Our Au Pair Wants to Extend and We’d Rather Not

by cv harquail on August 27, 2009

Uh Oh. A clash of expectations on the horizon. And, once you discuss it, you might get some pushback from your au pair….

Our au pair has been with us about 5 months. She is ok. Not great by any means. We are not planning to extend with her.

Our biggest issue with her is that she does not want to be a part of our family. She has an American boyfriend and came here to be with him. I believe her reason for extending 6 months would coincide with the time she plans to get married. I really don’t want a so-so au pair who is planning a wedding and hope to do a much better job at finding the perfect au pair next time around…

jek in the box jacaranda.jpgShe mentioned this morning that she wanted to have a discussion with us about extending for either 6 or 9 months. I was hoping to avoid this discussion for as long as possible to avoid this causing issues with her performance for the rest of the year. Any thoughts on how to approach this?

Midwest Mom

Hi Midwest Mom,

So you want to find a way to say “don’t plan on extending with us” without damaging the (only okay) relationship you currently have? (And, I’m assuming that your AP is not so bad that you imagine you’d want to rematch earlier…)

Since you are only 5-6 months into your year, you still have another 3 months before you’d actually “have to” make the decision and have the conversation about her extending with you (or not). So, I might try saying something like:

We are not really sure yet what our childcare needs and family situation are going to be, that far ahead. We’d like to wait until we need to make that decision, rather than discuss it now and then be faced with changing things around if our needs change.

If it is important to you to ensure that you get an extension for 6 months, remember that there are always families who’d love an extension au pair who knows what she’s doing, and you might even be able to find a better situation, one that gives you time to work on the wedding/one that gets you closer to your fiance, etc. But We’re not ready to have this conversation now.

That said, I do want to tell you how much we’ve been appreciating (add your appreciation here…)

Most of the host parents on this blog agree that it is just NOT a good idea to extend with an au pair that doesn’t’ make you and your family actively happy. Life is too short, and there are many APs out there who’d have a better fit with you and a more fun time.

Parents, what do you think?

Jacarada by jek in the box on Flickr


Jillian August 27, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I completely agree, do not extend with your AP if you’re not completely satisfied with her! Saying that you’re not sure what your needs will be is definitely fair. I would say something like, “I know you’re getting closer to needing a committment from us and we’re very sorry but we just can’t give it to you right now. We would definitely encourage and support you while you look for a new family. We love having you hear and the kids love (insert something they enjoy doing with her) but we’re just not ready to sign up for another 6 months.”
Good luck!

Daniele August 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm

I guess that for you to extend with your au pair for another year she needs to ve a AWESOME AU PAIOR, perfect and everything. Makes you happy, part of the family, etc. Also I think that she doeasnt want to stay with you because of you but because of the boyfriend.
The same goes to the au pair. To extend with a host family for the second year they need to be reaaaally awesome. Otherwise just change families for the second year!

I dont think it’s something that will hurt the au pair cause obviously she wants to to be there for other reasons than your family.

This Friend of AP August 27, 2009 at 6:18 pm

I was an AP myself and I met a guy during my first year. Since my family didn’t want to extend (HM was getting off work, because she was suppose to have a baby soon after my 12 months were over), I found another family for the second year who was OK with the fact that I had a boyfriend and I would like to spend weekends with him.
They were open and even allow me to take a car for the entire weekend (he lived 60 miles away).
I am glad I was at the family who appreciate my work, but also understood that I have my own life and I could be in love!
After my two years as an AP I came back to my country, but still kept in touch with that boyfriend (he even visited me and my family). Two years later I came back to US, got married and we are happy.
I could understand if the AP was doing a bad job, kids didn’t like her, then a rematch would be expected. But rematching because she has a BF? Because she might be in love? Because she rather spend her weekends with him, instead with you? We are all women, we were all 20 years old and we know what does it feel when we find this Prince Charming!
I understand that the family happiness is important, but what about AP’s happiness? Maybe this is “The One” for her.
Maybe try to talk to her about being more active and spending time with your family. Would you be OK if she invited her BF and you all would go to the park, or zoo, or whatever? Everyone would be happy.
How long is she in US? Getting married on J1 visa might not be the best idea. For this purpose is K1 visa – fiancee visa.
Can he support her? Does he make above the poverty line per year? USCIS is very strict when it comes to money and taxes. For how long they know each other? Maybe explaining her that would help?

