Temporary Eviction: Would you make your Au Pair stay somewhere else while you are on vacation?

by cv harquail on December 17, 2009

Host parents, we got a request for advice from an au pair who is facing temporary eviction while her host parents are on vacation. The situation is a bit of an emergency, since the family is slated to leave within the week. Your ideas? Here’s the situation:

200912170858.jpg Dear Au Pair Mom readers,

I am an au pair. I have a problem and would be so thankful for help!

I will spend Christmas at home with my real family. During that time my hostfamily will fly to Africa. My host family will be away for longer than my own vacation home, so I was to be alone in my host family’s house for a week.

These plans have been set for a while. My holiday back home for Christmas was fixed at the beginning of October, and my hostfamily booked their flight to Africa over a month ago, so my host mom has known about this for a long time. We had already talked about everything I would have to know for that time, she said that she would give me all important phone numbers and will show me how some special things work in the house, and that she would leave me some money for food etc.

Until yesterday, there was no problem. We had already talked about everything. Now, only days before my departure, my hostmum has to told me that I can´t stay here (in their house) by myself for 7 days. My host mom has told me she had talked to someone who said that the host family isn’t allowed to leave me alone. I don´t think that it is true, is it?

My host mom also told me that the is worried about me because of the safety, like robbers and so on. I think that can´t be the reason because we live in a very safe area with a few embassies around etc. Also, she has suggested that they send me to a youth hostel for the time while they are gone. But to be honest, that seems not very safe to me and I don´t feel comfortable with that idea! ….I mean, with 4-6 people in one room, that I don´t know etc. I think it is more probable that something bad happens tat the hostel than when I´m staying at the house.

I am adult and really responsible and trustworthy. I have been with my host family for 3 and a half months now…

I suggested to my hostmum an idea that I feel much more comfortable with: I will stay here in the host family’s house for 1 or 2 nights and then I can live at a friends´house for the rest of time. But, my host mom didn´t give me an answer, she said that she has to talk to her husband.

I´m so confused and I don´t feel very comfortable here at the moment. Would you let your au pair stay by herself for a few days?
I would be very thankful for an advice. — FK

Photo by mamaloco on Flickr

See our earlier conversation about related issues:
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PA aupair mom December 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

It is not against the rules for an au pair to be home alone while the family is on vacation.

That being said, it is really up to each host family to decide what their position on this issue is.

And, the hostels our AP has stayed in while on vacation have been very nice, clean and safe.

Will the host parents pay for the hostel while they are on vacation? It doesn’t seem fair to ask the AP to use her salary for that.

My 2 cents December 17, 2009 at 11:43 am

You are right to be upset, AP. No one should be forced out of their home for the year due to someone else’s personal plans (unless, of course, you had agreed to that ahead of time or something and then reneged). And it was really unfair that this is only now become an issue after you relied on the fact that you could stay.

The sudden change has me guessing you host mom told someone what the arrangement was, and that someone told her about some nightmare stories that person had heard about leaving teenagers, college students, au pairs, etc. alone while you are away. Imagine huge house parties, the liability if someone gets drunk at the house and then drives drunk and kills someone, etc. Scary stuff, stuff that has indeed happened, but stuff that she really should not need to worry about if you are responsible and there’s an arrangement for someone to check in on you here and there, which you may want for your own safety in all honesty.

Given that your host mom is using your safety as a concern, I’d recommend making arrangements for someone to check in on you and the house every so often (once a day?), and let her know you’ve done that. Ask her what else would help her know you will be safe and so will the house, and so you can stay, and then agree to it. You will agree to no parties. You will agree not to have overnight guests. You will agree to call her once a day. You will check every lock on every window and every door every day. Whatever it is. If she still balks, this is your opportunity to dig deeper into what her specific concerns are and where they are coming from so you can address those and reassure her you are responsible and that your months long respect for their home shows this. Another good resource is your LCC. Tell her what’s going on. She may be able to talk to your host parents in way you are not and assure them it is normal for an au pair to be left alone while the family vacations. She can also make clear the rule is that they cannot force you out due to their own plans if need be.

