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

by cv harquail on July 15, 2012

Au Pairs (and Host Parents) need their privacy

— that’s why there are rules about the au pair’s room having an actual door (not a curtain or a screen).

Pretty much the only time it’s okay to go into an au pair’s room without permission is when there is an “emergency”.

Emergencies include:

  • A/C left on for the weekend
  • Window open– and it’s storming
  • Pipe burst and is flooding the room
  • Can’t find the cat…maybe trapped inside?
  • Alarm clock going off but s/he’s out of the house

And so on.

In each of these cases, the situation requires that the host parent go into the room to fix whatever it is, without prior approval of the au pair. And, when the host parent goes into the room, s/he should keep in mind that s/he *is* entering a private space, where the au pair may have things left out and about that are really not what s/he wants the host family to see.

  Maintain the Illusion of Privacy

When you enter the room without a search warrant — otherwise known as your au pair’s agreement — any “evidence” gained during that visit cannot be submitted to the court of your family-au pair relationship.

If you go into your au pair’s room for an emergency, and see things you don’t think s/he wants you to have seen (e.g., dirty underwear, wastebasket full of diet coke cans and candy wrappers, piles of new shoes, etc.) your job as a host parent is to pretend you have never seen it.

Yes, it may be hard not to say something about the trash, the purchases, the traces of her/his social life, or the piles of dirty laundry. Yes, it may take a lot of self-restraint. But unless it’s drugs, open flames or a safety hazard, it is NOT fair game for you to bring up in conversation.

Au Pairs, for their part, have to be understanding when a host parent goes into their room for an emergency. (All bets are off, though, if you find that your Host Mom is borrowing your shoes without asking you.)

Do Explain Why You Entered the Room

Expect your au pair to feel a little invaded, and give him or her some time to take it in. Then, after you explain your reasons, (without being defensive… just be matter of fact), ask your au pair to fix or attend to anything s/he did that might have contributed to the emergency.  But as far as anything else goes, say nothing.

Remember, this young adult is the person who hears you lose your temper, who notices the empty Doritos bag under the front seat of the car, and sees lord knows what.  You hope that s/he’ll pretend not to notice, and you should return the favor.

Plan ahead if you need to work in your au pair’s room.

Many tasks like fixing furniture, repairing light fixtures, and repainting the room, are things that you plan ahead of time. Yes, you want to do this while your au pair is not in the room, so your au pair’s vacation break or a long weekend away are good times for these chores. But, give your au pair plenty of advance notice so that s/he can tidy up the room and preserve some privacy by putting things away or in temporary storage.

All that to prepare for the dillema of this au pair, whose host parents emptied all her stuff out of its storage places when they redecorated her room while she was on vacation.

Anyhow, I am an au pair in a wonderful family that I truly love. I feel blessed and have decided to extend. Right now I am in my home country to visit family and friends and to renew my visa. The other day I got an email from my host family saying that they finished repainting my room plus bathroom. Very nice right? The problem is that I did not even know that they were going to do so.

I know that it is their house and so on but I do not think they have the right to go in my room among my things without even telling me before hand. Even though I have nothing to hide I still feel uncomfortable. I guess I want to know if you think I am overreacting? As host parents, would you just decide to re-paint your au pair’s bedroom while she was on vacation without asking her first? And au pairs, how would you react?

I get that they want to be nice and that it was convenient to do this while I was not there but the could have told me before I left.

Just to be clear, it is not that they have re-painted my room that bothers me. It is the fact that they have been in my room and moving around my things that I find wrong. For example, if they painted my bathroom that means that they have to take down my cabinet and in order to take it down you have to open it up because of the screws which means that they had to take all my things out of the cabinet…I do not know, but it feels like they do not respect my privacy.

NHM replied:

They probably wanted to surprise you … my suggestion to you is to view it as a positive thing right now (there is nothing you can do about it anyway). Enjoy your new room and bathroom!

Seattle Mom weighed in:

I personally would not do that, I don’t feel comfortable going into my au pair’s room without first telling her for any reason, unless it’s very important and urgent (like when she was on vacation and my husband needed to find her car keys so he could pick up our daughter from preschool). She has been with us for 7 months and I still haven’t even been in her room.

I agree that your host family should not have done that, but I can see how not everyone would agree. I’ve lived in apartments that I was renting where the landlady/landlord would come in unannounced to do things (painting, gardening, cleaning, fixing stuff, etc), involving moving my stuff around, and I didn’t like it but I knew it was part of the deal with renting a space. I think it’s the same kind of thing with host families- it’s not really cool, but as long as they aren’t deliberately messing with your stuff they are within their rights. Still, they could at least warn you ahead of time.

Since you truly love your family and are planning to extend, it sounds like this is the first time they have really offended you. You may be right to feel some anger, but I think forgiveness should be possible too. If I were in your position I would express my unhappiness but I would also try to see it from their side. I think I would say something like, “I wish you had told me ahead of time so I could have a chance to put away my personal things. I don’t like thinking about my personal things being handled when I’m not there. But thank you for painting the room, I’m sure it looks nice.”
I hope you find a happy resolution ?

TACL added her perspective:

We sort of did this to AP #1 – she took a 2-week vacation to her native country and we noticed that the dresser that we had purchased and put together from IKEA was trashed, so we took her clothes, did our best to fix it, and put them back in. She was a clothes horse, so we bought extra skirt and trouser racks, put her clothes on them, and hung them up in her closet. Only did it once, had the best of intentions, and she never said anything. Our kids took naps in her bed half the time, and her stuff was all over our house (not a problem – we’re not tidy at all), so it didn’t seem like a big deal. APs #2-7 have had a much more private space, and so it would have felt like an intrusion to enter their rooms (AP #3 did like to leave candles burning so we did enter her room), but in general, we save deep cleaning and painting for those few days in-between APs.

And HM2 had an action suggestion:
We as a family are very spontaneous in this regard and it can certainly happen that we decide to repaint, remodel or move closets, desks, sofas etc. to another room on an afternoon off. Maybe this family didn’t plan to paint until after the APs departure? Telling them that you initially were somewhat unhappy about the idea of someone going through your personal belongings is probably the best idea. I’d go with that.

I have to admit that I go into the APs room if her window needs to be closed or her lights are on and she isn’t home. I would not open her closet or her desk but definitely go into her room. Honestly, why should I not be allowed in her room? She is allowed in every room in the house, why shouldn’t I be allowed in every room in the house?

Add your comments below!


Seattle Mom July 16, 2012 at 1:01 am

I think HM2 adds a good point- our AP is allowed into all of our rooms, so we are allowed into her room if necessary… but I generally agree with CV that it really shouldn’t happen unless it’s an emergency. I think it also depends somewhat on the relationship with the AP, but as the OP shows that relationship might be viewed differently by the OP and the HF.

Another time my husband has gone into AP’s room was when she was out for the day and left the space heater on. Not exactly an emergency, but… we don’t want it left on when she’s not there- it could become an emergency. It only happened once, and he told her, and she doesn’t leave it on anymore. It happens to be a pretty noisy space heater so we know when it’s on :).

Our baby’s clothes & changing table are all in our bedroom, so the AP is in there all the time. I do sort of think of that when I look at the state of my room- I’m a bit neater than I would otherwise be, although that is not very neat at all.

Au Pair July 16, 2012 at 5:05 am

I am the one who wrote that comment.

I think I was just over-reacting. As someone said, they probably just wanted to be nice and maybe surprise me. Either way I know their intentions were good so it would not be fair of me to go off and be upset about the fact that they went in my room.