My 2 cents August 28, 2009 at 11:07 am

I agree with the above about telling her you are not ready to discuss, and it is pretty early for this discussion, which makes me really think her only motivation for herself and not because she likes your family or your kids. However, I would be careful not to add anything to suggest you think she’s an ideal au pair for you. I think commentary about how you appreciate her, the kids like her, etc. could set her up thinking that in 2 or 3 months when she revisits the issue you will agree to extend. And that’s really not fair to her. If she needs improvement, you need to tell her that and not keep silent or send mixed messages.

Deciding to not extend with your AP is not he same as rematching, and please do not mentally relate the two as tempting as that is. The AP program is not intended to be a marraige facilitating venture and you should not trap yourself into thinking you are a horrible person if you don’t facilitate her stay until she is married. AP and her fiancee can and will find a way to be together, even if worse comes to worse and it means she goes home until they are married and which time she would reenter permanently. Military families manage all the time, after all.

Deciding to not extend is an awkward and uncomfortable thing for everyone. But always keep counsel that you are doing what is best in the long run for your family. Good luck

Host Mom VA August 28, 2009 at 11:14 am

I think that the original poster is probably not wanting to rematch just because her Au Pair has an American bf. I suspect there are other issues too between them. (I mean the HF and Au Pair)
I personally would not care either way if my Au Pair had a bf or not as long as he was not present at my house.
But, if I felt like the Au Pair was taking advantage of my family to stay in the country for the purposes of marrying her bf then I would have a problem. Firstly she does not have the family and kids as her primary interest (which is what we as Host Parents are looking for) and her focus is going to be on her upcoming wedding and fiance, not her role as care taker for her Host family kids.
We currently have an Au Pair who could not care less if she is part of our family or not and treats us like a youth hostel or hotel. I never know if she is here or not, if her friends are here or not or if she is going to eat with us or not.Thus she gets no food cooked for her although there is always food for for her in the fridge, cupboard etc, we have given up trying to include her as part of the family in activities etc, we put a limit on friends being over, we are not extending with her and she is going back to her home country next week.
What goes around comes around!
Au Pair’s happiness is important but Host Family’s happiness is also.

Anonymous August 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I suggest that you talk to your LCC and ask if their is a way you can end your program year early and rematch early. Then, if that works out I would talk explore ways to give the aupair some extra time off – maybe she could take her vacation at the end of the year , that sort of thing.
I say this because it is unethical to lead her on and string her along.
Understandably, you have no interest in extending with her in any case.
She does not have the right to demand it from you. But she should have the right to try to extend with another family. Frankly, she probably doesn’t want to leave her boyfriend but that is not your reponsibility.
If this is such a serious relationship, let him come up with the money and the legal fees to bring her back to this country. I see no reason why you should support her while she tries to close the deal with him.
I know women my age who hung out at the medical school library hoping to meet a doctor but they were not doing it at someone else’s expense.
And I really believe that one of the purposes of these programs is for people from other countries to spend some time here AND THEN GO HOME and share what they have experienced to make the world a better place.

sunnyvah August 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Don´t be offended everyone, but maybe you should slow down concerning rematching. I agree, that Midwest Mom shouldn´t extend with her. And you should say that directly (because that is fair!). But if she is doing her job ok and it´s not all horrible to live with her, you don´t need necessarily to rematch, don´t you think? I mean, I don´t know if there are other things that upset you and give you enough reason to rematch, but to not extend is, in my opinion, not a reason to rematch.
My advice is: tell her that you appreciate (whatever she is doing good), but at this point you are quite sure that you don´t want to extend.
Maybe you should use this situation to tell her what you would like to change.
About her Boyfriend: I think the reasons for au pairs to extend or even to come to the states are selfish. And that´s ok. Of course you NEED to love to work with children and you NEED to be flexible and try your best to have a good relationship with the HF. But i don´t think it´s bad to be an au pair because you have a boyfriend. Others are au pairs because they like the country, the lifestyle, they want to get to know another culture and travel, etc. I think that are the reasons for lot of young people to become an au pair. Of course you need to be the type for that kind of job/ life.
You´re having an au pair and not an exchange student. That means you have other interests than cultural exchange as well. So isn´t it okay for the au pair to have other interests than just working in another country?
Good Luck to you