Good luck, and let us know what happens!

Jane December 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

While I would not feel comfortable leaving an au pair alone in my house for a whole week, it hardly seems fair for the host family to change plans this late and to evict their au pair for a whole week. I have intentionally planned my vacations away from the house to correspond directly with the au pair’s vacation plans, so that this would not be an issue. That said, there are some girls I would feel more comfortable than others leaving alone, and I would be okay with them staying one or two nights alone if they were staying with a friend the rest of the time.

Perhaps since you have only been here three months, the family has reasons not to feel comfortable leaving you at the house alone? Did you do anything to make them worry–like bring the car home too late or leave doors unlocked? Perhaps you can talk to the host mom more about what you would do to keep yourself and the house safe while they are gone? (You could sell it as a perk of having someone look after the house for them while they are away.) Would you be using their car while they are away if you stayed at the house? That is always my main reason for not leaving an au pair on her own–that she will have a problem with the car late at night and we will be too far away to help her. Perhaps you can assure them that you will return home early in the evening, lock all the doors, and be sure to turn off appliances, etc. Whatever you can do to put their minds at ease about leaving you. I agree, a week at a hostel doesn’t sound great! Good luck!

Mom23 December 17, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I think that your host family is being unreasonable. I think that if they do not want you staying at their house they should either pay for a hotel or the change fees so that you can stay an extra week in your home country.

I have left many au pairs at home while we have been away and it was only a problem once. My agency also has a bed and breakfast program where the agency has a list of host families willing to host au pairs who want to travel to other cities in the U.S. We have hosted au pairs from other cities this way. Maybe you could check with your agency to see if it has such a program?

As My Two Cents suggested, I think you should sit down with your host parents to figure out what their real concern is. Good luck.

Sara Duke December 17, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I have left au pairs in my house alone for over a week at a time (their college spring break never corresponds with my kid’s school spring break) and have never had a problem. Personally, I would rather have someone in my house while I am away than not – it reduces the chance of theft and coming home to the disaster of a burst water pipe or leaking hot water heater. It also means my cats get fed for “free.” My au pairs have been permitted to have guests stay (because I want them to feel safe), although I have a strict rule that guests may not stay in my bedroom (maintly because it is horribly cluttered). Those who have had parties have been extremely careful to leave the house spotless (so, cleaner than we left it) because they want us to trust them.

There seems to be some trust issues here. If the HM can’t bear to leave the AP alone for a week, how does she trust her with her children?

Youth Hostels rarely let people stay for a week at a time, as I know from my travels in Europe. They are not residential hotels – they are meant to be cheap places to stay while touring a city. While youth hostels are not necessarily dangerous, thefts of personal objects do occur. They are rarely in the best neighborhoods a city has to offer, especially here in the United States. I think the au pair is quite right to be concerned about staying there.

If I were the au pair, I would call a meeting of adults in the household, and try to get at the bottom of what has changed in the relationship between the time the HM booked her vacation and the past few days. Has she done something to cause concern, or has the HM just heard scare stories.

Au Pair in CO December 17, 2009 at 1:55 pm

My host family leaves me home alone every weekend during winter (by my choice, I am allowed to come with them), and have never said anything about this being a problem. It may just be my way of thinking, but their house is my home for a whole year, and telling me I can’t stay there alone would feel weird.

I understand that the HM may be afraid of coming home to a trashed house, but unless the au pair have given her a reason to think this will happen, I really think she should give her the benefit of the doubt.

Amelie December 17, 2009 at 1:58 pm

My host family went on a 5 day trip when I was here for around 10 days.

Why souldn’t the host parents trust the au pairs with their house if they trust them with their own kids.

Staying is a hostel is ok when we travelling in a thight budget… It’s But I don’t think it’s confortable place to stay for a whole week (not very good showers, matresses, people get in and out of the room during the night…).

tatti December 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm

your host family wants to send you to a hostel? Is she crazy?? Of course you can stay at the house, this is their problem and they should provide you food!!! Or you buy and them reimburse you or they leave you reasonable money! I stayed 3 nights alone without my hostfamily they were traveling.
Are you in the US by your own? dont you have a community counselor?? Americans are non-sense!

