Swimming, Personal Choices and Cultural Norms

by cv harquail on July 5, 2010

A request for advice from “Everybody In The Pool”

Dear Au Pair Mom readers,

An issue has arisen with our new au pair (arrived 2 weeks ago) – and it’s not one I anticipated. I’m hoping AuPairMom readers have some thoughts and insights…

It’s a cultural issue and also a personal issue. It is tricky because it influences whether this au pair can “do the job”. Perhaps this situation is one that other host families have encountered and about which they can share some wisdom.

Here is the situation:

Our AP won’t swim, wade or wear a swimsuit when she has her period. This is an issue for us. Swimming and being able to swim/rescue a child is a very important part of the job of caring for our children, and an important part of the job of being our au pair.

Our kids swim A LOT in the summer. The fact that she won’t/ doesn’t want to/ thinks she can’t/ swim with the kids for a week every month because she has her period and given that some of the kids are young enough/non-swimmers that for them to swim in a pool/lake/beach they need to have an adult actually go in the water with them, is going to be potentially a huge challenge.

indi pool.jpg

I believe that the specific issue is not about going in the water, but about using (or not using) tampons. It appears that our au pair does not think that tampons are an appropriate option.

Our application made clear the need for a swimmer and that the AP would need to swim with the kids as one of the duties. During matching, this au pair confirmed that she was a swimmer.

Granted, during our phone interviews I didn’t ask the exact questions “do you use tampons”, nor did I ask “will you swim while you have your period”. To have done that seems a bit beyond the pale. But I did ask about her swimming experience and willingness to swim with the kids. I explained that we swim a lot and she would be required to swim *with* the children, not just sit on the side and supervise them. My handbook (shared in advance, and gone over by the two of us, page by page in the past week) makes explicit the same – it says if child X is in the water, you must be in with him also.

In my view, having your period is not a “health related” reason that should reasonably excuse an AP from a normal duty.

I don’t really feel that my children should forgo swimming ¼ of the summer simply because the AP can’t figure out a way to swim while she has her period.

Furthermore, it isn’t merely a summer issue, as our au pairs take our children, especially our toddler, swimming (and go in the water with her – actually required by the indoor town pool where they go) every week all year – not just during the summer.

Today, when our au pair said she wouldn’t swim, we were on our way to a nearby beach where the plan was that she would be alone with the kids for part of the time. I was surprised that she said “I will not go swimming”, and after we painstakingly managed to communicate about what the issue actually was (made difficult by her rudimentary English and the nature of the topic), I said but you have to be ready to go in the water with the kids. She replied that she was, but she was wearing sneakers, corduroy pants, several layers and a sweater. (She is used to a hotter climate, so our pleasant, breezy 80 degree day was apparently cold for her, hence the attire – the rest of us were in shorts and t-shirts all day, swimsuits at the beach.) I said that wouldn’t work – one can’t swim in those type of clothes even in an emergency. She insisted, but so did I. I told her she needed, at a minimum, to be wearing shorts and a t-shirt, in lieu of a swimsuit, and be prepared to go in and actually swim to save a drowning child.

This is my baseline for safety, but it isn’t my desired paradigm for being at the water with the kids…

So here’s my question for AuPairMom contributors –

  • What can a HF insist on? Can a HF you “make” an AP swim with your kids?
  • Is having your period a “health related” reason that should reasonably excuse an AP from a normal duty?
  • Are there other options we haven’t thought about to solve the ‘won’t swim during her period’ issue?
  • And, really, could anyone actually go into rematch over this and bear the discussions and explanations re the reasons for the rematch?!

(By way of background, while it is early days, she is otherwise seeming like a potentially decent au pair and is willing to undertake other duties – but it is too early to say with confidence “she’s great in all other respects” – the jury is still out on that point (and fairly so, since she’s only been here 2 weeks)).

We are flummoxed by this situation. Does anyone have any ideas on how to resolve this, or should we consider rematch?

“Everybody In The Pool”


CS Nanny July 5, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I can see both sides of this issue. I can see why you would want someone to be available to swim with your children, especially if they are little. I experience terrible kidney and bladder infections, and being in a wet swimsuit only makes me more prone to having one. I take the children I look after swimming, but only for a certain amount of time. I will not swim during that time of the month because I do not want a tampon soaking up water with chemicals in it, and then the bacteria spreading. My doctor advised me not to do it, and I completley understand why. It is a health issue. Not to mention when you are having cramps, feel like a bloated whale, and just don’t feel that well, being in a swimsuit just isn’t that much fun. If it was me, and she was a good aupair all-around, I would be content with the 3 weeks of the month she does take them. Perhaps you could take them yourself on your days off if you feel it is that important that they swim that much?

The OP July 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm

I do take the kids swimming on my days off — all of them. The issue is the days and times when I’m not off and the AP is on duty and swimming is part of the plan. (We went together to the beach during the time mentioned my OP because it was the AP’s first week and I took of considerable time to orient her to “the job” and all the activities, including fun ones, that our children do.)

The OP July 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Sorry if I was unclear – re “all of them” I mean I take them swimming on “all of my days off”, not “all the kids” (but I do take all of the kids also :))

My 2 cents July 6, 2010 at 9:07 am

If this was a true “health” issue she should have disclosed it on the health section of her application. She did not.

The implication that tampons are somehow more dangerous in water seems sketchy to me. Are there studies on this? I don’t recall seeing any advertising, news reports, or anything on the container that says anything about this. The FDA would surely require it here in the U.S.

The au pair just doesn’t like the idea or isn’t comfortable using tampons. This is her personal issue that affects job performance and she needs to figure it out. Suggest to her there are more comfortable tampons these days and show her where they are in the store.

CS Nanny July 6, 2010 at 9:22 am

My doctor tells me that if you are prone to certain things, such as UTI’s, kidney or bladder infections, it is common sense that if you are sitting in a pool of bacteria, (and no, the chemicals do not kill them all), your tampon is soaking that liquid up. And you are more at risk of an infection. I do not know how much health info an AP coming to the US is required to give, so I don’t know if she mislead the family or not.

HRHM July 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm

As far as the infectious risk of tampons in water – there is no increased risk of infection of any kind from normal use of tampons while swimming. The tampon is in the vagina which (under normal circumstances) is a “dead-end”, as the cervix is closed (unless it has been recently violated by surgery, instrumentation or childbirth). The tampon is NOT in the urethra and therefore would not introduce bacteria into the urinary tract.

While some people may experience urethral irritation from chemicals (including bubble bath and chlorine) this is local irritation and not an actual infection. And it should be no worse with a tampon than without one.

CS Nanny July 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Are you a doctor?

Hula Gal July 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

One does not need to be a doctor to be able to share the sort of information that HRHM shared.

cv harquail July 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Actuallly, CSNanny, that host mom is a doctor. Doctors may disagree on the advice they give to their different patients. Also, there are some beliefs/remedies presented as medical advice that have been shown empirically not to matter. The overall point is, that some women have physical reasons as well as cultural or personal preference reasons to prefer not to use tampons. I think we can let this rest.

HRHM July 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Yes. I have my MD from a US med school, did a 5 year residency plus a year of fellowship. I am Board Certified and licensed in 2 states.

PA AP mom July 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I knew HRHM was around somewhere and an MD. I am an NP but wasn’t sure if my opinion would be enough to satisfy anyone. thanks HRHM for posting some factual info on the topic. Much appreciated.

CS Nanny July 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Which is why I asked if she was a doctor. I was geniunely curious. Jeesh.

Former Brazilian Au Pair July 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

So how do you explain people getting infections from sitting on a public toilet? Why do they offer those type of paper to protect people from getting bacteria infection in public toilet seats?

PA AP mom July 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Getting an infection from a public toilet is VERY rare. Your chances are much better of touching something with your hands in the restroom, not washing correctly or completely, and then transmitting the infection to your vagina or urethra when washing or wiping yourself.

The paper is to make people feel better mostly. It can happen, but it’s not that common.

cv harquail July 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm

FBAP, those paper covers are not to prevent infection, but to keep the seat dry. Nobody wants to sit on a wet toilet.

Former Brazilian Au Pair July 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Thanks for explaining it to me. You know, where I come from doctors always (at least they used to) tell people that toilet seats can be a dangerous thing to cause infections. Maybe this girl refuses to wear tampons because of what doctors where she comes from believe, or maybe she was just scared of it, since they might not be that common in China, who knows?

Thanks for the explanation anyway. But I will still use the paper for protection in public bathrooms :)

Aupairgal July 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I am interested to hear this aupair’s logic as to why she “can’t” swim while on her period. If it is something like what CS Nanny says then I could understand.

Aupairgal July 5, 2010 at 5:09 pm

By the way, I am also very prone to UTIs and a wet bathing suit, particularly when you have a tampon in, is a no no

Should be working July 5, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Warning: this answer contains gross details.

If it were me, I’d tell her that for the first 2-3 days of her period, she could get a pass, because on those clotty, leaky days nothing, even tampons, guarantees non-leakage. And it’s potentially very gross and embarrassing for everyone.

For the other 3-4 days of her period, which for most women are very light, she has some options, all probably unappealing to her. Kids wear swim diapers, she could use something like that. I have even used normal panty liners in my bathing suit on my last/light days because honestly it’s just a very little bit of ooze and probably wouldn’t even come out while she is in the water. Or she could sacrifice one bathing suit (as I have my sacrificial period-underwear) and use it on just those 3-4 days. Or likewise sacrifice one pair of undies and wear them with cutoff shorts and a swim top on those days.

