Sharing Your Hosting History with a new Au Pair

by cv harquail on July 29, 2010

With each au pair and au pair relationship, a host family develops experience and– if we’re lucky– also a bit of wisdom about the challenges of hosting an au pair successfully. Even when we have a so-so au pair, or a flameout au pair, we can learn something useful for the next time. And, when we have a good or great au pair, we can feel really inspired to do even better.

Experience into Learning, History into Wisdom

Turning your family’s experience into wisdom can be a little tough, though. Often we don’t know how much we’ve learned, or what we’ve learned, until we have to put it into practice a second time. For example, if you’re bitten the bullet and initiated a rematch, you might be more inclined to do it sooner rather than later the next time an au pair is not working out with your family.  by madison etsy janellneuharth.jpg

Experience can also be useless when it comes to “the next time”. With experiences we hope never to repeat, we get learning we hope never to use again. Remember when my au pair shared how she was afraid I wasn’t Christian enough? Not gonna be repeated. Please.

Over time, we develop a history– what happened, with whom, what we think worked, what didn’t, who was at fault, how it got fixed and how we changed our expectations about the au pair relationship. As I look back, I can see times when I thought I’d ‘learned’ something, only to find that what I’d learned wasn’t helpful the next time. Sometimes experience helps, sometimes it’s misleading, sometimes it’s irrelevant.

Incoming au pairs are usually curious about the kinds of experiences we’ve had with previous au pairs. We tell them what we think happened, what we tried to do, and why.

They know that we get weary from bad situations, and that we hope to be able to repeat good situations. They listen to our explanations about what our previous au pair relationships were like, and they try to extrapolate and make a prediction about the year ahead. Too bad that the past doesn’t influence the future in a simple, direct and predictable way.

Which is why, I think, that many of us have the same concerns about what to tell an incoming au pair– or not– as host mom SG:

I have a question that I have not seen discussed here before. We are hosting our fourth au pair and so far we are off to a good start.

(In part that’s because this site has helped me develop my ‘party girl screening’ interview questions!)

So far we have hosted a great au pair, a challenging au pair (and asked for a rematch), and a rematch au pair. Our rematch au pair did well until she decided to extend. As soon as the paperwork was signed she became a wild party girl- complete with a late night call from the police requesting that we come pick up her and our car after an excessive rate of speed incident!

Obviously, this relationship continued to decline. Because we did not choose to extend with her, I “count” as an unsuccessful experience.

My question is this: If our au pair asks about our previous au pair experience, how much do I tell her?

I don’t want her thinking that we rematched on a whim and make her feel nervous. And I also don’t want her to find out that we had a rematch and conclude that we are a mean, quick-to-rematch host family, either hard to satisfy or impossible to live with.

How do other families handle the question of what they share with an au pair about their au pair history?

SG, for all of us (parents and au pairs) it’s important not to assume that a host family’s “goodness” is reflected in its au pair track record.

Sure, if you had 4 au pairs and each one asked for a rematch, you should start to wonder whether you have the right host family approach. And any potential au pair would be sensible to be wary.

But since it takes two to make this relationship work, it’s likely that the au pairs involved in a rematch may also have contributed to the lack of success in that relationships. And of course, sometimes rematches have nothing to do with relationship problems, but with challenges at home and other issues.

For me, I think the most important thing is to explain (1) what you learned about yourself as a family, and (2) how you have adjusted your expectations, guidelines, preferences, etc. to accommodate this learning.

What else should we consider when we talk about our history?

{ 33 comments }

aupair21 July 30, 2010 at 3:04 am

i just want to say that when it comes to sharing your hosting history, be VERY careful about how you speak of your former au pairs, especially the ones that were not super great. i had my family tell me many of the things the former au pair did that they werent so happy about. naturally, i tried to be the complete opposite of this au pair, but i ended up over-doing it. example: they complained that former au pair was not interested in being part of the family and never spent any of her off-time with the family and at 6 pm sharp she was GONE. that made me spend alot of my time off with them and in the end, they were so sick of me being around that everything just went wrong! i still almost cry when i think of the conversation i had with my hostmom that day. (all i wanted was for them to like me). and the way they spoke of the au pair made me self conscious about how they may speak of me to others. so just be careful about what you say :)

former rematch aupair July 30, 2010 at 6:49 am

I agree with aupair21, but have something else to consider:

In my opinion, you should be absolutely honest with your au pair about your previous experience, no matter if positive or negative. My first host family told me before our match that they once had a rematch because their au pair didn’t like the area and preferred a bigger city. After some weeks, they kicked me out, and afterwards I learned that they told the children that I “didn’t like the area”. I also learned that their first rematch was for the same reasons as mine and not because the au pair didn’t like the area. If I had known the truth about it, I think I could have been more careful not to make the same mistakes.