Calif Mom December 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Tatti, sois gentille! “Americans are non-sense” is not a kind thing to say to a bunch of experienced host moms who are trying to help.

And I totally agree with you that the hostel idea is ridiculous. It makes me think this mom is not really concerned about the AP’s safety — or the host mom is completely naive about what hostels are like.

Maybe host dad balked at the last minute when he finally checking in and asked about the arrangements that had been made?My hub feels very differently about home safety than I do, and would have a different opinion about all this.

There have been more break ins than usual lately because of the recession.

Seems there is undoubtedly more to this than we know at this point!

With what we do know, assuming there is nothing BIG that has been left out, it is not fair to kick the AP out of the house for that week at this late date.

Anonymous December 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

Ladies, this is probably one of those situations where we do not know the whole story. Does this family have a history of being mean to their aupairs ?
Does this aupair ( and she does come across as lovely and articulate ) have a history of bending a few rules here and there ? Were all of these arrangements discussed in advance ? Did the LCC already discuss this with everyone involved and one of the parties is pretending that discussion never happened ? This business about the host family not being allowed to leave the aupair alone indicates to me that some discussion took place and someone is leaving out a large part of the story. I know that my contract with my agency states that an aupair may not have her friends or relatives stay with or impose upon the host family even if they are at home. I can tell you this. I know people , myself included, who have on occasion enjoyed inviting an aupair’s brother, sister, mother , father or girlfriend to visit but I have had an aupair or two whom I would not have left home in my house
while I was away. So I am cautious about jumping to any conclusion on this one – too many unknowns.

Amelie December 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I agree with you Anonymous, we don’t know the whole story.
But again, if you don’t trust your house to someone, how can you trust your children?

If you think your au pair could do something wrong to your house when you’re travelling, how can you be sure she’s treating your kids right when you’re working?

Been there, done that! December 17, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Sadly, we have had our trust broken by an au pair whom we left alone for a week in our house while we were away, and nothing she could do would rebuild that. So, yes, I didn’t trust that she was treating my kids right after all her lies, and it was very sad.
Yeah, the cat got fed for free, but furniture was damaged and the neighbors got to witness some unsavory characters coming and going into our home – thank goodness they told us about it when we returned!

Euromom December 17, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I agree with a lot of the comments above but is the HM being realistic believing that she can just dump her au pair in a hostel (for 7 days, over the holidays!) and then when she returns, life will continue as before. Perhaps if had been agreed at the beginning but certainly not at this late stage. Would any of us accept this from our employers or would we start looking for somewhere else? I know I would.

I would suggest asking for a meeting with both HM & HD together. For the meeting I would have two lists: one addressing the security/safety issues and the other addressing the hostel.

1. Explain to them that while you appreciate their concern for your safety, you feel it is unfair to ask you to leave. Provide solutions to their concerns exactly as suggested above. You must contact your LCC and try to get as much support from her as possible – if even to see if she will agree to check in on you while the HF is away. Using Skype web cam is a great way to check in, they can see that the house burned down). Will they agree to a friend staying overnight with you on the weekend (is there a fellow au pair that the HM is familiar with). Have a set of self-imposed rules, such as you will text them every night when you have checked every window/door and enabled the alarm.

Explain to both your plans for the week and even if it’s just reading a book surely they can understand that you would much more comfortable doing this in familiar surroundings.

The Hostel – If they won’t budge on the issue of letting you stay in the family home, then and only then would I suggest alternatives. Contact your flight provider and ask about the cost of rescheduling your flight back and yes the HF should pay for this – they are the ones changing the plans. Also do not accept a hostel, ask for a budget hotel at the very least, remember you will be spending all you time there for that week, you will not be going sightseeing/shopping like a tourist would and that is what a hostel is designed for, nothing more. Then you will also need extra money for food.

