TurnAround Situations With Au Pairs and Host Parents: Do they exist?

by cv harquail on November 12, 2014

ReturningHM claims that they do:

We have had three major turnaround situations over the 8 years we’ve been hosting, two of which happened on the cusp of rematch, so they do work out some of the time!

tawny-owl-chicks-keith-marshall.jpgI have to believe this is true– with all the good advice that gets shared here, surely someone’s been able to put it to good use. Right?

But how does a ‘turnaround’ actually work?

  • What happens after the “reset” conversation?
  • How much time do you give it before you relax?
  • How much do you have to lower/change your expectations to make it work?

Host Parents– if you’ve been able to create a turnaround, will you tell us about it?

Au Pairs — if you’ve made a turnaround successful– or even started one yourself– do you have some tips?

See also: Your Summer Re-Set Conversation: What should you cover?


Returning HM November 12, 2014 at 10:54 am

Thanks for posting this topic, CV. As mentioned in my previous post, we have had three really good turn-around situations over our eight years of hosting, and our fabulous former CC from APIA and I spent some time figuring out why things worked out in each case. This is what we came up with:

1) Most important of all, the AP in each case was very open to feedback, non-defensive, and willing to hear and follow through on concrete, actionable suggestions on how to improve. Without these traits, I would not have put the effort into each situation that was required.

2) From reading this site religiously and also from my own daily interactions with 18-23 year olds through my work, I have learned to be very clear about what I need to see (from both my APs and my students), and in each case, I worked very hard to put this into clear, actionable steps that I needed the AP to take to do things differently. I think this is super important, because it’s hard to change the more amorphous “you’re not a good personality fit” or “you need to be more proactive,” whereas it can be easier to follow the steps of, “smile and say good morning when you see the children each morning,” or “ask the children two questions about their day; follow up tomorrow with a question related to something they said today,” or “go to Michael’s with my credit card and buy two activity kits appropriate for each child to do on a random snow day when you find yourself home with the children” or “go to the library and get out a book on seasonal crafts for whatever season we are in” or “plan a lesson plan, which we will talk through each Sunday night, for each afternoon of the upcoming week so that there is a clear outside activity for each day and a clear inside activity, with homework sandwiched in between, and some baking or other “fun” activity at least twice in the week.” Clear, concrete, actionable steps like this really helped, as did the required questions/follow ups (we did this with one AP over dinner conversation: she had to plan two things to share each evening, one about her home or life outside of our family and the other about the children, so she could get used to talking at the dinner table). Yes, it feels forced at first, but it becomes very natural and comfortable within a short time – and the one AP who needed help with dinner conversation (and within connecting at all with the children and us) ended up being a very active part of our family.

3) In each of the three cases, both the AP and I *really wanted* (in my case, needed) the situation to work out. In two of the cases, I really liked the AP as a person and felt for her and wanted her to do a good job, because she, more than anything, wanted to do a great job and was open to learning how. There is nothing I love more than this attitude in my students (someone who comes to me for extra help and is open and committed to learning to be good at our discipline), and the same holds for an AP: If the person is all-in and committed to making things a go, I’ll go to 110% to help him or her get there. Also, in one of these situations, we had just moved, and I could not bear rematch without a support system in place (we didn’t know ANYONE in our new state). In the third case, I didn’t particularly love the AP at all in the first few months, but my mother was dying and I simply needed her to step up and become someone different. She did, and she became one of the best APs we have had, has come back to visit us, and is a permanent part of our family and life – we will go to her country this summer to celebrate her marriage.

4) Finally, in two of these cases, our LCC was an amazing resource for the AP *and* for us, which really helped both of us stay committed and with our “eyes on the prize” of what we wanted (in everyone’s case, a successful and fun year together).

I should add that we have been in situations where these four factors weren’t present (or, in particular, the first wasn’t present), and we did rematch and very happily, so I am not by any means saying that things always work out when there are big issues at stake, even if one is clear and careful and committed. But I do think it was very helpful to learn from the AP who was with us the year my mother died that things CAN turn around DRAMATICALLY, if the AP is willing to do what it takes and if I am willing to do what it takes, so maybe this has made me invest a little more in making things work than I otherwise might? Not sure.

Anyway, I am eager to read what other people have to share here, since we have probably three more years in this program, and I do think the “coaching aspect” of the HM job is one of the areas where I have learned the most from aupairmom (thank you!!).

WarmStateMomma November 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I completely agree about giving concrete guidelines. Our AP is great, but not very proactive. I wanted her to engage my daughter in more activities, but realized she’d have a tough time developing them on her own.

We bought a book of 1200+ age-appropriate activities and ask her to choose 2-3 to do each day on a monthly theme (ex: colors or shapes). We also have an assortment of these kinds of books in the playroom with tons of other ideas. Alternatively, she is more than welcome to find her own ideas elsewhere. She can choose the activities that don’t require any prep (ex: nature walk or making shapes out of play dough) or she can use our cash to pick up supplies. For us, it strikes the right balance between giving the AP autonomy to choose what she thinks will work for her and my daughter on any given day, and adding developmental activities and structure to the day. A couple of months in, it’s working great and my daughter loves showing us her “big girl work” when we come home.

The AP sees that we also do lots of this stuff with my daughter when the AP is off-duty, so this change didn’t come across as corrective action but an evolution of our parenting as our daughter gets older. When the AP talks to us at dinner about the day’s activities, I point out how great a particular one is for developing concentration or helping her understand language, etc., so she understands the value of what they’re doing.

BearCo HM November 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I think this is really helpful advice — I wish I had gotten it earlier !

I agree the only way it can possibly work out is if both sides *really* want it to.

Our current au pair is our first, and it has been a pretty rough year from our side. Before we had our second child and our 1st started attending pre-school we had a nanny for child1 who was awesome. When baby#2 came along, we couldn’t afford that anymore so decided on the au-pair route.

When our au pair arrived, we had high expectations ( I guess ), and were massively disappointed. The problem was we didn’t know what expectations were unrealistic (“you get what you pay for, this is a teenager not a childcare professional with years of experience motivating toddlers to follow instructions”) and which were reasonable (“shouldn’t she at least ACT LIKE she likes children?”)

After stalking this board for a year, I feel pretty confident we should have rematched within the first month, but for various reasons (fear of getting someone worse, we have no real support system for back-up care, the burden of retraining again so soon) we did stick it out.

We had one re-set conversation around 4 months which did help – but I think mostly because it allowed me to get a lot of my concerns out there which made me FEEL better by relieving the pent up frustration. Looking back though, very little actually changed in practice. Things did get slowly better over time, mostly I think just from her growing as a person and getting more comfortable with herself, but it was never great.

The reason why I wish I had read this earlier was that I think the specific instructions you gave – “smile and say good morning when you see the children”, “ask the children two questions about their day, follow up the next day”, as well as the planning of 2 things to share each night at dinner could have made a big difference in our situation.

I will try those type of tactics next time , although we went with a TOTALLY different strategy interviewing this time and I suspect the issues (assuming there will be some, are there ever not?) will be entirely different next round.