I do not even think I am going to say anything unless they have gone through my drawers and folded my underwear or reading my journals (know that would not happen but you get the point). I know they are very busy now, especially with me gone, so I really appreciate the fact that they still made it a priority to paint my room so it would be nice and ready when I come back. Although, I still think the “right” thing to do is to mention/ask before.

I am still in my home country and will not go back to the west coast until July 28th so I have yet to see the room.

Seattle Mom July 16, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I’m glad that you were able to overreact on a blog anonymously instead of by contacting your HF! Although I’m sure it would have been ok in the end, if your relationship is really good.

Anonamomma July 16, 2012 at 11:42 am

Emm…. sorry but hello – it’s their house!!! If they want to repaint your room and you are not there, i.e. you are on a vacation. They do not need your permission nor are they invading your privacy . I take it that you prepared your room for your departure and while you’re gone they did something nice for you… seriously!!!

This is just like if I painted my daughter’s room when she was away – would I see it as an invasion of her privacy – no I would see it as doing some necessary renovation/upkeep on my house.

We are in the exact same position in that our AP is extending and has left us for the summer and we will be inviting family and friends to stay in the Au Pair room while she is away – yes most of her belongings are still there – but it’s MY house.

Honestly if you want to hurt your family’s feelings and they may feel like they have to reset boundaries/entitlement issues WITH YOU.

I am an advocate of AP’s learning when to say nothing at all – and this is one of those occasions when you need to keep quiet.

After all – it is their house.

EC July 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm

It is of course their house. The OP, is being quite reasonable in understanding that it is their house, she is not jumping up and down and screaming about invasion of privacy. However, her host parents moving all of her stuff, and having to go through things that she felt was private in order to move them has made her a little uncomfortable. There is nothing unreasonable about that.
Secondly the situation is not the same as if it were your daughter. This is an adult woman, and while she may have a relationship that makes her like family, I think all of us who have been au pairs know that it is not quite the same, no mater how much we love and are loved by our host families. Having that little cocoon of privacy is important when you are living in someone else home.
There would be nothing wrong with saying I really appreciate that you re-painted my room, but it did make me feel a little uncomfortable to know that you had moved all my things to do it. If the relationship with your HF is good, then it should not be a big deal.
OP I hope that you have a great rest of the year as an au pair

Mexiaupair July 18, 2012 at 9:14 pm

I would hate to know that while I was visiting my family in my country, other people slept in my bed because “it’s my hostfamily’s house, after all.”

Fortunately, there are hostfamilies who show really respect for our space. (Gosh, we are overseas, and our rooms are the only thing we can feel like ours, though it’s only something ‘borrowed’).

LuvCheetos July 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm

We often use the AP’s room if she is out of town and we have guests. Every one of our AP’s suggested it before we even had the chance to ask. Our AP’s seemed ot think it was normal.

We would have, of course, told the AP before we allowed anyone to use the room so she could put away things she didn’t want to be in plain view.

I cannot imagine that our family would ever look through the AP’s stuff.

Au pair in europe July 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm

With my HostFamily I didn’t mind at all if they entered my room. The parents tried to make it clear for the kids that they couldn’t go inside, but there was one who never listened and went in all the time and got my things and played with them and lost them around the house. So my Host Mom occasionally brought things back to the room or left them by the door when I was away.

When I left for the weekend and they had guests over, my Host asked me if it would be ok to have someone stay in the room. It was super ok with me, but I liked it that she asked me because I felt respected and I could clean it up so the guest could feel good too.

Future Au Pair July 16, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Wow Anonamomma I’m glad that you aren’t my mother. While I have nothing to hide in my bedroom it is a serious pet peeve of mine to have people go through my things. I would think that a heads up would have been nice, like oh while you are gone there may be people in your room staying, make sure that your stuff is away.

To the original poster, I don’t think you overreacted at all. Coming back and saying wow thanks I love the colour, next time just let me know if I need to move my things. I would just feel more comfortable.

I think that any grown person has the right to feel comfortable in their own room. I can only imagine if my Grandmother came over and started going through my mother’s things. There are limits in the relationship between au pairs and families.

au pair July 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm

i totally agree with you! even if its their house. we kinda pay rent for the room( 195 dollars plus room and board) so its like you live with a roommate, you dont just go in his/ her room without asking! i considre that as. rude. it was nice that they repainted the room, and i wouldnt say anything.but i understand your point.

kat July 22, 2012 at 6:52 am

i also agree (and not for the first time) i am glad anonamomma isnt my mother or my hostfamily.
someone on this thread said that the aupair has access to all rooms in the house , so why should the host family not be allowed in their aps room?
well, in my opinion the host family can make the decision how private their bedroom is. i am sure aupairs are naturally respectfull of their hostparents’ bedroom and generally wouldnt go in (unless perhaps putting clean laundry on the bed for example). if the aupair needs to go into their bedroom to do childcare duties (to get clothes etc) she might even feel uncomfortable.
also often in my experience the hf doesnt consider their bedroom as private as aupairs usually do. the aps are the ones who are the ‘incomers’ or ‘outsiders’ or whatever we call it, the person, for whom the house isnt a real home (in a way it is for the family). the aupair has to come to terms with so many new situations, customs etc which can make them understandably even more sensitive to keeping a private space then s/he would usually be.
but i am also sure that in anyones real family’s home a parent treats a room of their adult children with respect and dont fiddle with things.

anonamomma July 22, 2012 at 9:27 am

And Kat I’ve said it (and not for the first time either!!) that I am glad you are not my AP – because we really don’t seem to be suited do we :)

But in my own defence – as I seem to be getting a bashing here – it’s my house that all my APs (& their friends) hang out at all the time (my friends comment that my house is like the United Nations) and when the girls have issues with their HFs – it’s my kitchen they end up in eating ice-cream and asking for advice and I let them vent (which is what the original OP was doing) in a nice safe environment – and yes sometimes I tell them they are overreacting and to suck it up (albeit I do phrase it a little nicer than that) and that is exactly the piece of advice that I gave here.

And sometimes I say that it is worth a conversation and try to provide them with the support that they need to have that conversation.

I think that you have to weigh up the pros and cons of each situation and look at it from both sides (AP/HF). In the OP’s situation the HF have obviously respected her space during her AP year because it wasn’t mentioned in the original post as an on-going problem so this is a once-off event. Therefore even dropping a “next time I would appreciate some notice” (especially in email/text) would come across as rude and ungrateful. They were after all trying to do something nice and they could very easily react negatively to a “next time” comment and what a horrible way to begin the AP’s next year.

She said herself that they were a lovely family – why risk it?
I mean how many HFs out there bite their tongue because we too ask ourselves is it worth it?

And if it came to painting either my APs or daughter’s room as a surprise while they were away. Each of them would say thank you very much – what a lovely surprise!! Because they would appreciate the time/effort and expense that I had gone through (they would also know that it was more than likely done when I had fully intended to do the bathroom but found the exact shade of (x – colour) that I knew they would love and the bathroom is still a horrible green. :)

Taking a Computer Lunch July 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I strenously avoid going into my AP’s bedroom, and save my deep cleaning, painting, touch-up for the few days in-between APs. Just this morning I told a colleague I need to have the carpet cleaned. Four APs have lived there (two of them particularly tidy), but it’s time to freshen up (I hope not replace) the carpet.

Reason to enter the AP room besides those given above:

window left open in a rainstorm
candle left burning in unattended room (now in my guidelines not to do!)

While the HF may have painted the OP’s room with the best of intentons and perhaps even as a surprise, it would have been nice to give her the opportunity to pack up special belongings.