If she is really not willing to go in the water for 7 days a month, and you really need an AP to do that, then I guess it’s rematch. If it is more like 5 days a month, and you only swim every other day or so, then I would not rematch over the issue. But if this feels like the beginning of a lot of weirdness/incompatibility then it’s a good excuse for rematch.

Last point: I wasn’t clear from the post if the AP was uncomfortable with tampons for a cultural/moral reason, an infection reason (as in previous comments) or something else. It could just be that she has never used them and is afraid to or too embarrassed to ask for help in figuring out how to use them. You could gently offer to show explain how they work, and help her (e.g. standing outside the bathroom door offering encouragement).

Amanda July 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm

You brought up a really good point. A couple of places I traveled to, women did not use tampons, for a variety of reasons. “Good” girls didn’t use them, they weren’t available or a popular item, etc. If she didn’t use them because her culture doesn’t allow or encourage her to, then I certainly don’t think you are justified in “suggesting” she use them. If swimming is this big of an issue for you, in the grand scheme of her year with you and how she cares for your kids, then rematch now. But personally, I can think of better reasons.

Amelie ex au pair July 5, 2010 at 8:50 pm

In Brazil most women don’t use tampons. Some girls are afraid it will hurt, some don’t like, some are just not used to it. I know some girls who would NEVER use than. And it’s also waaaay more expensive than using pads. I only started using them while I was in the US, and I even bought some huge boxes at Costco to bring back to Brazil with me.And boy, it was one of the best of my discoveries in the US! LOL.

Az. July 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm

Hmmm. I think if she’s an otherwise good au pair, your kids not being able to swim one week out of four is something you could get past. Like CS Nanny said, you could still take them when you’re available. That said, I come from the UK where people don’t seem to swim as much as Americans seem to (the weather’s not great, not many outdoor pools etc.) When I was younger, my friends and I went with our families once every couple of weeks at most.

I also won’t swim when I’m on my period, because it’s heavy and I don’t always trust tampons. Does your au pair even use them? I have some friends who still aren’t comfortable with wearing them years after their period started.

Another option could be to tell her about the Mooncup (which I’m intending to try.) I’ve heard positive things about it being more trustworthy when it comes to leaks etc., it’s eco-friendly, it works out cheaper in the long run and it would possibly help to avoid bacteria spreading as CS Nanny and Aupairgal mentioned. Some people are pretty squicked out by it though.

NC AP July 6, 2010 at 10:52 am

I bought a Mooncup when I was in the States and I am so happy I did! I had already heard about it before I went to the States, but it took me a while to decide if I should really try it. It is really great and as you said, it avoids many of the problems that people have with tampons, but if the OP’s au pair does not want to use tampons because of cultural norms, embarassment etc., it probably won’t be the right thing for her, because it takes some practice and you need to know your body very well.

Pa Host mom of Two Au-pairs July 5, 2010 at 6:42 pm

My experience has been the same 3 out of 4 of my female au-pairs would not swim while aunt flow came to visit, The first au-pair we really didnt make a huge issue out of it because we only had the baby at the time. ( however she did try to use them several times and was never successful) as mention above she never used them, but felt comfortable with asking me how and what to do along with reading the guidebook when buying a box. The second AP no problem used tampons all the time, even left them in the bathroom laying out in which grossed my teens boys out! However AP number 3 and 4 would not use them and would not swim at that time of the month. Two months ago both girls turned down going to the beach for the weekend because they had their period. I personally never made it a big issue, if they do not feel comfortable with using a tampons who was I to say you “must”… I think for future when my smaller boys are bigger I would also have a problem with them not being able to swim 1 week of the month. Interested to hear other feedback???? This will be on the list of interview ?? next lol

Dorsi July 5, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I think you need to make this into an entirely work issue — (because getting lost in the cultural quagmire of whether tampons cause you to lose your virginity or the medically sketchy land of tampons cause disease seems like a recipe for disaster.) Keeping this as a work issue allows you to frame a productive discussion. I have a really hard time believing that this was not clear to her during the matching process.

I would speak to her in private, at a time that is fully removed from any swimming pressure (I am sure you had not intended to broach this in the car on the way to the beach, had you known what the true problem was). Start with, “We need an AP who can swim with the children All Of The Time.” Maybe show her a schedule of when she would be expected to go swimming. “Look, here is our Calender from last October. Do you see that we took toddler swimming every Monday and Wednesday? It is important that toddler doesn’t miss classes.”

It might be easier if the LCC or someone else could address the solution side of things. Also, your LCC may have run into this before. I really do not believe that this is something you need to compromise on. If you agree with that, you should communicate that now.

Anna July 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

My current au pair is the same. She is Brazilian (and my previous Brazilian au pair also did the same). They are otherwise not shy, modern and progressive girls, older and mature. I believe it is cultural.
But, I understand. I am not a fan of tampons myself and I don’t want my au pair to do something that is clearly uncomfortable for her. I myself if have a choice would not go swimming when bleeding; but I have done it before when really necessary (when I had a period when on vacation to Caribbean LOL…)
My kids are 6 and 4. The 6-year old can swim. The 4-year old can’t, and needs an adult with him when he goes into the big pool. In the baby pool he is safe by himself. I asked my au pair to still take kids to the pool during those times, but sit by the pool while my older kid swims and watch her, and not let the younger one go to the big pool, and watch him when he is in the baby pool. So its either both kids in the baby pool with au pair watching, or my older kid in the big pool with younger one taking a break, and au pair watching the big kid.
I wouldn’t dream of telling her to go into the water during her period after she told me she can’t. I think that is too much.

anonymoms July 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I don’t think it’s appropriate to suggest that the HM take the kids ‘on her day off if it is that important that they swim”. The kids swim as a learning activity, a physical activity, and a play activity, not as an occasional thing. The aupair is there to care for the kids while the kids do their activities– the kids (and host mom) are not supposed to change their physical, learning, and play schedule regularly to accommodate the aupair.

anonymoms July 5, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I agree that it’s weird that this aupair didn’t think of this issue during the interview… don’t people know whether or not they will swim during their period? Of course, maybe she was too embarrassed to even think of it, but still it seems to me that it would be clear that swimming anytime, with the kids, was part of the job.

girlAP July 5, 2010 at 9:07 pm

it’s not “weird” that the au pair didn’t think of the “issue” during the interview, like the family it didn’t occur to her and it wasn’t discussed because just like to the HF it’s obvious that if you have the period then you just wear a tampon, to her it’s obvious that you just don’t go into the pool while on your period…So it’s not like she lied about it, because she really does swim and is willing to go in the pool with the children, just not while on her period.
Now I think to be fair the HF should find a way to solve things, 1) The period isn’t 7 days for everyone, for some women it’s more days, for others it’s less (hopefully for this AP it’s less ;) ) 2) Talk to the AP, try to understand her reasons for not going in the pool or for not wearing a tampon 3)Try to agree on something, compromise!!!
4) Don’t let it happen again, nest time you’re interviewing and AP, include to your question list, “Will toy be willing to go in the water with the kids, every day, even when on your period? ” I know, it would be kind of weird or uncomfortable, but it’s better to be sure…

The OP July 5, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I agree – I don’t think she lied. I think we did not have a meeting of the minds, although I did disclose the weekly swimming class (but perhaps she thought (although she didn’t mention) that we would just skip one of them each month.)

The AP has stated that she cannot swim for the entire week, one week/month. I didn’t probe flow related issues — this may be bc her period is actually 7 days, or it may be a cultural factor that for and entire week she doesn’t swim. I don’t know.

I realize many will say we have to discuss this more, and in more detail, and I’m not averse to that, but I do think that language issues (primarily) and the personal nature of this topic offer significant challenges to pinning down the exact nature of the issue and/or sussing out the precise parameters…

The OP July 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

The OP here –
Thanks for all the replies and thoughts!!

Some more information to help round out the situation, in case it affects folks advice or suggestions.

1. During the summer, our children swim EVERY DAY, often twice daily, and spend several hours in the pool and/or at the lake. (Our older children are proficient swimmers, younger ones are not).

2. Two of our children are non-swimmers and require an adult with them in the water for safety (the pool is deeper than either of their heights; there is no “baby pool”)

3. We’re in a climate that is hot in the summer.

4. FWIW, swimming was a clearly stated part of “the job.” Our AP is a swimmer (I belive she is a good swimmer – she shared a video of her swimming during the matching process.) We also shared our handbook *5 months* prior to our AP’s arrival, including all sections on pool safety and swimming, which make very explicit that the AP must be in the water with the non swimming children.

5. We discussed swimming in our tel calls and mentioned that one of the (fun) activities our AP does is take our toddler swimming once/week all year long (indoor pool in winter.) This town pool requires a SWIMSUIT – per policy one cannot wear shorts or tshirts. Although I think an extremely modest/skirted suit would be fine for the folks in charge of the pool.

6. I’m not entirely sure (langague is a limiting factor in these discussions) but it appears that the AP has issues with tampons (no, I don’t know why, but I do know she said she does not use them/would not use them. I didn’t push, I just asked if she used them to clarify what exactly the issue was — was it that she didn’t have any with her/hadn’t yet had a chance to buy them, or was it that she didn’t ever use them.)

7. AND, it is possible that the AP (I believe for cultural reasons) believes that it is not ok for woman to “go in the water” during the week of her period. I’m not sure why on this point, I’m not familiar enough with these aspects of her culture and internet searches haven’t yielded any ready answers.

8. I don’t know if health issues influence her refusal to go in the water – her English is so rudimentary that I’m not entirely sure we could really have such a discussion at this point.