Anonymous August 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Sunnyvah makes a good point. Not too many people would travel around the world just to take care of kids. People do this because it is a way they can afford to travel and it is work they like and are willing to do in order to have the travel experience.
Of course, that is why the agencies pitch that angle.
However, coming having an American boyfriend who is top priority ( not education, not travel, not broadening your horizons ) is , in my opinion, abusing the goals of the program. Their isn’t anythink terrible about it but I myself would not want an aupair who was planning to get married and possbily drop out of the program. Getting married to an American means you can stay her but it does not mean that you can easily get a card to work legally. Lots of the girls who get married to Americans end up working off the books providing childcare , cleaning, etc. Ideally, the programs say ” you help me with childcare ” and I will help you enjoy a travel experience.

Dartha August 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm

To me, it’s not the boyfriend who’s the problem per se, but the fact that the au-pair’s performance is mediocre. She doesn’t have that “fabulosity” about her to make the HF want to extend, and I think that the hostmom is worried (and rightfully so) that the au-pair isn’t the most focused, and planning a wedding is going to make it worse. It’s not a “rematch” situation.. Just an “I don’t really want to extend”..

There are always shades of Grey in any situation.

This Friend of AP August 28, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Anonymous –> Well, it seems like the AP doesn’t want to drop out of the program! She wants to stay and do both things: work and also be with her BF.
If the family doesn’t extend with her, then she will very likely stay illegal. But even then she would get a GC, she would just have to pay $400 for a waiver on top of $1.010.
And yes, you get an Employment Card pretty fast, even before a GC!

What I would do is to explain to her that getting married on J1 visa is not a good idea and she should talk with someone about the paperwork (like me).
And yes, I agree – AP program is not for getting married! Did she come to US to be with this guy? Did she meet him before? Is yes, then I completely agree and she should come back to her country and get a K1 visa for marriage (not being an AP anymore, because it seems like she is unhappy and you, obviously, are too).
But if she just met him, fell in love and wants to spend time with him, while she is doing a good job with the kids – why not?
Everyone wants the best thing they can get. HF – a great AP who would truly loves your children, spends time with you and is funny, creative, nice, and likes to help, because she is “a part of the family”. APs looking for a friendly family, having a nice room, a car, free weekends, not being asked to spend time with the family in her time off, meeting new people and trying to stay in the US, even as a student.
I help APs, I am active on couple of forums and I know what they want (I am considering to become a LCC in my area). For a question “What do you want to do after the program ends?” they answer “We’ll see; I might try to stay there, go to college or something”. We all know that college for an international student is very expensive and they won’t be able to pay for even one semester.
The AP program is a great opportunity to learn the language, know the American culture, meet new people, earn some money, become an independent and mature adult (yes, none of them say that it’s about helping the families with the kids). For some is about finding a husband and staying in the country. For some is about challenges, being self-sufficient, learning the language. For some is about finding a sponsor and going to college.
For me it was about proving myself I can stay at completely strangers’ house for at least a year and being a good AP. I didn’t come to US to get married. If this is your AP’s goal – then she mistaken this program as an opportunity to get a visa. I know couple of girls who did that. They used the program to get to the country, found a guy, stayed illegal, then got married.
When I talk to the future AP’s, I always say “Remember, your goal are the kids. Don’t care if the family will allow you to use their car, don’t care about the location, neither a cell phone or any other benefits. Imporant is WITH WHOM are you going to work with and if you will do a great job. Don’t choose newborns if you know you are not experienced just because they live in NYC! Choose what’s right for you, because you will be with those people for at least a year and you have to make sure you fit well”. Some listen, some don’t.
Sorry for this off-topic… I really felt that I have to share my thoughts with you.

CoCa August 28, 2009 at 8:29 pm

I think the boyfriend/marriage question is being allowed to overshadow the real issue here, although I suppose it is a valid discussion in its own right.

My opinion is that the opportunity to extend is a benefit of the program for any au pair and host family who both have a strong desire to continue their relationship. If, for either party, this desire is not there, no one ought to feel bad about it – the arrangement was for one year and no reason should really need to be given on either side for not extending.