Anonamomma, while I agree that it is your house, I personally try to let the AP room be her space. In my house it is not a guest room while she is away (although I have used it as such in-between APs). I feel that au pairs, whose place of employment is also their home, need a safe place to retreat, a place where their privacy is respected. I do expect them to respect the general rules of the home by turning lights off when they’re not there and by not endangering others in the the house with their behavior.

Anonamomma July 17, 2012 at 8:40 am

For TACL – the OP was extending and was away to visit family and renew her visa so this was the family’s few days “inbetween” – that’s my point!!!!

It is the HFs opportunity to use the room as they see fit, i.e. paint it, invite Grandma to stay, etc.

To some of the posters out there – I’m sure that the OP’s family did not root through her things – can we please not dramatise the issue – they simply moved them out of the way in order to access the walls/ceilings.

I am also sure that they did not read diaries or forensically investigate her belongings.

They had a task to complete and they got the job done. They probably do this every year (just like most HFs include TACL). I know I do for my new and returning) aps, refresh the walls, new sheets, check the furniture, etc.

Personally I don’t see this as an invasion of privacy – I see this firstly as a homeowner – not a roommate! – upkeeping their property and secondly as a HF doing something nice for their AP.

And I stand by my comment above – bring it up at your own peril – some HF(s) (yes – like me!) would see this as a kick in the teeth if they were trying to do something nice for you and do you really want to start your new AP year like that.

They did something nice for you – and your first reaction is….

Taking a Computer Lunch July 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

To me in between APs means that there is no AP living in my house (or at least not in the room). I have had some outgoing APs move into the playroom and sleep on the futon there instead of traveling during their travel month.

And while I’m sure this HF had the best of intentions, the honorable thing to do is ask. I would guess that 99% of APs would feel that they were in no position to say “No,” but at least she would be aware that her room was going to be painted, grandma was going to use her bed while she was on vacation, or that family friends were going to use her room. She would have the opportunity to pack away her most treasured – or most private – belongings.

Yes, I do a deep cleaning once a year, but only after the AP has moved out. The gap days between the outgoing AP and the incoming AP are my days to wash all the bedding (and I mean all of it), replace what’s done, deep clean the room, buy new travel-sized toiletries, and other small gifts to place in the room (if only I could find a way to neutralize the lingering scent of the outgoing AP’s favorite perfume – then I would be golden).

I once lived with a HF in another country for several months. It became clear to me that my letters and diaries were read, and I shrugged because it was an inexpensive way to stay and not much I could do about it (short of buying a small safe). However, for a short time they also hosted a teenager enrolled in a high school program and my belongings started disappearing. When my HM found them in her room and gave them back to me, then I started carrying them everywhere with me!

Calif Mom July 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Nope. Even if au pair is away for two weeks between her first and second years, a host does not get to invite Grandma to stay in that room without asking/at minimum informing the au pair.

Can you imagine being yourself dropped into a completely different culture, trying to navigate a different family’s modus operandi and not have one bit of privacy? That’s terribly unnerving.

I totally am of the camp that the au pair’s room is sacred turf. Safety issues and the like are only exceptions to not going in rule. If the au pair invites my kids in/out of her bed — and some have — that’s her choice. I still knock and don’t go in without letting her know. Even though I pay the mortgage on it and buy its contents. A PRIVATE room is part of the deal when you sign up to host. Au pairs should have a reasonable expectation of privacy being respected, alongside all the other rules.

They may have done “something nice for her”, or maybe it was their own need to cross it off their list, or some other motivation, but it’s a simple thing to let her know before starting it that they are going to need to move her stuff. That’s HER stuff, not theirs, though they own the joint.

Au pairs need to feel safe while they are here. Some have more of a need for privacy than others to maintain that feeling of safety.

Anonamomma July 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

But here’s the deal – we are not talking about the AP room in general – which I agree is scared turf – the OP basically overreacted/got all uppity because her HF carried out repairs/maintenance to a room in their home.

Personally I don’t buy into this sense of entitlement.

(Her own post later on admitted to an overreaction) and I agree with the comment that it was better done here (on this site) than brought up with the HF.

But here’s a spanner in the works what if she came back and she was given a different room – maybe even shock/horror a smaller room – what then?

Taking a Computer Lunch July 18, 2012 at 8:47 pm

It would have been nice for the HF to tell her before she left – especially if they loved her and enjoyed the quality of her work and company. It comes down to communication, doesn’t it. Do you think it’s worth your time to communicate to your AP changes that will affect her life in your home or not?

Anonamomma July 19, 2012 at 6:56 am

Yes I agree communication is the key but sometimes we are all guilty of not communicating everything that we should or would like to.

It would have been nice if she was told in advance but not telling her was more than likely a case of forgetfulness rather than intentionally withholding information.

The fact that they emailed her to tell her – and they meant it in a hey we like you so much we repainted your room – shows that how much they love/value her.

She overreacted plan and simple – they were not going through her things or invading her privacy – they were just trying do to something nice – and in all probability forgot to let her know – but to bring it up with the HF (in this instance) and say hey you invaded my privacy – is not worth the trouble/hassel that comes with it.

Au pair in europe July 26, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I guess you didn’t read her comment on the issue. She was actually just asking what was normal. She didn’t think they went or would go through her things and also she doesn’t want to bother them by saying anything… thats why she came herel. Because she knows them well and she knows they meant well too.
But she has a different culture and this could be one of those differences that we see when we live in another country…

I thought she was actually such a grown up by the way she put her words that I think she made the right choice. She felt a tiny little unconfortable and just wanted opinions.

I think that the reaction toi your post, it wasn’t regarding what you stand by, but by the way you presented it here. The way you wrote sounded harsh to the girls who go abroad hoping they can find a tiny space to call home, even if it is just an illusion.

Au pair in europe July 26, 2012 at 10:15 pm

And I agree that in her case the family had just forgotten to tell her, because they did tell her before she got back to see it. I think they just realized that they had an opportunity to do it and forgot to tell before. I think she sees it too, just found weird to be informed after and not before like ” oh, we will be painting your room this weekend while you are there…”…

HM Pippa July 16, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Our last AP would often leave the space heater or lights on when she left the house–sometime for the evening, sometimes for the weekend. Reminders to shut off electrical appliances before leaving seemed to make no difference, so I made a practice of poking my head in the door of AP’s room and looking to see if lights were on, space heaters were running or hair irons were still plugged in. I was concerned when I found several bottles of pepper spray within easy reach of my toddler, whom AP frequently invited into her room, but I took a deep breath and pretended not see it. Whenever I found an appliance on, I would let the AP know when she returned that I had entered her room to turn it off/unplug it.

The last time I poked my head in APs room, I spotted a large, circular discoloration on the desk. It looked like something might be leaking from the small pouch sitting on top of it. Without thinking much about whether I was violating APs privacy, I picked up the pouch, unzipped it to find what was leaking, and found right there on top, no poking around needed, a used glass crack pipe. (Had to google it to be sure what I was looking at). The shock was visceral and nauseating.

I can’t deny that opening the pouch was a violation of privacy. I didn’t have a reason to believe AP was doing drugs, and I certainly wasn’t looking for them. Was the violation of her privacy justified?

Should be working July 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Pippa, I remember that crackpipe story, I was thinking about it as I read these posts. I think your violation of her privacy was justified. Something was leaking onto your furniture.

I will also admit to doing some occasional looking around in AP’s room when it is NOT an emergency. Especially early on–I want to just see what she has around. It is snooping I suppose, but I feel like it is a huge thing to leave this stranger with kids and I want to check my instincts that she seems nice and normal.