My second host family told me before our match (in my rematch) that they had had many successful years and just recently a rematch, which was the reason why they were looking for a new au pair. In the first weeks in their family, I found out that they hadn’t been honest with me, they had had more rematches than successful matches (!), most of them because the au pairs were unhappy. I rematched again, too. I would have rematched even if I hadn’t learned that they hadn’t been honest with me, but if I had known the truth about their rematches before our match, I would have had the chance to think about it again before matching.

If the rematches you had were not your fault, but because of a personality mismatch or because of the au pair’s behavior, I am sure your new au pair will appreciate your honesty and won’t think that you are a bad host family because of these rematches.

Gianna July 30, 2010 at 8:13 am

I think it is important to have a well thought out , neutral statement about your past experiences. No matter what you tell your aupair , she is going to hear the opinion of
all of her aupair friends and that may be good or bad. Even if the LCC tells the aupairs not to gossip, they are going to do it. Social networking has changed the world. Aupairs can get in touch with each other with or without any help from any of us. I used to feel that it was the responsibility of the LCC to put aupairs in touch with other aupairs but lately it seems that this happens no matter how much effort she puts into getting them together. Given all this , I am in favor in telling the new aupair as little as possible about the previous aupairs except for a funny ( not mean ) story about something that went wrong or some wonderful experience.

hOstCDmom July 30, 2010 at 8:32 am

I like to share stories about previous au pairs in the vein of fun/cool/interesting things the previous au pairs did —
As in “X travelled to Wyoming with 2 other au pairs for the weekend” or “Y tried the weekend classes at such-and-such University and really liked them” or ” Z joined a particular gym and ended up meeting lots of other au pairs” or how an AP solved a tricky problem (such as the designated driver becoming drunk — “X found it useful to carry the tel number of this cab company, because once when she was at a club Mary drank too much and she needed to get home…”) etc.

Not exactly a brilliant or unique approach on my part, but I think that sharing information about experiences the previous au pairs had (whether the previous AP was great or merely so-so, or perhaps even not so great) is a good way to broaden the current au pair’s conception of what she might do during her year, how independent she could be, what we will permit, what we thought were good solutions to situations etc..

I also have a number of checklists/task lists that I share with our APs for various situations (when we are out of town, or a departure/check out list, what to do on snow days list etc.) I usually present these in the manner of “I prepared this for X and because she found it helpful I’ve started giving it to all of our APs”…(which is often true, but sometimes I’ve fudged a bit). This approach of leveraging the previous AP can help me to roll out specific instructions about how I want something done without appearing to be too heavy handed. I think APs receive such lists/instrux better when they hear that it was made for a previous AP and that the previous APs found it helpful. Then, they don’t take it in the vein of “my HM must think I’m a moron if she felt she needed to make me such a detailed list” — at worst, they think “previous AP must have been a post if she needed such a detailed list” :) But, at least they read the list!!

StephinBoston July 30, 2010 at 8:40 am

I usually don’t give details on other au pair’s personality or personal preferences, we’ve only had good matches so I don’t have anything to complain or “hide” but in the same sense, I try not to make them feel compared to others. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, I try really hard to respect that and NOT compare. Now it can be hard when FABULOUS au pair leaves but we’ve managed. I do tell them “X loved this class and Y really thought that was a waste of time” but I try to put it in perspective for them too, they’ve all had very different personalities and goals in life. I really don’t know how I would deal with explaining a rematch to a new au pair, I think I’d go the honest route, usually it’s the best route.

ExAP July 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I think this is one of the most challenging things, trying not to compare r not to let the AP feel that the previous one is your favorite.
Sensitive au pairs will feel it anyhow (e.g. I did), but you should make an effort to not always talk like “X was such a wonderful AP, we miss her so much, and she did everything right blabla” ;)

CS Nanny July 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I hated hearing about what the old AP’s used to do. We all have our strong points, and our weak points. Personally, I HATE arts and crafts (because I’m not at all creative), and so I keep them to a minimum. However, I am very social and athletic, so we have playdates and lots of time doing active activities (swimming, ice skating, kicking balls around, etc.) It really irritated me when my HF family used to say, well, X used to do this and that. And I always pointed out that X was overweight, and that the little girl LOVED to do active stuff with me. Did we do arts and crafts? Yes, because I know it’s important to a child’s development. I just prefered to do other things. But I hated being compared to someone else.