SotaGal July 6, 2010 at 11:54 am

I think you need to keep it specifically job related. She sounds like a nice girl and perhaps it didn’t occur to her during the interview, she was too embarrassed or uncomfortable to mention it or perhaps she thought that your family would have the same period related “observations” or that she could get around the swimming pool during the weeks of her period.

Have an honest discussion with her about the fact that she must be in the water with your children and that daily swimming is something that they enjoy and helps beat the heat. If she cannot agree to it I think you’ll need to rematch. Whether its cultural, health related or what is beside the point. If you need a daily swimmer that is what you need. If the language barrier is such a struggle perhaps you could talk to her and recap it in an email so that she can translate anything that she may not understand. I would also advise your LCC of the conversation and perhaps cc her on the email so that she can be fully aware of what is going on.

girlAP July 5, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Maybe if you tell us where she’s from, there might be an AP from that country or a family who has hosted an AP from there and we can figure it if indeed it is a cultural thing

Pa Host mom of Two Au-pairs July 5, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I don’t believe it’s cultural, 3 of my AP were from Germany and 2 did not use tampons and 1 did. I more so think it’s how the AP feels during that time of the month.

Dorsi July 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm

I guess one of the reasons I am not very sympathetic is that I had a job when I was 20ish that required getting in the water daily. There are, in fact, many jobs that young women take that require them to be in the water during “that time” — camp counselor, kayak instructor, lifeguard, to name a few.

Is your AP surprised by your requirements?

NY Host Mom July 5, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Wow! First of all I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only host mom who periodically gets blindsided by strange things. Secondly this takes me back to my days in high school when there were always a few girls who tried to get out of PE due to Aunt Flo. I never quite understood that. However, this may be a cultural thing and maybe you could have a quiet talk with her when no one else is around about swimming with Aunt Flo. In some cultures women are still shunned and made to feel “unclean” during their menses. Maybe that would be a starting point-” help me understand what women do and don’t do when they have their menses in your country”

If it is cultural I’d be torn since swimming is important to your family. Maybe it is a deal breaker for you. We once had an amazing nanny who was a Jehovah’s Witness and couldn’t take the kids to friends’ birthday parties for religious reasons. My kids missed a few parties that were held while I was working. She had many great qualities so it wasn’t a deal breaker. I guess it depends on which of the two of you is more flexible on this.

Aupairgal July 6, 2010 at 3:47 am

There are also some religions that make women feel “unlcean” or “shunned” during their periods.

The OP July 6, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Good segue re ” help me understand what women do… Etc” thanks!

Host Mommy Dearest July 5, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I agree with Dorsi – communicate that you need someone who will swim with the kids every day during the summer, and every week year round. Bring out the handbook that she had for 5 months, and let her know you are sorry you didn’t ask about swimming during her period, but you need someone to swim with the kids all the time, not just 3 weeks out of the month. Activities for the kids are expensive and important. I know I wouldn’t get refunded for the 12 or so classes of an activity missed due to an APs period, and my kids would be disappointed if they couldn’t take part. I don’t think you are being unreasonable going into rematch over this. I would let her know that I would give her a strong recommendation, and there are likely families out there that do not require an AP to swim with their kids.

HMinWI July 5, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Just a tip for any mom and/or AP who has to do a lot of swimming….try a Diva Cup! It will change your life!

massaupairmom July 5, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Wow! I wanted to ask about this very issue during the match process with our second au pair. Our first au pair, who is European, apparently does not use tampons. I discovered this during a beach vacation within the first few weeks of her arrival. I was annoyed, but last year it was not a deal breaker for me. They have mostly been swimming in lakes, so she wades in, and I’m confident she’d take the plunge if she had to, period or no. As my kids have gotten older, however, swimming has become more important to them. I tried to make this clear during the match process this time around, but couldn’t quite work up the nerve to ask the question directly. I did choose a very athletic au pair this time around, and I am hoping that it will not be an issue (as some sports are just hard to do if you won’t use a tampon). I have decided that, next time around, I will directly ask this question via email during the match process. It is just that important to me, and it would be unfair to my family and an au pair to let her come here without spelling out the job qualifications explicitly (apparently, implicitly does not work!). To those of you who think this is something that HM should just get past, I say “hogwash!”. This is a job requirement, like driving or anything else, and her inability to partake is an unfair limitation on the children. It’s also a logistical problem for the family in general – do I have to plan my beach vacation around my au pair’s menstrual cycle? Give me a break! If my kids swam in a pool as much as it sounds like OP’s kids do, I would have to consider re-match. Hmmm. There’s still a couple of months before my next au pair’s arrival. Maybe it’s not too late to send that email…

Taking a Computer Lunch July 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm

My current AP has never used a tampon. In China, they are not regularly used, and she has told me that she has attempted to insert one, but couldn’t get the hang of it. There was some overlap with my previous AP, who was from Europe, who went she heard that the new AP had her period, shrugged and said, “Use a tampon.” Personally, I’ve only used tampons since I was 15 (I’m a vegetarian and I actually hate the smell of blood) except after both kids were born.

You need to get at the heart of the period/swimming/it’s too cold issue. It turned out that my current AP, also from a warmer climate, couldn’t swim at all. She had never even put her head completely under the water. We have a pool in our back yard, a gift of Make-A-Wish to The Camel, who has two life-threatening medical conditions and a complete inability to regulate her body temperature. We consider it a gift to all of us, and when my AP refused to go in shortly after she arrived last year, I was concerned, but then we had an unusually cold Fall that caused us to close it up early.

However, in January, I started quizzing her, and ended up paying for a one-credit college swim course (because I thought she had a better shot of actually learning to swim in a class that met for 2 hours over 14 weeks than one that met for 3 hours over 6 weeks. It cost us a pretty penny, and I won’t say that she actually learned to swim, but she’s water adjusted with the ability to keep herself going for a few feet. I didn’t want her period to loom large as an excuse for never swimming.

You need to decide for yourself if not swimming is a deal breaker. Meanwhile, probe a bit or actually give a swim test to your AP and see if it’s not the whole swimming thing, not just her period that stops her cold.

Jan July 5, 2010 at 11:10 pm

I think you should call in the LCC on this one, and I am leaning strongly towards rematch. I think any accomodations you make will only irritate you and possibly make you resentful towards her in the long run. It’s important to you to have a swimmer all of the time, and she is unable for one week a month. BTW, I would feel really funny if I were her – do you schedule in her period on the calendar?! Is she aware that everyone in the family is going to know her cycle?

On another note, there are alternatives to tampons including soft cups like the one mentioned above and Diva cup; natural sponges; and some disposable cups like Instead. As a really different alternative, she could reduce her period to 4 x / year by going on a continous birth control pill but might have more spotting throughout the cycle.

Melissa July 6, 2010 at 1:31 am

That’s a good point about everyone knowing her menstrual schedule! How odd. Depending on the age of the kids, it will seem rather weird that they just suddently can’t go swimming for a week each month. I could just imagine my daughter asking a million questions as to why we’re not going to swim class today!

anonmom July 6, 2010 at 10:33 am

I tend to agree on the rematch. The resentment issue will be HUGE! One au pair I should have sent back, I did not, and the resentment grew so much for the rest of the year, I could not wait til she left. Not healthy.

Melissa July 6, 2010 at 1:28 am

When I read the original post, I thought, what a bizarre issue! I would never even think to ask this. But apparently, others have had this come up too – who knew?! On one hand it seems like a rather goofy issue to rematch over, but since swimming is such a significant part of this family’s life, it does seem like it would be a huge problem over the next year. Making occasional accomodations to suit an APs preference are ok, but changing the family routine on a regular basis is not reasonable. And I agree with another poster that this will probably only lead to resentment and growing annoyance – it’s not like she’s been with the family over a (non-swimming) winter and they just love her and therefore are willing to put up with it for the summer because she’s a great AP. They have 12 long months to go.
Also, this is just my gut feeling (which I’ve learned to try to pay more attention to when it comes to hosting APs), but if something like this is coming up this early, I’m guessing that there may be more odd/irritating issues to come.

I say tell her you really want to try to make this work, but be direct about what your family needs are (i.e., you need an AP to go swimming with your children every day, or whatever compromise you can truly live with, such as 1 or 2 days/month are ok, but 7 is not). And then ask her if she has any ideas for how you can both make this work. It sounds like based on her limited English and possible cultural/personal sensitivity about her period, you probably won’t get much from her, but at least that offers an opportunity for discussion and her input and keeps the focus on the ‘job requirements.’ Good luck!

Anna July 6, 2010 at 8:08 am

I agree with other posters, you have to get to the bottom of this issue. For me (because it is still possible to take kids to the pool when au pair is not in the water, and they also go every day during the summer), it is not a deal breaker. For you, it sounds like it is.

If I were you, I would communicate to your au pair about it in writing. This should help circumvent the English problem – she will have time to sit down with a dictionary and answer your questions in writing. Ask several questions as to why she won’t go into the water (Is it “not done” in her country? Has she ever used a tampon? Will she consider learning to use a tampon? Will she go into the water with a tampon in (knowing it is done by others and makes it possible to swim during the period)? Is this due to a physical issue such as unbearable cramps? Is an issue such as cramps preventing her from using a tampon (i.e. it makes it more painful)?)
Then ask several questions about possible solutions to the problem
Basically they can be used to explain what you need (We need somebody to go into the water every week of the year. Will you be willing to learn using a device such as tampon or Diva cup (give an internet reference to it in her language, maybe offer to pay for a Diva cup) to accomodate this need? Would you rather find another family without such a requirement than learn to find a way to accomodate our needs?)

Good luck to you and keep us posted.
Maybe it is good to first speak to the LCC and run by her how to address this issue with the au pair.