I can understand Midwest Mom’s concern that coming out now to say that there won’t be an extension might affect the au pair’s motivation. But really, there are a million things that could affect someone’s motivation, and I am a great believer in being honest, not just because it is “right” but also because I believe it tends to bring the best results. Not to mention the fact that it must be awful to have to skirt around this issue, not being able to give a straight answer.

So I would say either come out now and say thanks but no thanks, or, if there really is some doubt, go with CVs advice and postpone the decision but be clear about the fact that you are undecided.

Calif Mom August 29, 2009 at 8:25 am

To improve au pair performance, start managing for performance. If she’s truly motivated to stay, she will step up. And you may actually WANT to extend a second year. (It happened for us. A second year with no transition after two rematches? priceless!)

NewAP Mom August 29, 2009 at 12:47 pm

I think CV’s answer is perfect. I don’t think you should have an honest, sit-down talk about what in her performance is preventing you from wanting to extend, unless by fixing it you might reconsider. Otherwise you’re just giving her false hope in a way. Just from reading in between the lines, it sounds like a situation where you can live with the status quo for a while but have no interest in continuing it afterwards. Which is totally fine. The contract was for one year.

I agree it sounds like the boyfriend is not the main issue.

Anonymous August 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

To this friend of AP…
If an aupair chooses to stay here illegally, that is a choice that she makes. As a host parent, I would not make a decision based on what someone else was going to do, right or wrong. An aupair who with a high risk of dropping out of the program is not a good selection for my family, it is not good for the program and it is not good for the children.

A-Mom-ymous August 29, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Our counselor was an au pair who fell in love during her au pair year, and then came back legally and married him. She’s the best counselor around.

Go back and read the “extending with a so-so au pair” post and comments string.

an au pair August 29, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I agree with sunnyvah about everyone jumping the gun about rematch. The mom just needs to tell the au pair that she probably isn’t going to rematch- she can say they want to experience a new culture in their home every year or something like that. I think the biggest reason for an au pair to lose motivation is if they feel unappreciated. Show her that you appreciate her but don’t give her false hope that you are going to extend. This past year I was a nanny and my boyfriend was way higher on my list of priorities than the family I worked for!! I still did my job very well. Are your husbands less important to you than your own jobs? I hope not. You can do a job exceptionally well even if you put your significant other first in the long run.

Calif Mom August 30, 2009 at 9:51 am

Good point AAP — if I won the lottery I would say farewell to my office in short order, but I’d certainly not ditch my hub or family!

Our first AP fell in love toward the end of her extension; it’s true she became a little flakier, and she was never home in her time off, but that’s also because she was at the end of her year, and starting to detach. It’s what happens. Did I ever worry that she wasn’t taking good care of my kids? no. Did I ever think that she didn’t love them anymore? No. We keep in touch, and two years later she is still with the guy she fell in love with.

I agree this isn’t a rematch thing — it’s an “oh boy, this is okay but not great and I’d like to hold out for great” thing.

But the original poster faces something a little different. Our very first AP — the one we sent packing after 3 days — also came here because she had a boyfriend in the states. A fact which she skillfully hid from interviewers and us, I might add. You can feel mighty used when you discover an AP’s ulterior motive, and it does make you concerned about their ability to take care of your kids in the way you intend and hope for.

However, I do not agree that the best approach at this point is to come right out and say “we don’t want to extend with you”. What if she steps up her work performance and you change your mind? Kind of hard to take that back once it’s out there. I go back to CV’s original advice; it’s sound, and buys you time.

And seriously, think about managing to improve performance. That once a week meeting can do wonders.

Anonymous August 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm

You know, I don’t think an aupair owes a family any explanation if they invite her to stay on and she doesn;t want to and I do not think a family owes an aupair any explanation either if they choose not to extend. The aupair should be polite and say ” No thank you , I appreciate it but I want to get back to my own family and life”
And there are nice things a family can say, too, like , we enjoy having different people each year or even, ” we aren’t sure about our plans for next year .
Everyone should act nice until the very end ( a little optimistic but not impossible at all ). Lots of times , families and aupairs take it personally if one party doesn’t want to extend
It is a great convenience for host parents if it works out but I think being here , doing childcare could get a little old for an aupair.
My own philosophy is to keep an open mind but not to discuss this until the final three months. That is a little late , I guess , for an aupair. She probably wants to make her plans , too. But I think it is a lot better than talking about this too soon and then finding out that it really isn’t something I want to do. That would cause hurt feelings. I think that the LCCs should tell aupairs not to bring it up until the family mentions it.