DowntownMom November 16, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I love the idea about having the AP share two specific things at the dinner table!!! With our last AP I just ran against a mute wall, even though I tried every single evening. It irked me that she had pretended to be cheerful and to want to be part of the family and then completely ignored my effort to include her. Oddly enough, it had helped with two other APs of the same nationality that they needed to be polite at least some of the time.

TexasHM November 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

What a great post! With our first AP we struggled through a myriad of issues but we largely drudged forward because she was great with the kids and we were terrified of rematch/failure so we tolerated a lot. She wanted to extend a second year and we agonized over if we wanted to do that. In the end, we agreed but shortly into year 2 she brought the LC over to sit down and talk about how she felt like she could not meet our impossible standards and never felt good enough. Very short version is this was a continuous problem with this AP.

She had a victim personality and never took ownership. She hit the garage with the car because she was upset about something from at home so it wasn’t her fault, she wasn’t friends with other APs because they were the problem, etc. Our LC was sick of her and now she was turning it on us that the reason she wasn’t doing her job well (she knew she wasn’t doing her responsibilities and that we were about to have to say something) was because we were impossible to please.

I stopped her dead in her tracks (finally, I never stood up to her before this) and told her that was ridiculous, we had not said anything about her work at all and that we had just given her an extra gift and taken her out to eat because she was flexible during a tough week.

I asked her point blank if we had criticized her work (no). Did we do extra things to show we appreciated her (yes). And then flat out asked her why she drug our LC in for this conversation. She broke down and said she knew she was screwing up and was sorry.

I told her that we couldn’t walk on eggshells and that we needed to be able to work together and give her feedback on her work (even in year 2 she was minimally completing even the most basic tasks – had not mastered laundry). I asked her if she was willing to take feedback. (yes)

We gave a few specific suggestions (set timers on phone to remind yourself about the laundry, pick a day of the week, don’t wait until Friday at 4pm, etc) and asked what she thought would work best. We picked a course of action and told her that if our LC got drug into a conversation like that again that we would have no choice but to initiate rematch and did she understand that and why? (yes) Things were worlds better after that.

I have no doubt it was largely my fault it got to that point because I didn’t say anything and I tried to tolerate a lot of things and tiptoe around her but the minute she tried to make it our problem I lost it (which ended up being for the best). Should have given feedback earlier so that it could have escalated/been fixed earlier it would have saved us all some drama for sure.

Second scenario a little different but might help someone so worth noting. Our second AP got horrible culture shock at the holidays last year. Worst I have ever seen. On Christmas (day before her one year anniversary) she told us that she thought she needed to try to live in a different part of the country out of the blue. She had stalked us for a second year extension and she was amazing so this was a huge shock. There were a lot of emotions, agency and LC were very frustrated with her (she didn’t tell them just dropped the bomb on us on Christmas) and wanted to start the clock on her for rematch and potentially remove her from our home over it.

I sat down with her and explained that we weren’t prepared and it was likely a bad week for her as well to go into rematch as there likely wouldn’t be families looking that week between Christmas and New Years! She agreed and asked what I suggested. I told her if she could commit to us to do her job and do it well up to but not exceeding 90 days, that we would try to find a replacement asap (goal much sooner than 90 days to give her as much time as possible to be attractive to the next family). In exchange, we would house her should it take her longer than 2 weeks to find a good family in rematch for up to an additional 2 weeks and we would let her go early if she posted and found a great family right away (only posting after we matched and set a date).

She was like a new person. Spirits lifted, grateful that we were accepting of her decision, I went up against the agency to keep her in our home (we left this agency after all this) and we proceeded forward. 3 weeks later (after we had matched with a new candidate and were about to post her) her father became very ill and she had to return home so did not go to another family. She told us later that she had wanted to go home all along but her parents had refused and told her to just “try another family” because she “must be just bored”. It could have gotten very ugly all the way around but she did a great job of putting us first and we put her first and managed to all work together in a tough situation. She ended up training the AP we got from rematch (other matched AP couldn’t come until later plus was with the agency we had the falling out with) which helped immensely because it was a tough time of year for our jobs and she hit the ground running.

I realize these are a little different than typical rematch scenarios but as ReturningHM said I completely agree so much that the keys are attitude, effort and clear goals. If our first AP had continued the drama it would never have worked. She had to make the decision to change her attitude and try. Second AP was an emotional wreck but was able to get herself together, help create a plan that was best for all parties (attitude) and execute on that (effort/goals).
Love this site!

Returning HM November 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

I wanted to add one more thing: I have become a huge believer over the years in the 80/20 rule. If I am happy with an AP 80% of the time, I really really try not to allow myself to focus at all on the 20% I am not happy with but instead just see it as the price of the other goodness This means that if an AP is good in most respects, I will pick up the slack on a bunch of other things – laundry, filling the car tank, cooking, etc – that might otherwise irk me. I do think this has mattered a lot, especially in the “turnaround” situations mentioned above (where I may have completely let go of laundry, kitchen clean-up, general help around the house, etc) if an AP was showing real progress in the main aspects of our job (childcare and relationship with us).

happyhostmom November 12, 2014 at 2:20 pm


TexasHM November 12, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Couldn’t agree more! There is no “perfect” AP or “perfect” HF and all have their own strengths and differences (our APs have been VERY different) but all can succeed with the right attitude and effort. AP1 never did master the laundry but as said was great with my kids and she had the hardest job (3 kids 5 and under at the time) so even though she was a borderline impossible roommate and couldn’t manage any kid related chores we extended and picked up the slack DH and I because we valued her childcare/relationship with our kids above all else. Post sitting down with our LC honestly AP1 never did master the laundry but her attitude vastly improved and she took ownership of her mistakes/shortcomings and stopped projecting on others which was enough for us to make it work the rest of the extension year and now we have a great relationship! (She married and lives close by.)

Should be working November 12, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Fascinating! What I find really surprising here is that with some very specific guidance it seems that the AP developed the know-how or sense for how to handle things in a bigger way. Like assign her to pick two activities a day–and then she learns to truly be proactive? Or tell her you’ll help her out with rematch if xyz, and then she does really do better?

I had one AP who needed a lot of coaching on dealing with my teens. It’s true that she needed my backup to develop the confidence that would let her set limits kindly (i.e. without harshness). She says we changed her life, but we didn’t do anything that special. I guess HR people and psychologists must know about what it means for people to really change, the hard thing is to figure out what is worth trying to change and what concrete measures will lead to more global change.

Returning HM November 12, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Actually, sort of. I don’t require that they change their personalities (become proactive!). What I do require is that they act in the way that our family needs (plan in advance for this specific period of time). A month of my reviewing a weekly series of “afternoon activity plans” with AP enabled AP to plan afternoon activities entirely on her own for the rest of the year. A few talks about how important a smiling face is in the morning – and some effort to smile – will make a smile come more naturally. The encouragement to offer two comments/stories at the dinner table each night can get someone used to talking and sharing. The key thing, at least in my experience, is to name the behavior needed and explain that it can be practiced and learned. I am a teacher educator for a living, and believe me, there are some people who are “born teachers,” but most have to learn, very slowly and patiently, how to connect, interact, plan, instruct, guide, assess, give feedback, and support. As with my work with novice teachers, the more we can break down what we need our APs to do and help them practice each of a series of steps, the more they can practice and become independent in doing these things. (I guess theoretically they could go back to being reserved and withdrawn and unsmiling and non-proactive later if they want, when not working with us, but this hasn’t been our experience).