I also can easily imagine that the AP looks around our rooms a little too. If I were 18-19 and in a house of strangers I would. There’s nothing too weird or awkward for her to find, presumably she imagines that we use birth control.

The crackpipe story actually makes me feel like my own non-emergency looking around is not fully unjustified.

hm2 July 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Looking around especially when the AP is new makes total sense to me. I still feel that having an AP in the house means we get less privacy and we cannot give the AP the same kind of privacy that she would have if she rented an apartment or owned her own place. It goes both ways – we have to live with her walking into all of our rooms and she has to live with our occasional checking on her room. I once looked into a new APs room and saw a long list of things she had come up with that she wanted to do with the children (and ended up doing most of them with them). I remember being really impressed and happy. I have also seen mouldy bread and fruit on an APs desk, left her a note to clean up – she did but the same thing happened again several times. In this case I was glad I checked every now and then on the room. We also once had an AP who sent me text message saying that a couple days before she had run out of coins and used coins out of our piggy bank in our living room cabinet for her bus ticket into the city. So much for respecting eachothers boundaries and belongings. I didn’t know whether to be glad about her being honest at last or shocked about her taking money that she shouldn’t even have known about. We also had an AP, who thought it would be a nice surprise for us if she rearranged our living room furniture. It did look nice, we left it that way but thought it somewhat unusual that someone would do this.

CJ Miller July 17, 2012 at 2:17 am

Hello — sorry for leaving this in a comment, but when I tried to submit this as an email – it for some reason wouldn’t allow me to send it to — so anyway:

I’m currently a 19 year old, female Au Pair in Australia. I changed locations, so I also changed families about a month ago. I did leave on good terms with the family, although we have not been in contact since I’ve been gone. About a week after I had left, I was reviewing my bank summary and thought it looked as though I had not been paid for my last week of work with the family. So, I did my homework; went to the bank to get a printed version of my bank transactions, checked the dates all the way back to when I started with the family, and I had not in fact been paid for the last week. I scanned the copy of the document, so I now have a copy on my computer as well (i did black out my personal details, btw). I have tried texting, and calling the family, and they have neglected my calls/texts. Given, I have only said the “Hey! How’s it going” type of texts, because I didn’t want to directly go into the payment issue. So that brings us to my problem, I’m not sure (once I get in touch with them) how to bring up the dispute. I don’t want to accuse them, I would like it to be as least confrontational as possible. I am going to try calling them off the house phone, since they won’t know that number. So I guess what I’m really asking is, how should I bring this up?

I’m also wondering, that if and when I do get into touch with them, if they refuse to pay me, what type of action I should, or better yet could take?

Thank you so much for your advice!

I no longer have their email address, so I unfortunately can’t reach them that way, btw.

CJ Miller July 17, 2012 at 2:22 am

oops, so sorry! I figured it out now :X

Brunette July 18, 2012 at 1:36 am

I just want to tell a funny storie about my host dad going into my room while I was gone with host mom and kids to the west coast.
My host dad stayed at home because he had a lot of work and stuff to do. So, when he finished at all he flew to meet up with us and enjoy the family vacation. Since we were going home in a week, he decided (last minute desicion) to stay a little bit longer so Host mom, the kids and me took the flight back home without him.
As soon as we arrived I went to my room and I found that my bed was messy and the pillows were in a different position (I am kind of a Obsessive–compulsive person and I always unplugged everything and never let the room if the bed is not brillant) and the DVD was plugged…and on top of my bed there was a porno movie…

I did not like the idea of host dad doing ‘that’ on my bed, even less when I called a friend of mine from my country and she started making fun of that by trying me to picture my addorable host dad in undies..Of course I strip the bed and washed everything, but still no clue in how to manage that…I was thinking fo give him the movie back and say :Hey somenone left this in my room or so, but instead I just put the movie in the box of Legally Blonde and pretend that never happened…Im such an Argie girl and I did not want to put him in an awkard situation since he is a really good person…

Lígia July 18, 2012 at 8:52 am


Former NOVA Host Mum July 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

OMG that is horrible. Wow, good for you acting like nothing happened…that would be a bit creepy!!!!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I’m glad you have a good sense of humor about it. Personally, I think it’s a little sick – and unnecessary – given that he was in the house alone. If you’re not the first AP this family has had, you might want to ask your predecessors if anyone ever used the AP room (don’t point the finger at him) while you were on vacation. If they say yes, you might warn your successor, and tell her how you chose to deal with it. Not everyone would be as forgiving as you.

Gianna July 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I agree with TACL but with a significant difference in approach. I would not suggest discussing this with other aupairs. I would suggest telling it to the LCC – not at a meeting with other aupairs but in a private, face to face conversation. Maybe you could attend a meeting early or stay a little late in order to have some private time with her without attracting attention. Many adult women will think it is inappropriate and unnecessary. If there have been other issues, the LLC will know about it ( even if she doesn’t share it with you ). If other situations like this arise, she will realize that there is a history. The LLC may be able to help you ask for a lock for your door. You could just say that it would make you more comfortable without giving a specific reason. Your host dad will know exactly why you want the lock. But I would not suggest talking to former or future aupairs about this. That could get out of control . I don’t know if you feel comfortable with your LLC but I think this is exactly the sort of situation where it is important to have a good working relationship with your LCC. It is so important to have an objective adult to talk to in sensitive situations like this. If you are attending regular meetings, no one will suspect anything if you go to those meetings. I really hope , though, that you do not have one of those LCCs who has 75 aupairs and doesn’t hold regular meetings or know anyone’s name…

Sexual Assault Counselor HM July 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I am a HM and I also work with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault prevention, hotline response, hospital and legal advocacy and as a counselor advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

I would strongly argue that your HD leaving that video there was NOT an accident.

If you found such a DVD in the family/parents DVD player, I could be persuaded that it is an accident. He is an adult and he can watch porn if he wants, in his own home, on his own television. And if he were doing so in an appropriate, adult way he would have been very conscious of keeping his personal viewing habits private.

But he didn’t – he went into your room and then left obvious evidence of what he had done. Displaying or “sharing” pornographic material is an *extremely common* initial tactic by sexual abusers of children, teens and adults. It is a tactic to blur boundaries, destabilize and desensitize the victim– what is commonly described as “grooming”. It was a sexual overture. Your HD deliberately left the video there to gauge your response. It did not show respect for you or your boundaries, sexual or otherwise. You deserve respect and to live as an AP with a HF without being made sexually uncomfortable and without receiving sexual overtures from your HD.

I’m not saying that your HD is going to sexually assault you. But I am saying that what he did was completely inappropriate and should be viewed with suspicion, caution, not excused away. I strongly agree with Gianna that this is something you should give serious thought to sharing with the LCC. Living in the home of a man who is making unwanted sexual overtures to you is not a safe or comfortable position to be in. Having someone else aware of what happened could be very important if you find yourself in a precarious situation in the future.

Should be working July 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Wow, this is really fascinating information. It makes sense. How could you ‘forget’ and leave a porn video out like that?? In a room you did not need to be in?

Ex Aust Au Pair July 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Any updates on this situation?

Sexual Assault Counselor HM July 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Re-reading what I wrote, I think I should also probably clarify and correct what I wrote to state that sexual assault or sexual is not the same thing as a sexual advance or overture. Sexual assault and sexual abuse are not about sex, or sexuality. Excepting true, fixated pedophiles (in the clinical, not colloquial, use of the ter, meaning those adults who actually are sexually attracted to children) sexual assault and sexual abuse are about coercive control and power.

