Uncommunicative Au Pair Turns Passive Aggressive

by cv harquail on July 14, 2011

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?4336251275_bed86fa08b_o.jpg

Dear AuPairMom-

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”.

How can I approach this situation without making it worse? Is that even possible?

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My 2 cents July 15, 2011 at 9:24 am

Ugh. She sounds horrible. She certainly has an attitude. Is this your first au pair?

Her behavior is unacceptable. Her attitude is unacceptable. She lies! She doesn’t sound like she loves your children at all. What’s giving you that impression? (And, in any event, I’m of the opinion that an au pair needs to be well received by everyone and not only the kids so to me it wouldn’t count for much in view of everything else going on here. Your kids will be getting a new caregiver in 6 months regardless).

You need to sit her down and be direct with her about her failures in her performance, in her attitude, and be as specific as you have been here. I’d call in the LCC on this one, but it sounds like she won’t do anything or only add to the situation so you may need to go it alone. She is blowing you off and using her PA games to get “her” way and seems to me enjoys it on some level. She probably feels she has the power and control and, right now, and seems like she does. She seems really, really manipulative. Sorry.

THis is your life, your family, and your home that she is entered. She is ungrateful, uncaring, and is only adding stress to your life and lot’s of it. This is not what she is here for. There is no reason in the world for her not to unloading dishwashers and chipping in. Stop giving her gas money and set a rule that she refill the tank before turning keys back to you. If she doesn’t, take the car away. Not answering your calls and texts would be a last straw for me. You basically have NO IDEA what is going on during the day and she’s preventing you from finding out in the smallest way. This cannot continue.

You need to seriously ask yourself if at this point your are even willing to put in the effort to even try to fix this relationship. To me, it doesn’t sound real fixable. Attitude issues are ones, in my experience as a manager, are ones that are not fixable. But, if you are willing to give it the college try one last time, then list all the things that she does not do that she needs to do. List all the reminders and assistance that you’ve given her. List the times you have tried to talk with her and resolve things. List all the times and things she has done to indicate to you she is not interested in hearing you or meeting you even half way. Then sit down with her, go over it all, and ask her directly if she’s still wants to be with your family and if she’s committed to you and the program. Don’t accept excuses that she’s too busy, or forgetful, or whatever. Don’t accept nonanswers. Force her to reply and reply meaningfully. She knows full well the games she’s been playing. Come up with a performance plan, write down each and every thing that she’s expected to do each and every day, what tasks must be completed by which days, what you want to see when you walk through the door each evening, down, that you expect her to answer the phone you gave her when you call, then make a copy of it and give one to her, and then, hardest of all, make sure you all stick to it. If balks in any way, or agrees and fails to keep up with the performance plan, cut her loose.

This girl has an attitude problem. That’s really one of the worst things. And it’s something, honestly, that I doubt you can change. I would gear up for transition as much as that stinks. But continuing to put up with this is just silly. She didn’t answer your calls for 2 weeks and she’s your caregiver and lives with you!

Calif Mom July 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm


Anonamomma July 15, 2011 at 9:27 am

IMO – This lady is old enough (and certainly appears smart enough) to know what she is doing and my approach is based on this assumption.

I believe this AP thinks that she is top dog in the house – and that you will revolve around her – but whatever the reason behind her behaviour you need to take charge of the situation right now and show her who is the boss – and all that “part of the family” aside – you are the boss.

Calif Mom July 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Uh huh!

Should be working July 15, 2011 at 9:28 am

Wow, this is a difficult situation. Phone and Facebook seem easier and clear-cut. Answer the phone, and quit posting the pics/info, or know that you might end up in rematch. These are both safety issues.

Hibernating on off hours and her use of vacation time are things for HPs to let go of, in my view. If she spends her vacation week lolling around her room, that’s her right. But that IS her vacation week, she doesn’t get a make-up week.