Should be working November 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm

It seems like a bunch of on here are academics/professors/teachers. Coincidence?

ChiHost Mom November 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm

Nope. We need the flexibility and like working with students/au pairs/etc. :-)

Old China Hand November 13, 2014 at 3:21 pm

We have the most flexible job in the world except when we don’t and then it is just about the least flexible. :) so perfect to have an ap. another professor recommended the program to me. It shocks me that there aren’t more aps in our town.

WarmStateMomma November 12, 2014 at 5:33 pm

@RHM: I didn’t mean to imply that our AP had become proactive or that there is a reasonable likelihood of this ever happening, but setting out concrete guidelines allowed her to meet our needs despite not being proactive. It’s also possible this passive attitude is a cultural or generational issue, but my sample size is pretty small.

It blows my mind to hear other HPs talk about their AP making social plans every weekend, traveling often, getting their educational requirements figured out, etc. – because all of that requires thinking up plans and then seeing them through. Neither of my APs (or my foreign exchange students) had it in them to do this.

Old China Hand November 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Me too but my sample size is also small for Chinese living in the us. I like the idea of having a book of activities to choose from. I’m thinking that we may just start out with that for ap 2. Have her find something fun to do with my toddler while the baby naps each morning. Or something like that.

WarmStateMomma November 13, 2014 at 5:35 pm

We found several good choices on Amazon filled with loads of ideas for infants, toddlers and preschoolers (those age groups all get different books). Many of them describe the activity in just 1-2 sentences, so it’s pretty easy for the AP to understand a lot of the time.

Seattle Mom November 14, 2014 at 12:42 pm

My current AP sounds like yours, she’s not at all creative or proactive. We’re just living with it and it is definitely wearing thin. Only 2 months left! I never bothered with a re-set conversation because it has been clear that she just doesn’t have the brain capacity to think about much at all. On occasion she has done something particularly stupid/egregious & easy to change so I have pointed it out and asked her to do differently, and she makes the change at first but slowly creeps back to the way things were before (e.g. all of our jelly & honey containers have been sticky & crusty on the outside, to the point where they mess up the bottom of the shelf/fridge & other things next to them, because she doesn’t know how to use them without making a mess and doesn’t clean up her mess. it’s not malice or even laziness, it’s really that she is that clueless.)

We’ve stuck it out because she is sweet-natured and flexible. She never complains, and has never acted in a mean or snarky way. And the kids are safe with her, though there are some grey areas where I’m not so sure (going to the playground after school on the coldest day of the year when DD has a borderline fever, and staying until it gets dark and REALLY cold and then walking home.)

Seattle Mom November 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Also to be clear, all of our au pairs have had “down sides” and things that i would change. But the other 2 had such overwhelming positive attributes that we consciously overlooked anything negative, and we never got to this point of resentment. There was no need for a re-set conversation because we were so happy with 90% of what they did. We were genuinely sad to see them go and would have extended if possible. One was a little low energy and could be moody, but she really was a sweetheart and she was so creative and smart. The next one did everything her way and really couldn’t take direction- but her way was great, for the most part. She was also creative and pro-active about everything, and unlike the first she was full of energy. The things she did that we didn’t like were that she would buy too much random stuff for the house that we felt we didn’t need (with my money of course)- it was never super expensive but we are really careful about not buying more than we need so it was a bit outside of our values. On the flip side she was generous with the children and would take them on special excursions that cost extra money and wouldn’t accept reimbursement. She also crammed every inch of available space in the kitchen… but she cooked all the time, so we couldn’t really blame her. The other thing that drove my husband crazy was that she would launder everything in the house at least once per week, whether it needed it or not… this didn’t bother me so much lol. It was part of her energy & drive & doing it all “her way.”

NewbieAuPair November 12, 2014 at 3:42 pm

As an au pair, I think a turnaround can only happen when both family and au pair are willing to negotiate, change their expectations and their behaviour. If either one is unwilling to change, I don’t think it can work.

I’ve been with a family (outside the states) for almost two months, and pretty quickly it has become apparent that our expectations do not match. I feel that I am being taken advantage of. I’ve had several conversations with the family, where I have brought up my concerns, and they have brought up theirs.

When it became clear after several discussions that the parents are unwilling to negotiate in anyway, or change their expectations (they simply said that I am here to make their lives easier, and that changing the things I am unhappy with would not make their lives easier), I decided that I would be happier with another family, and have started looking for another family.

In order to ‘keep the peace’ whilst I look for another family I am now doing all my tasks, without complaint, even when I feel I am being taken advantage of and that they are being unreasonable. I think my host mom thinks we are in a turnaround, as I have done all that is asked without complaint. So the family is happy with the situation, but I’m not.

I still feel that a rematch is necessary, as our expectations simply do not match up. So in my case, a turnaround is not actually a turnaround, it is just simply trying to get through a difficult situation.

exAuPair November 18, 2014 at 8:58 am

“they simply said that I am here to make their lives easier, and that changing the things I am unhappy with would not make their lives easier”

Jupp, I had a similiar situation when being an au pair in Europe.
Unfortunately, making their lives easier led to me not having a (social) live at all (I am not a social butterfly but heck, everybody needs “friends”) because I was expected to be home pretty much 24/7 as a situation might come up where I was needed. I was not allowed to use the car other then to go to my language class (one night a week and was supposed to come right back home), they constantly made last minute changes to my schedule (often also scheduling over my language class), deliberately (probably not, but it felt like it) came home late when I had made plans (usually late enough to make sure I would arrive in town on the last bus with 15 minutes to spare until the last bus would go home) and suggested I could walk home from the train station if I missed the last bus (a 7 km walk through the forrest).

I also tried to sit down with them and talk it through but they were so set in their ways and their expectations were so different from mine… It was not that we didn’t have good days but they were not very open to requests I had or really discussing any problems I brought up (including middle child treating me like a dog, including kicking said dog if dog didn’t behave as middle child wanted… and he was far too old to behave like that). Everything was perfect and I could either take it or leave it. So I left it.

Both sides need to have a positive attitude when it comes to turnarounds or resetting. If it’s one sided, it’s a lost cause.

