Three Types of Host Moms: Which one are you?

by cv harquail on August 15, 2014

I have a theory:  Every new host mom starts off with a vision of herself as being one of three types:

The Bestie,
The SecondMom, or
The Boss.

guide to clouds

The Bestie

The Bestie is the host mom who wants to be her au pair’s good friend. She treats the au pair like a guest, buys her treats, aims to make her happy, and loves to stay up late in the kitchen chatting about Channing Tatum.

The Bestie goes shopping with her au pair, shares her clothes with her au pair, watches Clueless with her au pair, and uses her relationship with her au pair to drive out loneliness and bring in fun.

TheBestie’s worst fear is that her au pair will laugh at her behind her back because she’s so uncool.

The SecondMom 

 The SecondMom takes her ‘in loco parentis’ seriously. She watches out for her au pair, aims to guide her in her adventure, wants to teach her how to cook, and thinks up things to do that would be ‘good for the au pair’. She sees the au pair as a ‘junior adult’ or ‘parent in training’ in the household.

The SecondMom’s worst fear is that her au pair will not appreciate her. 

The Boss

For The Boss, it’s all about the time ‘on duty’. The Boss makes things official, has a really thick family handbook, knows all the rules, and emphasizes training and feedback. She wants her au pair to do a great job with the kids, but disappear for her own au pair adventures when she’s on duty.

The Boss’s worst fear is that her au pair will resent her. 

A Great Host Mom

A great host mom is a blend of all three types.   Even though we start from one of these types, we end up realizing that an effective and happy host mom finds the sweet spot between being an employer, a nurturing adult with a bit more worldly wisdom, and a friend who wants the au pair to have some fun.

As I think about the AuPairMoms who contribute a lot on the blog, I’ve pegged a few as one of these types.

But are there any types I’ve missed?

Is one of these types you?

Which Type of First-Time Host Mom were you?

View Results

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Also, how adorable is that little cirrus cloud!


HRHM August 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm

With #1 I tried to be a bestie (sort of) and was severely burned by it. With #2, I had to be a SecondMom and I actually still adore her and she still sends me Mother’s day cards, BUT it came at the price of pretty bad frustration throughout the year with the aspects of the job that just never got done (or got done right).

I am now the boss (getting bossier by the AP, we are up to #7) and with the right AP, I generously mix in aspects of bestie and 2ndMom. But I start out as Boss because with the wrong AP, I’m not making the effort only to be dissapointed…

My greatest fear is that I will (again) have to spend the entire year micro-managing – it’s exhausting for me. My biggest fear is the “meh” AP, not bad enough to fire, not good enough to enjoy. Fortunately, new AP is hard working, funny, smart, a good conversationalist, calm with the kids, able to drive safely, has a social life, interested in learning about the US. She’s the best we’ve had so far, so I’m super hopeful. But it’s only week #6, so I still have my armor on, for now.

LondonMum August 15, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I’m probably a cross between Bestie and Boss though I’m not sure I agree with “uses her relationship with her au pair to drive out loneliness “, that sounds very sad!

I know I’m definitely NOT Second Mom, I have enough children of my own and I need another adult in the house … looking forward to my kids being adults too … LOL!!

Taking a Computer Lunch August 15, 2014 at 11:55 pm

I like to think that I’m a Great Host Mom. I’ve learned over the years that I have to chink through the armor of my APs to forge a relationship that is partly, “This is the way we do things,” partly, “What foods will you eat in our house?” and partly, “You should take advantage of this during your year.” I’ve decided, with AP #10, who has trained to care with children who have special needs in an institutional setting and seems especially rigid, to give in on certain points (like all my tea towels being used in a week) but to have a conversation about the AP’s deeper needs. I can be flexible to a point. I’m willing to do a full load of wash, but not add an extra load to meet her needs to have institutional cleanliness. (After all, we have one child with special needs and she spends more than her fair share of her life on the floor – so let’s just say she’s tolerant of a far percentage of germs).

Friendly Confines Mom August 16, 2014 at 7:44 am

I’m a week in with my first AP and I’m turning out to be The Bestie (I think). I have a really hard time being The Boss in any situation and have a fear of upsetting people, I’m pretty nonconfrontational. I think this week I’ve been leaning a little too much on the side of being really nice, making sure she’s happy, praising her, etc. But she seems absolutely amazing so far and we all love her already. I’m hoping it’s not just a honeymoon phase and it continues. I’m going to try to be a little more “boss like” but it’s so hard for me, harder than I thought it would be. I am nervous my behavior and attitude is going to hurt me in the end.

HRHM August 16, 2014 at 8:53 am

Continue being the bestie if that is who you are personality wise, but just keep in mind that she is there to make your life easier. She may just be a rock star AP (in which case, you got lucky!) but if she starts to slide, put on your bestie smile and remind her immediately of what you really need her to be doing. It’s possible to be both, if you aren’t afraid to also ask for what you need and then she responds appropriately.

WarmStateMomma August 16, 2014 at 8:16 am

I tried to be the Bestie the first time around and it didn’t work out well. So I add the awkward Boss role to the mix, with better results.

For the SecondMom role, I’d like to think that this HM also encourages her APs to see/experience new things outside of the child care role. It makes me smile when the AP tells me about something new she discovered/experienced/visited/learned, and my guess is most of the HMs on this blog feel that way. Am I wrong in thinking this falls into the SecondMom category? A bestie would want to be there with the AP on these adventures, but second mom would rather hear about it when the AP returned home.

JenNC August 16, 2014 at 9:04 am

I’m definately a combination of all 3, but since I really do embrace my aupairs as a family member, I am definately less boss , however in certain moments I have no problem stating what needs to get done etc when I need to. I definately do things specifically so my aupair can have some great experiences, like we just drove from east coast to west coast with a travel trailor, stopping in the black hills of South Dakota, yellowstone, etc to get a good American experience. Of course my kids and I also greatly benefitted from this trip so I see it as a win win, I couldn’t do the trip without the aupair and she Wouldn’t get the experience without me.

Yes sometimes I am. Second mom, however, I always choose an aupair in her mid 20s who is an adult so I really don’t feel I have to do this much, it is more in the beginning when she is learning her way around, safety issues, etc making sure she is safe and comfortable until she has forged friendships.

In the early days of the aupairs arrival, I do fill the role of “bestie” i take the time to forge the relationship, so she knows I truly care about her and want her to be happy in her new home and family, I take her out shopping for her needed items, we get lunch, we practice driving, I went to the movies one night with her, just her and I. I went to a spanish catholic mass because it was her first visit to the church. It is all in the spirit of being a good friend, second mom, and boss. I think I am able to mix all of these, and be a great host mom.