The dishwashing/tidying and negative behavior may seem weird and inexplicable to you. But I think there are easy explanations: she just sounds extremely lazy, as if once she realizes that she is doing anything a little extra she stops doing it. I would get very strict about this, with checklists: when I get home, the dishwasher should be empty, the kids toys tidied, etc. Asking for more gas and having guests that often are signs that she is just in it for herself. She is selfish, she is entitled, she is lazy, and she is not interested in being a member of the family at all.

You can find another AP who is nice to the kids AND pleasant and helpful. I think your standards here are too low. I would come down tough, know that it might end in rematch, and see if you can get this AP’s performance up to “ok”, because honestly where she is now is “barely passable”–especially considering the phone and Facebook issues as safety issues.

I would use the “coming to God” talk approach that has been mentioned on this blog, and be ready for rematch. It’s a great time of year to rematch, lots of AP candidates want to arrive very soon, and others are in rematch for reasons that would not affect your experience.

Calif Mom July 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm

absolutely! Also, it’s not uncommon for APs to not have a clue about their vacations. 3 weeks is years away for the immature brain…

3grtkidz July 15, 2011 at 10:13 am

It is time for a rematch. You don’t trust her. She doesn’t listen to you. I don’t see much hope for this relationship. If she is watching four children on her own that is a huge and difficult job. Also you don’t say how often you call or text her during the day. I rarely need to contact our au pair during her working hours and she is happy to text me if a questions comes up — this is maybe 2-3 times a week. She is showing you disrespect when you have proof that she is using her phone — during working hours — and not prioritizing you by taking your call. This is the main deal breaker for me. What would happen in a real emergency and she doesn’t answer? We are very clear with our au pair that we provide their phone, we PAY for it (up to a fixed amount per month) and that we monitor it. We have not had any issues with it. If she takes calls / text messages they are short and usually to firm up plans for the evening or weekend. If you are contacting her several times a day it might seem annoying. The gas in the car is a easy one to solve. Just keep track of the miles she drives and ask her to reimburse you on a per mile basis. But really as I read this post my feeling is start looking for you next au pair. We have had two wonderful au pairs. No drama. No stress.

Tristatemom July 15, 2011 at 10:52 am

Let me say that I am very impressed by your management of your AP. You sound patient which is a great attribute to have in raising kids :)

Anyway, I would also look into the kind of people she hangs out with. We have found that APs are easily influenced by their peers and that we acutally need to care about what kind of people have her ear. So in your case, maybe all these visitors have an effect on her attitude/desire to bond with you.

Hula Gal July 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Since you are a first time host parent here’s my tips to make the next au pair hosting experience more successful. My first time hosting experience was not great and now that I have hosted five au pairs I have made many changes which has helped make for more successful experiences.

You must have a handbook that explicitly states expectations that you go over with her in detail when she first arrives. If you want her to load the dishwasher as her household chore than you should put that in there. We have a household duty assigned to our au pair. If she does other things around the house we consider that to be very thoughtful but if she doesn’t do them we don’t ask her to (other than cleaning up after herself). If we don’t want her to have guests over on weeknights unless she gets special permission then we put that in the book. We explain why so she understands when we say no (work night – we all need rest and a quiet home etc.).

You should have a weekly meeting with the au pair to discuss performance. If she is not showing improvement by month three you should consider rematch. Don’t let it go past month four. Some agencies penalize you for trying to rematch after month six.

You should conduct a “performance review” at the beginning of month five. I started doing this with au pair #4 who we were on the fence about. She was great in many ways but had a few issues that were constant problems despite us addressing them informally throughout the prior four months. During this review, which I have a form I used, we met initially and I had her fill it out evaluating herself (and there were a few questions about us). I filled one out too evaluating her. We met again a week later to discuss them. There were positive things and negative things. I explained that if the negative things do not get fixed we would need to rematch. This way she is put on notice that we are taking these problems seriously. You don’t want to throw the rematch word around too lightly. If you say you might do it than you better mean it.

Make sure she understands there are consequences. If she misuses the phone, put her on notice that if she continues the phone will be taken away during non-working hours. If she doesn’t fill up the tank than she doesn’t get to use the car during non-working hours.