Jeana July 6, 2010 at 8:37 am

In my experience, this is cultural. Our aupairs have talked to me about drinking warm water while they have their period, and not being super active. Swimming is a daily event for us, too. Despite including this in my e-mails, conversations, and family book that was forwarded to each aupair before matching with us, our aupairs have been surprised that we really do go swimming every day during the summer. One thing that I’ve learned to do is to write one final summary of things I want to make sure that our aupairs understand, prior to matching. I number the issues that I want to make sure that they understand. In our situation, I included information that our aupair would not have use of our one family car. I also explained that most aupairs in our cluster do have vehicles. Since swimming is a very important issue to you, including this in a summary letter might help next time. I know that taking this out of our routine for a week at a time wouldn’t be a possibility. Swimming is a way that my kids connect with friends from school during the summer. It is also therapeutic for my children, who have both had physical therapy and occupational therapy. The exercise is a stress reducer for one child, and a place where my daughters can be playful with one another. Good luck, and hope you’re able to work this out!

PA AP mom July 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

I understand that the issues can be cultural but for me it all comes down to, what is this family willing to sacrifice for this AP. If swimming is such an integral part of their summer activities, then they need an AP who is ready to swim EVERYDAY with their kids, period or not.

Our AP is Swedish and has never brought up this subject. I have seen tampons in her bathroom and we swim everyday (weather permitting) so I am sure at some point she has been on her period.

Our host family handbook addresses the fact that we swim nearly everyday in the summer and at least once per week in the cooler months (at the YMCA). We stress that the AP must get in the water everytime.

We would have to look for a new AP in this situation. Not because the current AP mentioned has done anything “wrong” but because she wouldn’t be the “right” one for our family.

anonmom July 6, 2010 at 9:56 am

It appears you have more than one issue here. The first, to me, would be the limited English skills. That would be the first issue. The second, you need to rematch- period! (pun intended)

I can understand that some people for medical reasons or otherwise won’t use tampons or won’t swim during that time of the month. You made it clear to her in advance that you needed someone to go in the water year-round, not just in summer. If she is unwilling, or unable to comply- that is the end. cut your losses now.
The language issue is just one reason why I will only select au pairs from specific countries. I need au pairs that can swim, however, now that they are a bit older and can swim on their own, my au pair needs to be able to jump in and help them if necessary.

Good luck.

The OP July 6, 2010 at 10:19 am

Thanks for your comments –
The limited English is OK for us — my children study the language the AP speaks, as do I, but for understandable reasons they cannot be a go between on this issue, nor do I speak it proficiently enough to engage on these topics. We knew that her English was weaker, and we accepted her on this point, (we wanted and sought a situation where there would be language “exchange” and mutual learning, so I can’t complain about her English, but for this particular topic it does make things much, much more difficult…but I don’t blame her for that. It’s just a fact.

anonmom July 6, 2010 at 10:31 am

Well, I can appreciate that you like someone who speaks a particular language.
I am a swimmer, and that is a HUGE issue for me! I know that if it were me, she would be OUT! My children also swim year round, and an adult is required to go in the water with them at the pool, not just sit on the side and watch. This is also the reason why I buy the au pair a membership at the pool, and also one for the water park in the summer, so she can take them.

As an aside, the whole issue certainly makes one think that this is another positive reason to have a male au pair!

franzi July 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

is there an ap in your cluster that speaks your ap’s language and also sufficiently english who you could engage as translator on the issue. if it’s someone who has been in the states longer she might also be able to explain the fact that tampons are common in the states.

i never heard about the cups mentioned above but googled them (aha! who knew this stuff existed?). i would feel that if someone does not feel comfortable using tampons then the cups are very likely not the right thing either.

i was a very weak swimmer during my ap times and only really learned how to swim 2 years after my ap year. it did not matter to my host families at that time but because i was uncomfortable with being in the water as soon as it came up higher than my knees i did find weird excuses so that i wouldn’t have to take the kids to the pool or stay out of the water. so like suggested by another poster above, this may be about her not being able to swim well. i had an official swim certificate and all yet I COULD NOT SWIM! (let alone jump into the water to save someone from drowning).

if swimming is important for you and there is no compromise you and your ap can agree on then go into rematch and be frank with all other candidates you talk to (saying it has been an issue before) about swimming every day means every day, period or not.

Should be working July 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm

This is a great idea, i.e. to have a more experienced AP from the same culture/language talk to her and possibly even help her figure out tampons or whatever. But from the OP’s later clarifications, it sounds like this AP is firm in her stance, and is not a good fit for this swimming-oriented family. What a bummer that you made it so clear in your materials and she still didn’t get it!

The OP July 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm

This WOULD be great….but sadly, there is not another girl in our cluster from her country (nor one that speaks her language). We have 40 girls in our cluster, but rarely one from her country….

The OP July 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I suppose there could be “water issues”, anything is possible, but I’m pretty sure she’s a good, strong swimmer – she included a video clip of her swimming (and it was she – it was not from a distance) and she can swim several different strokes, and certainly a proficient freestyle. (I don’t care if she can swim butterfly, just that she’s a solid swimmer, which I believe she is…but I’m hopeful now that we are finally out of the “special week” this theory will be tested!! Because if she can’t actually swim, then I don’t even have to drill down to this issue!

pia Aupair July 6, 2010 at 5:49 pm

well translating sounds like a great option but dont you think with the nature of this topic it would be really embarrassing for the aupair anyway.

HRHM July 6, 2010 at 1:24 pm

It’s funny, but I would have never thought of this one on my own. Prior to this year, I would have not understood what the big deal was, but this year both my kids have gone to the pool every day and it has become a HUGE part of our lives. Luckily, AP3 (czech) has never mentioned skipping it (not sure what she’s doing, don’t really want to know!) but if an AP was going to miss a week every month, it would totally be a show-stopper for us. So, now I will be adding this to our handbook and making it an interview topic.

Thanks CV!

momto2 July 6, 2010 at 2:43 pm

I guess I have always adopted the adage that I never ask the AP to do anything I wouldn’t do, so I would side with the AP on this one. As an aside, if the girl overcame her issues of discomfort and developed toxic shock syndrome as a result, I would feel absolutely horrible and responsible. Certainly not judging anyone for whom this issue is a “deal-breaker,” but my goodness. I’d hate to be the host mom with the reputation for firing an AP for menstruating.

franzi July 6, 2010 at 2:49 pm

that reminded me how important it is to discuss the correct use of tampons with the ap. i don’t think the OP’s kids are in the water for 8 hours straight. so when out of the water the ap could wear pads again.

it might just be a small thing but once she realizes that it’s just a few hours of wearing a tampon, and not constantly (remember, she might not know much about tampons at all or may have false info) it changes her attitude towards swimming.

The OP July 6, 2010 at 5:01 pm

No kidding! I don’t want THAT reputation!! :)

Dorsi July 6, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Really? There are about 6000 other things that will more probably cause death or disfigurement of your AP. TSS is quite rare, is only sometimes associated with Tampons and is rarely fatal. Things that your AP does that are more likely to straight out kill her: going outside where she could get stung by a bee, drinking alcohol, driving, getting in a car with you, skiing, riding in a car with another AP, crossing the street, having a gun in your home, swimming in a pool when you are not having your period, taking birth control pills (that is actually a fairly high number of annual deaths), declining the flu vaccine, having sex (ectopic pregnancy and other preg related complaints kill more people than TSS).

There may be two sides to this story (I am still having a hard time seeing it) — but toxic shock syndrome has nothing to do with anything.

momto2 July 7, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Um, yes, “really”. I didn’t suggest TSS was a terminal side effect of doing something she wouldn’t typicaly want to do, but it could happen, and if it did as a result of something she was encouraged to do by her host parent that would make me feel horrible, personally, which is the point I raised. I tend to treat my AP’s like human beings, sorry!

Rachel Carney July 6, 2010 at 2:44 pm

We are a host family. It is an absolute requirement for swimming year round for our family. Our Au Pair knows this and it was on our application and we have discussed with our future au pair coming in a couple of weeks. It’s not an option in my opinion, she has to deal with it…or not be with your family. The kids are not to be punished in this case. My opinion.

Amanda July 6, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I think the OP needed to much more clear about this in her application and while matching. Especially as it seems to be such a big deal. I do feel sorry for this girl though, however. She is probably a great aupair, but probably didn’t expect to be swimming this much. OP, next time you match, make sure you make what you want crystal clear.

Host Mommy Dearest July 6, 2010 at 4:29 pm

While I also feel sorry for the AP, I do think the OP was crystal clear on this. I think it is crazy that the OP needs to specify not only the schedule and the requirement that the AP be in the water with the kids, but she also needs to point out that the AP’s period might likely (or will) coincide with that schedule and talk about how the job requirement does not change during her period. The AP had all the info about the family’s requirement and I think it should be her job to decline families that have requirements she is unable to meet (whether for physical reasons, religious beliefs, or others). This was not a surprise swimming requirement. I equate asking about her period in the same realm as asking if she is sexually active – it’s really none of my business and I don’t really want to know. If I were interviewing for a job and knew I couldn’t do part of the job for 1/4 of my work days, I would consider myself a bad fit for the job.

NewAPMama July 6, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I don’t think it’s crazy at all, given the fact that this is a cultural exchange program, and you are getting young women who are from different cultures. I didn’t say that the OP was wrong in wanting what she does. It is her family, and if she needs a particular thing, then she should be able to get it. However, not every country’s culture is like America, and I think sometimes HF’s forget that in the matching process. Yes, the AP needs to adapt to American culture, but when she first arrives, she is still thinking in her cultural’s terms. So, if there is something that is really important for a HF (swimming, driving, whatever!), they need to be the ones who make the details crystal clear.