When I think about the aupair, I think of how I would feel if I sent my daughter to a foreign country, I would hope that someone would embrace her and care and love her, be concerned and proactive in making sure she is safe. I feel as a host mom I owe it to my aupairs family to treat her as a family member. Just as I would hope someone would be with my daughter.

The first month or two can be difficult for any aupair, if she is in a family that encircles her, then she is often able to get through those lonely moments until she has created her aupair life, if she isn’t there is a lot more risk of unhappiness and the aupair leaving.

It is worth the time and effort to really invest in the relationship as a host mom. If she is happy, my kids are happy, and usually we are happy.

valnyc August 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

Awkward boss … My DH is more the 2nd parent encouraging our AP to share news about her explorations and helping with travel plans. While I manage the weekly schedule, check in on day’s events and micromanage (with occasional waves of inattentiveness). We started on a good footing in May with only a few wobbles but I realize that my patience threshold is lower so it’s great that DH can be there with comforting words. We make a good HP team. And our AP is wonderful with kiddos!

TexasHM August 16, 2014 at 9:41 am

I don’t remember where I heard it – I think it might have even been in CCAP’s materials when we were evaluating agencies but somewhere I read that they recommend you use the perspective that its your niece coming to work for you and live in your house and use that to guide decisions.

I really took that to heart and we try to model that. Does that mean it resembles all three of these? Absolutely. The reason I mention it is because when I hear SecondMom I think of a HM I know that nutures her au pairs and wants some level of dependence from them but your description leans more toward the aunt role I try to fill.

For example – an aunt would definitely be concerned about her niece’s safety and would want to know when she is coming home approximately, etc. An aunt would treat her niece as a family member but not try to be her mother.

An aunt would expect her niece to do her job and accept constructive criticism and be a contributing member of the household. An aunt would probably loan her niece a dress for a wedding and make recommendations for a nearby city that would make a good weekend trip.

An aunt would bail out her niece if she got into some kind of trouble regardless of the hour of the day (and would probably be frustrated if it was 2am and let her niece know that) but would understand and appreciate that her niece was smart enough to call for assistance when in over her head and tell her so.

An aunt would expect her niece to be another adult in her household and would probably chat about boyfriends, movies, news, occasionally go shopping with her, invite her on all the family activities and not be hurt if her niece wanted to do something with friends instead (unless it was a major family event in which case aunt would expect niece to attend) and would likely set clear expectations upfront that niece is needed to fill a major, critical role in the household and not shy away from sending her a lengthy handbook before she agreed to the position and moved in. ;)

So, I think I am the aunt. If I am the cool aunt, even better, but I am ok with being the aunt that occasionally butts in if I hear a bad idea.

When I was in college I was president of my dorm and at the same time all my friends in my wing called me “mom”. Not because I babied them but because when someone got a bad haircut I pulled out scissors and tried to fix it. When someone had a few too many I got them a safe ride home. When someone was heartbroken they knew they could always knock on my door and I would listen (at least for a little while ;) and then kick them in the butt and tell them he wasn’t worth it and to get back out there! If a button was missing I had a travel sewing kit in my purse. Looking back I think I was more of the “aunt” then too but because they called me mom in an affectionate way (my dorm door was completely decorated and covered in cards for mothers day as a surprise :) it never bothered me. They weren’t saying it like I was needy or a buzzkill. They said it like they knew I loved them unconditionally but would kick them in the butt when needed and they could always count on me. Ok now I am getting sentimental but hopefully I made a point somewhere in here! ;)

SeattleHD August 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Exactly. My wife and I aim for, “How would we treat a niece who’s from a long-lost branch of the family who we’ve never met?” With the hope that it works out great and we have a great extended family-like relationship.

TexasHM really nailed the Aunt/Uncle-Niece thing really well.

And while I think about it, I’m always surprised that HDs are really under-represented online (not just here). I get the impression they’re all off doing their best Ward Cleaver impression, smoking their pipes and reading the paper while dispensing occasional snippets of wisdom to the kids.

Cvh August 16, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Hi Seattle HD — any interest in writing a guest post about host dads? Bc I write from my own perspective I don’t opine much about HD, and my own DH runs in the other direction whenever I ask him about writing….. Tempted?

Any other host dads out there who’d like to write something?

Also, fwiw, the ratio of moms to dads sending questions or raising issues via email is about 60:1. It’s a bit chicken and egg, but there it is.

Should be working August 17, 2014 at 3:23 am

How many emails do you get with questions, CV? Dozens per week, or hundreds??

PonderingRematch August 16, 2014 at 9:59 pm

This nails it for me. Perfectly stated.

I took this approach with AP #1 (who just left last month, and who we adored). I explained to DH about this “treat her like a niece” philosophy and he agreed that it makes sense. Sometimes we were in bestie mode, sometimes in the parental mode, and rarely but sometimes in straight-up boss mode. It worked. She made the year easier for us, which, hello, is why we brought her to our family in the first place. In exchange, we learned about her culture, invited her family to stay with us for a few weeks, and feel we made a lifelong family friend. It wasn’t always smooth sailing during the year — of course — but we made it through!

We’re a few weeks into AP #2, and I am almost ready to throw in the towel. :( I have had to micro-manage the hell out of every single moment. I did everything I could think of to make #2 feel welcome (lots of bestie behavior, certainly some parental, a bit of the boss as needed) but the only thing that has been effective is VERY bossy behavior which I hate. It’s stressful. We’re getting neglect, apathy, and just awkwardness from her. We’re trying, trying, trying to figure things out. I’ve notified our community counselor (we’re APIA) and I guess we’ll see what advice she has for us. So anxious.

WarmStateMomma August 17, 2014 at 12:33 pm

+1 on the aunt/uncle relationship. We were the same way with exchange students, because the age gap wasn’t big enough to be their parents.

CAcapitolHostMom August 21, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Totally. I see the au pair like a younger cousin. She’s family– but not my child or my peer; but still family. It seems to work well. I do have to remind myself of it though sometimes when I want to overparent or something.

Peachtree Mom August 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm

For me it seems to depend on the au pair. In the past with our two former au pairs it was easy to be the aunt and I enjoyed it. It was so easy. With our new one (2 weeks ) in I have turned into the BOSS, like horrible boss….which I hate and is so exhausting. I try to remember the mantra, she is here to make things easier for me so we plod on. After going over the family guide 10 times and demonstrations, how hard can it be? If the speed limit states 45mph, that is not a suggestion. I am jealous of the awesomes early on. Oh well. It will work out.