I personally feel that it is ridiculous for a host family to do this sort of thing and perhaps you left a door open but that should have been discussed there and then. I think some people are so funny “oh no, we cannot leave you in the house alone for your own safety but here you can stay in a hostel with God knows who, passing through!”

Gotta love the logic.

Anonymous December 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

I think that the idea of extending the aupair’s vacation at the host family’s expense is a good idea. The host parents are going to pay for some aspect of housing her during the gap anyway. Why not make it more enjoyable for her ? It does seem logical that we would trust out home with someone with whom we trust our children but in reality , we are talking about apples and oranges. It is a real temptation to party when parents are away. I never did it but I know plenty of people who did. People should think about this before they get an aupair and set out rules in writing. Another idea to consider… I once had an aupair who agreed to go away on vacation while we were on vacation and then , she changed her mind and wanted to have her vacation with her cousin in our house. Our home was cheaper then a hotel. I had specifically arranged our vacation to coincide with hers and then, presto , she wanted to stay home alone. I felt so uncomfortable with this that I rescheduled my vacation ( we were sharing a house at the beach with my sister so I could do this ), the aupair hit the roof. My husband had originally felt that I was being silly but when the aupair started crying and said ” this is really unfair ” my husband was shocked. He sheepishly apologized to me and said this was a big red flag. My agency told me to try to work things out with the aupair but we took a little break from the program for a while. We told the agency we would house her while she looked for another family. The aupair told the agency and the rematch families who inquired that she had not had a vacation ! I didn’t care about that; it seemed like a small matter.
She stayed pretty close geographically. The funny thing was when her mother at home wrote to me and told me that the new family was going on vacation and leaving her home alone ! Her mother wanted to know if we could take her in for the period of time. I did not do this but I had the impression that her mother was someone I would have liked to know .

franzi December 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm

oh bummer.

i agree with what was said above, we don’t know the family’s and the APs history. i suggest you sit down and ask your HP what has changed them trusting you. it’s obvious they talked with someone why said they can’t/should not do this. maybe they can pay for you rebooking your flight so you can stay longer at home. this will be cheaper than the hostel. on the other hand you probably don’t have time to get your pink paper thing signed with the new travel dates, do you?

i stayed at home w/o my hostparents for 5 days. i knew which neighbors to turn to in case of problems and they were checking in on me and the house once a day at different times.
i also took care of the dog so that might have been a reason to keep me at home and feel ok with it because me as free dog sitter was the benefit.

an au pair December 17, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I feel horrible for you. Even if there is something we don’t know, the host family is being completely unfair, changing the plans on you this late. A hostel might not be “dangerous”, but most are not places where you would want to stay for a week. People are in and out all the time, sometimes roommates are loud and obnoxious, and your stuff can easily get stolen. In one hostel I stayed at, a man was asleep when we arrived (6pm) and was still in bed when we left (9 or 10am) so we couldn’t turn lights on or talk in the room the entire time. He only left the room to smoke a cigarette in the bathroom (not allowed), making the whole floor reek of smoke. The only way a hostel is acceptable is if they get you a private room in a nice facility. My boyfriend and I stayed in a room in Poland that was nicer than any hotel I’ve stayed in and had a free huge breakfast. I don’t know what hostels are like in the US though.

If you had a party, you would obviously be out of a job, so why would you have a party?? This situation is a little different than when you’re a high schooler whose parents leave town for the weekend. You are employed by these people to take care of their children; they need to trust you.

Jeana December 18, 2009 at 7:58 am

If I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving our aupair at home, alone, there is some other issue that needs to be addressed. I can also say that I’ve asked our aupairs, before leaving them for a few days, whether they feel comfortable, and would they like to invite a friend that I know and approve, to stay with them?

I’ve had three aupairs that I would feel very comfortable leaving, and two that I would not have left. Those two were removed from the program.