TexasHM November 12, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Newbie AP – sorry to hear that and as you have shown, both sides have to have the right attitude and put forth effort for things to truly turnaround. Wish you the best of luck with your new family search and take the high road! You will be glad you did.
To answer CVs original questions which I totally disregarded the first round: :)
1. What happens after the reset conversation – ideally both sides walk away with clear, actionable items so that impact (or lack thereof) is very quickly apparent so if there is improvement it becomes a motivator (accomplishment) and if not swift revision of action items or escalation
2. How much time before you relax? It depends but I would say I have felt relief immediately just from having the conversation and creating a path forward. Huge weight lifted. As far as worrying if they will take action or not that could become apparent very quickly as well. If its relax your action items then I would say ideally you set a time frame in the first place and if they hit those goals its predetermined. I am a big SMART goals fan and use it in everything so I try to make sure the goals set are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. So in the surprise rematch situation it was AP was to provide great care for up to but not more than 90 days in exchange for a reference and potential for an additional 2 weeks of housing post replacement. Great care was defined because she knew the duties and was a fantastic AP up until then. I didn’t purposefully follow the SMART model in the conversation but looking back it had all the components and a win for both sides which is likely why it worked!
3. How far do standards have to be lowered? Completely depends. I think sometimes they don’t. If action items are agreed upon by all and match your standard then they either do it or don’t and they know the outcome of either selection. If standard is we want friendly morning AP and he/she isn’t a morning person then you might have to settle for a forced smile and good morning but if standard is we want kids to have an outside activity everyday for 30 minutes then that is what it is!
We try to be very flexible about things that aren’t deal breakers so the standards are pretty clear. With rematch AP it was standard of care – non negotiable for 90 days and here is what we are willing to do in exchange. There was zero lowering of standards but I realize she was great for a year and that was an atypical scenario.
Maybe your reset conversation discusses the desired standard and the minimum requirement. For example, perhaps you say you would like a cheery AP in the mornings but at minimum you need a smile and good morning in order to make it through the year. That way you don’t get a cheery AP for a month and then back to the same. ReturningHM did you lower your standards or did you align them exactly to the desired behavior?

AlwaysHopeful HM November 12, 2014 at 8:58 pm

I’m thrilled to see this topic! Just seeing RHM’s post about 3 turnarounds completely changed my perspective, so I hope this thread will help others, too.

With current AP, we started slowly and never really hit a good stride, although we were trying. At some point, I resigned myself to just making it through the year. The big stuff was getting done, and my son was not unhappy (but not thrilled either). What i didn’t expect was that i would begin to resent AP. To be honest, I had gotten to the point where I could barely stand the thought of him being in our home another week, let alone the whole year! I decided to meet with him yesterday for a reset conversation, which I was viewing as a precursor to rematch.

What happened? After I scheduled the talk, but before we met, I read RHM’s oost, and it gave me hope. Hope! Imagine that! I entered into the conversation thinking maybe we could find a way to not just get through the year, but to actually have a good year. And his perspective had changed as well. In areas that were problematic, he offered explanations rather than excuses, and (!!) proposed ways to resolve them! He had heard from others some of the same advice and strategies I had given earlier. Sometimes you just need to hear it from a different person or told in a different way. In any event, he had taken the advice to heart, which is great. We’ll see what the future brings, but right now, for the first time, I feel like we’re off to a good start. So, thank you CV and RHM! I have hope!

Returning HM November 13, 2014 at 11:07 pm

I’m so happy for you that you entered the conversation with hope and left it feeling optimistic. Both of these are so important as you work through this kind of a “turnaround-needed” situation. And the fact that the AP had proposed ideas for how to adjust things is so interesting – and exciting! I really hope this goes well for you.

AlwaysHopeful HM November 21, 2014 at 7:33 am

Aargh. Last week, i was feeling so excited and hopeful that our au pair situation was finally on the right track. This week, my turnaround glow has definitely faded. I just cannot understand why things I’ve asked for in the handbook, face-to-face, in a detailed list, and finally by text reminder cannot get done. I am really at my wit’s end. Today, I’m giving the list again, broken into further detail, and made into a checklist on our shared calendar, so as he checks them off during the day, I can see they are done. If this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to mediate. Truly at my wit’s end.

Returning HM November 21, 2014 at 9:45 am

I’m so sorry, AlwaysHopefulHM. I feel your pain! Sometimes a fit just isn’t right, no matter what you do and how hard you try (and it’s not an accident that part of the “serenity prayer” is to be able to recognize when you can’t change things no matter how hard you try). Good luck!

Peachtree Mom November 13, 2014 at 11:53 am

Another fabulous piece of knowledge I gleaned from this site was : “Poor management can turn a great au pair into a crummy au pair”…or something along those lines. With our second au pair we had unusual circumstances with our daughter needing medical care. We never communicated to our fairly new au pair how she could be a part of it and step up in the situation. After building up a good deal of resentment and wondering how on earth she could not see what needs to be done, we sat down and had a reset conversation. We laid out the issue, tried to have her see it from our perspective and then stated the expectations (tasks) that she could do to help out. She was more than happy to help out and the next time we came home from the hospital with our daughter, she had a nice little dinner ready and was happy to help get our daughter ready for bed etc. It seemed after that she was much better at coming out of her world to see what needed to be done and how she could step up. The key factors mentioned above were there. It was a great year. The next au pair after several reset meetings returned home after a miserable 8 weeks. None of the key factors were there.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Reset your attitude conversations can happen with the best au pairs (rarely), but are more likely to occur with the au pair who needs job coaching. In my experience (10 au pairs, 1 rematch, #11 coming), most au pairs need a reset your attitude conversation at month 10 or 11. It has to do with the grief over the impending loss of their best au pair friends, the impending change in their lives – including saying goodbye to a beloved host family, and the ambivalence they feel about returning home. (For many, it means giving up freedom and even the adulthood they have gained in their year.) For the au pairs who extend, it’s the shock and grief as their best friends depart for home and the realization that the “camelot” year has undergone a tumultuous change.

Most of you know that I have mostly matched with extraordinnaires, and that makes a big difference. They know what it means to work, and it usually takes one polite sentence to get them to adjust their work habits. In my experience the “regular” au pairs need some job coaching.

AP #5 was Chinese. DH and I tried stretching our own experience as hosts, but we were woefully unprepared for the cultural conventions in Chinese relationships. The au pair was fantastic with The Camel, mediocre with child #2 (who was still young enough to need an au pair, but grew up fast that year), and abysmal with us. She had excellent English-speaking skills when talking about her home life in China, but was completely unprepared to talk about anything else. At first she worked hard to acquire English-language skills, but when we made it clear we were not going to extend with her, it amazed me how quickly they fell apart. (Her abysmal relationship with us, her HP, was our deciding factor, but her lack of driving skills were our excuse.)

AP #8 was a bubbly fun-loving party girl who chose us because we lived about 45 minutes from her favorite band, while we chose her for her advertised experience with a child with special needs. On her first day, despite being warned that she would be changing a teenager’s diapers, she expressed dismay at having to get into our daughter’s “personal space.” She also had no practical job experience, so we limped along throughout the year providing job coaching – even after she nearly wrecked the car by plowing headfirst into a hummer that was moving and had the right of way. (At the end of her year, DH said that he would choose to rematch over listening to me complain about a mediocre AP all year. He enjoyed her company no more than I, but dreaded rematch.)

AP #10 was depressed, hated the way our house smelled, hated our rules with our kids, and didn’t want to eat my vegetarian food (her brand of vegetarianism was what I call “a white food eater” – pasta, potatoes, cheese, and yogurt – little used in my cooking repertoire). It was the first time that our LCC recommended rematch at 8 weeks, after reading our email vents. Later, after she left, The Camel’s teachers and neighbors stepped forward – which made me resentful – why couldn’t have they told us earlier – it would have stopped our having “reset your attitude” conversations earlier.