hOstCDmom July 30, 2010 at 3:45 pm

In light of the above comments, perhaps I should clarify. When I said I shared stories about previous APs it related more to “adventures” the AP had in her off time – not stories about how great she was with the kids, or that she was excellent at some activity. I’m not trying to compare. More a way to share some of the fun things that previous APs chose to do in their free time in order to offer concrete examples to our new AP who might be feeling a bit adrift about what “she can do”. I try really hard not to do it in a “you should do..X” way, but more a genuine sharing. And, of course, she is free to ignore any of these stories. :)

I do use this as a way to make some points, such as: X found the free shuttle was a great way to get to the train station on Friday evenings, or like above, helpful hints about problems that were solved one way by a previous AP.

NoVa Host Mom July 30, 2010 at 9:04 am

We are on AP #6 and I agree that i don’t share too much unless there is a specific reason. I try to take all the lessons i have learned and improve as a HM year to year. I am definitely have a better sense of what works for our family, personalities etc given i have gone to both extremes. :-)

Our current AP is absolutely fantastic and I did have to share some info about our previous AP with her as that AP extended for a 2nd year here in the same area so I knew they would run into each other. It wasn’t that the former AP was “bad” – she stayed with us for the entire year, it was just that she was really just OK and not a good fit personality wise for our family. I explained the later to our new AP with no details. she did end up meeting our old AP and actually could see why the personality didn’t work. so i was honest without being too detailed and certainly not saying anything negative.

One thing to remember is that in many cases, your new APs will meet other APs who knew your last AP and has probably heard about your family. So best to keep things as positive, neutral and/or generic as possible.

PA AP mom July 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

This can be very tricky!!!

We initially told our 2nd AP only limited things about our first AP. She lasted the whole year, but we had some major issues with her.

After about 6 weeks she started asking a lot of questions about the last AP. She finally admitted that she was hearing a lot of things for the other APs in our cluster that conflicted with what we had told her.

We set down with her and asked what the concerns were. Turns out our 1st AP had told the other APs that we made her work 60 hours a week (truth: 35-40), didn’t let her use the car except for work (truth: dedicated AP car, even after 3 accidents), made her work lots of weekends (truth: 3 weekends the entire year).

We explained in more detail than I wanted to, how the relationship had deteriorated after her accidents, breaking curfew, lying, and fighting with our 8 year old son.

She met another AP in her cluster who had known our last AP. Apparently the AP had bragged to this girl about how she lied to the LCC to get us in trouble!!! Really mature.

We aren’t getting another AP but I think if we ever did, we would be more open about how our previous years went and what made them ok, great or bad.

Anna July 30, 2010 at 9:46 am

We are now in our fourth year; we had two great years and one bad year with two rematches. We do tell when matching of our experience. I try to explain honestly, but I try to speak about all of our au pairs in a positive way. One of them (the child-free and lying girl) is hard to speak positively about, but I do tell that we tried to work it out for many months and the rematch finally happened because I uncovered a big lie – even though there were many problems before that.
I also offer our new au pair to contact two of our successful matches; I think speaking to girls who lived with us an entire year helps too.

Az. August 10, 2010 at 6:06 am

The child-free girl?

MTR August 10, 2010 at 8:07 am

I am not Anna, but I will answer. “Child-free” term refers to people who choose not to have children of their own, for whatever reasons they may have. In my experience, the reason most often is that they do not like children and do not being in the company of children.

I had a an au pair who was child-free as well. My first au pair. Although she was not a bad au pair as far as au pairs go (she was able to engage kids in some activities and such) and my kids loved her, she did not work out with us. She was immature and refused to follow certain rules that we established for her (rules that had to do with the childcare, not her personal freedom and free time). She also told me that did not plan on having children of her own, and that is not something a mother wants to hear from a girl who claimed to love children when she was being interviewed as a potential au pair.

CS Nanny August 10, 2010 at 8:32 am

I don’t plan on having children of my own, but I am a great nanny and love being around kids. Thankfully, my employers have never judged me on that personal preference, yet look at my job performance and my stellar references. It is entirely possible for someone to enjoy working in the childcare profession (and be great at it) and not want children of their own.