Midwest Mom September 1, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Hi everyone,

I am the mom with the original question. Thanks for all the comments and feedback.

We are not considering a re-match. She does a good job with our kids, and is pleasant, etc. I guess there could be a small chance we could change our minds and want to extend…you never know. I would definitely plan to make that decision in enough time for her to find another family should we not choose to extend with her. That is only fair. I just think it’s too early to be forced to make that decision now. In fact, we have had a really good week with her, so if this kept up, I might just consider it! (with some very specific discussions around wedding planning, etc.) Fortunately I had spoken with our LCC and she mentioned to AP that she wanted to talk with her about this first, so we have put off the discussion until that time.

She did have the boyfriend before she decided to be an au pair. I’m sure the agency had no idea. She even told me after she got here that she had turned down about 5 families due to location (she wanted to be fairly close to where he lives). I knew (thank you facebook) and thought it would be a good thing by avoiding as much homesickness, keeping her motivated to go a good job so that she wouldn’t have to leave him, etc.

Thanks again!

Anonymous September 1, 2009 at 5:43 pm

My strong suggestion is that you not extend. The fact that she turned down 5 families in order to be in this location is not a good sign. It means that her absolute priority is this boyfriend.
While we all understand that none of wants to be misled.
When someone lies or plays games with words by omission or quiblling , it prevents the victim from making intelligent choices about his/her own life.
I’d be willing to bet that the agency did not know that she had a boyfriend so close. So, she may have faked them out , too.
It is great that she is so good with the kids but someone else will be good, too. I think it is a good idea to cut your losses by finishing out the year and not extending. I do not know how much leeway your agency gives aupairs in terms of choice of families. If the agencies assign an aupair or give you a couple to choose from, I suspect that they do some screening for this sort of thing.

Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 12:25 pm

If you knew about the boyfriend and impending marriage prior to bringing her here, I’m not sure what you’re complaining about. Did you honestly expect a young woman in love and about to get married to spend her free time hanging with you and the kids? If she was your early-20s daughter in the same position, would her behavior be viewed differently? I think so.

As far as extending, once you are forced to have the conversation, you can always tell her that you only want to extend for a full year and that this would not be possible as she can’t stay an Au Pair once she’s married. It makes it clear up front that you aren’t going to extend, but doesn’t make it anyone’s “fault”. There are just certain times of the year that it is easier to find a good Au Pair and if you get off this cylce, it is too difficult and choices are less.

Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Are you sure that someone cannot get married and stay in an aupair program ? Honestly, I cannot really see it happening that an aupair would get married and continue to live with the host family.
What would happen then ? Would the agency drop the girl from the program if she did choose to continue to work for the family ? Would her status remain legal ? Really, it is the room and board that makes the money feasible for an aupair – without that, the money is a drop in the bucket.
I would not want to get involved in any of these issues , quite frankly. A boyfriend back home is one thing ( maybe good, maybe not so good ). A boyfriend she meets here is something else again and a husband who may or may not have any real idea of the rules of the program is something altogether different.

CoCa September 2, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Anonymous – in the United States at least, an au pair has to be unmarried, so once she gets married she can’t remain an au pair. I guess when she is authorized to work in the US, there wouldn’t be anything stopping her continuing to work as a live-in nanny, but under the au pair program, no.

Busy Mom September 2, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Another practical reason for not committing so soon to an extension is the economy. I would personally be nervous about making a commitment 7 months out and, unless my employment prospects brighten considerably, plan to wait until fairly close to my current au pair’s departure before looking for someone new. Even if you don’t have the same concerns about the economy, it’s a reason that doesn’t insult the au pair and gives you more time to decide. Of course, the disadvantage of this reason is that it does leave the issue dangling.

Darthastewart September 3, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Can you just wait until closer to time? Also, maybe consider laying some ground rules up front?

Anonymous September 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I think that blaming the economy is a great reason to give .
No personal blame to be assigned to anyone or anything. Who can argue with economic uncertainty.

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