Personally, I strongly believe in having a “reset your attitude” conversation. As an employee, I would expect my supervisor to give me the opportunity to change my work practices and behavior, and so I offer it to the au pairs caring for my children. I try to be as fair as I am able. Relationships take work and are never perfect. Even our most favorite au pairs had flaws that we overlooked (and I’m equally sure they overlooked ours).

exAuPair November 18, 2014 at 9:12 am

I just wanted to thank you for that:
“most au pairs need a reset your attitude conversation at month 10 or 11. It has to do with the grief over the impending loss of their best au pair friends, the impending change in their lives – including saying goodbye to a beloved host family, and the ambivalence they feel about returning home. (For many, it means giving up freedom and even the adulthood they have gained in their year.) ”

This is so so true! And many au pairs I know get feedback from their host families that’s more veered towards the au pair being tired of her au pair job instead of the au pair grieving the loss that is to come.

I had a similar situation with my host dad who had noticed I was crossing off days on my calender and made a remark towards me wanting to leave and already crossing off days until I could go home (I still don’t know if he was serious or joking) – while I was crossing off days grieving that I had to go home and there were only so few days left until this once-in-a-lifetime year would come to an end and it would never be the same again and so many things and so little time. It has been 14 years and I still remember that situation because it hurt me so much and though my language skills were good, I didn’t have the emotional skills to word my thoughts.

It is great to see that there are host parents out there that understand where the au pairs are coming from (not that there are not au pairs out there who really can’t wait for the year to be over and to get home) and that a change in attitude doesn’t necessarily have to do with the au pair being fed up with the kids, the family, the work and the life.

WarmStateMomma November 18, 2014 at 9:39 am

It’s an interesting point. I assumed our first AP was counting the days toward the end and her performance really slipped in the last few weeks. Perhaps she was just sad/anxious.

We took a special vacation with our 2 exchange students just before their year with us ended. One of them was moody (not typical for him) and we realized that he was just as sad about the upcoming departure as we were. The four of us became really tight and saying goodbye was terribly hard for all of us.

Skny November 14, 2014 at 7:19 am

I am having a talk with Au pair today. There are many points I need to get across.
Plan is to start with all the great things we like about her. There are things I really need:
1. I need kids laundry done before Friday. Hate not having clean clothes for weekend. She always waits for Friday, never time is enough, and I always end with clothes wrinkling in the drier, or no clothes, or stained clothes (done in a rush)
2. I need her to pick up around before she is done (we always come home before time is up and she tends to leave early and leave kids mess laying around)
3. I want her to plan activities to do vs have kids run around.
4. I want her to give baby some floor time (vs holding all the time)
5. I want her to start her day working (as start day and get kids working vs start work day, have own breakfast in couch relaxing, while kids run around, wait until an hr later to start yelling at 4yo that bus is coming in 20 min and needs breakfast, etc…

I have Asked informally about all those things. I have specific simple instructions that would help all. I will give a couple of hrs free for Au pair to plan a weekly schedule including: morning routine, floor time, daily activity or outing, laundry mandatory on Thursday, pick up at the end of the day.
Is it too much for one conversation?
For one I feel I should choose just two or three things, but afraid she will say I am never happy if every week I give one or two other things to add

Multitasking Host Mom November 14, 2014 at 8:47 am

My opinion is to go ahead and bring all five things up now. You will probably be happier if it is all talked about at once. In a way you are only talking about a few things…planning ahead with activities/schedules for the kids and giving set days/times to do certain things that she should already be doing (i.e. Laundry, cleaning up and the start of her day). Your five above points are the details to get those specific things accomplished. Good luck with the talk.

Peachtree Mom November 14, 2014 at 10:12 am

I agree, talk about it all at once…almost like a re-orientation, which it sounds like she needs. Having breakfast on the sofa while the 4yo needs to get ready is not acceptable. It seems getting on the right track sooner vs later is key. A detailed itinerary of her day with times slots is probably needed. That leave no room for error. It is time consuming to construct but should help her plan the day better and have things nicer for you and your 4yo. Happy Friday!!

Taking a Computer Lunch November 14, 2014 at 11:48 am

My advice, give everything at once. If you are instructing her in English, then follow up in an email using your shared language and ask her to reply and confirm that she understands. If you speak to her in your shared language, then follow up with an email in English and copy the LCC.

My advice – whenever you have a reset your attitude conversation with an au pair who is “limping along” – always follow up with an email (non-native speakers may find it easier to follow the English instructions in writing) and copy your LCC to document the conversation. If things fall apart, you have a paper trail with your LCC. Personally, I don’t not do these things with an otherwise stellar au pair who needs a conversation reset in the weeks prior to her departure.

Skny November 14, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Our conversation: so girl how are you doing? Any concerns?
Her: yes, I found another family outside of the program and will leave in 4 weeks.
Me: why?
Her: I feel the ghost of the previous Au pair is too strong. So I have to leave.
I just can’t convey how I feel. I may just be done with Au pair. Done

NJmama November 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Omg that’s awful!!!

I feel your pain. I do. That is so unfair that she found a family outside the program (does that mean outside the AP program or diff agency?) either way it stinks.

old au pair mom November 14, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Oh you poor Skny. I am originally from NY so I totally am on your side. She sounds very dramatic. Do you have an alternative child care provider or do you need to let her mope about for another 4 weeks? My kids’ school has a great after school program and an early morning one as well. Do you have that available? A program like that might be a reasonable stop gap measure or it might just allow you to do without an AP. Best of luck.

AlwaysHopeful HM November 14, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Oh, Skny, I am so sorry to hear this. After your previous disaster situation, I was really hoping this one would work out. It really can feel overwhelming and make you want to throw in the towel. Give yourself a minute to breathe and recover. You may still decide to give up on au pairs, but it may also give you the space you need to remember that it can be really, really good and worth it. Whatever you decide, the HFs here have got your back!

BearCo HM November 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Oh No !! That is terrible :-( I can totally understand why you would feel as you do.

This is my concern with the program, there’s so much risk !! I suppose things like this can happen with nannies also, but I think the risk is higher with young girls who are at an age where they are still “finding themselves” and who you also in most cases do not get to meet or do any kind of proper trial period beforehand.

I am hoping our next year is better than our first has been, but stories like this make me so nervous !

TexasHM November 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

SKNY so sorry to hear this! Do you need her those 4 weeks? How is the rematch pool? How can we help?!