Gianna August 10, 2010 at 8:35 am

It sounds like you had a really disappointing experience with the aupair who told you that she never wanted to have children and yes, I agree that it is not saavy to share that information on an interview for a childcare position. But my personal experience is very different. Both of my parents had large families and my favorite aunt as I was growing up was a very liberated, avant garde lady.
She loved kids and was very generous to all of her nieces and nephews in terms of time and material goods. She took us to lunch, introduced us to travel and music, introduced us to her friends and was a great sounding board and a safe counterpoint to my mother’s more traditional life. My father likewise, had a brother who was gay and in those days an open lifestyle, much less adoption, was not an option , at least in our culture. He , too, loved kids and was a wonderful part of my life as a child. I had another uncle who was a priest who lived in another country who loved children and exposed us to a whole world we would never have experienced without him. I have single friends who are a real
plus in my children’s lives. I always knew I wanted children ; aupairs are very young ; people have been known to change their minds about lifestyles and careers. An aupair who doesn’t do her job is a real concern. I have learned not to take it too seriously or personally when someone says they never want to have children of their own.

MTR August 10, 2010 at 9:14 am

Gianna,

I will be the first one to admit that I do not know anybody first hand who is child-free. None of my family are child-free (although may be some should’ve been, but I digress). My sister though for a while that she was child-free, but I now have beautiful nephew. Anyway.

I said above: ” “Child-free” term refers to people who choose not to have children of their own, for whatever reasons they may have. In my experience, the reason most often is that they do not like children and do not being in the company of children.” May be I should’ve specified that ‘my experience’ comes from reading on-line blogs and message boards related to this subject. And I did say ‘most often’, not ‘always’. OK, enough of defending myself here.

As for my au pair, like I said, at the time, she was good at engaging kids and they did like her a lot. She did not tell me during the interview that she was ‘child-free’. That came out later, when she was with us for a few months. Also, with that particular au pair, issues that lead to rematch were not things that concerned her direct childcare duties, but the immaturity with which she regarded our authority as parents of those children and how she interacted and communicated (or not) with us when it came to her childcare duties.

Only now, that I have an au pair who we all love and who has been with us for 14 months now (extended for the 2nd year), I can really tell that with the old au pair, it was not just the personality/immaturity issues, but also how she dealt with kids. Yes, she was good at engaging them, but she never expressed any feelings toward them. When she hugged them, she had blank stare on her face. She almost never smiled at/with them. If she was coloring or doing another project with them, it was because it was time to do arts and crafts project, so that at the end of the day she could say I did the project with the kids. There was no heart in her interaction.

She was our first au pair. At the time, I did not notice all these things. They became apparent to me after we got our current au pair. Our current au pair may not do a project with kids everyday (actually, she is not big on art projects and such at all) or she may forget to read with my younger daughter some days, but every time I see her interacting with my kids, I can see she does it from her heart. She does not do things to put a check mark at the end of the day and say she’s done. She has her preferences of things to do (like she told me that she does not like taking kids bike riding for reasons she told me). Now, my kids are now 2 years older then when the old au pair was here, and they need more of the supervisory caretaker now then hand’s on engaging caretaker, but I can still see the difference. Just my 2 cents worth.

I hope Anna forgives me for thread-jacking her post. :)

Anna August 10, 2010 at 9:26 am

Yes, an au pair who has decided she never wants to have children of her own.
In her case she clearly didn’t like being around children, and being an au pair was a wrong job for her.
Of course she didn’t tell us during the interview of this, and she came from rematch – we didn’t have many choices or much time to decide; she admitted it to my husband when she was already in our home for a while and couldn’t effectively deal with our children.

I am not judging people who made a choice to be child-free.
I just don’t want one to be a long-term caregiver for my kids (I am fine having my lesbian cousin babysit sometimes, if she lived anywhere close). I want a woman who sees herself as being a mother, having and enjoying her family, sometime in the future. Yes, I can make that choice. She is a role model to my kids, and in some sense she should model the values I am trying to transmit to them.