Without knowing more, I certainly couldn’t say whether HD is making a sexual overture because he thinks he can have a mutual, consentual, adult fling with his AP, or because he feels he can pressure her into something, or demand someting, or force something.

However, by definition the HParent – AP dynamic is not one of equal power — it is more like teacher and student, except that in this case it is as if the student lives with the teacher and isn’t just at his mercy for a grade, but rather for room, board, and quite possbily her ability to stay in the USA and get a future visa to the USA. That’s A LOT of power…..

If HD’s actions are rebuffed, he could initiate re-match on some pretext, and then make many lies about the AP that would scuttle her chances of matching with another family. HD holds much more power than AP, and that is why I wrote what I did above about viewing this with suspicion and caution. If a male peer of the AP asked “hey, want to watch porn with me” that is a sexual overture, advance whatever you want to call it. The AP can agree, or not, but she doesn’t have to live with, and depend on in so many ways, her peer if she says no and he’s unhappy.

Brunette July 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Hey! This happened when I was Au Pair, now Im back home. First of all, yes I have to admit that It was creepy and a lack of respect. If he was alone in the house, why did he use my tv and bed? And ever worse, why he left the movie on top of my bed? I was wondering the same, but Im sure is not a pervert or so. He is just a absent-mindedly guy. He often put cookies on the laundry, also pouchs with candies and his rolex…so I think that he did something out of place and he forgot to take the evidence…I don’t even thing he was sexual attracted to me (I don’t know how is living with a good looking Au pair but I assume that if you are a 25 years old latina and your body is nice, even if we are not being provocative we are not invisible and that doesn’t mean that host dad want us) One day he forgot a little bottle on the sofa of the living room so when I was playing there with the kids I saw it. It was lubricant, it was not my job to put that away so I just let it there (and I took the kids to the dinning room) and when my host mom came home she saw it and took it back. Im writing this so you host moms can picture the way of person he is. He never flirted with me.
We had a cordial relationship and he was a really good person, in my opinion he was better parent than my host mom. That’s why I decided to approached it like nothing happen instead calling my LCC, that would be really disturbed and would make a big deal of this. Seriously I am not naive and I wanted to think that this mean nothing.

CO Mountain Mom July 18, 2012 at 10:34 am

I have been following this site for a while now as I navigate hosting my first OP… This post struck a chord with me because it annoys me to no end that my OP has absolutely no respect for our privacy as far as spaces in the house. She will walk in my room at will, she has dug through the storage area and under the basement stairs, etc. We confronted her and had a discussion about “boundaries, and she just denied it, so we ended up putting locks on spaces we want to be left alone. I do respect her privacy most of the time, but her actions have left me less inclined to do so. So, there have been a few times I have taking the “opportunity” when I have a legitimate reason to go in her room without asking when it wasn’t necessarily a real emergency, but I considered it pretty darn urgent when my au pair is gone and my 2 year old’s favorite lovey that she can’t sleep without was in OP’s room, or I can’t find my girls’ shoes or something because my girls do go in my OP’s room during the day. I have been relieved to find my OP keeps a neat and tidy room. We get a new OP in a week, so I plan to start over and see how it goes. If there is no occassion for me to take a peek, then I will probably ask our cleaning lady to keep me informed.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 18, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Just so you are aware, on this list OP = original poster (as in the person whose message is being posted by CV) and AP = au pair.

Sounds like a good solution to your privacy being invaded. A couple of nice words might have taken care of the items your children left behind, like “We really love the fact that you accept the children into your bedroom. We consider that your private space and feel uncomfortable having to retrieve toys and shoes from your bedroom. Could you please bring them to us before you leave for the evening?”

CO Mountain Mom July 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Lol… I saw the same mistake in one of your posts ;) ….. We have asked for everything to be out of her room, but it hasn’t helped, and we do make an attempt to let her know,I have texted in advance, but if I don’t get a response after a while, I enter.

PA AP Mom July 18, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Our AP usually leaves her door open unless she’s in the room and sleeping or skyping with family/friends. We always knock if the door is closed. When she’s not home, I will often walk in and put mail on her desk, put folded laundry on her bed, or put magazines on the bed for her to read when she returns. I would never dig thru her stuff or spy on her, but I don’t feel bad about walking in there when the door is open. I also wouldn’t feel bad for painting while she’s on an extended leave from the home.

LuvCheetos July 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Ours is the same. I will put mail or laundry or anything else of hers in the room. I don’t snoop. I knock and put the things on her desk and leave.

Our new AP (BEST AP EVER) seems to leave her door open a lot, so I suspect she doens’t mind).

Tristatemom July 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

I am so happy to hear that your new AP is great! This is recent, right? (What did you decide to do with the old AP and staying with you etc. after her travel? Did it all work out?)
Our wonderful AP will leave in a week, hopefully the new AP is as good or better. Our score is 2:2 (good:bad AP).

LuvCheetos July 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Thanks for remembering me! Yes. She arrived on the 12th. Our old AP found a friend to stay with. Interestingly, the kids have not asked for the old AP at all, which tells me they didn’t like her as much as I thought. The new AP is so great! She is so great with the kids, catches on really quickly, and is just so nice to be around. She has a degree in education (and special ed experience — we don’t have a child with singificant special needs but one of my kids has minor motor skills issues and she really gets it) and I would say she is a born teacher! She is so great with th ekids. An added plus is that she seems to love our dogs, too!

I’m really optimistic for this year!

kat July 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm

how very interesting to see the wide range of opinions on this problem.
there is so many variables in how one perceives privacy. starting with a personal zone ,ie how close a person can get to you before you start feeling uncomfortable.
i am sure privacy of a live-in nanny or aupair is strongly influenced by the relationship one has with tha family. the closer you are to the family, the less uneasy you get when they see more private things or see you in your pyjamas.
i agree that having a private space in someone elses home is very important. where one can just behave without beeing unintentionally observed and judged. it is obviously perfectly reasonable to go in to close a window , switch lights off etc. to leave stuff on the bed i am fine with with a family i am comfortable with.
i would be furious however is people went through my drawers/shelves and moved my stuff, if it wasnt an emergency. if the family decided to paint or do other repairs to the room i would expect them to tell me before they started / dont think a host family are in a position where they would need to ASK , but definetely need to inform the AP upfront./ just respecting the other person imho.
i personally would tidy the room before i left and made it available for guests to stay in, but would expect them to leave my personal stuff alone.
someone said above its like painting a daughters room – yes it is, but in the way that not even parents should go into their adult daughters room and move her personal stuff. i would be furious if my parents did that to me.
i think the OP has everyright to be unhapppy. it would have been easy to send a text saying we need to take your cabinet down for painting in your room. i am sure the OP wouldnt feel bad if they did. if you do manage that OP, i would use one of the suggestions above to thank them for doing up your room but also gently point out i would have preffered if they let me know before actually doing it.

KM July 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm

When interviewing au pairs, we describe our family’s culture. Part of our culture is treating au pair like a family member. To us, this means if au pair is out for a weekend, she might return to find her bed linens changed or her clothes laundered and folded. Our family culture views this as being a part of our family, helping each other when we can. Each family has their own culture. Compatibility with our au pairs is disclosing our family culture up front.

It’s the same with our kiddos. Mom or Dad enters their rooms to tidy, fix or check for insects (ants, roaches), mold, leaks, broken blinds, etc. Family cultures vary as demonstrated by the differing responses and opinions previously posted.

So before our au pair arrives, he or she knows we may be entering the au pair’s room for a variety of reasons.

unrelated July 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

This is totally unrelated, but‘s inbox is full, so emails to that address bounce. Can you empty it? Hopefully you see this comment! I can’t think of any other way to bring this up. Thanks!