Unfortunately some au pairs need to be treated like your teenage children. You must be firm and set limits and be clear about expectations or they will walk all over you and make your life miserable.

Our last au pair was great. We never had any issues with her on any of these points. But she was the only one out of five. It’s part of the deal when you host an au pair.

If you decide to rematch with this au pair make sure you read your contract before you do to be sure you know what your options are.

Good luck!

Tristatemom July 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

What a great post!

One question, did you have all your rules in place when your last (great) AP came into your family. Were/Are you worried about putting off a person that wouldn’t need this type of management to begin with?

Hula Gal July 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Thanks! Yes – by then my husband and I had really gotten into our groove. We had decided (more like a lightbulb moment) that we were going to take charge of how our relationship with our au pair went. And frankly, we realized we have the upper hand. If things weren’t working, we wouldn’t hesistate to put them on notice and ask for a rematch if things didn’t improve. It’s when you fear the rematch and don’t have a backup plan in place that you have an imbalance in your relationship with your au pair. If an au pair was turned off by our family rules than she would not have been a great au pair for us. So this is not a deterrent. The great au pair we ended up with was fine with all of these rules because she was responsible and repectful of adult authority. The same could be said of the other great au pair we had. They both loved to have a good time and have fun and were very different au pairs. But what they both had in common was a respect for authority and a sense of gratitude.

My 2 cents July 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I love this idea and tool of the mid-year performance review. What a terrific communication and management tool. Can you share your form?

Hula Gal July 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I’ll send it to CV and she can post it.

Carrie September 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Just curious if the form ever got posted. I like the idea and tried searching but couldn’t find it on the site.

Gianna July 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I would line up other child care without saying anything to anyone : not the LCC & not the AP. Just have the option available so that you feel you are in a strong position.
Then, I would tell the LCC that the situation is not working out. You can then tell the agency and the AP to find her another family without a reference from you. You can tell your kids , who are young, that the AP’s time is just up. I agree with the other posters that she doesn’t sound very nice. I think it is a cause for concern that she is not speaking to her LCC. Is that because the LCC isn’t doing her job or because the AP
just has a negative attitude toward the LCC ? I mention this because you have clearly been working hard on this situation. If the AP is passive aggressive with the LCC, then there is no chance of success in my opinion. These behaviors seem very carefully thought out… the FB situation would really upset me because it is so sneaky.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

In my opinion, this AP is treating you like a doormat. Before you go to town to push back, read your contract (call the head office if your LCC is a no-go). What are the penalties for going into rematch after six months? Your push-back will depend on how much you can afford to lose.

Before you have a confrontation meeting, drop home unexpectedly. Is her passive aggressive behavior aimed at you, or the kids as well. Is she ignoring your toddler while she chats with friends? Is the baby crying? Or, is she engaged and active with the kids. How much you push back may be framed by your children’s relationship with her. (You should also have friends or neighbors do a drop-in – arrange to have one of them pick up one of your kids or borrow some sugar and eyeball the situation.)

If she’s fantastic with the kids and bad with you, it’s miserable for you. I sucked up a miserable relationship with one of my APs who was fantastic with a special needs child (and I already knew that the Venn diagram of special-needs-willing rematch APs was nil at the time I was most frustrated). I sucked it up and said goodbye breathing a sigh of relief when the year was over. I waited until her extension paperwork packet arrived to tell her that we wouldn’t be extending with her. You get to have that conversation in 2 months anyway – don’t tell her you won’t be extending with her until you have to – her behavior will further decline.

What you control – the phone. She answers your calls or you suspend outgoing calls (I assume the contract is in your or your husbands name). That’s a non-issue. A parent needs to be in communication with the caregiver. Don’t threaten to suspend outgoing calls, keep track of the times you attempt to text or call. Log them and compare to your cell phone log. Point it out to her that her use is excessive (my handbook says no conversation is to last for more than 10 minutes and should be briefer – but my APs also only work 5-6 hours a day and have plenty of time to talk to friends when they’re not working). If the behavior persists, give a warning, and then call your phone company and change the settings on the phone pronto.

