I believe in talking things out when you and your au pair have challenges.
Awkwardly, tentatively, enthusiastically, skillfully, however you can manage it. If we can’t share what we think and ask for what we need, we can’t improve relationships.
That said, what can we do when talking doesn’t work?
Sometimes our talk hits a deaf wall. Sometimes our talk is misunderstood. But what if our efforts to talk actually backfire, and make the situation even worse?
That’s what seems to be happening for this 1stTimeHostMom and her au pair. What’s troubling in this case is that the au pair seems to be just fine with the kids, but pushing out negativity to the host mom every time the mom tries to discuss a challenge. Assume the very best on the part of this host mom — that she’s clear about the issues, that she’s opening up conversations at ‘good times’, that she’s put her concerns in non-blaming language, etc. Then consider– what should this mom do?
I have been an avid reader of your blog for the past six months, since the arrival of our 1st AP. I want to thank you and all contributors for the great advice! It has helped me think through a number of rough patches since our AP’s arrival, which, thankfully most have been resolved.
However, we still have a number of small things and major things have occurred in the past six months. These range from:
- not putting toys/children items away where they belong
- not paying for her own gas on weekends and then asking us to refill so she can go out again, and
- wanting guests 3 or 4 nights a week for 2 months straight
Since her arrival, our AP has not openly communicated with us.
She has asked some questions about our motives, for example she asked why I wanted and AP and why I chose her country of origin. I stated I chose her for her, not her country of origin. I explained that we wanted an AP to be a role model and loving care giver for our 4 small children, So they could have attention and nurturing in their own environment and feel the support from a “family unit” as opposed to being left behind at a child care facility for mommy and daddy to work.
She always appears to well intended with her questions and responses, but I am not sure what her purpose is when questioning me.
I try to open up other conversations about her likes and dislikes and aspirations, but she never gives us any responses. Many nods and smiles, and yes’s and no’s.
Lately, she seems quite annoyed if I ask her anything. I have meet with her several times, in private to find out if she is unhappy or is there is something else going on and her response (since day one) is I am fine, and I am very shy. The more I try, the more she pulls away and hibernates in her room each night and entirely on the weekend unless she goes out.
So my dilemma is, we are six months in as of today, and she “cares” for the children in an adequate manner. She is a good driver and she comes from a nice family back home. Her english is proficient, but not well rounded. I work diligently at conversing with her and I have yet to see any of her personality which seemed to present at the time of interview or reciprocal effort in communication. She came to us lacking some domestic skills, that needed guidance and training by me, that I gracefully accepted and assisted her with in an attempt to teach her. She is turning 24 and when I interviewed her she seemed mature enough to handle the dynamics of a large family.
However, just as I feel we make some headway, there comes passive aggressive behavior. When ever we try to give feedback or have a request for her, she always politely accepts, but then seems to find a way to “get us back”. There have been several incidents that stand out:
Facebook: She friended me on facebook 2 months before arrival. But several months after being here, I asked her not to post our family pics or business on FB as she was doing a lot, so she agreed, then blocked me from viewing her content. She did not de-friend me, she just doesn’t want me to see her posts, which I am sure are of my children or my home as I have been informed.
Vacillating on Vacations: We have been planning vacations and travel (business) in advance and have been very accommodating to her requested time, however she has not solidified her plan which is occurring in 3 weeks. After an incident with behavior and my oldest child (we had to have two family meetings for this- came up with a positive plan and ended on a positive note IMO) she proceeded to tell me that she does not know what she is going to do for her identified vacation week. But, I already made child care arrangements. As of this week she does not want to talk about it because she “needs to see what works for her”.
HD and I really feel she is punishing us when we need her to communicate with us. She clearly is having some sort of issue with any of the feedback we have provided.
Reactive, negative behavior: Also, anytime I thank her for cleaning up a little more, or doing something nice, she stops doing it. For instance, she emptied the dishwasher 2 times since she has been here. She does hand wash dishes, however I was grateful that she helped with the dishwasher with out being asked. Since I said this, she has resented the whole dishes thing now, when she never really did any of it in the first place. Now if I ask if she could help with putting items away (besides just washing) she says ok, but I come home and she tells me she was too busy. Hence she has not put a dish away in 3 months now and 2 of the children are gone all day in pre-school, the baby sleeps a lot and the toddler is easily entertained. There is plenty of time to pitch in a little.
Won’t answer the phone: This last one is the most recent and most concerning. She has a family cell phone to use. We have called each other or texted during the day for a check in.
After our last family meeting and vacation talk, she had not answered one of my calls or text during the day for two weeks now. When I asked her, she always makes an excuse. I was busy, left the phone downstairs yada yada yada….in her pleasantly sweet voice. However, her call logs show calls and texts to friends at the exact time I was trying to contact her! She knows I know this because we talked about the daytime calling in the past (month 2) when she was spending too much time on the phone, which appeared on our call log!
My LCC is almost just as lame as this situation and has been of no help to me presently. I am not even sure my AP is speaking to her….so what do I do with a young lady who we actually like in her approach to caring for the children but has this passive aggressive behavior to HP’s? I think she loves my children, but dislikes us.
I am trying to make this better as we are only six months in and I have invested so much energy so far. I feel if I become heavy handed in my approach to her she is going to get worse, especially with all the “niceness” she exudes and then her behavior and actions contradict what we work on. This is becoming mentally taxing on us as HP’s and we are concerned. Fortunately my children are small enough to not pick up on all this projected negativity towards us because they see her as just “fun”.