Amelia July 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Just post your e mail here if you want, and a lot of people here wil try to give advice.

cv harquail August 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! gone to fix that. I was wondering what had happened…. ;-)

Former Host-Child July 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Thanks! I actually have a pretty sappy reason for the email. I’m a former host daughter myself (I’m now in my mid-twenties and a family of my own is in my 10-year plan) and wanted to thank her for the site, offer my perspective as a someone who grew up since I was a toddler in the au pair system (my family joined just four years after it was officially created), and to ask how many others here were former host children.

(I was ‘unrelated’ who wrote that post above.)

Amelia July 27, 2012 at 3:43 pm

That’s interesting! I would love to hear how you experienced having an au pair! Did you have favorites, if yes why? I am very curious!! Was it hard to let au pairs go home? We’re they like a sister to you? Did. They treat you well etc;)

Former Host-Child July 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm

I would love to talk more about it, if anyone else is interested in the child’s point of view.

About favorites:

Honestly, it’s hard for me to remember much about my very early au pairs (obviously). I do remember the fun things we did with a lot of au pairs. (I LOVED introducing all of our warm-country au pairs to sledding.) I do know that every new au pair was my favorite, no matter how much I loved the last one. I think kids have shorter memories than we think they do, so by the time I was halfway through the year with each au pair, my memory of the last was pretty vague.

There are two au pairs who are still part of our family, a decade later. One lives nearby (she was our last au pair, stayed for two years, and fell in love with and married a man from the area at the end of her stay), and we’ve gotten to celebrate her wedding and starting her own family here. Her kids are so adorable! Another lives in Europe but visits every few years for a vacation together. She is 100% part of our family now. I’m facebook friends with the two of them, and they’ve cheered me on through university and beyond. They’re like a combination of aunts, parents, and older sisters, and yet I’m closer with them than with my own actual aunts or cousins.

I recall that there were a couple (or maybe 3?) au pairs who didn’t work out (two had issues driving and one of them also kept razors and medications within our reach, from what I’ve heard afterward, and I know there was one who was seriously homesick), but I can’t remember much about them. I was even fond of the one who was homesick and left early — we bonded over a school project about another country, and of course I chose hers. My parents — at the time — I think were worried about how the ‘bad’ au pairs affected my sister and I as we grew up, but in the long run, kids are only going to remember the good ones. Similarly, I can’t remember being badly treated by any au pairs. I know my parents set aside special treats or activities that they only let the au pairs give us or do with us (they knew that if they as parents gave those treats, they’d lose their specialness), and getting those special things with the au pairs was much more memorable than any grumpy mood or anything. (I can’t remember an au pair ever being grumpy, even though I’m sure it happened, but I think kids forget those sorts of things easily.)

About au pairs going home:

Yes, it was sad when au pairs went home. For about two weeks, I’d think that it’d break my heart and I’d never recover, but I’d forget about that very, very quickly. Each new au pair was my favorite-ever by a month or two into her stay, even the ones who weren’t my parents’ favorites. My parents would let us look at the applications of the au pairs (probably after they chose each one, in retrospect), and we were always so excited about the new and different things each one would teach us. We also learned in advance where each au pair was from, etc. Something my parents did which really helped us adjust was to give my sister and I an ‘important job’ when the new au pair arrived. We got her room ready, got welcome gifts, and were in charge of helping her learn English and learn about our town. (We LOVED it when our au pairs made mistakes with English, and we got to correct them. I think my parents must have told each au pair about this ahead of time, because they were such good sports about it.) We were also in charge of teaching her about the US and about holidays, etc. We really loved feeling very important, and I think that helped us get over the transition very quickly.

About the au pair-child relationship:

In a sense, the au pair was like a big sister. I think they became much more sisterly as we got older. But not just a big sister. Basically the coolest-ever big sister a thousand times over, infinitely more cool than our parents or our friends’ parents. :) Poor parents! Our parents let us think the au pair was on our side, and we’d connive against them. We thought it was so much fun if we planned pranks or surprises for our parents. We also really enjoyed meeting the au pair friends of our au pairs, and some of my closest friends now were actually host children of an au pair’s best friend.

I’d love to talk more about it if anyone’s interested. I had a really fun childhood, and whenever asks me about when I was a kid, my au pairs are probably the first thing I mention. I mean, my parents and friends are cool, too. But they didn’t come from all over the world and introduce me to so many new things.

On a random note: I’m told I have a very faint, intriguing accent, even now. Some people think I’m British. People who are good with accents guess it’s a combination of a variety of European accents. (Apparently, I enunciate some words differently than the average American.) A side-effect of growing up with au pairs, I think. :D

Mom Of 2 Cool Kids July 27, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your experience. My kids are still quite young so it is difficult to know how our au pairs have impacted them yet.

I would love to hear more.

Since my kids are getting older and won’t be spending full days at home with our au pair soon, I am curious if they will still have time to have the kind of experiences you mention. Her schedule will be more about dropping off and picking up from school, so there will only be a few hours in the afternoon for them to do things together. How did you bond with your au pairs when you were school aged?

Former Host-Child July 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm

You’re in luck. I can’t remember much of what I did with au pairs when I was younger than school age. Your children won’t be able to remember, either. :)

After school, we did lots of crafts and playing outside together. Especially now that schools don’t offer much recess, that was really important. We went to the pool, went to playgrounds, and went to the town pond. We had a rockin’ swing set, very-low zip line, sand box, and jungle gym, so sometimes our au pair had to herd a horde of neighborhood kids. (Though she could always limit this, I recall.)

On snow days, we got to sled, snowball fight, make snowmen and snow angels, etc, while it was still light out (because otherwise the sun would be setting or would already have set by the time we got home from school). On half-days or teacher training days, we got to go to museums and playgrounds and go on playdates while our less-lucky friends were stuck in daycare.

We had au pairs until I was about 15 — even though a 12 year old can survive at home alone — for driving reasons. Also, when I went through the my-parents-are-awful phase, my au pair was exempt, which must have been nice in some sense. We got to do more after-school activities because we had someone to drive us, which was awesome. I got to visit friends’ houses more often because a) someone was home to drive us or pick us up, and b) because our au pairs were friends and so were as enthusiastic as we were to visit. It wasn’t a hassle for them, which was nice.

Summers were always awesome. We were able to have adventures (the town or county fair, museums, touristy things in the nearby city) some days, were able to lie around on others, and were able to be outside nearly constantly.

Also, au pairs helped both my sister and I do well socially in both towns where we lived. (We moved before my middle school.) In Town1, my younger sister was a social butterfly and had tons of friends, while I was more introverted. My au pair was able to give me more attention and be a friend when we were little. In Town2, my sister and I swapped roles. I became a social butterfly and my sister had only a few friends, so our au pair was able to spend more time with my sister, and make sure my sister was able to hang out with her friends more.

Also, and this was really, really important: when my sister was in sixth grade, she started complaining of stomach issues and was acting differently. It turns out that these were early signs of her coming down with a very serious, life-threatening chronic illness. We are 100% sure that without someone giving us individual attention and spending so much time with each of us, my sister’s illness and behavior changes wouldn’t have been spotted so quickly. Also, once my sister was in medical crisis after medical crisis, my au pair and I became very close and I got lots of personal attention and guidance, even though my parents were (understandably) 95% focused on my sister. I had an older sister/parent/mentor/therapist/role model in one person during that period, which I really appreciate now, looking back. I think that’s what kept me balanced during that period, and I’m so glad we had an au pair then, even though we were on the older side. :)

Former Host-Child July 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Another interesting note:

Some of my friends from school experimented with sex and drugs, even as early as 12 or 13. (The youngest of my friends to have sex was 12, yes, you read that right.) It was all part of the anti-parent rebellion.