Of course au pairs are young, and choices are not etched in stone at this point; in fact I am sure that my “child-free” former au pair will end up marrying and having a child in the future. But at the time she was with our family, this was her stance… and that is what matters to me.

to CSNanny – maybe being a nanny a relationship is more formal. A nanny usually doesn’t live with a family, and her private life is more private, she can leave it “at home”. An au pair’s home is our home for a year, she becomes like a sister, and my (still small) kids really look up to her in everything! I really wouldn’t care about personal choices of my kids’ teacher, or a daycare provider, or a babysitter. It is different. Also, your employer might not be aware that you don’t want to have children. And there is also “don’t want to have children for whatever reason”, and “child-free”. People who label themselves “Child-free” exhibit more militant and ideological stance on the issue IMHO.

chatelaine Mom July 30, 2010 at 10:27 am

We are in our second match, still very much learning the process. Our first match ended in rematch; we kept about the previous situation to a minimum with our new rematching au pair, as she said that she did not really care to know about AP1. The problem was (is!), our 4-year-old daughter constantly calls AP2 by AP1’s name, and uses comparisons as leverage (“AP2 doesn’t know as much English as AP1,” “AP1 was more fun,” or “AP1 let me watch TV”– and other activities we asked her not to do). There is obviously a great deal of insecurity for a child this age going through a caregiver transition, not to mention a new baby’s arrival. I guess this presents a tangential question: how do you handle your child’s representation of previous APs? We made up a little song welcoming our new AP which our daughter now sings (ad nauseum, alas) to remember her name, that has been effective.

As Gianna observed, AP2 learned more than she ever wanted to know about AP1 through the neighborhood AP network, and has asked us to verify she heard to try to get the story right and be sure of our expectations, which was great. The adults (and infant, now much happier) have made peace with the past and moved on.

MommyMia July 30, 2010 at 4:05 pm

It can be really tough when the kids are very attached to a great au pair and reluctant to change! But we explain to the new au pairs not to take it personally when they get called the wrong name (hey, I get called “AP” all the time by my kids) and if there is ever any uncertainty as to what they’re allowed to do, check with us or our handbook, and don’t be afraid to tell the kids no – if your gut feeling is that they don’t watch TV during dinner or eat candy for a snack, you’re probably right and they’re trying to manipulate you. There are bound to be a lot of “tests” at first to see how far your boundaries will stretch! Hopefully the kids will eventually become just as attached to their new au pair….

Taking a Computer Lunch August 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Ah yes, 4. Four-year-olds, in my experience, hate change, and are old enough to use it as a weapon. Fortunately for us, our 2nd AP was a strong person (at least in front of us and our 4-year-old – who had had only one AP up to that point), and weathered the storm extremely well.

I do think it’s far game to give an incoming AP an idea of the competition. A much-beloved departing AP can wreak havoc on the psyche of a relatively insecure incoming AP – no matter how badly the adults in the household felt about the departing AP.

Deb Schwarz July 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

Good topic. I try not to scare away our potential au pairs when I tell them that we’ve had 16 au pairs (we had two at a time for 5 years), but believe it or not, that doesn’t include the rematches (4 if my memory serves me right). I think it’s always important to frame the rematches in why the au pair’s skills or personality didn’t work for your family (and not in a judgemental way, if possible). That way, if the au pair happens to share any of these traits, then they hopefully will recognize them and realize that it’s not a good match. An au pair doesn’t want a bad situation (unless they are desperate) just as a host family doesn’t. Perhaps with 16 au pairs, I’m allowed more “mulligans”, but I have no qualms about talking about the ones that didn’t work out. BTW – most of them we could tell within minutes, well, maybe hours (e.g. “Ingie” – the one with the fluffy high heels at the airport who didn’t pick up one piece of luggage off the conveyer belt (thus, my “airport test”), or the one that asked me on the way home from the airport if we could find her new hearthrob boyfriend a job, or the one that backed my car into my husband’s car within a week). I think that it’s important to talk about the ones that didn’t work out….. in fact, I’m in the midst of screening new candidates and the one that we really like, had an au pair job in the past that didn’t work out. I’ve just asked him for the host families number because I hope to glean some information from that host family to see if there is something that I should know (good or bad), because “for every pot there is a lid” – and it may just not have been a good fit, or the host family was nutty – but I’d like to know before proceeding (so far, I haven’t heard from him with the number, so maybe I scared him off….) As they always say: full disclosure is best.

Calif Mom July 30, 2010 at 10:44 am

We are on AP #6. We’ve gone into rematch 3 times (if you count the flameout Pointy Boots who lasted a few days) and one of those 3 was a “re-re-match”–the Morose One replaced the Princess but turned out to have emotional problems (we were her third family–red flag!).

Wow–we sound pretty stupid, or naive. You’re right. (I prefer to think of it as optimism, rather than stupidity, but call what it what you will, hub and I had a lousy record when selecting APs from the The Candidate Pool).

So I’ve had a lot of experience being asked about past APs!

