The Three Phone Calls I Want to Get From My Au Pair at 2 am

by cv harquail on June 3, 2010

I’ve had too much to drink and I can’t drive home safely. Can you come and get me?

My friend has had too much to drink and she can’t drive us home safely. Can you come and get us?

I don’t feel safe and I don’t know how to get home. Can you come and get me?

I’m not a big fan of phone calls late at night.

Anytime the phone rings past 9:15 pm somebody’s breaking my mom’s rules about when it’s appropriate to use the telephone.

(Just FYI, that would be between 9am and 9pm, earlier if you are coordinating the carpool to a practice before school.)201006030633.jpg

You know that when the phone rings after 11 or so, it’s usually bad news.

That said, I have told my au pairs, as my mom once told me, that if they ever find themselves without a safe way to get home, they should call me. No matter what time it is. I will come and get them, no questions asked.

This is exactly what my mom told me she’d do for me. And not like I thought I’d ever need to make one of these phone calls, I twice had to take my mom up on the offer of that emergency pickup.

The first time, during high school, Lorilee and I got so drunk at a great party that we were unable to drive home from the town next door. We called my mom. She came and picked us up, drove us both home, and never yelled.  Yes, I was grounded for two weeks or something, as if that did anything. (In my defense, the drinking age at the time was 18, so I was only one year too young.)

The second time I was old enough but not quite responsible enough. I got too drunk at an outdoor concert that lasted way into the next day, lost my car keys, and had to call my mom. I would have taken the bus or train home, but they stop running at about 2 am. Let me just say, the drive out of NYC at 4:30 in the morning, as the sun was coming up, was memorable for the silence as my mom tried to keep her promise of “no questions asked”.

Both of those situations taught me two things:

1. The 2 am phone calls must be encouraged.

2. A parent can keep her promises when you ask for help after doing something completely, totally irresponsible.

I have promised each of our au pairs that if they get in trouble and they need help, they should call me.

201006030634.jpgEven if it’s after midnight and before 7 am.

Only twice have we ever been called upon for emergency help– once when our first au pair hit a deer at 4 in the morning, and once when another au pair got too drunk at a frat party. It’s not like I was glad that the deer population of Albemarle County was down by one, or that the boys as Sigma Whatever eventually did run out of beer.

But, I was glad that my au pairs trusted me enough to reach out when they needed to.

And, I was glad that I trusted myself to be there when they needed me.

Images: Untitled from faeanna 20060516_017 from kungpaolam

{ 32 comments }

Should be working June 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Good post. I’ve encouraged those phone calls in my APs as well, but I have never received one yet. I have for that reason not yet dealt with the question to myself, “How many of those phone calls would I gratefully field before I decide we need a new AP?” Nor have I considered/decided whether I would ‘ground’ the AP or what the consequences would be after one or more incidents.

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm

It is great to read post like this one. It really makes a difference for AP, and future AP like me, to know that you parents care about our safety; Last summer, when I was an AP in england I got lost the first week (all the houses looked the same to me :S), as the HF lived near the town I walked by to have a coffe and e xplore the area, well, I did explore! I was too embarrased to call my HF (I has only be there for 1 week I didn’t want to sound like the “silly” AP who can’t even find her own way home, it took me almost two hours to find the house (lucky for me it was daytime) and when finally got there i didn’t tell my HF, (as I’ve said i was too embarrased), a few weeks later we drive past the area where I got lost, and told my HF, they were worried and told me to phone them if anything ever happen, and I understood that it was a mistake not to phone because I was embarrased.
Anyway, all the nights that got to dark to walk home by myself without a friend giving me a ride I would call a cab to take me home safe and sound, I’d rather pay for it than taking any unnecesary risks.
It’s really important for me to feel like i’m safe, and that I have someone taking my back if things get ugly (not that i’m looking for it), it just feels like home. :D
Thank you all HF to take the time to think about all the stuff than can make your AP’s year(s) easy to be far away from home.