When I rebelled against my parents, I told them that I liked my au pair a hundred times more than them, that I never wanted to be seen with them, etc. I was a typical adolescent. I know I wounded my parents deeply. BUT, I never experimented with drugs. I didn’t drink until college. I didn’t have sex as a form of rebellion — I waited until much later. I didn’t make any big mistakes. If a kid has to rebel, why not rebel and choose the au pair over the parents. Much better than choosing drugs or sex over one’s parents, right?

While a friend got extra piercings, my au pair helped me dye my hair with temporary dye and brought us to concerts that would have been way too loud for my parents. Nowadays, everyone teases me about what an innocent rebellion I had. :)

In addition, while some of my friends were being rebellious, they ended up hanging out at my place more often. I bet their parents were happy that even if my friends were rejecting them as role models, they were nearly worshiping a strong, responsible young woman instead.

Though obviously, every kid is different, so YMMV. It helped me to have a non-parent role model when I was young, but it might be just me.

Amelia July 28, 2012 at 1:04 am

That’s way out the best thing I’ve ever read on this blog;) I love this blog, but this insight of a “host child” is great!!! I would be interested in how your parents treated the au pair. Always as part of the family, or did it just become normal? Would you consider an au pair for your own kids someday? Where did your au pairs come from? The ons you remembered?;) thank you again for writing this!!

Former Host-Child July 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Haha, I’m having fun talking about it.

How my parents treated my au pairs:

My au pairs in general were a part of the family, but not micro-managed. I remember them going out with their friends and having fun. They never had curfews, except for self-imposed ones — they knew they had to be up early in the morning, and learned from experience that that would be miserable with little sleep. As we got older, I was more aware of my au pairs going out with friends, which confirmed their coolness in my book. Our last au pair sometimes was coming home when my dad was getting up in the morning, but her schedule allowed it, since she never had to help us get ready for school, only when we came home in the afternoon.

I actually asked my parents some of your questions just now. They said that they considered the au pairs part of the family if they wanted to be. Some au pairs were more like employees — one even had more extended family here in the states than we did, so she spent every weekend visiting relatives and only came to our house to work during the week. Other au pairs were very much family members. They ate meals with us, sometimes did activities with the whole family during their off-time (playing in the snow, etc). They would sometimes choose to come camping with us on weekends. (Though several au pairs hated this, my parents report, because they couldn’t stand to be away from their friends, electricity, and long showers.)

Would I consider it for my own kids in the future?

Definitely. One hundred percent, if my financial situation will allow it. (I really, really hope it will.) Honestly, having grown up with au pairs, that’s what’s normal for me. I can’t picture having a family without au pairs. I’ve already warned my long-term boyfriend about it. :D I think (though I couldn’t know) that it’d be much easier for me to adjust to hosting au pairs than for others, because that’s how I grew up.

Where my au pairs were from:

Here are some of them. Probably not the whole list:

Iceland, Belgium, Poland (very homesick), Austria, Germany (x2, my parents didn’t like them much), Lithuania, Norway (x2, I can’t remember them but my parents loved them), Brazil, Czech Republic (I loved her), Ireland (had more family here than we did), Luxembourg (I loved her)

Gianna July 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

What a fabulous post -so interesting to read. I am dying to hear more and to know if you have ever visited your former aupairs in their home countries. ( Maybe you told us and I missed that ). This is so helpful to hear about all of the things that made the aupair experience beneficial for you and your family. Did your friends enjoy getting to know your aupairs ? Did you pick up any languages or develop a special interest in another country. Please, tell us anything you can think of….

Former Host-Child July 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Whether I visited an au pair:

We went on a family vacation a couple years after we stopped hosting au pairs and visited one au pair for a while. She was from a big, chaotic family and it was so much fun to visit them and see the differences between her family and ours, and between her culture and ours. She’d obviously said good things about us to her family, because they welcomed us like we’d known each other all our lives, which is wonderful when you’re in a new place. We also visited two or three families whom my mother had been on an exchange with when she was a teen herself (the family, plus the families of her host-siblings), which was also fun.

Did I pick up new languages?

No. I had au pairs from a bunch of different countries, so I wasn’t consistently exposed to one language. We did pick up a few words or random expressions from each au pair, though. They probably thought it was so funny getting us to say the most random things. Also, the au pairs came over to the US to improve their English, and I feel like that would have been harder for them if we’d spoken in their native language. But that might just be a lack of experience — I don’t know how that would work.

A funny story: my family is predominantly from a specific European country, generations and generations ago. We have a few traditions we’ve passed down: particularly a holiday song in that language. The year an au pair from that country was with us, our extended family all got together and proudly sang that song for her. She laughed and said it was very nice, but then told us that it had gotten so mangled over the generations that it didn’t have a single word from her language left in it. We were passing down gibberish, generation after generation!

My friends’ opinions:

My friends liked my au pairs. We had a lot of friends who had au pairs themselves; it was pretty popular in my area. The friends who didn’t have au pairs thought it was cool too, especially when the au pairs shared stories and traditions from their countries.

Special interest in countries:

My favorite foreign country changed with each au pair. :) I always thought it was cool when we got someone from a new country. We’d learn their flags, foods from their countries, etc. I do know that when I finally have the time and money to travel abroad, I’ll want to visit the countries my au pairs were from before any others.

We also have adopted traditions from a variety of countries by this point. We celebrate Christmas with some Scandinavian traditions, we celebrate holidays from other countries, we’ve developed a love for the World Cup and know soccer cheers in Portuguese, and more.

Gianna July 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful memories.

Calif Mom August 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Thank you for sharing all this! I’m going to give my kids “special jobs” for our new au pair who arrives tomorrow, and add warnings to our handbook about their love of helping au pairs learn English.

Really glad to hear that you wouldn’t do it over any other way.

Former Host-Child August 1, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I really wouldn’t. My au pairs were one of the most special parts of my childhood. :)

The one bad part: my mom has recently reflected that she regrets one part of the au pair experience. She never instructed our au pairs to let us be bored sometimes. I’m good about entertaining myself and finding my own hobbies, but my sister always had a playmate ready when she wanted one. My mom wishes she’d let the au pairs know that it was okay to let us be bored to tears every once in a while, so that she would learn how to entertain herself. It’s kind of counter intuitive, right? I know if I were an au pair, I’d probably feel bad if one of my kids were ever bored.

But that’s a very, very small thing in the grand scheme of things. :)

Calif Mom August 2, 2012 at 9:25 am

I like your mom. Being bored and surviving it really is important. My kids would tell you — this week especially — that I have accomplished this goal! Our au pair’s visa appointment was later than expected due to holidays being taken back home, so we are having an extended in-between au pairs time. I actually like re-connecting with the kids between au pairs instead of overlapping. It helps me add tidbits of advice and tailor au pair training to the current stage the kids are in. Anyway, it so happened that the local sitters I had lined up to take the kids to the pool this week have all flaked out on me. (seriously–3 local college students have all flaked out. My kids are going to learn about fulfilling commitments, by gum!) So this week has been working through a big list of “getting ready for new au pair” chores on the whiteboard, mom locked in her room with two laptops and two blackberries teleworking, and a bit too much TV time. They are experiencing boredom fully, all right! Now I’m going to add a note about boredom to the handbook… Thanks!