LondonMum August 16, 2014 at 3:48 pm

It’s how it goes unfortunately, out of 6 APs we have had 2 amazing, 2 good, 1 meh and 1 awful! I guess in the law of averages you are not going to get a great AP every time. As long as she does her job and the kids are happy, maybe that’s as much as you’re going to get for this year! I hope it goes as well as it can for you.

PonderingRematch August 16, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Are you me? I seriously am going through exactly the same thing.

We took new AP on vacation with us (she was told that she would be working for parts of the trip but it would be hopefully fun as well, and certainly she’d have some nice off time). Disaster. Utter disaster.

Example: We asked her to take the kids down to the beach and swim with them while we were still getting ready ourselves. We said we would be along in about 30 minutes, but to go on ahead without us because the kids were so eager to get down there. Lo and behold, I come along a bit later, and she’s facedown on her beach towel with her earbuds in her ears. She noticed I dropped some stuff near to her, and didn’t even have the grace to blush and/or go to the kids who were, you guessed it, swimming in the ocean.

Now, to be fair, my kids are not babies or even toddlers. But it’s still the ocean. And nevermind the fact that common sense, if nothing else, should have indicated to this girl that she had a responsibility to at least keep an eyeball on the kids until we got to the beach.

I have so many more examples like this, it’s ridiculous.

Not happy.

DowntownMom August 21, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Poor you! Our previous AP was also given very clear information on her role during our vacation, yet she kept wondering off on the beach to call her boy-friend, didn’t respond to efforts to be included in the conversation, didn’t help with meals, etc. I was close to never taking an AP on vacation again, because it wore me out and destroyed our vacation. Our current AP has been so helpful that I could actually even get some rest and read a book at the beach. I try to enjoy her while I can since I still haven’t figured out how to screen for such a consistently great attitude…

Taking a Computer Lunch August 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm

When taking an AP on vacation, you have to tell her “This is my vacation not yours. You are having the opportunity to go to this destination because I am picking up 100% of the costs while you are working. You will be working.” For those who do a great job, I’m happy to give extra time off or buy tickets for an extra special amusement park, etc. The ones who don’t listen to me about what to bring to be comfortable while working or touring suffer.

WestMom August 16, 2014 at 5:27 pm

I voted for ‘Boss Host Mom’, but really, I do adjust based on the personality of the Au Pair.

We do choose older APs whom I don’t need to mother. I did (and still do) have more of a ‘bestie’ relationship with our first two APs, but after 6 years of hosting, that is not the type of relationship I am looking for anymore. All in all, I am probably a bit of all three types, but I steer closer to the ‘empathetic boss’, which is the role I also play in my professional life. What is means to me is that I can find the way to transition between personal and professional without anyone feeling weird about it, but still meaning business.

As a previous poster mentioned, I do have a good cop/bad cop relationship with DH. I am the one who does all the training, and manages the daily relationship with the AP. I have the daily ‘feedback and re-directing’ as needed. When we have more serious problems, I will enlist DH to help, since APs see him as the ‘funny guy who makes cocktails’. He can say things like ‘you better not have an accident with the car this year’, or ‘you need to seriously curb that electronic use while you are with the kids’, and still maintain the nice guy role. Funny how that goes…

I feel good in my role as a host mom, but I can imagine that it might be difficult for people who are afraid of hurt feelings, or of any confrontation. It definitely helps to have managerial experience… and a funny husband who can easily diffuse any situation :)

WarmStateMomma August 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm

Your description of HD’s role sounds like my husband’s approach.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Lol, DH and I are bending all the gender stereotypes here.. DH is more the daily AP manager, and I’m the “friendly mom who likes to gab in the kitchen.” If there’s something touchy that needs to be said, DH asks me to do it because he’s afraid that he already seems like a nag. Part of the problem is that he just doesn’t know how to give constructive feedback in a nice way, so he puts the AP off if he has something serious to say- it’s just his personality, he’s not good at that (and i get mad sometimes the way he says things to me). But DH is the daily AP manager, despite the fact that he has no knack for it, for 2 major reasons: he is home a lot more than I am; and he takes care of more of the domestic tasks than I do (he’s a great cook and very organized, and has a higher standard of cleanliness, plus he’s home more than me).

Host Mom X August 20, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Ha, it is the same in my house. HD has to be the daily AP manager, since he mostly works at home, has a MUCH more flexible job, and is there during the “shift changes.” So I get stuck with all the “touchy” stuff too; he only steps in with a more sensitive “you need to really do/ not do this” type of request if something affects/interferes with his day specifically that would sound weird coming from me. And I also have a much more micro-manage-y personality when it comes to how to care for the kids and do certain chores, even though I’m around much less and do much less of it myself. So HD’s view is that he doesn’t really care how the AP does certain things (e.g. folding kids’ laundry), so if I want them done a certain way, it’s on me to convey the message. I also do the weekly schedule, write the handbook etc. Though since the schedule is really dependent much more on HD than me, it would probably make more sense for HD to do it! (But then it might have typos and not be properly formatted, oh my!)

Though HD is also the “funny guy who makes cocktails,” while I’m more of the “second mom” when it comes to the roles we play in caring for the AP on the personal (rather than boss) level. HD is much more of the guy who jokes with our APs and makes them feel comfortable (or sometimes a little uncomfortable – he tells them it’s his way of getting them truly aculturated to American ways!) as part of the family. He’s also better with/more comfortable with other languages, so he is better at making our APs feel comfortable by using phrases from their languages, etc. But I take a lot more interest in helping out with any problems they are having, asking about personal issues, etc.

happyhostmom August 16, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Wow, you’ve really pegged it. I like to think I”m a blend of all three, but as PP said, it does depend on the Au Pair. I agree one hundred percent with the niece theory. I really do feel like my au pairs are members of my family. Sadly, though I’ve seen another type, through meeting my au pairs friends and hearing stories from other families who have au pairs, and these are the Rule Breaker Moms. I think they start out as the boss and then it goes to an extreme. One poor girl, the family made her do housework on top of the au pair hours, never paid her extra, and when it was her time to leave, the family went on vacation without her and she had to have a friend bring her to the airport. She also wasn’t allowed to have a friend visit a few nights for vacation because she would “use water.” They didn’t even recognize her birthday. Another poor girls was “eating too much” and had a basket of fruit she had to eat out of each week, withe 3 mangoes and 2 bananas. sadly, they don’t realize that they are hurting themselves, in both cases the girls wouldv’ extended (and they were great caregivers) but wouldn’t dream of it because of the bad behavior. Apparently they didn’t understand that the au pair year isn’t just about their family, it is also about the au pair.