In fairness to all, we don’t have all the details. I have also made a point to tell our aupairs about crimes that happen nearby, even though our immediate neighborhood is quite safe. I don’t think that our aupairs have had a realistic sense of the crimes that take place within 20 miles of us, even though our immediate area is safe. I don’t want to frighten them, but I want them to know that we need to be wise regarding safety, every day.

I am very clear that doors must always be locked. I’ve explained that I don’t want a home invasion situation, where my aupair or daughters could be raped. I’ve had to be very very direct. My aupairs do not answer the door unless they know who is there.

When I needed to be away for three days, with one child, our aupair went to spend time with my sister, and my other child. I couldn’t leave our aupair in-charge with me away for three days, and my sister was able to help with my daughter. Our aupair enjoyed her time with my sister’s family, and they enjoyed their time with her. They were already friendly, as they live nearby.

Have there been issues with doors being left unlocked? Are there issues with friends? Does the aupair have a history of a social life that is a bit too active? Have there been any concerns with alcohol, or concerns regarding use of the host family’s vehicle? Have there been concerns regarding the use of appliances in the home? Excessive phone use? Candles in the bedroom?

There is a reason the family is taking this stand, and most important is to understand what has brought them to this decision.

Tatti, I would suggest that you might need more details before judging an entire nation, when you have only a few facts. I’m an American host mom, I’ve been incredibly supportive of our aupairs, and have maintained our relationships, after they’ve left our family. Thoughtful responses help all of us grow to be better host moms; your response sounded like you have a strong sense of entitlement, and are quick to judge, without all the facts on the table.

aussie mum December 18, 2009 at 8:31 am

We are only hearing one side of the story here. Your host mum probably has good reason for not trusting you to stay in her house alone. She may feel you are unreliable or irresponsible and perhaps you may not have shown respect to her home and possessions. I can understand her decision and good on her for being so proactive I say. Out of all the aupairs I have had, I would only trust one of them. I did in fact leave one aupair alone for a whole day…and that was enough for her to steal a brand new camcorder, money and jewelery. I had another aupair who would steal some of my daughter’s goods toys and send them back to the UK as presents for her nieces and nephews!…..they were not people in need either. Sad but true, you can never really trust anyone alone in your home.

NewAPMama July 14, 2010 at 2:06 pm

If you cannot trust your aupair to be in your home alone, then why would you trust her with your children? If I felt like an adult couldn’t be trusted in my home while I was away, then I sure as heck wouldn’t allow her to stay, alone, with my children.

Host Mommy Dearest July 14, 2010 at 3:07 pm

So, should I rematch with an AP when I just don’t fully trust her? I had an AP who did some undesireable things and when we told her to stop each thing, she made sure she didn’t do it *when we could see or find out.* It was sort of like putting your finger in the dam to find another leak sprout though. Was I sure she was untrustworthy? Absolutely. Did I have proof? Nope. Did I rematch? Yes, but not soon enough, because I thought I needed proof. I did not want to leave my kids with her when I went off to work every day, so next time I will rematch sooner. Sounds like you have never had a bad AP as I used to think I would always trust my APs home alone – until I didn’t.

NewAPMama July 14, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Once again, if I didn’t trust someone explicitly, I wouldn’t leave them with my children. Period. My home and its’ contents are replaceable. My children are not.

Jan July 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I think there’s a difference in the types of trust that I have in people, and I think it’s possible to trust an au pair with the kids but not in the home alone. Once I had an au pair who was great with the kids, and I trusted her when she was with the kids. I did not, however, like the things she did when she was not with the kids, and I certainly would not have felt comfortable or trusted leaving her home alone.

She had bad taste in boyfriends, and I think she probably partied a little too much which is why I would not trust her home alone. Her weekend life did not interfere with her ability to watch the kids, and I cannot stress how great she was as an au pair. My son loved her and still asks about her.

aussie mum December 18, 2009 at 8:36 am

…sorry, I meant, “good toys” not goos.

Euromom December 18, 2009 at 9:08 am

Ladies, I think we are all been a bit quick to judge on all sides but the main ingrediant we are missing here is a reasonable solution, one that all sides can agree on.