Skny November 15, 2014 at 7:32 am

I know it is going to sound dramatic but this time I feel hurt/betrayed.
I have full conviction that I did all right (as far as being a fair, caring host). It wasn’t the talk because we never had a talk. She threw the bomb on us before. I feel for my 7mo who was already had 2 caregivers and will be going to number 3.
I also feel hurt because we discovered the person who hired her outside the agency met her through us. It is too much “coincidence”.
And the topping is, she leaves in 3 DAYS. There was a text message exchange at midnight where she asked me to please forgive her. She says it was nothing we did, and it was not about us or our kids, that she loved the kids, but she felt that our formal Au pairs presence in our home (one came to say goodbye before moving to the west coast on Tuesday. Kids were her flower girls) was too strong, and she felt she would never be able to measure up to them or be as important as them, and this was making her depressed. She says the tip of the iceberg for her was when she contacted one of them to share pics, and they talked, and she said something to this girl that prompted the girl to say she needed to be responsible, and doing whatever (I don’t know what) was not. And that was when she realized she needed to be someone’s first Au pair.
She also says she loves the girls more than anything and has this great plan to tell them she is going on a trip and come back to visit every weekend. This way they won’t feel rejected, and will transition well.
Our rematch pool seems to be very low. At this point I am at care, and looking for day cares… Will see

Should be working November 15, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Does she means that she is joining a family that is not served by an agency? In that case she is showing terrible judgment and you can be glad she is leaving. No insurance, no support, no recourse, no valid visa.

I am imagining, however, that you are saying she found another family served by an agency, but used a non-agency venue or sheer word of mouth/acquaintanceship, and so it will still be a legal situation because the agency will handle the rematch.

It is rotten what she did, no question. I must say, however, that if a qualified AP knows she wants a rematch then I do have a tad of sympathy for searching out a family before announcing it to the current HF. The 2-week window to find a new HF is a lot of pressure and it is unfair to GOOD APs who are being wise and selective and not just grabbing an HF in order to be able to stay. And giving you 4 weeks instead of 2 to find a new AP can be seen as a helpful gesture.

Again, I think she should not have done this and have tons of sympathy for SKNY’s situation, but her way of doing it is not to me so terrible.

TexasHM November 16, 2014 at 1:03 am

She’s not giving her 4 weeks though she said that and then turned around and said she is leaving in 3 days! And it doesn’t matter if the other family is with an agency because the original agency is the J-1 sponsor which cannot be changed in country. Now if the AP is going to a family that’s in the same agency then I would lose it if the agency allowed that to happen (rematch placement not handled through the agency and without mediation to a family met through me that lives in same geo).

Skny November 16, 2014 at 6:13 am

She is leaving the agency. She sent papers for tourist visa yesterday

Skny November 16, 2014 at 6:21 am

And she ended up getting her things last night and leaving on new HF car. Ugh. Glad I at least found temporary care, and will interview a retired nanny who watch my kids in church and may be interested in leaving retirement to take over (if my budget allows). I am also looking at rematch Au pairs but pool sucks right now (no other agency here).

TexasHM November 16, 2014 at 9:25 am

It’s illegal to work on a tourist visa and they are valid for a maximum of 6 months. Is the agency not reporting her or taking any action over this?!

NJmama November 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

I dunno Should Be Working I think what this AP did was awful and inexcusable. You give her kudos for searching out a family before leaving. I say that shows incredible immaturity. If there were issues (and I’m sorry I find the whole “the bond with the former AP was too strong” excuse is b.s. How about try forging your own bond?) then this AP needed to pull up her big girl panties and talk to SKNY about them, and then she owed it to her host mom – and the host kids she allegedly loved – to really give it a shot.

I have been on this side of it too many times to have sympathy for an AP who cuts and runs. What she did was awful and dishonest.

Skny hang in there. What goes around comes around. I cannot believe another family would do something so underhanded, but she’s their problem now.

Good luck to you. It took me many tries but I really do have an awesome au a pair now. I know the constant turnover is hard and confusing on the kids. I wish there was something else I could do to help. Just know I’m sending good thoughts your way!

Skny November 16, 2014 at 4:42 pm

They canceled her “visa” but who knows. On my angriest moments I thought about contacting immigration about reporting family for hiring an “ilegal” person but (probably for good) I did not ind where to report.

4th time lucky?! November 16, 2014 at 10:21 pm

That just sucks. Very sorry to hear this! Despite all, you’re better off without her (remember how things have been difficult with this girl throughout)!
Not much consolation, I know (you worry! rightly so, you want the best for your children, no harm, no stress; continuity and consistency) but kids, esp. little ones, are much more resilient and adaptable than adults! They also don’t have much of a concept of time and won’t realize that the AP left before her time. With every bad match I keep wondering about the impact on our kids! But it’s been such a consistent feature that these girls/ boys don’t stay very long that this is now (unfortunately for me) the routine and not out of the ordinary from the kids’ perspective…
I can’t remember the ages of all your kids but the baby won’t even remember and any pre-school age kids just need a good explanation that they understand and that gives them the feeling it’s not their fault – even if not true (AP needed to go as she missed her parents, e.g.) and no, you don’t want this person to come back and see the kids, ever. That is just going to make it harder on your kids and awkward for you. If she loved them so much why not put more effort into the job, the relationship, the situation? Excuses! If you haven’t already, tell her to get lost.

Taking a Computer Lunch November 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm

The agency will be required by law to report her to Homeland Security. They are so overwhelmed that it will take years for her name to rise to the top, I’m sure. She is buying time by applying for a tourist visa. It will be denied, but she can’t be deported while it is in process. I’m sure she received advice from others who took them same route. All you can do is keep your side above board. Ask your agency if there is a worksheet for you to fill out to keep a final reckoning of AP-HF transactions. Follow it to the letter, although if she owes you money, then you probably won’t be able to collect it. Do have her sign it. Ask for her current address and phone number, and tell her you need to keep it on file (that way, if any bill collectors come looking for her, you know where to send them).

Skny November 16, 2014 at 11:49 pm

Thanks all for advice. We found a reliable temporary person (as reliable as a caring 20 weeks pregnant friend with a 2yo can be). She said she will take girls at least until February (paid of course), and we will just have to take half days off if/when she has pre natal appointments.
We have had no luck with in country Au pairs, but was surprised to discover that the 26yo with education degree, 3 years of experience as pre-school teacher is still available (she turns 27 in 6 weeks and agency took her profile off. She is required to find a family on her own). At the time I felt she was very “serious”, while fail Au pair was bubbly, spontaneous, adventurous… Just a fun girl. We were coming from a depressive Au pair and really wanted a bubbly happy person with a “great personality”.
Anyway… We will talk with her again tomorrow, and MAY actually go that route again…
We did interview a great nanny today (American) who was impressive and I liked a lot. Her fee was $50 more a week (not that much and I really liked) but she will do no laundry, and will pick up after herself and kids messes while with her (but not from before)… Plus no date night if there is a holiday during the week (any way we don’t use our hrs), no flexibility in schedule (hrs are pre-set)…
We are not letting her pass completely, but thinking

TexasHM November 17, 2014 at 9:18 am

Yeah it’s hard not to fall into the trap of over correcting from a previous bad/mediocre AP (depressed AP so you prioritize bubbly personality above other traits). Our most serious AP was our rockstar AP and she still joked around and had a great personality, she was just very mature – we joked more mature than us and started calling her grandma. ;). Yes I completely agree having the right attitude is critically important but we have been able to find the attitude traits we desired in both introverts and extroverts. (Desired attitude traits – considerate/empathetic (ability to put self in others shoes), flexible (open to new things/ideas not set in her ways already), respectful (of others, of others possessions, of others rules), positive (looks for the good in people/situations) and self motivated (problem solver, hard worker, goal setter).

