chunk of training/teaching give them an hour or two to unwind, call home, grab a snack, something mindless so they can not only process what they learned but take the lid off the pot and let some pressure out. They will appreciate it and will ramp faster than if you fire hose teach them. Their minds are already swimming from the constant English, difference in foods, difference in stores/homes/interactions plus now you are trying to teach them a job so anything that allows them to center and take a breath will help.

Mix in a little fun but don’t cater. The first few days/week are hard and exhausting for AP (and you) so keep the motivation up by mixing in some fun/action. We do a welcome dinner Sat night or welcome lunch Sun depending on kids sports schedules and we invite the APs to tag along for kids games, activities, this last round a friend had a house party and we brought her along until she started to look tired/overwhelmed and then I dropped her back home. :) Giving them a taste of the things they will enjoy after they get the job mastered (Starbucks, dinner out, movie, free local events, etc) helps them feel like they made the right decision in coming and that it’s worth the effort. Don’t go big – whole day in big city, multiple tourist sites, theme park, etc. Too much too soon. Think again, easing into it – little breaks. We take our AP to Central Market just to wander around and check things out and we get a gelato on the way out. Lunch or dinner out to welcome (or at home if that’s more your normal). Take family to newest Disney movie matinee. Take family hike or something you regularly do that’s an hour or two most and break or off afterwards.

Expectation setting – critical. We tell our APs before they go to orientation that week one in particular is critical and we need them to be focused, to rally the energy and to try to pick things up as quickly as possible and not be afraid to ask questions. I go through the color coded spreadsheet schedule before they fly out and explain it all and answer any questions and send them the document. I also print it and leave it on the AP desk for when they arrive. It helps them plan meeting new friends, makes sure they are available for the onboarding/working hours I need them week one and helps set their priorities. We remind them that this is the hard part and every AP goes through it and then once up and running they have the rest of the year to experience and enjoy everything else and we can’t spend weeks or months training so we all invest big week one/two. Work hard/play hard. I have heard from lots of new families distressed/hurt because their APs don’t spend any time with them early on. I always ask if they made a schedule and invited AP to join for things and set expectations – no. Do yourself and AP a favor and take the time to map out that first week and prevent miscommunication/tripping out of the gate.

CA Host Mom December 31, 2016 at 8:04 pm

Can you provide add’l info on the driving course that you send APs prior to their arrival? That’s a great idea. Thanks!

TexasHM January 1, 2017 at 2:21 pm

I don’t endorse any particular course, I just googled “adult drivers education Texas” – you will obviously want to do it for your particular state. The one I currently use is idrivesafely dot com but again – google it then even if you pick that one you will get a cheaper price by going through the ads.

HM many times over April 12, 2016 at 11:35 am

Ok folks, I am really trying…I have provided my AP much of the same guidance and advice I see on this blog. I sent my AP the family handbook in advance, we used the first week for “learn the routine”, and repeated it when school started, since our AP arrived near the end of summer. We shored up beginner level driving skills (lots of time with HD and $$ for private driving lessons), even though during the interviewing process we emphasized that we need an experienced driver and count on our AP to drive the kids often.

We retrained after Winter Holiday break, since the AP seemed to forget how to get the kids ready on time after a 2 week break from school. Then, as we started approaching the 6-month point, when we feel our AP should be on autopilot, we had the “You should have the before-school-routine nailed down by now, here are instructions to help you get the job done” talk. Now we are in the short-timer period. Still, my current AP leaves late to drive the kids to activities, forgets to bring water to sports practice, forgets to help the youngest finish homework, forgot to feed the youngest on a day when we had to get 2 kids to 2 different activities, oversleeps, and in general, is *not* on autopilot nor has mastered the daily routine.

I get little to no support from my LCC. In the past, I asked my LCC to step in and provide counseling or mediation for us, she basically offered us or AP transition right off the bat. ~About a year ago, when I had recurring safety issues that the LCC was aware of, the mediation meeting lasted 3 minutes, ended with AP saying she wanted to go home (24 hours later she changed her mind and went into rematch – total aside – not sure how she was rematched given multiple safety concerns, transition doc on her application was not forthcoming, and she ended up going into rematch again within 10 days).

Like most or all HF, we are busy parents, and we have an AP so that we have some help with the kids. It seems like the expectations on the part of the AP has changed significantly since we started this 5 yr ago. APs seem surprised that this is a full time job with big responsibilities. What is going on? Are my expectations so out of alignment with what an AP should be able to provide? How do other families motivate their AP to think ahead, know her job, and get it done with some degree of accuracy?