WestMom August 16, 2014 at 6:22 pm

One thing I always mention to my APs is to try to not pass judgment on other families. We rarely hear both sides of these stories…

happyhostmom August 17, 2014 at 7:58 pm

True West Mom, except I saw alot of it in person unfortunately. Very sad.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I’ve seen the “Second Mom” type go too far too. My last AP had a friend who was not allowed to spend the night away from home EVER ANYWHERE. The woman was 25 years old. Our AP wanted to have her stay over at our house one night. I had to talk to the HM on the phone to assure her that we were a nice family and would not be having a wild party and that their AP was welcome to spend the night in our AP’s room. Poor girl.

exaupair August 18, 2014 at 4:14 pm

omg, did the AP initiate a rematch or was she ok with that kind of controlling relationship?

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 5:08 pm

She seemed like she was too nice to say or do anything about it, but I don’t think she was very happy. I told my AP to advise her to contact her LCC (she was with a different agency from us) if she felt too stifled. She ended up being allowed to stay at our house and she came back a couple more times without me having to talk to “mommy” so I’m guessing they might have backed off a bit. My AP was not one to gossip or involve me in her personal life so I didn’t find out if things got better otherwise for her friend.

WarmStateMomma August 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I love it when our AP spends the night at another AP’s house! It means she is with people who have passed a criminal background check and passed a couple of home visits from the agency.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Lol, that’s so true :)

I’ll be honest, my current AP goes away every weekend and I’m assuming it’s to her AP friend’s house but I don’t really know. She used to tell me every weekend and it was always the same place, so I have no reason to believe it’s somewhere else. But our last AP had the same pattern and then several months later I found out she had a boyfriend. Really super nice guy… but I had no idea for so long!

Cali hostmom August 16, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I’m the boss, crossed with a bit of the aunt. Luckily our au pair (of five months) is a great, focused, responsible person who can handle my requests for things to be done differently. One thing this experience has taught me is that I like things done my way. Another thing I’ve learned is that when it’s time to match again, I’m going to make it clear that we want someone who is more independent and doesn’t want the warm and fuzzy “family” relationship, but rather a cordial and respectful “roommate” relationship. Somebody who wanted to be included in everything with open arms would be a crying lonely kitten in the corner inside of a week.

Should be working August 17, 2014 at 3:27 am

I guess I’m Second Mom plus Boss. I don’t want to be bestie, but I do like it if by the end of the year we are friends. I don’t expect it to begin with, and I don’t even want it then–no use getting all loving and invested if she isn’t actually going to be a good AP after the honeymoon is over.

And I’m definitely the bad cop to DH’s good cop, when the going gets tough. But then again, he’s had one or two big blowups with APs over the years that I appreciated–he got mad, he showed his less warm side, and suddenly my boss-like-ness looked like a walk through the roses to the AP, because businesslike HM is easier to deal with than angry HD.

SeattleHD August 17, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Excellent – a glimpse of other host dad stuff :)

LondonMum August 18, 2014 at 4:53 am

SBW, I agree with the HD input. I tend to do the day to day running the show as far as AP is concerned. HD is good at telling her where is fun to go out, how to get there and generally being chatty and friendly, however, over the 6 years hosting, a couple of times he has given a real telling off for something, it seems to have more effect from him as I’m usually in charge, when he steps in AP knows it’s a big deal! An example of one time, 4 yr old had been at school all day, it was snowing and at school he had only had a snack, AP “couldn’t be bothered” to cook him a hot meal for dinner so made him a sandwich. Unusually HD was home and that’s how we discovered she didn’t like cooking and rarely did so for the kids, HD really told her! Anyway, thankfully these situations are rare and 90% of our APs have been good!

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 1:04 pm

We just finished our year and a half with our first ap and are waiting until the winter for our second (I’m on maternity leave). I feel like our ap put me in a position of being second mom even though I would have leaned more towards being the boss. She doesnt really know how to take care of herself very well (her mom was incredulous that she was coming to take care of someone else’s child) in a practical day to day sense. And I am a super organized professor. So… I made a lot of concessions that I won’t make again (like daytime classes). I was a bit jealous that our ap loves my mom so much… My mom ended up being the bestie when she was here because she didn’t have much else to do besides hang out with ap and my son. Mom also didn’t want to micromanage ap for me, so she would tell me things ap did wrong to have me correct them.

Next time I hope to cultivate more independence in our ap. I mean, she had a lot in terms of social life, but she couldn’t write a check.

WarmStateMomma August 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm

You’re back!! I hope you and the new baby are doing well. :)

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Thanks! I am off Facebook these days (I got fed up with a parenting group) but still reading the blog. Just hard to comment on a phone. Usually I read when I am nursing if the toddler is entertained.

What agency are you with again? I want to shop around a bit when we look for our new ap.

WarmStateMomma August 18, 2014 at 7:06 pm

We are with APC. It’s fine as an agency, but the selection of Chinese APs isn’t great. We registered with Interexchange, but they only have 4 female APs. Of those, only one bought her license before 2014 (and she’s aging out of the program next month).

I’m looking for APs on greataupair and aupairworld, with the hopes of finding someone from Taiwan or Sing (or maybe some other country but her family raised her to speak Mandarin). We aren’t having tremendous luck so far, but there’s plenty of time.

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Uck. Maybe I will stay with go aupair. Great selection from china that are infant certified due to the orphanage training program in henan. We don’t allow driving anyway, so license is irrelevant to us. I just really dislike our lcc. The other lcc I know in the area is with aupair care, I think, and I remember them trying to give me Thai girls who speak Chinese. Go aupair seems disorganized at an institutional level (they interviewed me about how to train an au pair and our handbook, all info from this site, which I told them ), but I can deal with them, I think. At least good selection. We have until mid January.

JJ Host Mom August 18, 2014 at 11:15 pm

I have a friend who has been fairly happy with Euraupair for au pairs from Taiwan. You might check them out if you haven’t already done so.

WarmStateMomma August 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

Thanks, JJHM! I will check them out. My OB spends time in Taiwan every year and her impression is that the driving is aggressive but competent. She compared it to NYC.

We’ve spoken at length with 3 of the 4 LCCs in our metro area for APC. All of them have been friendly, competent and professional. The only reason to leave APC is just that we need to cast a wide net to find a driver who speaks Mandarin. I also liked that Interexchange has the training in NYC instead of Jersey, so the AP gets more than 3 hours in NYC.

Old China Hand August 19, 2014 at 10:52 am

Ooh, I will check out euroaupair too. Could be good to see other agencies. Cleveland isn’t a popular city to host or to live in, I guess, and we are outside the city a good distance. As far as we know, no other au pairs in the county, so we have to travel for ap events anyway.