And I think that it is a good thing that au pairs out there get to here the comments of Aussie Mum and Been There Done That, could you imagine what it is like to take a vacation and come back to your house been raided/partied in or worse, as above your au pair raped/murdered. Au pairs out there, it happens, and alot more than we know about. To the moms, there are quite a few family who would just not prefer to have the headache of having an au pair in there home while they are away – no matter how trust worthy she is and that is prefectly fine but then they should not have made a prior agreement. (I mean in this particular situation where the alternative is to send her to a hostel.)

Again I would suggest talking to them and see how far they are willing to negotiate with you. Try to bring about an amciable solution for you and your family. At worst, I would pay for the rescheduling of my return flight myself and then perhaps rematch – trust works both ways and if they had broken their word to me (if I had done nothing to deserve it) and tried to put me in a hostel. But this depends on you as an au pair – have you really done nothing to warrant this change?

NoVA Host Mom December 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

I will admit that when my husband and I went on a 3-day weekend to the beach last March, we booted our AP from the house during that time. However, we were in rematch due to multiple issues, trust and her lack of honesty being a huge part. The things I have learned since she left have been quite interesting, to say the least.

For our current AP, yes, we have gone away without her (her choice) and left her home alone. We make sure neighbors know we are gone and that no parties are to be had, and go over the rules of the house (one female friend/AP may come and sleep over during that time), etc. Our home is hers as well, and as long as house rules are followed, she will have the same rights to the home as a college-aged kid would have in my house. Prove you are able of being trusted, and you will be.

I agree that we are likely hearing one side of the problem, but yes, the AP in question should contact her LCC and have a nice, adult sitdown with the HPs. If the HF won’t budge then they should be picking up the tab for an extended visit home for the AP. The LCC should be ensuring that the HF is aware that their home is your home, too. This might be a matter of being new to the program, the AP being relatively new to the household (only 3 months, right?), and tales being told by other HFs. Good luck.

NoVA Host Mom December 18, 2009 at 9:52 am

Oh, and she stayed with a friend during the time we were away. She usually spent all of her “off” time there already, and some of her “on” time (part of the issue, obviously).

anonmom December 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

This is a sad situation. We had to go to England for a week, and we left our au pair home alone the whole time. It actually was great for her, and us! She was able to take care of the home, and she had a mini-vacation to spend with her friends or sight see.

Can you talk to your LCC?

Hula Gal December 18, 2009 at 11:50 am

To those who say “If you can’t trust your au pair while you are away, then how can you trust her with your kids” I’d say in return that it isn’t really that simple. There are plenty of young women who have a good level of maturity and sense of responsibility with you and your children, but in their personal lives, they are easily influenced by others and may not make great choices in that regard. We love our au pair but she has a male “friend” that she sees on occasion. He does not live in the state. We have come to learn that this male friend seems untrustworthy and pretty undesirable. We are very happy he does not live here and they are not actively dating. But he is picking her up the same day but after we leave to go out of town for Christmas. They are driving to their destination. We told her she would have to stay somewhere else for the day to wait for him to pick her up. We want to secure the house and she will need to give us her keys before she leaves so they do not get lost. Another motivation for this is that we do not want this guy to convince her that they should stay at our place that night instead of getting a hotel. I don’t want him in our home. And even if we told her that I’m not 100% sure she would be strong enough to say no to him. When we asked her to stay elsewhere for the day she never challenged us, she just said ok and made arrangements.

Now – this doesn’t address the blog topic situation but I would agree with everyone else who said that we do not have the entire story. The host family does not want her to stay in their home without them there. There is probably a reason for this that we do not know because we do not have the host family’s side of the story. She can either complain to her LCC or she can agree and find somewhere else to stay. I can’t imagine that anything she says will change their mind. Otherwise why would they ask her to stay elsewhere knowing that it will be putting her out and not very hospitable of them? Of course I am always amazed at the true stories of host families being unconscionably disrespectful of their au pairs. Maybe this is one of those cases. Who knows?