TexasHM April 12, 2016 at 1:21 pm

I don’t think you are asking too much. We had some struggles with current AP and oversleeping but she is otherwise pretty great so I just sat her down and asked her how she is going to fix the problem, only to find out she has never had to wake and ready herself before! She either had roommates in the same degree program or her parents when she was at home so this was a big transition (and she has since mastered it although it was painful at times).

I can only offer you what you have probably already done – make her get us earlier, prep the night before and/or have a checklist for walking out the door/end of shifts but here is my bigger concern for you – does she have common sense? I’ve had several very tenured LCs tell me you cannot teach common sense and I have found that to be very true. I have watched some families struggle for the whole year to get the most basic standard of care only to watch the next AP come in and learn the whole routine in two days. No joke. So I wonder if you are in the same boat. It seems like either a lack of sense or lack of motivation or both. Is she motivated? Does she care that she forgot to feed kid? Can’t get them places on time? etc? When current AP started to run late for gymnastics I told her from now on you leave the house at X time. Seems dumb but I think she just wasn’t good at managing the time/distance. DD has not been late since (knock on wood).

As long as you have been clear about the job requirements/expectations and have answered any questions she has then its on her to step up and actually do the job and if it continues to not be done there needs to be consequences whether that is she does not get off on time because she needs to finish the things she was supposed to already have done or she gets a curfew to make sure she is home in time to prep for next day and be well rested (I can’t tell if there are other contributing factors) but honestly when you have to go to this level of micromanagement I tend to say it’s time to find someone that can drive and can do the job. Have you had reset conversations with the LC? Told her she has two weeks from then to get it together and get the job done or its rematch time? Is she giving 200% effort she just doesn’t have the skills or is she giving 50% effort and maybe doesn’t have the skills?

On the thinking ahead, unfortunately you may need to schedule this if you want it done. I schedule my AP to plan for the week in the summer so there are activities on the calendar and they aren’t stuck in the house all day. I schedule my AP to start 30 min before kids get home from school because she needs to get out their clothes/activities items and prep a snack and have it ready and I schedule her 30 minutes after they leave in the morning for tidying up. This time is rarely all used but it keeps the baseline in there that she is expected to prep for them to get home and then tidy up rather than going straight back to bed. If you have the hours, try blocking them out like that into tasks. If she gets done early then great she is off early. If not then she can’t leave until she finishes.

HM many times over April 12, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Thanks Texas HM for the feedback. We have used all of the suggestions/methods you have discussed. We also have time built into the schedule after the kids leave tidying up…and 20-30 minutes to prep for the afternoon before the kids return home. Yet, somehow the connections are not being made between what went awry the previous day/week and how to avoid the same today.

I am not sure that with -this- AP it is a lack of common sense (we’ve lived through it before); probably more like she never had this level of responsibility before, and flew by the seat of her pants in her previous life.

I am not up for rematch; we’ve had an abysmal track record over the past 2 years. We had 2 pretty good-to-great matches with our first 2 AP (one even extended with us). Then a streak of APs who couldn’t/didn’t want to learn the routine or give 100%. As mentioned in my earlier post, AP last year decided in her 10th month to go into rematch.

I know this thread is way off the original topic, but it all ties together. If giving my APs all sorts of tools (training, calendar, family handbook, notebooks, nightly check-in, etc) and advice to do her job is not enough, I must be matching with APs who are not right for my family. In the selection process, I tend to be very transparent – I tell AP applicants what I am looking for, I encourage them to talk to other families, and if we are heading towards matching, I send a copy of the daily schedule and handbook. They can’t say there were any surprises after they arrive, because I have been honest about my family’s needs and my expectations. Yet, it rarely works out as well as I hope.

I am awaiting a reply from my LCC for some guidance or counseling. We’ll see what happens. I know friends and family are tired of hearing my AP woes, so I appreciate having a place to throw it all out there. Perhaps another perspective will provide us that missing piece to make this round a good experience for all in the end.

Dorsi April 12, 2016 at 5:21 pm

I wonder if there is an issue around cultural fit. We have found a country that works very well for us – A place we have no ethnic or language ties to. We have had four successful APs from this country. While each of these four women have been unique, they were all gregarious, loving, and obedient to their parents. They were also ambitious, and mid or post college when they came to be an Au Pair. As a broad generalization, they were not particularly independent, nor were they organized.