PA AP mom June 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I received the 3am call once from our last AP. It was the last weekend that she was with our family before returning to Germany. She took our car, drank way too much and thankfully, remembered my offer to call anytime that she felt unsafe in any way.

Hubby was in Las Vegas for the weekend so I had to call my mother to drive 30 minutes to our house, leave my dad with my sleeping kids and drive another 1.25 hours to an unknown area to pick up the AP and our AP car (bad car!!!!).

Was I super happy about the situation….Not at that exact moment!!! Was I happy that my AP had the where with all to make the call??? absolutely!!! It may have been one of the most mature things she did in her entire year in the US.

Had it become a regular occurrence (I’m suspecting 3 times would be about my threshhold), then we would have had to change some things around to prevent further instances.

CS Nanny June 3, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I have to laugh at this, because when I was an AP, I wasn’t the one calling home for someone to come get me. It was always my HM. My HD traveled frequently, and my HM would go out with her ex and get ridiculously drunk. They wouldn’t be able to drive, and instead of taking a taxi, I would have to get A. out of bed, and drive to pick them up in the middle of the night. The times she did manage to be responsible and take a taxi, she always forgot her house keys and would be pounding on my door (I had a seperate entrance from the outside) to let her in. I always wanted to “be fast asleep” and leave her out there…lol…but I never did. :)

NJMom June 3, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Wow! That is pretty crazy. I especially like the fact that she was out with her Ex. LOL!!

CS Nanny June 4, 2010 at 8:19 am

Ya…From all the insane experiences I have had with European HF’s (And other AP’s), I am contemplating writing a book. Seriously.

MommyDearest June 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I think you’d have lots of readers!

CS Nanny June 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I have really been considering it. I know there is the book/movie, The Nanny Diaries, but I feel being an AP is a completely different thing. lol. And some of the things I tell people, they dont even believe it.

DarthaStewart June 3, 2010 at 4:02 pm

So far, we’ve only had a very few of these calls in nearly 12 years:
1. Oh Deer. (Neither the deer nor the car made it, but the people were okay)
2. Car got towed from Downtown.. Apparently they missed the sign.
3. Someone else’s au-pair accidentally left their lights on so they had to be jumped and called us
4. Flat tire in the WM parking lot, and they didn’t know how to change a flat.

Sofia, Future Au Pair June 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Wow…it looks like deers are always on the road for the APs!

Busy Mom June 3, 2010 at 8:54 pm

We actually have instructions in our handbook about what to do if one hits a deer. None of our au pairs have, but I have, and our 1st AP asked about what she should do. Gotta love AAA for those flat tires and dead batteries. We add an extra card for our AP.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 10:07 am

Oooh, Deer! It had not occurred to me but I think that is something we need to include in the handbook for the next AP (our current is not a driver). We have deer in our neighborhood, not to mention all over one of our major roads near our house. Good reminder. I’ll include a what to do blurb for that one.

Should be working June 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Um, what DO you do if you hit a deer? We have deer around sometimes but I never thought much beyond telling the AP to drive slowly to avoid hitting one.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm

That will depend on where you are. Some areas have either Animal Control emloyees or contract with people who will track an injured deer (if they manage to survive and move off) or come and remove the body (so not a travel hazard for the next car in the road). If they are still alive but immobile, better to call police (or again might be animal control depending on the time of day) to put the animal out of it’s misery.

Good to find out for your AP. Not every deer-car incident results in the car being unable to leave the scene on its own, so then the question is what to do about the deer.

Anna June 4, 2010 at 8:46 am

I give my au pair an associate AAA membership (put her on ours, it costs less than $30/year), so in cases 3 and 4 she would’ve called AAA instead of us (yes, they will jump start somebody else’s car if you were a passenger).

mel76 June 3, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I would get irritated if I got these calls repeatedly. I have asked ap’s to call if they ever need a ride, but I haven’t gotten one yet. Much worse is getting a call that there has been an accident, luckily a fenderbender, but still the hassle of an accident.

aria June 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

CS Nanny wth!!!!! That’s insane!