NewAPMama July 6, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Thankfully, as my family does not participate in swimming at all, I won’t have to deal with this issue. lol. But I am sure something will arise where I will wish I had been more clear.

anon July 6, 2010 at 4:51 pm

No swimming? Why?

NewAPMama July 6, 2010 at 4:56 pm

We do not swim for religious reasons.

franzi July 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

i know this is off topic but i’m just curious (seriously, all i know are catholics, lutherans, presbyterians and atheists). what religion are you and why is swimming not allowed?

Host Mommy Dearest July 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm

I still think she made it more than clear.

Former Brazilian Au Pair July 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

I totally agree with you. Like someone stated above the same way the OP mom didn’t think of talking about the specific subject because to her in America the use of tampons is common, the au pair didn’t even think about being so specific about this because in her country people might tend to skip swimming during those days.
I confess, I would not know how to deal with the problem, but I believe that from now on, since you had trouble with this, host families whose swimming is a very important part of their lives, should make it clear to the au pairs they interview that they need an Au Pair who will be willing to swim even on the period days.

I was required to swim, I have always been a pretty good swimmer, but my case was different. My host kids both knew how to swim, so I wasn’t required to be in the water with them, but I was required to watch them and be ready to jump in if needed. And to me, their lives were more important than my period. If I had to, I wouldn’t think twice, I would jump in to get them. I don’t believe it was the au pair’s fault in this case, neither the host mom’s. It’s just something not many people think of.

The OP July 6, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I thought I was clear…I really tried. And now that this has arisen, I still think the only things that I didn’t do that would have helped was to actually say, in our tel conversations, and write in our handbook, not only “you will swim with the children every day” but that “you will swim with the children every day EVEN WHEN YOU HAVE YOUR PERIOD.”

I said/wrote the former, did not say the latter. Before this came up, I couldn’t have imagined saying this in a tel conversation with a potential au pair. Now….live and learn…

I think there was a cultural mis-match — she probably assumed “no women swim when they have their period”, and (erroneously) took my comments and handbook in this context…

I have 2 pages in our handbook about swimming, pool/lake/beach safety.

Here is an excerpt from our swimming section in the handbook:

C. X and Y children

X and Y go swimming almost every single day all summer.
X swims weekly at our (indoor) town pool year round.
You will need to swim with X and Y.

• X and Y do not know how to swim yet.
• You must always be in the water with them! (You cannot sit on the side of the pool and watch them. You cannot sit on the beach while they are in the water – you must be with them in the water.)
• In the pool, lake or in the ocean, you must be close enough to them you that you can touch them – not more than one arm’s length away from you.
• NEVER turn your back on them when they are in the water.
• If you get out of the water (for example, to use the toilet) X and Y must get out with you.

NewAPMama July 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

What country is your aupair from?

darthastewart July 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I don’t think your request is the least bit ambiguous. I’d say that if she doesn’t want to get over it, she needs to go to another HF. I may be a bit biased, but this reminds me of my last au-pair who we sent home early, because she didn’t feel like taking the kids to the pool, (or for that matter actually doing her job)

Melissa July 6, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I think the OP is extremely clear in her handbook. I agree that it was probably just an unfortunate cultural misunderstanding, in which the AP must have just assumed that women don’t swim during their periods. However, even though cultural exchange is a huge component of this program, there are numerous potential cultural differences out there,depending on the APs country, and there is no way a HF could possibly anticipate and ask about all of them. I would never think to ask a future AP about her period and don’t think it’s any of my business (I’m also of the camp, however, where I don’t feel it’s my place to talk with my APs about birth control or their sex lives, unless they come to me with a question or concern). I would also worry about offending other applicants who do not have the same issue with swimming/menstruating – personally, I would find it very odd and instrusive if a HF asked me about this if I was an AP applicant. Ideally, when the OP shared the swimming expecations with the AP (both verbally and in writing), the AP should have realized that she cannot meet those expecations (regardless of the ‘why’ – be it cultural, medical, etc) and told the OP that. Unfortunately, it sounds like it was just a ‘miss’ on her part, albeit a big one, and now it’s a huge issue for the family.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I agree that you were completely open and honest about what was needed. There was nothing ambiguous. Every day means every day. Once a week means once a week. If the AP needed clarification, then she needed to ask, no matter how difficult. You’ve already made it clear that her spoken English is weak. It may be that her understanding of written English is weak too.

You know, I’m a big fan of the one-on-one chat. And here’s where you fish or cut bait. Call a meeting with her after the kids have gone to bed. Pull out the handbook, and ask her what she understands. Don’t start with the swimming, start with other things that you think need clarification. Then, work your way toward swimming. What did she understand. Is she willing to find a way to make it work, because you don’t want your children to be punished every month, when you were up front about tasks needed. She knew that swimming was important enough to you to send you a video showing off her skills, so it’s not a matter of being incapable of swimming. Yes, the water feels cold. Yes, it’s not like swimming in her country. It’s a cultural exchange, and so she’s being exposed to American culture on American terms. As someone who has a non-swimming child who needs someone close at hand, I totally understand. If your AP cannot find a way to make it work and no compromise seems reasonable, then you need to decide whether everything else she does overrides this.

Anna July 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Amanda, how much more crystal clear can one be, when sharing a schedule of swimming for an entire year before matching, AND saying that au pair has to be in the water with the kids every time?

Amanda July 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Well, Anna, clearly there was some kind of miscommunication or else the OP wouldn’t have posted this topic.

Host Mommy Dearest July 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

The *mis* part of the miscommunication was on the part of the AP, not the OP. I see it may not have been intentional on the AP’s part, but certainly the OP does not need to be told she should have been more clear. She has said she will add info about having your period to the handbook to avoid this in the future, but I still think the AP can take some of the responsibility for this mismatch – cultural or not – since the job requirements were crystal clear and she is a young adult.

girlAP July 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Just like to you and other people it’s OBVIOUS that swimming year round includes those days she has the period, to the au pair it might be OBVIOUS that you just don’t swim while on your period. So yeah, something was missing and although it may be a little weird and/or uncomfortable, the question must be asked “Are you willing to swim everyday, even when you are in you period?”

Anna July 6, 2010 at 9:59 pm

Yes, and this question should’ve been asked by the au pair, since the hostmom clearly said she has to be in the water EVERY DAY during the summer for example.

Talliecat July 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Just when I think that au pair mom has covered all of the issues… One thing that may work is for her to get one of those lands end skirt bathing suits.. they are practically like wearing a skirt with underwear in them and maybe she could wear the suit when it wasn’t that bad. Where we live ( in Coastal Maine ) there are not a plethora of options so swimming is pretty much what the kids do in the summer and winter. Of course I ask for a swimmer on my application and that is what I expect to get.

NewAPMama July 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm

That’s a great idea!

JBLV July 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

That is a great idea. She could wear a larger bathing suit, and not have to go in the water (if, indeed, your children are old enough to swim on their own) unless there is an emergency. She could be “lifeguard” those weeks. And if there is an emergency, she can jump in.

Jan July 6, 2010 at 6:15 pm

How do you know the suit would take care of it? It sounds to me like she doesn’t even want to wade in the water wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The mom needs someone to be in the water with the kids who can’t swim. I know I wouldn’t feel very comfortable with my 2 year old in the water by himself even wearing his floatie plus once his floatie is on he’s in the water whether his caregiver is ready.

For some reason I find this topic interesting, and I’ve been coming back to the computer a little too often!

JBLV July 6, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I guess I didn’t read carefully enough. I didn’t realize that there were children who couldn’t swim. If that’s the case, the AP would need to be in the water. Sorry.

Long Island Host Mom July 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

OK…I have one word..REMATCH. This is obviously an important issue to you…and that is all that is important..to another host mom it could be something else. But your AP’s capability to do this ongoing is the issue here and she cannot or will not….so rematch is the answer. Today its her refusal to go in the pool during her period…and its only been 2 weeks….my thought is what else is she gonna refuse or have a problem doing going forward…you dont know yet…its too soon. But why wait to see…if she refuses any suggestions to see she can go in during this time then – REMATCH.My au pair who said she swimmed etc on her application has just decided now at the beginning of summer and pool season that she doesnt like how the chlorine feels on her skin so she doesnt want to go in with my daughter…( she goes in the pool at her AP friends host family’s house) DUH ? If I didnt have just a little more than a month to go…I would be making this an issue – Considering my daughter is in camp 5 days a week from morning until 5 PM…I dont want my au pair to tell me anything she doesnt want to do…considering she is only working 25 hrs week until she leaves – I think she’s got a pretty easy gig going on.

HRHM July 7, 2010 at 3:41 pm

LOL, if this was my short-timer AP, I would suddenly not like the way her driving my car in her free time feels on my skin. :)

Aupair Mama July 6, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Great topic. My aupair just told me this too. I said why don’t you take the kids to pool ever? “well I have my period” … Im thinking so what. But apparently for her its some reason to not go to the pool.

I’m already irritated with our aupair but she’s leaving in 2 weeks and my kids don’t swim as much as yours. If you have a lot of months left – I’d explain swimming is required unless she is sick for contagious illness. Period is not that. She can swim or rematch … thanks have a nice day :)

West Coast Mom July 7, 2010 at 12:03 am

This topic is oddly fascinating. Seems like almost all of the HMs (myself included) think it OP did as much as possible to disclose this requirement, and almost all of the APs think there is nothing wrong with refusing to swim for a week every month. Honestly, I can’t believe there is anything that a young woman should feel like she “can’t or won’t do” because of her period. But, I don’t think anyone did anything wrong here, just a misunderstanding – but one with real consequences for this family’s summer plans.

