Should An Au Pair’s Unpredictable Moods Send Us To Rematch?

by cv harquail on August 31, 2016

Having an Au Pair join your family is always emotionally challenging.  

Even with the best and most lovely au pairs, it takes effort to get in sync with each other. We not only have to mesh with each other’s ways of doing things, sharing work, managing cars, and caring for kids, but also Host Parents and Au Pairs  need to coordinate or mesh with each other’s energy.

Not just our personalities, but the very quality of the energy that each of us brings into social situations.

I love a person with “can do” energy. When I’m around such a person, I feel either like my own “can do” energy is enhanced, or like my “oh woe is me I can’t get anything done” energy is neutralized.

angry au pair, au pair advice

I also love a person who sees the world in a positive way. Or who stays calm in a crisis. Or who gets excited when they see a dog walking towards them in the park.

There are a whole lot of different kinds of energy that work well with mine –– energies that I can ignore, that I can draw on, that I can balance with. And there are a few energies that really don’t work with me, or with my family.

That’s why, if I were this host mom, below, I’d be rematching straight away.

Not because of the au pair’s childcare ability, or driving skills, but because dealing with her energy would completely wipe me out.

It’s not just the anger. It’s the unpredictability. I could deal with an au pair who got angry because she was standing up for herself, but not one who’s angry for reasons that can’t be predicted.  There’s no way to prepare myself, steel myself, open up compassion, or do anything other than react, usually in defense. And that’s not the kind of energy I want.

I am a new host mom who’s only had an au pair for two months. But I’m already rethinking my decision and wondering what to do. My Au Pair’s moods and her overall unpredictability are making things difficult.

She often angry for a variety of reasons. Each time, she gives me silent treatment.

What’s weird is that she is friendly, funny, and kind 50% of the time. Usually she’s great with the kids.
But the rest of the time, she has a bad attitude, giving me short answers with angry looks. I can’t be sure what she’ll be like at any given moment.

I do not like having her in the house because her unpredictability puts a cloud over every interaction. It is a relief when she is out. Do I rematch?

Image: Angry face by Graeme Maclean on Flickr

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

WarmStateMomma August 31, 2016 at 12:10 pm

“sent me long texts describing how poorly I treated her and how she never wants to feel like that again”

Done. Rematch so the AP won’t feel like that again. Neither AP nor HP should have to walk on eggshells in the place where they live. The silent treatment and angry looks are coping strategies of young children, not adults.

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Mom2Jack August 31, 2016 at 12:47 pm

I agree with Warm State Momma. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable in your own home for the next 10 months. And, I would imagine that her moods have an impact on your kids.

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NoVA Twin Mom August 31, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Forward the texts to your email, send them to your LCC and say these are the basis for a decision to rematch. Point out that au pair is obviously unhappy in your home and that you feel she should find somewhere where she can be happy (which will likely be in her home country).

If you feel VERY nice, give the au pair one last chance first, but tell her the next time you get a text even remotely like that, particularly followed by the silent treatment (!?!) you’re calling rematch immediately. Be sure to CC your LCC on that written communication so she can’t pretend she didn’t see this coming. But honestly, you don’t need this kind of negativity in your life, so I’d move directly to rematch now.

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Taking a Computer Lunch August 31, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Personally, I always believe in a “reset your attitude” conversation. Why? Because that’s how I expected to be treated as an employee. Not that it’s ever been a problem for me – but I would expect to be told that my behavior / work performance / attitude would need to improve BEFORE I was fired (because, to be honest, that’s what rematch is).

Is the AP who gives her HF “the silent treatment” immature? You bet! Do I think someone with that kind of attitude will last two weeks? Maybe, if s/he is called on it. (But s/he has no chance if not told that it’s unacceptable.)

Always, always, always, follow-up a “reset your attitude” conversation with an email outlining what is wrong, what you expect to change, and a deadline to see improvement. Always, always, always copy your LCC on that email. Why follow up with an email? Unless your AP is a native-English speaker, then it will be easier for her to read (as opposed to listen and comprehend) your words. It also allows her the privacy of using a dictionary to comprehend. Why copy your LCC? Because you want to document, in writing, that negative behaviors exist in the event you need to rematch. If you feel that a conversation with your AP at your table needs to be mediated – then call your LCC to sit with your for the “reset your attitude” conversation. Your LCC can also clarify to your AP that your expectations are reasonable (and if they’re not – you better believe she’ll help and support the AP in the rematch process).