This is how I learned about my HM’s policy on late night phone calls. I went with her and the kids on a ski trip, and we all shared a room, and before going to bed, she turned off her phone and asked if I did the same. I guess I looked surprised, and I said I never did, and she sort of “scoffed” and said she thought it was a ‘sickness’ when people didn’t.

“What about an emergency?” I asked.
“Like if someone dies? Well, once they’re dead, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll find out in the morning.”

Then one night I locked my keys in my room (I live in a separate apartment) and I probably would’ve been stuck outside all night if the landlord’s daughter hadn’t been around. I called and left a message, and they simply didn’t call back. I guess she was right about someone dying- there’s nothing you can do- but I think the point of keeping your phone on at night is in case there’s an emergency that you CAN do something about. Somehow, I think she’ll change her tune when her kids are my age and staying out late at night…

Calif Mom June 3, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Agree with you, Aria. My poor au pair was locked out once after I went to bed when I didn’t have the handset for the house phone in my bedroom, my cell phones were both in the chargers in the kitchen. I have bad hearing and didn’t hear her knocking. She could have knocked on the windows of the girls, but she didn’t want to freak them out. Luckily she went to her friend’s house in our neighborhood, but after that we stashed a lock-out key. (And yes, it’s really well hidden!)

franzi June 3, 2010 at 5:17 pm

what is important is to create an atmosphere where your AP feels comfortable enough with you to actually make this phone call. maybe you can tell her a little something about how you once made a mistake and were happy that a friend/a parent was there to help out.

one call should be ok, but i think that a positive change in behaviour should occur. if a second call comes, i personally would seek a conversation with the AP. two calls in one year (and possibly close to each other) does not speak to the APs maturity, imo.

Jan June 3, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Oh, we got two calls (and so far these are the only calls) from one au pair in the same year, but I think she was probably our most mature au pair. The first call was shortly after she arrived and before she got a GPS. She called around midnight because she was lost. She had left english class around 9 p.m. and couldn’t remember the way back. Hubby had to drive to the school which is only about 10 minutes away and have her walk him through how she drove home. Eventually he located her based on landmarks. Luckily she was only about 3 miles from home, but I think it took him about an hour to find her!

The 2nd time was at 2 a.m. when a drunk doctor rear ended her while he was receiving oral sex from a woman he had picked up at a bar. Our car was totalled along with two other cars. Again Hubby went after her and then had to take her three passengers home! The next morning we watched the news and saw our totalled car on a flat bed being driven away from the scene. As another mother says, nothing good can happen after 1 a.m.!

anonmom June 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm

This has always been my policy with the au pairs, I have always told them no matter what the problem, I am there for them and would come and get them no matter where they were with no questions asked that night. I have to say there were only a couple of times, one was a scary night most recently, where our awesome au pair was beyond drunk, and another au pair friend came into my bedroom to wake me and tell me she was scared because our au pair was saying she wanted to kill her self and walking down the street, completely intoxicated. Thankfully, my dh was sick and unaware, and the kids were still sleeping. I helped with the au pair and spoke with the other au pair friends. I think they were all shocked how composed I was with my au pair. I totally understood that this was way out of character for her, and the other girls were unaware that our au pair had received very sad news about a friend back home that was killed. SInce many of us have had those drunken nights we’d rather not admit happened, I completely understood. I think my au pair was shocked that I was so understanding and did not want her to leave our family. (the other au pairs who were with her were shocked, too!) This behavior (there was a bit more, but won’t write here) was something completely out of character for her, and she is usually very mature and level-headed for her age. At least this gave me the experience of being understanding and compassionate, dare any of my own daughters have this happen!!! Not to mention how thankful I was that the au pairs felt they could come and confide in me- no questions asked.