OP, the problem is, it’s already well into July. It will prob take nearly all of July – under the best circumstances – to rematch. So then, it’s AUgust, and the kids are almost back to school, and I suspect, the swimming drops back to once a week, and soon after that, to supervision in an indoor pool. I guess, if it were me, I would probably deal with it for the rest of the summer *if* I really liked this AP. If there was even a hint of other issues, I would rematch.

Good luck.

SotaGal July 7, 2010 at 12:06 am

Perhaps rather than having to ask an au pair candidate if the will or will not swim during their period you could ask: We require our au pairs to swim and BE IN THE water with our children EVERY DAY. Are there any times where you would not be willing to swim with the children?

Pa Host mom of Two - Aupairs July 7, 2010 at 12:48 am

For the OP:
Summer time means fun in the sun, and plenty of fun and games in the water – but did you know that germs could contaminate swimming water? Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are spread by swimming in contaminated recreational waters such as: pools, water parks, lakes, and the ocean. Germs causing RWIs can be killed by chlorine, but it doesn’t work right away. It takes time to kill germs, and some are resistant to chlorine and can live in pools for days.

Swimming everyday as your requirements seems excessive to me, I am sorry when it’s like 100 – 103 degree who wants to venture out even if by a body of water. It’s been so hot here in the state of Pa I wouldn’t want my au-pair taking my smaller children out swimming in our own pool. Even though I do agree with your handbook that you make it very clear about swimming daily, I personally wouldn’t want my children exposed to the pool and sun everyday.

anonmom July 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

wow- that is a bit extreme in my opinion! Forget about water borne illnesses, let’s look at how many chemicals our children are exposed to from the time they wake up in the morning anyway! It has been the same temperature here, as weel, and my kids go in the pool everyday- it is what they enjoy and what is required of the older ones for swim team. I am a swimmer- swim as much as possible and all one needs to do after swimming is shower or rinse off. It amazes me how people think~!

OnceAnAuPair July 7, 2010 at 1:39 am

If it’s a cultural thing, like some of the women mentioned from Brazil, I think it might be impossible to change her mind. Maybe she didn’t mention this during the interview process because she didn’t understand that wearing tampons in the US is the norm and plenty of women swim on their periods.

You could try to explain it to her nicely (and in private), how to use a tampon, that’s it’s safe and completely normal in the US. You could also mention that maybe there was just a miscommunication during the interview because of a cultural difference. I hope it works for you, but I don’t think a possible “cultural difference” is a reason to go in rematch or be upset, this kind of thing happens. Good luck!

My 2 cents July 7, 2010 at 1:23 pm

This isn’t about a “cultural difference.” It’s about safety. Safety of the children the AP is watching. And for this OP it is a sound reason for rematching.

HRHM July 7, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Even if it is about a cultural difference, these can often be strong reasons to rematch. What if your AP is from a religion where she can’t work one key day of the week that you need her? That is only 1/7th of the time (as opposed to 1/4 with not swimming during her period) Should the HM be expected to “just do it herself” like some have told OP to with the swimming. A bad match is a bad match, regardless of the reason. Rematch, now.

OnceAnAuPair July 8, 2010 at 11:37 am

Ok, way to attack me!

I was just trying to give the au pair’s perspective of why she didn’t bring it up in the interview. I guess when interviewing you should always ask the girl “Pads or tampons?”. Seriously, chill out.
Being an au pair is hard and scary and culture differences especially with something so private is just plain embarrassing. I was saying cut the girl some slack, try to explain to her how a tampon works, explain that it’s safe, explain that all women in the US use them so that’s why you didn’t realize she doesn’t swim on her period. This reason alone is not a reason to go in rematch because hopefully she’ll cooperate and at least TRY the tampon. If not, fine go into rematch.

And I wasn’t talking about all cultural differences, especially something religious. Shouldn’t you know that before? Isn’t that little personal than your preference of feminine hygiene for god’s sake?

My 2 cents July 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm

No one was attacking. Some of us disagree with you. Don’t enter the conversation and offer your opinions if you cannot handle that.

You said a possible “cultural difference” is not a reason to go into rematch or to get upset. For the reasons I gave, I disagree. Frankly, your response that an au pair’s refusal to get into a pool — even touch the surface — and supervise the children she is responsible for, who, incidentally , cannot swim, is no reason to get upset, is at least cavalier if not insensitive and patronizing to an OP who is obviously upset and who has obviously spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure things out.

OnceAnAuPair July 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm

I get the SAFETY thing! I’ve been an au pair I know what it’s like to have to get in the pool with kids for SAFETY reasons. I spent an entire summer doing that. All I’m saying is talk to the girl, try to bridge the “cultural differences” gap before going into rematch, unless she’s not such a good au pair anyway. And in the meantime, figure out something else to do for a day so the HM can discuss the problem with the au pair. If she absolutely will not do and HM is too nervous, then obviously REMATCH. But if it can be fixed by just explaining then why rematch?

NVMOM July 7, 2010 at 1:41 am

This topic has been “beat to death” but I thought I would add my 2 cents. I live in Nevada where this time of year it doesn’t get below 90 even at midnight. It is imperative and I mean imperative that my AP or Nanny swim. There are no if, and’s or buts. Sorry but I have a 5, 4 and 2 year old and “standing on the sidelines” doesn’t cut it and not going isn’t an option. The water is the only thing that is cool. You are a “grown up” with a “grown up job and responsibilities” act like it. There are lots of things about my job that I don’t want to do but I suck it up and do it. Not trying to be “harsh” but at the end of the day this is a “job” and with that comes doing stuff we don’t like. This is one of them, I saw rematch, sorry but you have no choice if she won’t get in the water one week out of every month. That is 12 weeks in the year that she is here, that isn’t “fair” to your children!!

camom July 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Wow, you hit the spot. We have exactly the same problem with our AP. However, she arrived three months ago and swimming season only started about a month ago, so I didn’t find out about her not wanting to swim while having her period until very recently. I was in shock when she told me – she told me AFTER having sat by the pool with my kids inside. She is otherwise an excellent AP, but we will have to have a serious talk!

NorCalHostMom July 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Jumping in late, but I just want to echo that

a) yes – our APs (Brazilian) have refused to swim during their periods
b) as an American, this never would have occurred to me to clarify to this detail while matching.

It isn’t a big deal for us – but for The OP, this is clearly a key family need. Because of that, “cultural difference” or not, you have an issue that warrants a re-match. I am sure she will find a(nother) great new HF that fits within her swimming requirements, and it frees you to find someone who can join the non-swimmers in the pool year-round.

And I like the idea of, during the matching process, asking something like “would there ever be times when you could NOT (or would not) swim during your year? Please explain.” Something like that.

OP – I am sorry for you & your AP that you are having this stress. But I think it makes the most sense to rematch now and let you both find matches that fit you better.

FormerAupair July 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Well… I fell so sad reading this post. I could never imagine that a woman’s period could be an issue for a host mom. I fell like either host mom and kids are used to have everything the way they want and when they want. If I was the Host mom, I would never make a big deal of it, and I would just tell my aupair to find something else to do with the children. Besides, swimming is fun, but it can get boring if you go every single day. There are parks, zoo, picnics, movies, art, library, and another hundred activities that kids can be engaged for a week. Asking for rematch because this person does not fell comfortable using a tampon or swimming in her period, sounds a little bit to much for me.

PA AP mom July 7, 2010 at 8:46 pm

For me, it’s not so much about the swimming, as it is about the refusal. What’s next? I can’t go to the beach with your family because I’m having my period. Is this host family supposed to reschedule all vacations, family reunions, birthday parties, etc. around the AP’s menstrual period?

I don’t think the AP intentionally deceived the HF at all. I just think it’s not as good of a match as this HM was hoping for. It’s not the AP’s fault or the HM’s fault. It’s just not a great fit.

Host Mommy Dearest July 7, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I am sad for a very different reason. I am sad that there are apparently numerous young women out there that believe their period limits what they can do. The fact that swimming gets boring for some, or that there are other fun things to do with kids is very irrelevant in this case. The OP made it clear what her family does and needs, and the AP decided that 3/4 of the time she can do what is expected of her so that should be good enough. I am usually dissappointed with a 75%, nevermind starting out with that. It is not ok to “play the period card” and expect that everyone will dance around and live their lives differently as a result. Even though her period is the underlying reason for rematch, don’t think of it that way. Think of it as, the HF said (in writing no less) that they need someone to go in the water with the kids every day. By matching with the family she agreed to it – she could have declined the family, but she didn’t. I think it is very unfair to imply the HM is selfish based on all the facts.

The OP July 7, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Thanks to everyone who has responded. I really appreciate the input from AuPairMom readers — it has been extremely helpful. Reading all the responses has given me a number of different perspectives, and perhaps most helpful has been learning from my reaction to the responses. How I react to a given suggestion helps me better distill exactly what I think and how I need to frame the issue for constructive dialogue with our AP.

I agree with all the posters who have said it must be put in the context of ability or willingness to fulfill a job requirement, and not a debate about the usefulness or proprietariness of one sanitary product vs another. For those who think it is too much to say having your period isn’t an excuse not to swim (likely because they consider swimming optional, or swimming is somehow a unique activity incompatible with menstruation), I posit the question of how this query might play out if an AP would not prepare food when she had her period (as happens in some cultures); or would not bathe during the week when she had her period; or would not drive when she had her period….the underlying reason for all of these is her period, but the issue is unwillingness to perform a certain duty one week out of four. (This isn’t the case in our situation, but I have tried to extrapolate various scenarios to their logical conclusion to determine if swimming is “special” or whether the same standard should be applied to all duties.)