I totally agree that APs talk and if there are a lot of them in your area, your family will be among the topics discussed. (So will your friends!) Just accept that you cannot control this and don’t even think about it. Also agree that if you think a new AP has heard something ‘out there’ amongst the APs, you should ask directly what she’s heard and address it openly. Confess what you didn’t handle perfectly, but don’t whitewash it either.

I have an honesty policy. I don’t like throwing people under the bus, but neither am I going to accept total blame for a relationship gone bad. It absolutely takes two (or more) to build a successful family-AP relationship. And I would say that out loud to a questioning AP.

Are we perfect? No. Do I care about making this work? Absolutely! Will we respond to reasonable requests for accommodations? You bet. Is each relationship different? YES!

Hiding bad things tends to not work, IMHO. These can become too close to those bad family secrets that take on a life of their own. Studies on family secrets are very clear that they are really not good for the kids! Kids blame themselves and/or imagine much worse things than you could believe.

When we rematched an AP because she couldn’t handle the older kid and was a doormat for the younger one, I shared some version of that statement with the new AP. New AP needs to know that we value her ability to meet the needs of both kids, and that it is a basic performance requirement. This information about what happened when someone didn’t have those skills will help her. It is proof that she needs to be sure to be fair (and that fair doesn’t mean the same for each kid) and if she needs help, to ask for direction. I reiterate that we will help them troubleshoot, find strategies that will work, and have a family meeting if we need one with the kids. Mostly i try to help the APs by giving them tactics they can try themselves. This supports her power base with the kids.

Another AP rematched because she felt the job was too hard; one couldn’t handle our less-than-Hollywood physical plant. I have already shared that information with New AP before we matched with her. Not as a threat, but as information she needs to know in order to be sure for herself that she will fit in with us. (Again, the “I dare you to match with us” idea — share it all up front, warts and all. Because running a Rematch Prevention program is better than trying to cure a relationship on the rocks.

When describing past problems, I do try to frame these conversations in terms of “goodness of fit” when there was no single thing that happened that caused us to rematch (and usually there isn’t just one thing: the root issue is usually a lack of shared values). I use the online dating metaphor: if you decide on a 3rd date that you just don’t click with someone it doesn’t mean they are a bad person, they just aren’t right for you. And that’s usually the case with our past APs.

These messages are shared with the kids, too, at their level. “It’s not that Princess was a bad person, she just didn’t like the way we do things. Different families think different things are the most important. She wanted to take care of only one child because she thought that would be easier. She was really nice, but she wasn’t happy, and we didn’t want her to be unhappy.” (No, I don’t call her The Princess to the kids! :-) )

I discovered that, especially during transitions (whether those are rematches or a normal transition to a new, fabulous AP) it’s really important that your kids know that you as parents are keeping an eye on their supervisors, that you are not just throwing them to the wolves, and that *each* kid’s needs are important to you. So don’t forget to check in with your kids in one-on-one conversations.

Another benefit I’ve seen: sharing details about rematch–including how common it really is–kind of de-stigmatizes it for the APs. It’s made to sound really scary during the AP Orientation, and I think it kind of looms over their heads. Our new AP has already heard horror stories, some from the agency folks themselves–about APs who made bad decisions and got sent home, or frightening families who exploited the APs. So they are very vulnerable at the beginning of a relationship! Understand that and show your respect by being honest about past rematches. These honest conversations up front prevent many issues down the line, and establish a pathway for your AP to talk about things with you before they become problems.

On performance issues that aren’t really deal-killers–like the failure of former so-so AP to make the kids tidy their own room, etc–I do make it clear to new AP and kids that that was not okay with me, and that I have different expectations for them all now (“because now you are xx years old, and you can do more”). I let the kids know that that doesn’t mean I didn’t love former AP, because I did and do. But I can still wish that she had done some things differently.

One of my key messages in daily life, really, that everyone is different and everyone brings different talents and preferences to life. This helps soften criticism while still allowing new standards to be implemented.

I also selected an AP who is more of a stickler, and told New AP that that was one of the reasons we picked her, we saw that she had the talents that previous AP didn’t. Again, focusing on not a better person, but different skills.

I wouldn’t say that I am careful never to say anything negative about a former AP, though. If the person was rude and hurt my feelings, I’m not going to cover for her. Because these things have a way of trickling out over time anyway. To not share the bad stuff along with the good stuff strikes me as not helpful in the long run. (But I’m an extravert, so YMMV.)