WarmStateMomma August 19, 2014 at 1:52 pm

I checked with Europair. They don’t have anyone from Taiwan now, but they have three from China.

Old China Hand August 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm

I saw them too – didn’t look fabulous. Our previous au pair is willing to help us find someone through the orphanage she worked at. Maybe I should then get her to change agencies. It would solve the bad lcc problem. :) Taiwanese girls would certainly be a bit more mature, as would Singaporean.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm

It would drive me crazy to have my mom telling me things the AP did wrong that I had to fix.. unless they were major safety issues. But maybe I feel that way because my mom comes here and tells me all the things DH does wrong that I have to fix- and I think it’s all baloney.

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 5:44 pm

She tells me things about my husband to fix too, but has learned to keep those to a minimum. We know that she couldn’t live with a cluttered spouse and I can.

She visits for extended periods of time when I am traveling for work.

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I should add that our ap also set up the dynamic of me being second mom by wanting my son to call her jiejie, or older sister. Aiyi (aunt) would have been more appropriate. And she didn’t tell me about her mom’s concerns about her being on her own until about half way through her stay here.

anna former au pair August 20, 2014 at 1:28 am

I couldn’t write a check either when I first became an AP. In my country people don’t use checks so it was completely forigen to me.

HRHM August 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

I’ve never met an AP who could right a check. The US is probably the only place in the world where they are routinely used…

LondonMum August 20, 2014 at 11:32 am

We use them in UK too but usually only if you have to pay a larger amount to an institution or somewhere that doesn’t accept money, like paying the school for the kids school dinners for a term in one payment.

Old China Hand August 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

My point wasn’t that she hadn’t but that after 18 months she hadn’t learned.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm

I am mostly the Boss with a little bit of Bestie thrown in. I just don’t have patience for someone who needs a second mother, which is why I never get an AP younger than 21 and they must have lived outside their home for at least a few months (and not with relatives). And i can’t imagine keeping around an AP who I don’t connect with as a friend at least a little bit.

WarmStateMomma August 18, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Is age generally an accurate proxy for maturity? Our first AP was 27 when her year ended and still a child, so I’m wondering whether she was just a fluke in the age/maturity dynamic.

Seattle Mom August 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

So far it has been, for us, but we’ve only had 4 APs. Our 19 year old was *severely* immature. And our 27 year old was independent and a gem. The other two were 23 and 21, and they had some growing to do but they weren’t babies.

I would be willing to consider a mature-seeming 19 year old again, except that the last one bit me so bad.. she seemed so mature and self-possessed in the interview process but it did not work out that way.

LondonMum August 19, 2014 at 4:52 am

I thought age would bring maturity but I now think it really doesn’t. Our 19 yr old AP was fantastic, she was the eldest of 4 siblings. Her mum worked full time and she really had to help out. Our 22 yr old AP had to be hand held the whole way and couldn’t do anything for herself, she was the youngest of 5 siblings. I chose her because she had lived in her own apartment whilst finishing secondary school so I thought she would be independent. It turned out everyone else in the dorm did the cooking and washing she just contributed financially!

It’s quite hard to screen for so I ask questions about what they like to cook, what type of cooker do they have (that usually tests them!), how often they do their laundry etc. If they seem phased its unlikely they have ever been very independent. We don’t require them to drive so fortunately, don’t have that worry.

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Don’t you think that culture has something to do with it too? People from cultures where they live at home until married will be very different from those where they are expected to move out at 18.

Old China Hand August 18, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I didn’t finish my thought in my rush to submit before I go get the baby. I was going to say that Chinese kids, particularly from rural areas, live in dorms in school from a young age (a student of mine was in a dorm in kindergarten until her parents moved closer to central shanghai), but they are still quite immature compared to similarly aged American kids. Not sure why, but the dorm living definitely doesn’t equal independence. College students don’t live off campus and don’t have much freedom. So they don’t miss their parents but still may need a lot of parenting.

WarmStateMomma August 18, 2014 at 7:03 pm

I do think culture played a big role with our AP. She’d lived in dorms for middle/high school, college, and as a high school teacher. From what my APs told me, dorm living is a much less independent affair than in the US. Someone else had always managed AP#1’s household but she also had limited experience living with a family.

Our current 25yo AP lived with her family during high school and in her own apartment (not employer provided) for two years while holding down a 30+hour week job.

Our exchange students were 16 when they arrived from Vietnam and Japan. Neither had lived away from home or had a job. Both were about the same maturity level as AP#1 upon arrival but the boys were more mature than AP#1 by the end of their year with us, perhaps because they had to go to high school here.

TexasHM August 19, 2014 at 10:55 am

So honestly, in our experience it has been the opposite – first AP was about to turn 27, definitely most immature AP. Second was same country (Brazil), almost 23 and way more mature but third AP had just turned 22 (France) and acts like she is 45! Our next AP will arrive age 21, will turn 22 the month after arrival and I think will fall in between – more mature than the two older Brazilians but probably a little less than our current French AP (she’s more mature than me! ;)
I had an experienced LC tell me once (don’t flame just repeating her opinion) that she had the most trouble with older APs and if they are on the older end of the spectrum (24+) and you have to ask why they want to be an au pair. Do they not have goals/direction for their life? Do they want to delay being on their own? Again, not my opinion but food for thought. :)

HRHM August 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm

I think that age cannot consistently be used as a proxy for maturity. Mine have been all over the map. My least mature, a 26 year old Czech. My second least mature, a 19 year old German. My most mature, a 26 year old Pole. My second most mature, a 19 year old German! Really, I think each person just needs to be carefully assessed as an individual.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

My first LCC warned me, when matching, that if someone was 26 or 27 I should wonder why they hadn’t gotten along in their lives and was looking to be an AP. Now, part of that is cultural. For example, I have learned, by reading applications, that it takes South American au pairs longer to save enough money to come here. One of my Brazilian APs attended university full time and wanted a break in the middle, the other worked full-time and attended university part-time. Both were 23 when they arrived in the US.

Most of my APs have been pretty directed, with clear goals for the end of their AP year. A couple were footloose and had no idea what they wanted to do and came to the US thinking they were going to have a fun gap year and were surprised when they had to work.

One 19-year-old had a great sense of self and really fit into our family – the other was a disaster who got into an car accident on her 20th birthday.

Cali hostmom August 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm

I think living outside the home, away from parents, is a big help in terms of taking responsibility for personal spaces, thinking ahead toward the potential consequences of your actions, etc. Our au pair has never lived away from her (doting, stay-at-home) mother, so she would leave a mess in the kitchen and leave laundry in the machines, etc. General stuff that you learn to do when you don’t have someone else doing it for you.