WarmStateMomma November 17, 2014 at 11:26 am

Good luck, SKNY! I can’t believe how much you’ve had to deal with recently. It sounds like you’ve found some good options.

Host Mom X November 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Wow, good luck SKNY! I can’t believe this all just happened over three days, and I do hope that one of the in-country or rematches comes through for you. I know that when you are used to the au pair program, switching all of a sudden to a nanny or daycare and having to change up your routines, etc. can be so hard.

Though I agree with “4th time lucky?!” that at least for the smaller children, the frequent AP transitions don’t affect them all that much. It’s true- they have so little sense of the passage of time, that it is not necessarily strange to them to have a parade of APs in a short period of time. Our kids are all younger than 6, and we’ve had a two rematches over the years, and the kids just list them along with their other more-permanent APs as another one of their beloved former caretakers (even the AP who we only had for three weeks!). And we don’t correct them. They just like to tell people all of the APs they’ve had, each from a different country – to them, it is a list of all of the love they have had in their lives, and I think it’s wonderful for children to feel that they’ve had love from so many sources.

skny November 17, 2014 at 1:56 pm

me picking at your brains again!
How do you screen for sympathetic/considerate (that is what I need the most now) ?
Or you don’t, just is an added bonus?

Should be working November 17, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Let me clarify: I did not give “kudos” to the AP, I said I had a “tad of sympathy” for a qualified AP who knows she wants to rematch and therefore searches out a family in advance of the 2-week window required by the agency. And for such an AP to announce that she will rematch but offer to stay for 4 weeks, that is relatively speaking a generous thing to do.

But I also said what THIS AP did was rotten and now even more so for not sticking to her 4-week intention. And I agree that she absolutely should have tried to work out things with the family, and skipping out on her visa shows this is a bad apple anyway.

For other APs–not this one!–who do good work, openly communicate with their rule-abiding HFs, and make good-faith efforts to make things improve, I have sympathy for the independent search in advance of starting the rematch countdown. I have seen plenty of abused, miserable, not-listened-to APs who deserved better HFs and who were not served well by the 2-week countdown pressure.

TexasHM November 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Should be working I agree, 2 weeks is too short for great APs because they too are looking for a good match and are often more discerning. If IE had not made an exception, we would not have our current rockstar (she was already 3 weeks in rematch when we got her profile).
SKNY to answer your question I look for those traits in the answers to all the open ended questioning we get. I know, its not an easy answer but it is what it is! So for considerate I often listen to them talk about their family, like if they describe something they disagree with their parents about are they respectful? If she said something like “my parents dont like the idea of me going to the US but that’s because they have never been anywhere and they dont get it” (traces of patronizing and immaturity) would not score points with me and would likely get marks under my red flags column. However, if she said “my parents don’t like the idea of me going to the US because they love me very much and worry about my safety” (empathetic, putting herself in their shoes).
I also do a lot of role play conversations. In my challenge email I talk about APs comparing perks in families and how others don’t have curfews, have unlimited car usage, etc. Empathetic/considerate APs will pounce on that to defend us and say that every family is different and its not fair to compare, each has pros and cons, its immature and naive to think people can be compared etc etc.
I also ask them a lot of questions about their parents or roommates or whomever they are living with. Things like “what would your roommate/mother say is your best quality? worst?” You would be surprised what pops out of their mouth when you get off the agency provided question lists. :) I also usually ask what they think their roommate/parents best and worst qualities are. Respectful APs have a very hard time talking about their parents less attractive qualities and often can’t do it or say something like “sometimes my dad gets easily frustrated but its only because he has a high stress job and all of us” again – empathizing and respectful. Does that help at all?

Skny November 17, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Update: a retired pre-school teacher, who watches my girls in church heard of our problem. She called me yesterday volunteering to be our nanny (she likes the girls and always says how polite they are). I did not even call back because I expected an outrageous amount. She called again today and asked $200 a week to watch the girls in our home. $30 extra to do their laundry and pick up after them (not as much as Au pair did, but basic organizing room and picking up toys). Same 45hs (although no flexibility, just a plain 9h day schedule. But she does not care to not work (and not get paid) on school holidays that last the whole week( Christmas break, spring break, summer… As we both have school jobs, him as teacher, me therapist).

Skny November 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm

So I guess our “career” as host parents is over. :) I sad for loosing the language (will have to work really hard to maintain it), but relieved.

AlwaysHopeful HM November 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Skny, I’m sorry it had to end this way, but on the other hand, what a great ending! I’m so happy for you that you’ve found the reliable, affordable care you need, by someone your girls already know and you trust. Just wow!

WestMom November 14, 2014 at 10:36 am

Thanks for this topic! I have had a few ‘resets’ in the past, but I have to say, none were ever precursors to rematching. They were really just feedback conversations to address sticky points (car, cell phone…) and in all cases, AP completed her year successfully.

This year was different though. We had an AP who did everything she was supposed to do, but didn’t seem able to develop a rapport with our family (and most other people for that matter). I was optimistic that things would warm up after a few weeks, but after two months, we still felt like we had a stranger in our home. In our case, we didn’t even consider the possibility of a turnaround. The issue was really about her personality and social awkwardness, and although we might have been willing to give a young AP a second chance, we weren’t willing to invest in a 26yr old already stuck in her own ways. So we just had a straight up talk and cut the cord. Luckily our LCC was totally on our side, and although I dreaded the rematch convo and the two week transition, it was the best decision we ever made.

So I guess my story is about knowing when a turnaround is possible, and when rematch is the best thing for your family.

Struggling HM November 14, 2014 at 10:45 am

We’re currently in month 3 with our second AP. Our first AP was amazing. She was with us for two years and truly became a part of our family. I assumed this second AP would be just as easy and it’s proving to be very difficult to adjust.

We spoke for several weeks on skype and email before her arrival and she told us so much about her life and family and was very interested in ours and now that she’s here, she shows little interest in us, keeps telling us she doesn’t feel welcome to hang out with us although we’ve said multiple times, please do. When we ask her questions about what she’s doing and what her plans are—because we’re interested—she gets upset as though we don’t want her to go out at all. She’s made it her mission to find “her new best friend”—her words.

Besides this, I’ve had to have multiple conversations with her about her duties around the house – helping the kids clean up, giving them baths, if the trash is full take it out, clean up your dishes after a meal, etc. Any time I have a conversation with her, she nods and says she understands and then a day or two goes by and the same things keep happening. All minor things, but they’ve really started to add up.

She’s wonderful with the kids and the kids really do like her but I’m not sure she’s ever had any responsibilities, although she said she had a job and chores in her house.

I had my own turnaround conversation with her a few weeks ago and gave her a manual which with our first AP was not necessary. I told her she’s doing a great job and the kids really like her. She seemed thrilled. We talked about how she didn’t feel welcome and I explained that we’re not going to invite her every night for dinner or if we’re watching TV to hang out and that she needs to just show up. She’s part of our family, the same as she would be at home. She seemed really happy that we talked and I thought things would get better.

A few days went by and we started having issues again. She wouldn’t remember conversations we had, started asking us questions like what time should I feed the kids and give them baths? All things she should know after being here for 3 months.