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A Smith September 1, 2016 at 9:39 am

Can you please explain a little more about the importance of documenting, in writing, “that negative behaviors exist in the event you need to rematch”?

As background, we got our very first au pair four months ago, which was a total flameout disaster, then found a new au pair who started with us three months ago. In the meantime, the LCC we’d been working with left, and we got an interim LCC. Given how bad our first experience was, we expected to have the LCC check in with us to see how things were going – but we haven’t heard a peep, which is consistent with how horrible we found the agency to be during the flameout mess.

Being new to all this, we’re not sure if the difficulties we’ve been having with the current au pair are typical hiccups, but we’re considering going into rematch – or perhaps just quitting the program altogether, at least for the time being, since all the upheaval has been really tough on our family. Do we have to justify such a decision to the agency? Why should we bother being in touch with an LCC and agency that have made absolutely no effort to ensure our customer satisfaction? Is the written documentation you recommend simply to guard against being kicked out of the program? Thanks for any insights!!

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cv harquail September 1, 2016 at 10:10 am

Hi A Smith- If you’d like, you can send this (with a few more details) to me and we can make your questions their own post. Then you can be sure to get feedback. You can also let me know which details, if any, to anonymize.
mom at au pair mom dot com

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Anna September 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

If your agency is Cultural Care they will try to kick you out of the program after two rematches and keep your money. This all is based on one-sided and often cooked and biased LCC “write-ups”, and they will try to get your au pair to say bad things about you. Even the LCCs that were fired for not doing their job – their “opinions” will count if the agency really wants to get rid of you. Oh, and by the way, they will keep your money because the fine print says if they decide you are not suitable (you have no say BTW and your proofs don’t count), you don’t get the refund. You know, with two rematches in one year you are the family that is bad for their bottom line.

After this happened to me when I desperately needed them to help find me a new au pair after a second rematch in a year and they dropped me like that and took 6K of my money 10 days before I was due with my fourth child… Never again CC and I actively discourage everyone I know from signing up with them. I would’ve sued them if I wasn’t so overwhelmed with other things going on in my life at that time. They never officially “kicked me out”, just said they are not offering me a new au pair and keeping my money, but I can come back in 6 months when I sort my life out to their satisfaction. So unlikely a paper trail that can hurt them, and even if it exists, nobody will show it to me. By the way the two au pairs who rematched with me in that year – one asked to leave because when told that I am expecting (I told her during matching that we are TTC and she was infant qualified) said she doesn’t want to care for babies; and the second one told the agency she wants a rematch, for two weeks was “looking” for a new family, and the next day eloped with her American boyfriend which was her plan all along.

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Julie September 1, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Hi A Smith, if you are with Cultural Care, can you give me a call or drop me an email? I’m an LCC and a 9-time host mom. I’d love to connect with you and help out. 720 839 9518, julie.dye@lcc.culturalcare.com

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HMof2 September 1, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Last year, I had changes of LCC and Program Director every few months. It was a revolving door. The agency rarely notifies us of the change. We don’t get an introduction email or call from the new person. We find out on our own when we log into our online account and see that they have changed. With each change, we notice that very little if any of the HF information and history is passed on. New program directors and LCCs are never aware of our account history and rematch issues, which is unfortunate, since in the customer service business, the agency should have a better way to track and “know” their customers and have better hand off from one person to another. With each new program director or LCC, I am retelling our story all over again (like calling a customer service call center about a problem and have to repeat the same story to every person every time I call). After several of these unannounced change of staff within a few months, we complained to the customer service VP at the agency main office and at least got an apology and acknowledgement that they should look into their process and training. I’m not holding my breathe that they ended up improving any of it though. So I am not surprised that the new LCC never checked in on your family.