Host Mommy Dearest June 3, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Wow, that is scary! I only hope I could handle a situation like that as well as you did!

anonmom June 3, 2010 at 11:25 pm

yes! It was very scary! especially when she took the kitchen knife with her into her room! I know it may sound wacky- but I knew this was not something she would ever consider doing in real life, and she is not ‘psycho’ by any means. Just a young girl trying to deal with grief that she had never experienced before. I just know I was so darned tired the next morning!!! thankfully it wasn ‘t a work day for me!

Nicola aupair June 4, 2010 at 5:02 am

Reading this made me so grateful that you were so understanding. I’ve been in situations like the one your au pair was in… and all I can say is, thank you, thank you, thank you so much for being there for her. There are so many people who simply don’t understand what’s happening and can’t deal with it properley. I hope I can be like you if I’m ever in that situation.

And to all the “hitting a deer” comments- I would freak out if I hit a deer! I mean, I’ve had narrow misses with kangaroos back home, but to actually hit a living creature at all would horrify me!

My life has been pretty much ruled, changed, and defined by late-night phone calls telling me who’s in trouble, who’s died, even who’s given birth! I definitely couldn’t turn the phone off like aria’s HM.

Chev June 4, 2010 at 12:46 am

My host parents have always let me know that i should call them if i ever get stuck or need help at any time. My lcc has also made sure all the girls in our group know we can call her if we can’t or feel like we can’t call our host parents. I’ve never had to and hopefully won’t have to for the rest of my time with them, but it’s always nice to know that they care enough to offer it.
On the deer note – i’ve never hit one but when i au paired in jersey i was almost hit by one :D

Mommy Dearest June 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I just realized that this screen-name is oddly comical given all the references to deer in this posting…!
Just wanted to let all the fearful APs out there know that it can be traumatic to actually hit a deer (plus it often does major damage to the vehicle) but it’s a fairly uncommon occurrence in many urban and suburban areas (unless the deer population has had an explosion of births recently?). I grew up in the midwest and only knew two people who had hit deer while driving (one was my sister), and I’ve never heard of it happening where I live now). I think it’s far more likely to be involved in an accident with another auto, unfortunately, so hopefully you’ll all not overestimate your driving abilities and follow your host family’s rules for using the car – be safe drivers!!

Host Mommy Dearest June 5, 2010 at 12:50 am

Hi Mommy Dearest!

I have been posting comments to this blog as Host Mommy Dearest for a while, so it may be confusing if we both use that. Want me to change to something different?

Blushing Mom June 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Sorry, I didn’t mean to steal your identity! Other than reading through all the prior posts, which I fully intend to do as time permits, is there a way to check for names already in use, do you know?
I’m obviously not that clever at coming up with a moniker!

Az. June 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm

If you do a quick Google search – something like site:aupairmom.com *NAME* – you’ll be able to tell whether someone’s using a name or not. :)

Host Mommy Dearest June 5, 2010 at 10:41 pm

No problem, I figured it was not intentional…. I didn’t know about Az’s trick to use google so I just read the posts/comments for a little while then I chose a screen name.

NoVA Host Mom June 9, 2010 at 10:19 am

We make sure that our APs know they can call us when there is a problem. But we also make sure that they know while the situation might not be discussed at that moment (i.e. while they are still drunk, whatever), it will be discussed in the future when sleep has given us all the benefit of being a little removed from the immediate situation. So far, neither of our APs have been in this situation (well, our first might have been and just not told us, but since she was of habit to not be forthright with us to begin with, she was placed in rematch by month 4 — she had a habit of “missing the bus home” just moments before she was supposed to start her shift).

As for a number set on those calls? I think that would depend on the type of calls. If she did not know how to change a tire, I am pretty sure a lesson would take place within the next week. If we were doing 2 or more pick-ups after taking the car out and drinking, then the car would be grounded and the AP and I would be having a different kind of discussion.

CS Nanny June 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

Changing a tire can be very dangerous. Showing her would benefit her, but could also put her at risk if she has to change it at night, etc. Why not just invest in AAA?

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