I’m frustrated so I brought our counselor into the mix and we had a turnaround conversation with our AP and counselor this week. A lot of issues came up that we weren’t aware of—that because my husband and I work from home a few days a week, she feels very under pressure those days because she thinks we’re always listening to her and that she has to keep the kids quiet when we work. From day 1, I told her I work from home so I can be around the kids and that she doesn’t have to keep them quiet because I enjoy hearing them talking and singing. I work in a separate room so she can have her space because I know it’s difficult when they see me and that they look to me to be in charge. I let her try to figure things out on her own and try not to get involved so she knows she’s in charge as well.

She then told us that she sees how happy we are when we talk to our last AP and what a great relationship we had with her and how many friends our last AP had. And that she doesn’t think we like her. And I had to remind her that she was here for 2 years and for her first 6 months to a year, she spent almost every night and weekend with us to get to know us which is why we have a great relationship. I reminded her while she’s been going out several times during the week and almost every weekend to make friends, she could have been getting to know us instead. In all likelihood, she’s not going to have this “new best friend” but she could have a great HM and HD that she gets to know and other great experiences with us.

I thought the conversation went really well and while my feelings before the meeting were that I was 75% sure I wanted to rematch, I thought I would give it another go after hearing what her feelings were and because we talked through everything I thought things could get better. She seemed excited that we wanted to get to know her and she realized she needed to relax and not put so much pressure on herself and be more proactive. We would all take some time to take a breath and try and make it work.

And then the next morning it was back to how things were before the conversation. Not remembering conversations we had, instead of figuring out a minor problem with the kids on her own, she came to me to fix it because I happened to be home. And it makes me wonder, if you can’t figure this problem out when I am here, what happens on the days I’m not working at home?

I’m trying very hard to change my point of view and be accepting but I’m struggling. In 3 months there have been so many issues, conversations and time wasted complaining that I’m not sure I can take another 9 months of this. And yet I’m scared to pull the trigger and say yes, I’d like to rematch because I’m afraid what will happen if we do. Will we have these same issues? Is it worth sticking it out and really working with her? Or is this a lost cause?

HRHM November 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm

You won’t ever be able to be sure that your new AP after rematch will be better than the current one. BUT – can you really stand to stick with the current situation for 9 more months? Rematch. You’ve given her ample opportunity to show that she gets it, – she doesn’t.

Although you say she is “wonderful” with the kids, that’s only 1/3rd of being a good AP. She’s failing at the other 2/3 (being a good flatmate and doing kid-related tasks) and shows no sign of improving in those areas at all. I can’t believe that at 3 months in she is still asking about meal times.

When in doubt, ask yourself if she is really making your life easier/better. If the answer is no, it’s time to look for someone who will. You deserve it.

NJmama November 14, 2014 at 7:41 pm

Rematching stinks. But I got one of my best au pairs in rematch. It can be so overwhelming to start over, especially now that the holidays are coming up. Then again do you want to be trying to get through the holidays this way??

TexasHM November 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Agreed our rockstar AP we got from rematch as well. Take a step back, as said ask if she’s making life easier or not and take action. After our rematch experience I have zero fears of going through it again and I’ve heard similar feedback from other families. Screen of course but good rematch candidates are trying to salvage their experience and usually have a lot invested so are very grateful, hard working and appreciate.

old au pair mom November 14, 2014 at 6:03 pm

I am guilty of expecting the AP to read my mind. As Peachtree Mom says she was wondering how the AP couldn’t see what needed to done. When I find myself saying “Seriously … she didn’t do xyz” I try and remember that the AP is doing the best she can and that she is kind and would change her plans or do whatever she could to make my kiddos happy. In this way, she does make my life easier. I may not always need the flexibility she can provide, nor do I need all the hours but the peace of mind knowing there is another adult in my kiddos corner is worth a great deal. So when she forgets to feed them dinner, or doesn’t keep up with the laundry, I write a nice note with 2 requests for the next day getting her back on track in the household part of her job. Yes, I wish she was a rocket scientist and did not need reminders 8 months in, but I have to meet her where she is. She is a warm, safety oriented, loving member of the household and that deserves respect. No AP is perfect and I am surely not. A short list every day does help. Best to you all.

AlwaysHopeful HM November 14, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Forgets to feed them dinner? How does that happen? Sounds kind of outrageous to me!

BearCo HM November 14, 2014 at 10:55 pm

AlwaysHopeful, I said the same thing to myself ! Remembering to feed them dinner seems pretty basic ! This would be like forgetting to pick them up from school to me. You sound much more forgiving and understanding than me, old au pair mom :)

Taking a Computer Lunch November 15, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Forgetting to feed The Camel dinner would be grounds for immediate removal in my house. Child #2 is now a teenager, but I did have ditzy APs who thought he would make something for himself when he was hungry – when he was younger he was capable of being so busy he forgot to eat.

Seattle Mom November 17, 2014 at 3:01 am

I got mad at my mom when she didn’t feed my daughter dinner! We went out to dinner and took my older daughter with us, but YDD didn’t want to come so my mom offered to stay back with her. They watched videos, which is a treat for DD, and I guess my mom “offered” to give her dinner, but the kid is 3 years old and just kept saying “no I’m not hungry” because she didn’t want to stop watching videos. And my mom let her.. then we got home when it was just about bed time, and my 3 year old cries “I’m hungry! I didn’t have dinner!”


That has never happened with any of our au pairs, at least. I guess they know this kid better than my mom, who was tricked.

old au pair mom November 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I know it seems outrageous, but they just all get to playing and they come back and they are laughing and dirty and then suddenly they are starving and it is time for the AP to go to class or she is done for the day. The good part is, they have been playing! They have had lots of fun and expended lots of energy. So I can quick whip up something for my kiddos, and then I have them to myself. Last night we all ate in our bed and DH and I just enjoyed and laughed and the dog was on crumb duty. They will only be little for a short time. Dinner in the dining room is overrated. We have had many APs, sometimes 2 at a time, and you have to utilize their best talents. With this AP playing and loving and kindness. I have had some great organizers over the years and still use their systems. I have learned from APs to sit patiently while a little one has a melt down and not jump in and fix it, but to just sit and be quietly supportive and let the child reqroup and go back to the problem and fix it with just minimal help. I have never had a good cook, though!

DowntownMom November 16, 2014 at 11:18 pm

SKNY, I feel for you! You should be enjoying your baby, getting sleep, and NOT worrying about immature APs! The nanny could be a great option for a few months until you feel ready to give an AP another try. I so much agree with the what-goes-around comment above. It is going to backfire on her eventually.

WorkingMomX November 20, 2014 at 2:10 pm

For host families, the au pair program will work well for you only if you understand that there has to be some benefit to the au pair, beyond the stipend you’re paying her weekly. If you want it to be all about what you want and your childcare needs and your schedule, you should stick with hiring someone locally that you can terminate if things don’t work out the way you want. The au pair’s needs for a decent schedule, adequate notice of time off, and appreciation shown routinely are very important. I love Returning Host Mom’s 80/20 rule and think it’s one many successful host families use (even if they don’t realize it).

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