I came to AuPairMom with this questions precisely because it seemed to be (for me) and unexpected cultural mismatch, and one that still, after all this debate, seems difficult to have screened for. Precisely becuase it was not an intentional deception or willful misrepresentation on behalf of the AP makes it difficult to contemplate rematch. Who knew so many young women feel so limited by their biology….

Next time ’round I’ll be the HM that gets reported to the agency for asking prospective APs “weird questions” (!!)

For those who have wondered, or asked, –
Our au pair is Chinese
Our au pair is not religious/does not specify a religious affiliation in her application
For those who find our daily swimming somehow odd or excessive, our children swim everyday, but not ALL day every day. (Keep in mind that summer days are long….1-2 hours swimming every day isn’t even the lion’s share of a day! But it is a regular, daily component of our lives.)
Our children’s swimming isn’t only recreational/free swim – child takes a weekly class that requires the caregiver to be in the water; this is a class for which we pay and which we aren’t keen to miss 1/4 of the time.

HD and I are considering our options, and I will be discussing with AP now that I’ve had the benefit of the varied AuPairMom input — I’ll keep you posted on how it plays out.


Taking a Computer Lunch July 7, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Yup, been there with a Chinese AP. She hinted that she wanted the first few days of her period off every month, and I basically told her that Americans don’t find menstruation limiting, they perform all the daily activities as if they didn’t have it. Tampons are unknown in China, and while my AP tried to use them, I didn’t feel close enough to show her (just like I didn’t feel like I could tell her that masturbation eases cramps either).

At this point I don’t know that she does when she has her period, but I assume that she doesn’t get in the pool with The Camel. I’ve made it clear that she has to stay immediately outside the pool area and be prepared to jump in if something does happen. The Camel is happy to stay in a float ring and can easily be retrieved using a net attached to a pole (or by one of the many neighbors who use the pool). We also had to pay for a semester-long swimming class at our local community college because the AP admitted she had never dunked her head under water. She earned a C in the course, heavily based on her written work.

We had several issues with our AP – I had to order her to practice driving and to practice speaking English, because she made virtually no progress the first 3 months she lived with us – I finally gave her 30 days to get her act in shape or rematch. She got her act in shape.

I will say that putting everything in writing (and copying my LCC) made it easier to communicate with this AP – it remains her preferred method of communication.

Aupairgal July 8, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Hahahah, your solution to cramps is soooo true.

My 2 cents July 8, 2010 at 8:55 am

Just want to say that you sound like an enormously compassionate and thoughtful HM. The amount of time you’ve spent analyzing this issue and considering all points of view says that regardless of how you ultimately came out on what was right for your family. Please do keep us posted. I’m very curious to see how this turns out.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 8, 2010 at 11:08 am

Oh, I’m in serious countdown mode – 4 1/2 weeks to go! If I had it to do again, I would have ignored my LCC (with whom I get along extremely well) when she said, “If you go into rematch, I’ll have to take her for the year, because she has no skills and I can’t send her back to China.” We’ve received some financial concessions out of our agency for the time and energy we put in to making it through the year, but it came at a huge time and emotional cost. She was fantastic with The Camel, which remained a huge plus for her the entire year, but now I’m done.

zurial July 10, 2010 at 12:58 am

I’m jumping in very very late but clearly, the only thing left to do is for the au pair to have a sex change operation. That will resolve the matter once and for all.

Seriously though, an option to consider is whether the au pair can find someone, who meets your approval, who can substitute for the au pair during the times the au pair is unable to swim. Perhaps there’s another au pair who loves to swim or a neighborhood teen who can help out. The au pair should be present, engage with, and watch the kids during this swim time because she still has responsibility for the kids however to meet the requirement that someone be in the pool with your kids, perhaps this substitute will be enough. I would make finding this substitute the au pair’s responsibility because it will demonstrate to you that whatever the basis is for not swimming during her time of the month, the au pair is responsible person and trying to work things out in this unusual situation. If the au pair is not willing to do this, then I would wonder what else she’s not going to do for you and I would suggest that you seriously consider rematching before things get worse.

used to be an AP July 10, 2010 at 5:44 am

One other thing that I think hasn’t been mentioned here. You could ask your au pair, if she needs pain killers when she has her period. It could be possible that she doesn’t know that cramps can be eased by taking medicine. If she has strong/painful cramps, she maybe feels so uncomfortable the whole time that she doesn’t feel like doing much (or maybe even can’t) at all. Of course this would not solve the swimming problem, but maybe it would give her nudge in the right direction.

Long Island Host Mom July 11, 2010 at 12:39 am

UGH ! My au pair who leaves in 5 weeks has just decided that the chlorine we use here is stronger than they use in Germany and she refuses to go to the pool with my daughter and go in the water with her. She says she got a rash and now after 2 weeks still has a bump between her legs…(I am thinking it is something else) and yet…she has AP friends here who she stays with on the weekends and I know she has been swimming in the Host Family Pool. I cannot imagine that our town pool is worse for her than other pools…I am just thinking she doesnt want to play with my daughter in the water cause that requires more work than sitting in a lounge chair and watching. I just want her to leave already…I have given in to alot of her odd requests and concerns (like my daughter telling her she loves her too much ????) But I am so ready for the new AP to come. Anyone else have problems towards the end…Her parents stayed with us for 10 days and ever since they left in early June she has changed and she has excuses for everything these days – always things she doesnt want to do or forgot to do…she is always running away on the weekends and staying with other AP’s when their host family is away – to be so she doesnt have to deal with a curfew.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 11, 2010 at 9:19 pm

This is very typical of both the AP and the HF at the end of a stay. Both of you are getting ready to say goodbye, and it’s easier if you’re mad at each other (just wait until your kids are college bound!). She’s running to spend time with her friends, because she has formed an intense bond, and unlike the high school friends she’s had forever and to whom she’ll soon be returning, she might never see these friends again — or only once in a while. Those of us who are adults are used to having people come in and out of our lives, but remember, to APs, this may be a new experience.

Sit her down and have a chat. Tell her you understand she doesn’t like the town pool and she prefers to swim in her friends’ HF pool, but your young daughter doesn’t really understand what is going on, and needs the AP to be her friend and playmate for 5 more weeks. By her some swimmer shampoo and tell her to show both herself an dhelp your daughter whens she’s getting out of the pool. Make sure that your AP knows that young children just don’t have the same concept of time and change, and that your AP pulling away from her will make her think she has done something wrong.

If you gave your AP extra time off while her family visited, point that out to her, and say that you really need her to stick it for these last five weeks and make it work. That you wish you could give her more time off, but you can’t. Tell her how much you have appreciated her reliability during the past 11 months, and tell her that you need her to stick it out these last few weeks. Call her on the excuse making in a polite way and be firm that you need the work done.

Do make sure that you don’t make a big deal out of her heading off to be with her friends at the weekend. You’re an adult, too, and you’ve got to understand how important this is to her. Offer to let her host a goodbye part and to invite all her friends and be willing to get out of the way.

In my experience, having the chat goes a long way. My 2nd AP was used to an easy schedule, extra time off when she asked, including a long family visit in April (her extension period ended in May). And while she was traveling with her family I learned that I would have not one but two exhibitions to mount – one in three months, the other in six. And she was upset, because all of a sudden, I booked her to work nearly 45 hours per week (because the only way I was going to get this done was to work all day Saturday and half day on Sundays), and after I had a chat, she was much nicer about it, even though she still wasn’t happy.

Most of my APs have hosted goodbye parties, and some have included us, and some have politely asked us to get out of the way. If you manage to keep it light, you’ll discover how much your AP will miss you, too.

anonmom July 13, 2010 at 8:46 am

Hey- I am from Long Island, too! ANyway- I feel your pain! Sorry to hear she is being a pita! It does sound typical of many au pairs end of year attitude. But the swimming thing- explain to her that while you like her to stay til the end, you will be forced to rematch- tell her it is her JOB! Also, tell her if she does not like the feel of the chlorine- she can rinse her body off in the shower with cold water both before and after swimming. They also have the soap you can use for after swimming to remove chlorine. I am a lifeguard still, and I can’t imagine telling my boss I could not go in the water today due to period or I did not like the water.

Ah well- good luck! Last year I was in your shoes- I could not wait for AP to leave!

MommyMia July 12, 2010 at 7:09 pm

Excellent avice, as always,TACL. And the goodbye party is really one of the easiest and best ways to part. Even for one AP who went into rematch, just our offer of having some of her friends over helped us part on a much less rancorous note. I’ll admit, it was a bit spiteful on my part initially, as she was always saying that no where here could she find “x” and “y” specialties from her country, so I went online, found some recipes and produced two typical party foods that were a huge hit — her friends were so envious, and she was appreciative (first time in six months!). We then made one of the foods along with my kids for her to take as a gift to her new host family (although I do think she ate it all on the plane on her way there! LOL). Also the first time she cooked for anyone but herself, after advertising that she was, and liked to cook–except for heating up food and making mac & cheese for the kids…

anonmom July 13, 2010 at 8:50 am

As an aside- on the tampon issue- I recall on my high school senior trip doing a demonstration for 2 girls who were going to miss going in the water at a water park, on how to use a tampon properly. They had no idea, and since I was a swimmer, I needed to know earlier on how to use one. They were so thankful to me, as they enjoyed the water park (and learned something new).

It amazes me how so many people are willing to put their lives on ‘hold’ just because it is that time of the month! Exercise makes you feel better during that time.