As a mentor to these young women, I do try to point out that the things I have learned over time, and I try to give them a leg up by sharing. I think they know that I’m not trying to scare them off, that I’m honestly trying to give them information that will help them make all those daily decisions they face as they care for my kids and live in our home.

Midwest Mom July 30, 2010 at 10:47 am

We had one rematch and gave the incoming au pair a lot of the details. I’m glad in retrospect that we did as the au pairs in the area that were friends with rematch au pair told her things that made us look bad. Having the story from us ahead of time, she was able to laugh at what the rematch au pairs was saying about us.

We just welcomed our third au pair who had been in contact with au pair #2 and she had great things to say about us. I can’t recall if we told her much about rematch au pair, but our LCC brought it up during our initial sit down after au pair #3 arrived. AND, she lied about the reason for the rematch. I was shocked. She did ask if she could tell the story and I said sure thinking she would tell an accurate story! So after she left I immediately told au pair #3 the truth and said LCC may have forgotten or got us mixed up with someone else (when I know she was just lying as she kind of has a bad track record for that).

some Au Pair August 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm

thumbs up!!! Thanks for your honesty!!

MommyMia August 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Funny thta you’re in the midwest, because your LCC sounds just like ours. I keep trying to give her the benefit of the doubt about her “incorrect memories” of past APs and events, but even our APs are noticing that they can’t believe some of what she says after they’re here a few months. I don’t know if she truly can’t keep us families and APs straight, or what – but our cluster keeps shrinking, so it’s not like there are so many. I’m always careful to get things in writing now, and document any issues so that I’ll have the facts if they’re ever needed!

APnCA August 1, 2010 at 12:15 am

I had a rematch with my first host family, after seven months their “new” au pair sent me a msg asking what happend to me, because she was having a lot of problem with them, more than I did, she say that hated them but always pretend like.

AuPairInMD August 1, 2010 at 7:59 pm

As an Au Paur, I gotta say it’s nice when you share the story about your past Au Pairs, because helps us to do not make the same mistakes, however I had things that bothered my with my two host families (I rematched the 1st one)

With the 1st one, the problem is simple: they lied to me. While talking (emails, telephone), their 1st Au Pair seemed the perfect Au Pair, they talked about her like she was perfect, but in my first day here (really the first one, on the ride from the airport to their house) the lie began to fall, starting with a “She is very good, but she was unable the whole year to keep the playroom organized”. That was the first of many lies that ended up in a rematch.

With the second host family, the problem is that the girl (who rematched) was the worst in the world. I cannot stand anymore to hear that: she broke the vacuum, filled the computer with virus, was more worried about the texting that about the baby and a whole list that keeps going. It was good that their where honest, but they don’t need to tell me that 1000 times, like they do. I feel accused and observed all the time, scared all the time that if I step wrong one single time, I’ll be in trouble.

So, I’d say: Don’t lie, but don’t overwhelm.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 2, 2010 at 9:57 pm

In general, we have encouraged potential candidates to communicate with our current APs, even as we held our breath. AP #1 lived with us for 3 1/2 years, although the last 9 months were more tense than not, especially after The Camel had spinal fusion that both saved her life and nearly killed her. AP #2 arrived three weeks after AP #1 (whom we had attempted to sponsor as employers) quit several months after our relationship had deteriorated (I’m now used to “the goodbye relationship,” but at that point I wasn’t officially in an AP program and had no LCC to help me navigate). AP #2 took a lot of crap from my then 4-year-old – after all his only other caregiver had just departed from his life – and she held up extremely well. I did my best not to bad mouth AP #1 (after all, we had just lived together far too long – she wasn’t a bad person).

AP #3 didn’t really overlap with AP#2, except for a couple of days of vacation in my parent’s home near Las Vegas. AP #3 shared some of the best friends of AP #2, who took her on, but also because she was from the same country as AP #1, who had stayed in the US, ended up being friends with AP #1. My line was, AP #1 is a good person, but she said some pretty unforgivable things to me when she left, and quite frankly, I’m done.

We had a one-year break between AP #3 and AP #4, while we gutted our house to make a handicapped accessible wing for The Camel (only those who like backpacking can live in three bedrooms while the ground floor and basement are a wreck). AP #4 had no overlap with the friends of AP #3, but she turned out to be a great extrovert who made her own way – and took a lot of incoming APs under her wing – even though she was only 19 when she arrived and just 20 when she left. I wrote a great letter of recommendation for her, because like AP #2, she was not just good to my kids, but to other APs, and really followed through on the education component as well.