JJ December 18, 2009 at 2:35 pm

I’m not really sure what to say about this one.

If nothing happened on the part of the au pair, it’s unfair of the host family to change their plans at the last minute.

I’m kind of wondering why the au pair didn’t just plan to prolong her stay with her real family in the first place, knowing that the host family would be out of town and she wouldn’t have to work anyway. That seems odd to me.

But I’d agree with everyone else that it seems like some kind of miscommunication is happening, and the best thing at this point would be to sit down with the LCC and figure out a solution.

JJ December 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Oh, I just re-read and it looks like the au pair planned her vacation first. So that explains that part. Sorry for overlooking that.

Anonymous December 18, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I love this blog but really when I hear these horror stories I always wonder what the other party to the disagreement has to say. I don’t think that LCC’s have much incentive to tell their stories on this blog or even elsewhere but I am willing to bet that the LCCs have even more interesting stories than host parents and aupairs. I just can’t see why an LCC would tell stories in a public forum. Probably the best stories are very bad for business

Anonymous January 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm

The key to remember here is that this au pair is not an employee who has to leave the building when the store closes, this is her HOME…this is what you agreed to when you signed up to be a host family…not an employer…and you should be accepting her as part of your family. Before you take your au pair’s keys when you go on vacation or tell her to stay elsewhere, ask yourself if you would do the same to your own child. If you wouldn’t…then you shouldn’t do this to your au pair. Remember that you are HOSTING an au pair…and this is someone else’s child…and you should treat the au pair as you would want your own child to be treated if s/he were living with another family.

NoVA Host Mom January 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Frankly, if I was going out of town with my husband and our children were of age to be able to be left home alone, but had demonstrated trust and honesty issues (such as our then-outgoing AP was), I would make arrangements for our children to stay with friends (and their watchful parents) while we were gone and take the keys from them too. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Should be working January 6, 2010 at 2:17 pm

A related dilemma: My in-laws are coming from Europe for 10 days. My husband feels (probably correctly) that they would be more comfortable without the au pair living with us–e.g. they would have to share their bathroom with her. I personally think this is exaggerated, but my husband has proposed to me that we house the au pair in a hotel (at our cost) and let her use our car for back-and-forth transport so that she can watch the kids for several hrs a day (the in-laws are rather old and not so involved with the kids, just occasional book-reading etc.).

I can imagine that our relatively aloof, not-family-member-like au pair would be fine with this–her boyfriend could stay at the hotel with her, she could use our car a lot more, we could even get a (cheap) hotel in the bigger city rather than out nearer to us where it is more boring. But it feels somehow inappropriate to me.

Any views?

TX Mom January 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I’m skeptical that you are avoiding discomfort by sending your AP to a hotel at night. It’s a high risk to take for mild comfort relief, IMHO.

No matter what you should prepare your AP for her role and responsibilities during the 10 days.

CV January 6, 2010 at 9:59 pm

SBW, I’m with the other commenters… I would not feel comfortable asking the AP to leave, since it is hard to make it a choice, and 10 days is a long time to be out of your ‘own’ room.
I’d try changing the bathroom situation instead…it’s easier to ask her to make a big accommodation in bathroom use patterns than to have her (or gparents) go to hotel. For example, if you have a kids br, have her use that one and leave ‘hers’ for the gparents. Better that you and DH accommodate (having kids share w/ you even) than to put it all on your AP.

Also, in addition to preparing your AP for whatever changes gparents might bring to her routine, and making sure that the grandparents get the time they need with the kids, ALSO think about preparing the grandparents to be flexible about including her in what’s normal at your house these days.