In other ways, like emotional stability, her age has made her very mature. But that could vary by person.

Peachtree Mom August 19, 2014 at 6:00 pm

That sounds great. Our present au pair who has been with us for a few weeks now needs a lot of direction…which is fine but when I try to give direction or go over the guide or show her how I want things, she gets SO mad, almost defiant about it. She will not look at me…like it is a personal affront. I end up getting house my rules because it is nothing out of the ordinary. I do not see a friend at all in this. But she loves my daughter and is very kind and involved with her. She seems to hate me. I am not sure what to do about that. I really miss the sunny personalities of our past two au pairs and the nice relationships we had. Not sure how long to put up with the Arctic Wind in the house.

PonderingRematch August 19, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I called my LCC today on my way to the airport for a work trip and confirmed we are going to rematch. I was almost ready to give her another try but hubby won’t have it. I know what you mean about missing the “sunny personalities” once you get someone who gives you a glare anytime you ask them to do something a certain way. I will not miss that when this one goes.

exaupair August 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Ask yourself a question, would you prefer someone who is great with your daughter but dislikes you, or someone who is a brilliant person but not a brilliant AP. And, on the other hand,maybe she doesn’t dislike you at all, it might be just the overall impression of her…

DowntownMom August 19, 2014 at 9:44 pm

It can be incredibly tedious to spend even half an hour every day with someone, who has an attitude or is Debbie Downer. Imagine seeing such a person every day…. I used to screen for kids-related skills and have now realized that the APs who interact well with me do their best with the kids.

old au pair mom August 19, 2014 at 9:58 pm

If she really seems to hate you, or gets mad when you give her direction, how do you know she is doing what you want when you are not there? Is your child old enough to report accurately? I think you need an LCC meeting soon to find out if this pairing can work. I know it is hard to tell an AP it is not working, but her getting SO mad is way out of line. An AP who seriously doesn’t like you can justify her noncompliant behaviors with the attitude that she feels you aren’t operating in the best interest of your child.
This is only my second post but we have had APs for 14 years and your post makes me nervous.

HRHM August 19, 2014 at 10:26 pm

how long to put up with it? One day less than you already have.

You deserve someone who is decent with your kids, decent with the household tasks and generally pleasant to be around. It shouldn’t be hard to find all three in one person.

Hire for attitude, train for skill… You can’t train attitude.

DC Metro Mom August 20, 2014 at 9:36 am

Rematch. Period. You, and your family, deserve better than this attitude.

We had an AP that started out well, but became more and more entitled as the year went on. She would leave my daughter (2 y.o. at the time) unattended for personal calls and web surfing, in a completely separate room in another part of the house, during work time. One day, when I was working from home, I witnessed this event. I told her to return to my daughter and make calls on her own time. She told me: “No. I am making a phone call.” When I told her that this was not optional, but a direction to put the phone away and keep it upstairs if she couldn’t stay off of it, she gave me the silent treatment. If I spoke with her, she passive aggressively ignored me and looked away, including when she was in front of my daughter. Both I, and my husband, expressed our expectation that she act in a polite, civil manner at all times in my home and that was an expectation. We informed her that it was unfair to DD to put her in that situation. AP argued that she could like, or dislike, who she wanted and that she could do what she wanted, as long as no harm came to DD. Her behavior did not improve.

The point is, it made for a situation where my daughter became very tense when we were in the same room together. I don’t know what, if anything, was said or done in my absence, and I have no reason to believe that there was any abuse going on, but I do know that my daughter was much happier with the new AP (we rematched) who was able to act like an adult.

The point to that long story is that you have the right to not walk on eggshells in your home. You have the right to expect a modicum of decency, and you have the right to expect that she make your life easier. Also, do not assume that there will be no ill-effects on LO.

Good luck.

Seattle Mom August 20, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I so agree that you should never have to walk on eggshells for your AP. If that is the case then address it, and go to rematch if you don’t see an attitude adjustment.

All these stories are making me think I should try to figure out how an AP handles criticism in the interview process.. I could ask them for an example directly of a time when they got criticism from a boss, and what happened. And ask them how they think they handle it. I might not get an honest answer but I think I might get a sense from their level of tension with the subject matter.

TexasHM August 20, 2014 at 8:02 pm

Seattle mom so funny you should say this – this is exactly what I’m doing in my challenge email! I tell them we like them very much and it’s a big decision and here are our concerns…our fantastic APs have listened, acknowledged and then offered their solutions or challenged respectfully if they felt I was off base. I had one flare up and decide to match with another family but then got a boyfriend and never came! (Bullet dodged). Our first AP got upset and I felt bad and let it go, guess what? Here she got upset if we said anything at all that might be construed as feedback. Also shows me how serious they are – do they just accept my concerns and give up or go to another family? Then we weren’t the family for them. Anyway, I’ve hijacked about this plenty before! ;)

Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Great idea Texas HM! Nothing like testing the waters of criticism beforehand… I’m going to try that.

WarmStateMomma August 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

It’s not worth the stress of living with this nonsense all year. AP#1 couldn’t handle any direction either (she cried instead of getting mad) and the year was just soooo long. The last 4-5 months were just so uncomfortable and I had to keep reminding myself that she truly loved my daughter. It was bad in a daily-wear-you-down kind of way more than a specific-awful-incident kind of way.

You’ve had two good AP relationships, so the problem is likely more about AP#3 than something you’re unintentionally doing.

TexasHM August 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Totally agreed on LC meeting feedback. I don’t care how great an AP she seems to be, if she can’t take constructive criticism we are done. Sorry, I know that sounds harsh but we had this some with AP#1 (very sensitive so we were walking on eggshells a bit) and when she brought the LC to talk about how she feels like she never does anything right (mind you we weren’t giving her any criticism at that point because she seemed too fragile so her insecurity blew this up in her own mind!) I let her cry it out and listened, then when LC asked for our perspective I asked her – “have we criticized you about the laundry?” (no) “did we not just take you out to your favorite restaurant 3 days ago as a thank you for doing a great job last week?” (yes) you get the idea – several more of these from me. When it was clear that she was creating this atmosphere on her own I told her that 1 – if we have another LC meeting like this we are done and pursuing rematch. There are APs with REAL SERIOUS problems and our LC does not get paid enough to deal with immature behavior. 2 – We HAVE TO be able to give you constructive criticism regarding this role – period. It is not personal, we all want as little stress as possible and a great experience and the path to that is through adult communication and feedback. These are not unreasonable requests (ours was please don’t leave wet kids laundry in the washer for days btw) and if you don’t feel like we can openly communicate without the LC present then we understand and will be forced to transition to someone that can unfortunately.
It was a HUGE turning point for our relationship with that AP. She quit the pity party, put her big girl pants on and we moved on. Now, let me say that she was never visibly angry or defiant and if she was I would have let the door hit her on the way out the very next second. It is RIDICULOUS to be subjected to that kind of behavior. It is your house and your rules and as an experienced HM, I am guessing you were clear with her beforehand. Usually this is the honeymoon period so I am super concerned you are seeing this already. There are amazing APs in rematch that would kill for a good family and its not worth continuing to try and invest in someone that is not willing to invest in you by giving her role 100%. As another said, attitude is huge and I would take an AP with a mature, flexible, positive attitude and ZERO childcare experience any day of the week over this! Good luck!!