AuPair CA August 21, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I don’t agree they should not go to the au pair’s room without notice, unless emergency. Why?? because if certainly that’s their house, that’s my room and I am paying for it with my job, and I would like to maintain my privacy. I don’t like people sleeping in my room or using my bed, so I decided when somebody can use or not use my room, at the end, I am working 45 hours per week for $195 because they are taking the amount that corresponds to room and food.

German Au-Pair August 22, 2012 at 3:14 pm

So…you DO agree that they should not go to the au pair’s room wuthout notice?

hm2 August 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm

This sounds very bitter. After all, it’s a homestay program. If you need that much privacy and have such a distanced relationship to your host family, you might be better off with a live-out position…

Aussie mum August 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

I don’t feel comfortable going into my aupairs flat (granny flat), she’s a young adult and I feel like its her private space – I feel that way about my bedroom though. I think it’s nice to have a bit of privacy for each of us, I don’t particularly like my teenagers coming into my room for the same reason.

Europair August 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I know I’m a little late, but I figured I’d add my experience. I’m a former American Au Pair who worked in a Western European country. I had two families during the 11 months I spent there: the first (6 months) was awful and the second (5 months) was wonderful.

The first family had plenty of problems, but one big one was their presence in my room. Firstly, they had some storage cabinets inside the room, which their housekeeper and the host mother often went through. That was a little irritating, but somewhat understandable. One problem that arose, though, was that the host mother did not think I was cleaning my room thoroughly enough.

My room was clean but not tidy. I had clutter, books, and clothes everywhere, but it was not unclean. However, after the hostmom’s many trips into my room, she decided that my room was not clean enough. She decided that her housekeeper (who was there 24-7, making the parents’ bed, stocking the fridge, etc.) should clean my room and that the cost would come out of my pay. I agreed that that would be fine, anticipating 2-3 hours of cleaning required per month (for a normal sized room and bathroom).

It ended up being much more than that, with the parents docking my pay for 6-10 hours of cleaning a month, at 10 euros an hour. When I agreed, in my naivete I did not realize that that was not the going rate… it’s typically half that. Over christmas break, I was informed that the housekeeper had waxed the floors and that I would be charged an additional 2 hours for that.

All of this was definitely trespassing on my privacy, but I didn’t speak up, hoping that it would improve. It didn’t. That’s not why I rematched (not at all, though it certainly didn’t leave a good taste in my mouth).

The second host mother respected my need to have my own space and never came into my room. They were in the process of selling the house and needed to show it several times, which I was fine with. They let me know a day or two in advance, so I was well prepared for visitors.

I agree with what a previous Au Pair posted: we do, in a sense, pay rent for the room. Compare the difference between our wages and the federal minimum wage, minus half the transportation/agency costs. That’s basically how much we are paying for room and board. It may not be a large sum, but it is something. We deserve respect and the space to decompress.

TooFar September 15, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hmm, I have my HM on Skype and sometimes leave my Skype logged in on my iPhone. One morning when I returned home from being out the night before, I was told by my HD that they saw I was logged on Skype late at night (which was logged in on my phone automatically) and he thought I was wasting their internet. He proceeded to go down in to the basement (my room) and look for my laptop to turn it off. Luckily he couldn’t find it, but I was shocked that he had even gone down there to do something as small as that on my private laptop. I understand if it was a light that needed turning off but I felt this was too far.
In regards to the OP, I think they may have meant it as a surprise for you or a kind gesture. I do know how you feel though, but if you’re that close with them as you say I’m sure they intentions were 100% true and wouldn’t have gone through your belongings.

hm2 September 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm

“Luckily he couldn’t find your laptop”…what’s on your laptop that he could have seen when he just wanted to turn it off? Your room is in the family’s house – it’s not a rented apartment! I find it very hard to relate to AuPairs, who live with a host family but treat this arrangement as if they were a live-out caregiver.

LuvCheetos September 17, 2012 at 9:11 am

Too Far, in our house, Skype tends to slow down our internet. I can see that he thought you were on, yet not home and thought it might slow down the internet, so went in to shut it off. I wouldn’t have done that, but I can understand it. I have entered our AP’s room to drop off clothes that were left in the dryer, which I folded for her and placed in her room. However, none of our APs have complained about that sort of thing and most (especially our current, fabulous AP) have left their door open a lot of the time (you know, that whole part of the family thing).

Host Mom to Au Pair #2 November 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

Re: “Sustaining Your Au Pair’s Privacy When You Enter Her Room Without Notice”
Unfortunately, I have to enter my Au Pair’s room for a few seconds a day to make sure she hasn’t left something sensitive plugged into the outlets, or the AC running. She is really good with the kids, but very difficult to live with, so I am in a predicament. She is very stubborn and will frequently leave the AC on or something charging in the outlet while gone for an entire weekend. We have developed a roach and mouse problem in our house since she moved in, and coincidentally, she’s the only one capable of hoarding garbage on he floor of her room (banana peels, candy wrappers, empty yogurt containers, etc). I point out to her the need for safety, and the need to be on top of the garbage. We have special air tight garbage containers in the bathroom, and kitchen, and we don’t keep garbage in the bedrooms at all, not even in garbage cans. She always apologizes, then repeats the acts again within a few days. I can’t wait for this contract to end, and hire a new Au Pair.

Jefferey Cham December 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm

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Kieran February 13, 2013 at 7:22 am

I have a question about establishing privacy with my Host Family. Maybe some host parents and au pairs can help me? I have been with my host family for three months and still have not found that I have a lot of privacy. My bedroom is a spare room, where excercise equipment, piano, and books are kept. Through my room is also access to a major storage closet, which is often entered. My host parents do not ask before entering my room, and have at times expressed that my privacy needs do not match with their family’s because they never knock or need that privacy with their small family. I wish I had understood before I came that my bedroom would also double as a spare room for their storage needs, however now that can’t be helped. But how can I establish more privacy with my family?

Momma Gadget February 13, 2013 at 11:29 am

In the US, it is clearly stated in the Au pair agreement that Au Pairs be given their own private room.Are they actually using the exercise equipment or piano that are stored in your room?
It is not unreasonable for them to request that they knock AND request permission to enter your room. If the HF does not agree to this, you should get your LC involved.

HRHM February 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm

If you are in the US, then your LCC has already seen your room at least once, maybe twice. I know that we had to let our LCC see the room prior to being allowed to match the first time and then she also went up with AP to see it when she came for her 2 week orientation visit.

That being said, if they are “storing” unused things in your room, it’s an annoyance. But if they are storing you in a room with their stuff, that’s out of line. If either the piano or the exercise equipment are being used EVER, they need to be moved to a common area of the house (family room, basement, garage, HP’s bedroom!) As for the books, they need to knock and wait to be invited in when you are home. I don’t think it’s a big deal to allow them to retrieve a book from your room unsupervised if you aren’t there, but some may disagree with me.
If you don’t feel that you can go to your HPs directly with this, talk to your LCC and ask for a family meeting with her ASAP.

Seattle Au pair! February 13, 2013 at 8:51 am

I might be wrong but as far as I know, your room can´t be a spare room where everyone comes in any time they want.
You need your privacy, and your room is included on the program they are not doing you a favor by letting you use the room.
I think its horible that they told you that your privacy doesn´t fit their family.
You should of course talk with them about it first, but if nothing change you should talk with your LC.

kat February 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

kieran, if you are in the US, i think you need to speak to your coordinator. it is not acceptable for any aupair to live in a room like that. and if they basically laught at you for you wanting to at least knock on the door, i personally would want to change a family.

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