My lessons learned is that I did not have to accept the LCC I am given. I was switched from a great LCC to an LCC who was subpar and at the time, I was having issues with my AP. I could not trust that this LCC could handle this. Because I live in an area with several LCC groups, I asked the agency for another LCC. I had documented with emails and text showing where the LCC was under-performing. I recorded when and with what frequency I tried to contact my LCC and received zero or very late responses. I also had in writing examples of situations where the LCC did not handle a situation properly. I emailed the program director and asked for an LCC “rematch”.

There are great LCCs and program directors out there. I had great LCC and program director before and life was so much better and truly, you can see the difference between how a good one handles a sensitive situation compare to an incompetent one. If your LCC is under-performing and unresponsive to you, if you cannot trust your LCC to handle a situation fairly and with tact and respect, you may want to reach out to the agency and ask for a LCC rematch. If the program director is also not responsive, keep going up the organization. Search for a VP or president etc. Don’t stop until you get a response.

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WarmStateMomma September 2, 2016 at 1:27 pm

I plan on switching LCCs if we stay with our agency next time. I don’t think you have to document the need to switch LCCs – our agency switches them on us all the time. We had 4 in the first year!

HRHM August 31, 2016 at 2:01 pm

First of all, I will say, I think there’s not enough detail here to understand what is truly going on. Is the AP just very easily thrown into a tizzy? Is the HM overstepping and doesn’t realize it because she’s new to this? You say she got mad because you fell asleep, but was she really mad because you left her in charge without telling her or when she thought she was off? Was she mad about the Fiancée’s kids because now she had to watch them as well as yours and she’s not their AP? Or maybe because she didn’t have the amount of food needed and had to go back out last minute? Did you say something to the AP or your daughter to make the AP’s job more difficult or to give either the impression that you were interloping rather than just saying hi?

Communication is key and it’s a two way street. I do find it disturbing that she is trying to communicate via text, since we all know that face to face is more effective especially in a new relationship, one where language barriers and cultural barriers may not be helping. I would find a time when you can really focus (sans kids and fiancée) and sit down face to face to clarify issues. If she really is just volatile, that won’t change easily and you should move on. But there are two sides to every story and she needs for hers to be heard clearly.

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Futureaupair August 31, 2016 at 2:36 pm

That’s exactly what I thought and what I was questioning when just I read it.

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cv harquail September 1, 2016 at 10:05 am

I had to take out some detail to make the email anonymous. None of the detail I removed changes the dynamic– so, it’s still true that there’s another side to the story.

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Frankfurt AP Boy August 31, 2016 at 4:00 pm

I cant imagine behaving that way towards a host parent – it makes me go red in the face with embarrassment just thinking about texting a long message like that to a them! I hope she isn’t like that when she is alone with the kids and they aren’t giving her what she wants. That would be the big issue for me: does she have such little patience with the kids as she does with you?

Sometimes people treat other badly because they think they can get away with it. Perhaps if you confronted her on it she would become more conscious of what she is doing and stop it. To me it seems an obvious case for a rematch but seeing that you asked the question and clearly have doubts about going into rematch or not, you should perhaps try telling her off about it and telling her you are considering rematch. It make shock her into rethinking how she handles her annoyance.

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WestMom August 31, 2016 at 6:02 pm

Was this post edited? I can’t see any of the quotes the previous posters are referring to:

“sent me long texts describing how poorly I treated her and how she never wants to feel like that again”

“You say she got mad because you fell asleep”

“Was she mad about the Fiancée’s kids because now she had to watch them as well as yours and she’s not their AP”

???

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Mimi August 31, 2016 at 7:32 pm

I hope so, since I’m as lost as you are…

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Full Circle August 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm

I was just going to ask the same. pretty confused

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hOstCDmom August 31, 2016 at 10:35 pm

CV – I’m similarly confused..?? The post folks above have responded to seems to no longer exist? Intentional?

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cv harquail September 1, 2016 at 10:07 am

Yes — the mom who sent in the email didn’t realize that email requests are turned into posts. (Which concerns me, since I thought this was pretty obvious?) She thought I’d email her privately with advice… (maybe I should make this an option and charge $$ for it?) Rather than take down the post I’d spent an hour writing, revising, etc. I just removed details. Annoying, I know.

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Anonymous in CA August 31, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Oh wow, the post is different now than it was this morning – I read it earlier and it was longer and had the quotes that others are referring to.