Seattle Mom August 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm

That doesn’t bode well… though if she didn’t need much direction or you could let her do things her way then it wouldn’t be so bad that she doesn’t take direction well. I need my APs to be either good at doing things their way (in a way that may not be my way but isn’t antithetical to my parenting philosophy, or dangerous or destructive etc), or they need to learn and take direction well. I’ve had APs all over the map on this one.

Last AP was great because she was very pro-active and had her own ideas about how to do everything- some stuff made me cringe just a little (mostly her use of shame and encouraging competition as a tool in dealing with discipline issues), but overall she was fantastic, just somewhat different than I would choose if I had complete control. In the beginning I tried to mold her to do things more “my way.” She didn’t take direction well- she would get quiet and pouty, not really understand what I was saying (poor English) and not really try. But despite this character flaw I did like her and thought she was great with the kids.

Our one rematch AP did not take direction well at all, wouldn’t change the way she did anything and got angry & defensive when we asked. Plus she was just not a nice person to deal with and we didn’t like the way she was with the kids.

Current AP is sweet and always tries to follow directions, but may not always be capable… she’s so nice and good with the kids that I have given up on certain things.

Aussie HM August 18, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I think I tried to be the “bestie/boss” but as we are now in rematch after 4 weeks I think I perhaps struck the wrong chord!!

I am hoping with AP#2 that I will able to be more “boss like” and if a great friend ship blossoms out of that, then fantastic! I’ve been reading all of your advice on this thread about your own personal relationships with previous and current Aupairs, and it’s given me a lot of ideas where I potentially went wrong, and fingers crossed- how I can fix it with the next one!

The idea of being a second mum really makes me shudder!!

Angie host mom August 20, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I go for Aunt with a bit of boss thrown in. Hubby pushes for me to be more Bestie but it doesn’t feel right. I have nieces the ages of our au pairs, so Aunt has felt right. They are grown up so they don’t need another mom. But an older adult keeping an eye out for them is a good thing.

NJ Mama August 20, 2014 at 9:58 pm

This has been funny for me to think about, because during the month of July the one au pair who truly looked at me as her “mom” returned. When she was 19 I will admit it was, well, a little much at times. When she came back, four years later at 23, she still looked to me as her other mom and told me so. But you know what? She also looked at my kids as if they were her siblings. I mean she just loves my kids, and it was really, really wonderful to see and experience. And it was what the kids needed.

So for her I was definitely more of a mom. For most of the others I think I was more aunt, a little bestie and a little wimpy as a boss, especially at the beginning. Just like with our own kids we get better as we go along — or at least we all like to think that, but I do think I have become a better boss through this. I do think more about how to manage than I did when I first started.

With my current au pair — fingers crossed things are going really well!!! — I’ve found myself to be more of a bestie — not a complete bestie, just more of one, more the way I was with my 3rd au pair, in a way that goes a little beyond the aunt thing. Maybe, again, just like with our own kids, we are what we need to be for each of them. All a learning process!

NJ Mama August 20, 2014 at 10:00 pm

I want to add with regard to the boss part — it’s not so much that I’ve learned to be a better manager, although there is that. It’s that I’ve gotten much clearer about what my expectations are, and I am very clear about the rules, etc. I think when I started out I really didn’t know what was the most important to me, and through dumb luck it didn’t much matter b/c I had really good au pairs. It was when things weren’t so good that I got better as I went along.
OK … long day at work… totally babbling here :)

MH Mom August 21, 2014 at 11:47 am

Well, I would say I am more of an aunt/boss. My DH fills the role of fun dad and I am the one who has to keep the house running. He tells them where to go for fun hiking and outings and I tell them that if they are going to go camping in the mountains, they need to pack a warm sleeping bag even though it is 90 degrees at home.

I too have gotten better over the years at managing and making expectations clear. I have a very detailed manual that I expect them to read and then we go over it twice — once when they first arrive and again a few weeks in after they have had a chance to do the job for a bit. I find that they have no questions the first time through and many the second time through it. I have also gotten better and addressing issues immediately. With our first au pair, I tried subtlety to get behavior and I found that it just left me frustrated as the language issues thwarted my attempts to gently encourage better behavior. Now my approach is to be more direct and matter of fact (and immediate so there is not time for me to stew), ask why she did something the way she did (Maybe there’s a good reason that makes sense in context) and then tell her how it needs to be done in the future.

With our first au pair, I tried to make her my friend as I thought that would inure to the benefit of my kids who would be spending more time with her by taking her on trips and outings with us only to burned by her self-entitled attitude and complete lack of gratitude. That has made me less willing to go out of my way (and incur lots of extra expense and hassle) to make their year the best ever. I do try to make sure that they have lots of experiences, but only if it make sense for us and is relatively easy to include them. Maybe I have gotten a bit lazy as I have to repeat the process every year when we get a new au pair and making their year the best ever is a bit exhausting.

I suspect that my current au pair is not always nice to my children, in particular my daughter who can be a bit of a pill sometimes (Childish, surly, and snide comments). It has only been recently now that we’re in our last month that there have been enough instances that have come to light that I suspect this to be true. That alone makes it difficult for me to want to be her best friend – mama bear and all – or frankly, her aunt.

Taking a Computer Lunch August 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I do think there is “new au pair burn-out.” This year, more than ever, I have found that I want to train the AP and get on with my life. It’s hard to face the neediness and culture shock of the new AP after the end of the year of the outgoing AP (some of which have been there only to work then out the door to be with departing friends, others of which remained members of the family up to the end).

Don’t put up with ill-treatment of the au pair by your child or your child by the au pair. Take the au pair aside, and tell her that you want to end her year on a high note, so that the door is open for her to return and visit whenever she wishes. Tell her you understand that your daughter is being a pill, and perhaps it’s her immature way of making it easier to say goodbye to someone she feels is abandoning her. Talk to your child, too, about how hard it is to say goodbye to somebody. Hopefully there have been good times during the year when she and the AP have bonded – so remind her of those. Tell her that if she ends the year grouchy and mean that it will be harder to treasure the happier times in the year. Do this in a quiet moment, alone, so you can hear whether or not the relationship between your children and au pair has really disintegrated.