I’m not arguing that you need to use my criteria to pick your next au pair. However, you may have got into a rut with the type of person you are choosing. I think we would do very poorly with an au pair that had lived independently (we have never hosted one). It might help to take a good look at the characteristics of the au pairs that were successful, and how they differ from the ones you have had less success with.

HM many times over April 12, 2016 at 5:37 pm

I don’t doubt that the cultural differences and normal variations in someone’s upbringing have a considerable impact on the AP’s approach to this arrangement, the responsibilities, and the expectations. I’m thinking that a successful match has much to do with the AP’s maturity and open-minded approach to “making it work”. This can probably be applied to every concern on this site!

TexasHM April 12, 2016 at 8:09 pm

This is exactly why I screen for personality traits over childcare experience. Give me someone smart, flexible, motivated and with a good attitude and I’ll have her running in no time and little frustration!

WarmStateMomma April 12, 2016 at 9:27 pm

The same thing applies in my office! I suffered for years with the “experienced” assistant and wished for someone fresh out of college with an impractical degree and no marketable skills.

HRHM April 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Yep, this.

I no longer even look at the childcare experience. (helps that my kids are not babies or toddlers) I look to see if she’s had to spend 8 hours straight being responsible and attentive. I look to see if she stuck with a less than glamorous job for more than a month. I look to see what her actual car usage is on a day to day basis.

My two best APs were employed full time in hard manual labor type jobs (house cleaning and catering) They never seemed to find being an AP overtaxing. The one AP I had who had been an AP in EU was terrible. She thought everything I asked was an over the top demand (even though it was all disclosed prior to matching)

MBFTHM August 1, 2016 at 3:01 pm

We are a first time HF and I have just figured out what our schedule for the first few days will be. I am a WAHM and only work 3 days a week, so
for the first week she will shadow me and I will slowly hand over the reigns. I still go back and forth and will probably change as I go, but in general here is our schedule:

Evening of Arrival (Probably Friday ?)
• Welcome her at the pick up location with a banner and/or balloons
• Tour of the house
• Simple, relaxing dinner at home
• Early night so she can unpack/skype family if she wants
• Take a short walk around the neighborhood if she wants
• Go out for ice cream if she wants

Second Day (Probably Saturday ?)
• Breakfast at local bagel place
• Have a family outing for half day
• Relaxing Afternoon at home getting to know the kids
• Dinner out (?)
• Allow her to make plans for Saturday night (drive her?)

Third Day (Probably Sunday?)
• Go over kids’ activities and her schedule
• Go over chores
• Go over family handbook
• Another Family Outing
• Trip to Grocery store

Fourth Day (Probably Monday)
• She goes to SS Office, DMV, and bank
• Driving Tour of everywhere we normally go for activities (give her a list of addresses for her navigation)

Taking a Computer Lunch August 1, 2016 at 8:47 pm

The only problem I see to this schedule is that it’s what I’d do for my favorite niece, not someone whom I’d expect to jump into work mode. Do yourself a favor – and read this Blog for the benefits of putting an au pair into work mode immediately.

Sure, since you’re a part-time WAHM, take time to help her with the task of settling in (a trip to the grocery store on day 2 is a must – most APs don’t have the English to list their favorite foods – even if they’re fluent).

You don’t mention the ages of your children, but if they need to be fed or diapered, have her jump into those activities immediately. Make up a handbook (there are sample ones here and your LCC might have recommendations). While you won’t really know what’s important to you until you’ve hosted your first AP, have a sense of whether you’re going to have a curfew, allow use of the car on personal time, etc. While I permit male overnight visitors, there are plenty of HP here for whom it would be a no-no or even an immediate rematch.

Bottom line, your AP is not a guest. You want her to own the routine as soon as possible and set guidelines for when you may be interrupted.

Remember, most APs were children in their parents home before they got on a plane to come to you. If you want to them to be adults in your home, then treat them fairly, but remember, they’re not guests!

Should be working August 2, 2016 at 11:05 am

I agree with TACL. I would make Saturday breakfast and dinner nothing special, do EXACTLY what you usually do. If you go out to bagel place, ok. Otherwise, do what you normally do. Also I would add on Saturday: driving practice/evaluation; laundry training (most APs don’t do it the way I like); and anything else that will help her/him get up to speed.

It’s nice to offer Saturday night out for the AP, but I wouldn’t plan it for him/her. Better to spend the whole weekend making your family the priority! He/she can go out the next week.

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