If your DH thinks that the gparents might want time alone with your nuclear family (e.g., without the AP) you could create a few events just for the nuclear family and offer your AP some extra time off, or specific time off, or money for a dinner out w/ bf if you are eating out with gparents. Putting your AP in another location altogether just seems like you’re making the issue her fault, or something she has to fix. Even if your relationship is more roommate-employee than family-member, she is still part of the household.
Funny, I realize that this is might not seem not quite consistent w/ the comments about the other situation– but in that case the problem was caused by the APs last minute change in plans.
Let us know how you work this one out, whatever you decide to do… cv

Sara Duke January 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Here’s another solution. You give up your bedroom and give it to your in-laws, and sleep in the guest quarters you would have given them. You get to share a bathroom with your au pair. We have done this on a number of occasions for my in-laws, who prefer a larger bed and more privacy than the guest futon in our study or playroom. A minor inconvenience for us – we have to remember to pull out the next day’s clothes — and to actually wear pajamas, but it keeps peace in the house.

Don’t kick your au pair out. It sends the wrong message to her about her membership in your family. If you think she’s aloof now, wait until she spends 10 days in a hotel!

My parents have always bounded with our au pairs, my in-laws not so much. We do always give our our pairs the weekend off when grandparents visit, but we invite her to join in any restaurant dinners, family events, etc. We make it clear to my in-laws that the au pairs are not servants. My parents have always been inclusive, to the point of paying for au pairs to join us on family trips.

Do prepare your in-laws for your au pair’s presence. It will probably be a relief to them if they are elderly and want to bond with their grandchildren without the bother of actually providing care.

NoVA Host Mom January 7, 2010 at 9:42 am

I’m with Sara Duke on this one. She lives there and your guests (family though they might be) know she lives there. I see the potential for much issue if you get her a hotel room, the car, and free BF access. Expect her to be late to work frequently.

I like the idea of giving up the master for the “private” in-laws and sharing the bathroom with the AP. It’s a much more sensible solution than that your husband proposes.

Should be Working January 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Great ideas here, thanks Sara Duke and NoVa especially. I would be fine with giving up our bedroom/bathroom and ‘moving’ upstairs to the study near au pair. Not sure I can talk my husband into that, but I’ll work on it, it seems fair and reasonable. In fact, when WE visit THEM they give us their bedroom and they move to the small one, so it would not be unprecedented.

I also had proposed to DH that we ask AP to exclusively use kids’ bathroom while gparents are here; a little inconvenient to her but not impossible. DH was resistant. Around things with his parents things do get complicated, I will say that.

The other option was to give AP vacation time (she has it all saved up) and an air ticket (she has mentioned a nearby destination she wants to get to) and just deal with childcare ourselves. This seems the fairer solution to me, although inconvenient. And I think honestly she would be happy for that, since otherwise the air ticket would cost her a week’s stipend, and she has people she wanted to visit.

CV, I’ll definitely keep everyone posted. I’ll also ask LCC, but my gut tells me it is wrong to move AP to a hotel. If DH insists? Hm, maybe *I* can move to the hotel….

Mom23 January 6, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Would it be possible to give your au pair a choice? Say you are planning to reserve a hotel room for overflow while your parents are in town either in local area or city. Then ask if she would like to use the hotel room or have your parents use it.

It then becomes her choice and not you kicking her out. I might set some ground rules about room service and the mini bar.

Calif Mom January 6, 2010 at 7:33 pm

This only works if you really are willing to have your elderly in-laws stay in a hotel. Ours would be offended. If the AP is sensitive enough to realize this, she would see that it’s a choice that isn’t really a choice.

Our favorite au pairs have actually volunteered to stay with friends so our family could use her room. But I recognize this is rare!

I think this is a judgment call that depends on your gut feeling about your particular AP, at this point in your relationship.

Anonymous January 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Asking your au pair to leave your home – her home – is basically kicking her out. While it may seem more convenient for a short period of time, you are participating in an exchange program. When you agreed to host her – it included providing her with a safe place to call home. You would be taking that away by asking her to stay in a hotel. If my host family had asked me to leave my home to make their parents more comfortable I would think twice about returning. If I’m not convenient to have around one time, I might not be convenient for you another time….this would leave me unsure and uncomfortable. If it’s only about sharing a bathroom – then I would think that all parties are adult enough to be able to coexist for a short period of time – even when it comes to using the same bathroom.

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