LondonMum August 21, 2014 at 12:58 pm

TACL, you are the wisest of women! I always like your advice and you seem to maintain a balanced and unemotional view. “Don’t put up with the ill-treatment of your au pair by the child”, this is so important if you want them to bond. It’s very unfair to put the whole onus on the au pair to create a bond, especially with older children. In fact whomever my child is interacting with, whether AP, sibling, friend, family, it’s just not acceptable to be mean or deliberately unkind.

We have AP #7 arriving next week and I already feel exhausted at the thought of the extra effort required to be welcoming, put the best foot forward and do the training. I used to give a full week lead up before I went back to work but now it’s just 3 days otherwise it drags horribly and they need to just get on with the job on their own. Keeping my fingers crossed there are no dramas!

Should be working August 21, 2014 at 1:09 pm

We’ve had one much earlier au pair get soured on and worn down by our older child’s poor treatment of her. It was sad and bad, but they both contributed. I really worked with both of them, but ultimately I did tell the AP the onus was on her to not take things personally and remember that she is the adult. They were TOO MUCH like sisters, competitive with each other, jealous, fighting. Unfortunately when that au pair joined us a few months later in a city near her home, having gone home after a mixed year, they had a terrible fight just as we were leaving and my daughter’s memories of her are only of the awful things the AP said to her (“I would never want someone like you for a daughter!”). AP later apologized by email extensively, but the damage was done.

I’m not sure how I could have helped that situation any more than I did, I think the AP was in the end unable to cope with DD’s brattiness (and she herself, it turned out, had been abused as a child and I think she had some emotional damage from it). A later AP also got into the too-sisterly-for-their-own-good dynamic, taking my then-adolescent daughter’s sassiness personally. But we met very often during that, I supported her a lot and made that really explicit, and it ended fine.

Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm

“New au pair burn-out” – this is why we were *very happy* to have an extension AP as our 3rd AP (after a quick re-match). She already knew the deal, there was about half as much training to do. She also turned out to be very independent.

#4 was a fresh-faced AP and needed a lot of training. I’ll be ready for #5 in January. Bring it!

Friendly Confines Mom August 21, 2014 at 1:12 pm

I’m 2 weeks with AP #1 and I honestly feel I’ve hit the AP jackpot. She’s amazing with my two young kids, friendly, happy, helpful, honest, patient, goes above and beyond (cooked us dinner twice! Cleaned the dirty stove top! Organizing my pump parts!). I’m almost scared it’s too good to be true. I was thinking of doing something little this week for her in appreciation, like a manicure or something but then I read some posts about giving gifts and extras early on and people getting burned…. So now I’m hesitant! But she so deserves it! If she continues to be amazing I’ll continue with perks but also don’t want her to expect it…. Thoughts?

NoVA Twin Mom August 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm

We’ve had our amazing au pair (#6 for us) for just about a month now, and I have two gift cards sitting on my desk for my girls to surprise her with when I get home.

Yesterday was a bad day all around and she handled it masterfully, not to mention that she has absolutely gone above and beyond the call of duty on housecleaning lately (we don’t require chores beyond making sure the ants don’t take over the house and cleaning her own room and bathroom – yet she vacuumed the living room the other day because she had it out anyway for her own room).

My husband is on travel for work, so my twin three year olds – one in particular – have been acting out. A LOT. The one in particular fought her for much of yesterday, and apparently there was a bite involved. Our current au pair handled it masterfully, then after taking the kids to My Gym for “camp” came to pick me up from the dentist after I had major, unexpected dental surgery requiring drugs that don’t mix with driving.

So she’ll be getting a gift card to the local movie theater and to Panera. I plan to tie the “bonus” to those two specific, unexpected (and hopefully seldom repeated) events so there’s less chance of an expectation of the gifts being repeated (though honestly if she stays as good as she has so far there will be future “bonus” gifts :))

So if you want to give her a “bonus” I’d tie it to something specific rather than “I was just feeling generous” if that makes sense.

NoVA Twin Mom August 21, 2014 at 1:32 pm

My only other thought about random surprises (and I love to give them too, obviously) – leave room to go up for bigger occasions, if that makes sense. For instance, don’t give a “birthday-level” or “December-holiday-level” gift as a random surprise, or what will you do at her birthday or the December holiday you celebrate? It sounds like your idea will be appropriate, but just wanted to throw that out there for others reading along :)

WarmStateMomma August 21, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I would do smaller things for now, and reserve the more generous appreciation for later in the year. And don’t underestimate the power of written or spoken appreciation – it can mean a lot to have someone tell you that your hard work is noticed and appreciated.

We were able to give our AP 6 days in a row off that didn’t count as her vacation. She traveled to NY and DC with some friends and had a great time while I took my daughter to visit grandparents. There may be ways your family can show appreciation with flexibility instead of gifts, when you feel the time is right.

HRHM August 22, 2014 at 1:07 pm

At two weeks in, I think positive verbal reinforcement goes a long way in letting her know you appreciate her help. My fear is, if you go overboard telling her/showing her how amazing she is, she may feel that she is actually doing too much and will back down on her performance. Rather than conveying the message that “you are so much better than I expected and are doing more than we ever imagined you would”, you want to convey the message “you are doing a good job and we are happy you are right where we want you to be – keep up the good work”

It is easy with your first AP (or in my case, your first GOOD/GREAT AP) to over praise/reward. Some days with my current awesome AP it’s hard to restrain myself from jumping up and down and hugging her (I think she’d have a heart attack!) because, honestly, I’ve gotten so used to meh.

Seattle Mom August 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I think being clear about expectations & rules is part of being a better manager, which is why it takes practice. Nice job! :)

AlwaysHopeful HM August 24, 2014 at 10:45 am

I’m more second mom mixed with bossy second mom! At 27 and 20, our au pairs have been youn enough to be my children, even though I try to see them as young adults. I like being friends with them as I would a young adult in my family, but I would have a hard time seeing them as my “besties.” On the other hand, my family tends to be very open and direct, so I think this can be quite comfortable. I chuckled at the “aunt” references several folks mentioned. I am an aunt to a 20-something niece and nephew, and I am WAY more controlling with them that I ever would be with my au pair! (I changed their diapers, after all ????). A better analogy for me would be the adult/ adolescent child of a good friend– maybe one I’ve known for only several years…not the child’s entire life!

TexasHM August 25, 2014 at 2:03 pm

I think that’s why when I read the aunt role originally it said “distant niece”. :)

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