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HRHM September 1, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Funny, there wasn’t enough detail when it first went up, now there’s even less.

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CO Host Mom September 1, 2016 at 12:34 am

Things didn’t go well with our first AP. We had several conversations with her to try and reset to get back on the right track but to no avail. I was terrified to go into rematch. However, that’s where we ended up. Our LCC is amazing. I was shocked to learn how many candidates were available. When we began our search there were 50 drivers available. Within 36 hours I had spoken to two great candidates. Within 3 days, I had reviewed 9 and spoken to 4 candidates. I spoke to several that were escaping horrible situations (HP kicked out of the program) and weren’t just girls that couldn’t hack the AP life or were searching for unrealistic situations.

Do you like your LCC? If so, I’d talk to him/her and get their support. You’ll need it – especially if you do go into rematch.

Good luck!

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Anna September 1, 2016 at 11:10 am

Passive aggressive, angry and pouty? I cannot stand this. This shows lack of communication skills, conflict resolution skills, and just not my type of personality.
I don’t know what I would do in your situation, because it is always easier said than done, but this would rub me the totally wrong way and I would bring it up with her the very first time this happened – I would say this sort of behavior is unacceptable, that it is her duty and part of her job to talk to me and resolve all disagreements verbally and civilly.

Also someone who thinks they are mistreated often and is passive aggressive about it has a big chip of inequality on the shoulder, probably coming from a place with a big divide between rich and poor and different classes, and every little slight must feel like you are putting her into a lower or subservient class. This can often happen with women from the countries where their families were well off and had household help, and au pair position is a step down for them and now they feel like they are household help. So any mundane task or request beyond what they consider the dignified au pairing duties may send them into a tizzy. I always pay attention to the class they come from especially if they are from South American countries, and always ask if they have household help.

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Bitka September 1, 2016 at 4:47 pm

According to my sitation as an au pair I can give You one simple advice. Ask your au pair do You do sth wrong? Is there something that she would like to change? What can You do to make her feel better? My hosts seems were afraid of confrontation. Host mother was talking to the dog instead direlectly to me which was pretty unnoying/disrespectful for me. Thrust me it can be anything. Hope that its a little thing that will be easy to change so all the people in the hous could feel better. Like someone mentioned I agree that it would be better to write an email to her just to make it more official so everything would be on record.

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Bitka September 1, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Ahhh I would forgot. I think as a fresh host mother You have to think what kind of host mother can You be for your au pair. If You will choose boss option. Please be a good one… not the one who thinks that is communicating by giving orders in the morning and after whole day when the work was done doesn’t want to respond “hi” to her au pair during the weekends. I think a lot of hosts should grow up first and than start demanding things from someone else. I believe it’s hard for hosts but it that is the part of the program. If You feel like You ran out of the possibilities why it doesn’t work between you and au pair. Please start talking with her about rematch. She might also want it.

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Sydney mum September 2, 2016 at 7:05 am

It’s worth remembering that many APs are quite young & unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to learn that confrontation via text is inappropriate. Sometimes it can be well used to flag an issue and maybe this AP needs some help learning the difference. She also may not realise how easily you can see her moods switch.
While it may take some effort on both your parts, I think that there are definitely some conversations worth having. OP, I’d write down a short agenda of 3 points & tell her that you’d like to sort out the things that aren’t working well, then have a chat about it. Tell her the things you like about her & that she does well. Tell her you’d like that to continue. Lay out the process of how she can make a complaint. Include that the silent treatment isn’t appropriate in your home and that if she feels she needs to do this then the issue hasn’t been resolved.

It’s possible that you both need some clearer expectations of each other and some really good conversations.
My first AP was fairly moody but she also had qualities that I loved. We had some good, open conversations & she admitted that she often doesn’t know how to deal with her anger. Just having an open conversation helped so much & over her time with us I could help point out ways for her to respond differently. She returned home a much more stable person as no one in her family would call her on her behaviour.
Of course if she doesn’t want to actually deal with any of it & change her behaviour then rematch is where it will end up. Be open that you may also need to change your habits, too.

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Sydney mum September 2, 2016 at 7:08 am

Admittedly, that AP wasn’t actually angry with ME, it was either directed at HK or just a general, negative mood that was unpleasant.

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