Good luck OP! If it were me, it would be rematch immediately. I know this is a difficult option, too, but the alternative is a year of resentment building.

Calif mom July 14, 2010 at 12:23 pm

We’ve never encountered this problem, and none of our APs have used tampons!

I am ok with an AP sitting in shorts with legs dangling in the pool, because our pool has rabid lifeguards. I would quarrel with the idea that someone in shorts and a t-shirt can’t dive in and rescue. The rules for the toddler classes in the fall are more problematic.

Obviously corduroy pants are way too bulky if you have to swim very far to reach a kid who is struggling.

But she’s only been here 2 weeks! It takes a lot longer than that to adjust to the weather! And the fact that her English is still ramping up makes this more tricky. Call me a softie, but I would go gently on this issue.

The big problem is the swim classes in the fall. I’m not sure how you resolve that if she isn’t open to exploring new ways to manage her period.

How good is your counselor? Could she maybe ask another AP in your cluster with the same background to gently talk with her about how she manages the pool requirements?

The OP July 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Thanks for the comments –
some of this info is above, but the reason this is an issue for us, in a nutshell, is:

Lake has no lifeguard, adult must be in (wading, probably up to mid thigh-ish) with kids. AP said she couldn’t get wet/touch water when she had her period, including wading. I think this is “cultural” more than just the swimsuit/tampon issue, and this is a point she’s going to need to adjust to a different cultural norm if she is to remain with us.

Summer/Outdoor Pool has NO zero entry or shallow end – most shallow is 4ft which is above non-swimming children’s heads — AND rules of the pool are that adult must be IN the water with any non-swimming child (they test each child to see if they can swim a length (25m) and can tread water before they are considered “swimming” and allowed in without an adult). Pool is lifeguarded, but given that kids can’t stand AND the rule that adult must be in with the non swimming child (which, as a former lifeguard myself, I actually think is a good safety rule), she has to get in with them.

No other AP in our cluster from her country/with her language.

Waiting means kids don’t swim a good chunk of the summer, which we’ve determined is not OK with us.

I didn’t get into the whole tampon issue, rather told her, in tandem with LCC, that she has to be able to swim every day/any given day and get in the water with the kids, that this is a non-negotiable point. She said she understood and agreed. Based on the calendar, we have about another 10 days to see if this will work or be an issue…

She can swim – we’ve now seen that. Can/will get head wet, is a proficient swimmer. So it’s NOT a “I can’t swim” or “don’t like the water” (contrary to my application!) in the guise of a period issue. :)

The OP July 14, 2010 at 1:33 pm

sorry, typing too fast –
when I wrote “contrary to my application” I was trying to make the point that she cold swim (well) as she said she could in her application, and the situation was NOT, as some commenters posited, that she actually couldn’t swim well and was just hiding that fact/using her period as an excuse to not swim. She’s a legit swimmer, so the period/cultural norms surrounding menstruation really ARE the issue.

NewAPMama July 14, 2010 at 1:38 pm

So what did you decide to do? Any updates?

The OP July 14, 2010 at 2:11 pm

I discussed swimming with her, and didn’t get into the whole tampon issue, rather told her, in tandem with LCC (who was at the discussion), that she has to be able to swim every day/any given day and get in the water with the kids, that this is a non-negotiable point. She said she understood and agreed. Based on the calendar, we have about another 10 days to see if this will work or be an issue…

The OP July 14, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Well, spurred in fact by this blog and all the helpful comments/requests for an update, I decided to go one step further than the discussion I mention above (which was several days ago)….

….. and literally 20 min ago I took a box of tampax, left half a dozen tampons in it, plus the instructions and brought it in to the AP and handed it to her saying — I know these may not be common or readily available in your country, but they are a pretty good thing and make swimming possible and easy when you have your period. I thought you might not be familiar with them, and are probably not familiar with all our brands and options in the USA, and you might want to try them while you are in the USA. I said they are safe if you follow the instructions, most American women use them (googled – ~75-80% of US women use them), they are comfortable and make swimming easy, and anyone can use them — a 12 year old girl, a young woman, older women. I said you don’t have to have had a baby to use them (common myth in other countries, akin to the you can’t use them if you are a virgin myth), and they are what I will give my daughter to use when she is old enough. I said you can use them for 1hr while you swim, or for a longer period of time like 4-6 hours. I said it was a personal choice, but I thought she might like to have the information and some samples. I said that I wanted to give her a box and the instructions in case she is interested in trying them, so that she doesn’t have to go to the store and figure out what to buy or buy a whole box just to see how they work. I said it is a personal choice, but using them could make her life easier.

She seemed a bit embarrassed, but listened, smiled and seemed really interested in the pictures and the instructions. I then left, figuring there wasn’t much more to say, but that I would rest easier having given her a bridge to something new and the chance to consider/look at/take apart/see pix of how to use without having to get over the “psychological hurdle” of “deciding” to buy them and then actually purchasing them.

Phew! That really was a conversation I never thougtht I’d have with an AP..!!

West Coast Mom July 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

My goodness … that must have been awkward! But, fwiw, I think you have been very thoughtful about all of this, and I hope your AP appreciates that. You may in fact have just revolutionized 25% of her life, in areas way beyond swimming!

Thanks for the update, and best of luck.

Calif mom July 14, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Good for you, OP!

This is one of those times when hosting APs makes us grow in ways we weren’t expecting! My mom *never* talked about this stuff with me, but you handled it so well.

I hope this is a growth opportunity for her, too. And you may have given her more options for 25% of her life, as wEst Coast Mom said…

Jan July 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Wow! Hopefully you won’t have to do a personal demonstration!

All kidding aside, I think you handled this wonderfully, and I hope she can overcome her personal issues to swim during that time.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 14, 2010 at 10:30 pm

The Camel got her period a month ago – not a big deal yet – just spotting at this point. Chatted about it with a friend whose 12-year-old had to miss swim practice because she couldn’t figure out how to insert a tampon, and I recall, all too well, those first attempts.

I think you did the right thing. But personally, if she’s never inserted her finger into her vagina, it’s going to be hard…

BTW – I always purchase a variety of things and leave them in the AP bathroom when they arrive – both an OB variety box and Tampax with applicators, but also items – including calomine lotion (because mosquitos are so cruel to tender skin), insect repellents, lotions, creams, cotton balls, soaps, etc. My theory is that APs are used to using items from their country and need to sample until they find out what’s similar from the US to their country – Target has great sample items for $1.

And, as someone who has a Chinese AP to whom I have said, “American women don’t let their periods slow them down. It’s not culturally acceptable here,” she has told me that she has tried to insert a tampon with no success. You’ve got to decide whether everything else adds up in the plus column at the end of the day (and soon, I guess) or whether it’s time to cut your losses and move on. My current AP has told me the water in The Camel’s pool (80F) is too cold for her to swim. This is an AP who is moving north in 4 weeks. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “You better get used to it. The water will be colder where you are moving.” (But because The Camel is floating in her private swimming pool that’s 18 F in diameter, it’s not as big a deal as a lake…)

Frustrated but happy I'm not alone! July 20, 2010 at 1:27 am

I’ve had several APs and found they all lie. Some lie to themselves — thinking they can just figure it out when they get here and others knowingly lie outright during the matching process. They are so eager to come, that they’ll say anything and agree to anything until the time for action arises.

I’ve found that some issues are bigger than others and you have to decide if it’s worth it to you to fight those issues. The swimming thing kills me though. I can’t seem to figure out how to effectively communicate the need to swim outside-in the sun-with children.

3 of my au pairs swore up and down that they’d take the kids swimming get in the water with them (I also have small kids) and when the time came 2, who were from hot climate countries, flat out refused to be outside in the sun during the day (something they never seemed to have a problem with when asked during the matching process) and 1 was too terrified to be responsible for the kids at the pool.

One of the girls refused to go outside at all when she had her period while we were on a beach vacation, so we suggested tampons. I had to buy a box of tampons and open it up and explain how to use them. She only listened to my husband and never to me, so my husband had to demonstrate. That was pretty comical. She learned to use them and liked them but needless to say she didn’t last long.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 20, 2010 at 7:07 am

While I can see your point of view, I think lying is a rather strong word. Everyone puts their best foot forward in an interview. The trick is to ask questions in such a way that the candidate reveals herself. (Although I must say, The Camel weeds out many undesirable candidates for us – and the result is we’ve had 4 fantastic APs and one who did an excellent job with The Camel and had to be pushed to do everything else.)

Menstruation is a difficult topic, as we’ve all discovered. It’s hard to ask about it point-blank, but given American’s can-do-anyway attitudes, it may be necessary to broach. It’s never been an issue for me with European and Brazilian APs, but my current AP makes a big deal of it. I’m not sure she ever learned to use a tampon, but The Camel does get in the water every day – it helps that she has her own swimming pool. My son helps out when he’s around – he’ll happily bring The Camel to the pool steps, but he’s lighter than she is. My current AP (less than 3 weeks to go!) is a complainer – the air is too cold when it’s in the 80s, the water is too cold (the pool is currently 86 F/30 C), and I just tell her point blank to get used to it – the kids need to swim. My next AP, coming from northern Europe, will probably feel that everything is too warm (except the AC in the house)!

Anon HM July 20, 2010 at 1:41 am

She preferred your husband to demonstrate tampon use instead of you? Oh my, your husband must be a saint! Mine would absolutely not agree to that.

anon July 20, 2010 at 11:18 am

For my husband it wouldn’t be an issue of agreeing or not. He simply would have no idea of what do to with it. Ha ha ha

darthastewart July 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

My turn to roll on the floor. Your husband is a saint. Just a saint.

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