We had one month of overlap between AP #4 and AP #5, because AP #4 joined us on our holiday in her 13th month. Big mistake. AP #5 told her worries to AP #4 but not to us. AP #4 shared them with us, but we couldn’t get AP #5 to open up. AP #5 managed to alienate most of AP #4’s friends immediately, and all of them within 4 months. AP #5 joins her new family on Saturday.

AP #6 joins us in three weeks – after both kids go to sleep-away camp and we have our family holiday (not making that mistake again!). Since we don’t know that AP#5 has an AP friends, I don’t see a lot of overlap. Meanwhile, I have 3 weeks to meditate so I don’t bad-mouth AP #5.

Every AP has been completely different. Every AP has brought strengths to the table that no other AP has had (even #5). Every AP has had weaknesses (she wouldn’t be a human being if she didn’t, although quite frankly, we have really enjoyed living with most of them).

My advice – take a deep breath and don’t bad-mouth your departing AP. In fact, don’t take about her at all, until asked, and then keep it even-keeled, “Our relationship wasn’t perfect. But you are different and I don’t foresee the same issues arising. You might here some bad things about me from her friends, and all I ask is that you keep an open mind and come and talk with me when you are experiencing things about us that make you unhappy.” Take a deep breath, and let the past go. (Can you see me meditating now? Ohm…)

theGermanGirl-FutureAP August 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I would always like to get to know my hostfams history, the sooner the better, usually the families have more experience with the matter and can already rule out things and girls from that experience, I think both AP and HF can only profit from it.

You clearly have to be smart about it in wording, not necsesarily tell the whole painful story about your last horrible re-match but I guess you already know that. :)

AP August 4, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I think that every AP has her own experience… It´s terrible to be compared to an other person and at the same time, it’s dangerous to keep in contact with the past APs because we never know if she/he is telling us the truth or not….

Taking a Computer Lunch August 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm

From my point of view, I want potential candidates to know from my current AP and recent past APs that it is possible to take care of The Camel, that it’s not as onerous as it sounds, and that APs who live with us are fairly generously rewarded for taking good care of her (no curfew, okay to have boyfriends sleep over, access to a car, and no bad-mouthing personal choices – although we do occasionally offer unsolicited advice). I would never encourage my APs to sugar-coat the situation – The Camel’s gift to her brother (besides saving him when he had bacterial meningitis as a newborn), is having APs who really care about children (as well as having a good time).

I try to do my best not to compare my AP to previous ones, but I must admit, my son does, and I know it hurts.

Deb Schwarz August 5, 2010 at 3:09 am

TACL,

I’m curious – how did The Camel save her brother’s life?

Like you, we always encourage our potential au pairs to talk to our previous au pairs. To help with that, I started a Facebook group of our 16 previous au pairs.

Good luck with your new au pair (and your vacation). We are still looking for #17 – I’m starting to think that I’m too picky – no one is quite right – waiting for Mr/Ms Perfect!

Deb

Taking a Computer Lunch August 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

Personally, I believe in being picky. I’m always surprised when people don’t spend a lot of time and energy in deciding whom is going to spend the year with them (having seen some rushed matches end in rematch fairly quickly), and I realize now that from agency to agency there is a lot of variation in the practice of matching. While some parents want exclusive access to AP applications, I’m fine with losing out on some candidates in order to get someone flexible, hard-working, and who has experience with special needs children. I used to look at applications of “special needs willing” applicants, and then I realized that many of them didn’t have a lot of child care experience and were casting their net widely (my favorite was the economics major who spent 200 hours taking care of children in a mall drop-off center – how that was going to prepare her for au pair life, I don’t know).

If you have a special family situation – a large number of children, young multiples, a special needs child, or even as we have discussed here before – adults in the house who have medical issues or are differently abled, then I think you really have to trust your instincts, be selective, and spend some time reading between the lines in applications.

We typically spent six weeks in matching – it’s a huge commitment on our part, because our telephone interviews — with good candidates — take 60-90 minutes, and we often make 4-6 calls after weeding out dozens of candidates with the “do you want to live with The Camel” e-mail.

The Camel’s gift was having parents who were attuned to changes in children. My son was in the hospital, diagnosed, and on antibiotics before the bacterial infection could damage his brain. That same gift has saved The Camel plenty of times, too, including the time she was in ICU after surgery and I turned to the nurse in charge and said, “She’s in crisis, call Dr. X now,” seconds before she decided that breathing took up too much energy. My best APs have been the ones who learn to read her, too.

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