Gas. I assume this is a shared car. Put enough gas in it for you to drive it where you need to go and stop tanking up for her. When she demands that you fill it up, tell her you’re sorry, you know gas is expensive and that she’ll need to put in enough to get where she wants to go. I assume she knows how to fill a gas tank (not all of my APs have). If you live where there is public transportation – then offer her the choice between paying for gas and taking the bus. You have 4 kids – then you don’t have time to do her favors, especially if you have to deal with the dishes and tidying the home.

Guests should be a privilege for an AP who’s great at pitching in. Is she providing food for these guests at her own expense? If not, then make it clear that you expect her to help more around the house if she’s going to invite people to stay.

You may have to work on her weak areas one at time. Pick the one that annoys you most and go after it first. And, have a back-up childcare plan in the event that she bails on you when you push back.

Should you decide to host another AP (and believe me, it’s a buyer’s market out there – there are far more great, willing APs than host families), her behavior will frame your handbook. There are some great samples in the PAGES section on this blog.

Calif Mom July 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

yes, I shuddered when I read “6 months today” — that’s what hosed us last time, even though our counselor KNEW I was unhappy! Grrr.

You have to manage this, and believe it or not, the kids are the easiest part. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. It stinks…it’s exhausting.

But don’t cede your power, either. If Mama and Dad aren’t happy, ain’t nobody….

Melissa July 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

As others said, first thing is check into your agencies rematch/refund policies to find out your options in that regard (chances are you may lose some money after 6 month point). And get going on back-up child care, should things go downhill fast. I would then have a very honest talk with her. It sounds like you have made a lot of effort to communicate with her and address issues as they have come up. Now, rather than talk again about individual concerns, I would tell her essentially what you’ve told us in your post. That you feel she is purposely not communicating with you and intentionally doing things because she is irritated with you. List the various items as examples (facebook, the phone), but I would ask her point blank why she is doing all of these things and clearly tell her it is unacceptable and has to change. I think you’re only hope is if she opens up and tells you what is really going on (e.g., she acknowledges what she is doing) and you let her know that you won’t be her doormat and you both can talk openly about how to fix things. Clear the air, so to speak. If she clams up, shrugs her shoulders or shows no accountability, you need to call it over and move on. Also, the phone issue is completely unacceptable. You need to trust her and can’t if she refuses to communicate with you while she is caring for the children.

Anna July 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I think it is over.

What blinds you now is that you are a first time host mother and your tolerance level is high, and your vision into what is (or could) be going on is not tuned by experience.
Also the fact that you think she is taking good care of your kids.

If I were you, I would arrange backup childcare ASAP, and cut it as soon as you are ready. It can take a while since you have four children.

Here is why. From all you said, I don’t think she is taking good care of your children. In fact, she might be endangering them every day. But you children are young so they won’t tell you. I had a rematch two months ago – and my very mature seven year old told me that the au pair left them alone… AFTER the au pair left. Even older children trust adults and don’t always know what is right or wrong, and even if they do, they might be hesitant or afraid to tell mom.
I rematched for a different reason (lies), and I couldn’t even imagine that she was putting my kids in danger every day. It was shocking to me. Now, looking back, and looking at small episodes I should’ve put together, and looking at where her primary interests were (friends, friends, friends… us on the last place on the list…), I should’ve been less trusting.

My advice to you – arrange backup childcare ASAP before you discover that you cannot trust her with your kids for one more moment.

By the way, not answering the phone is a serious safety issue.

And sounding from what you described, she won’t change. It is who she is, at least now, until she truly matures (or not). I bet if you hold out a bit longer, you will find reasons to rematch that will send her home… without a chance to find another family.

NorAupair July 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I agree with everything said above.She is totally disrespectful to your family. And even if there is a good reason behind this attitude, I don’t think it’s your task and responsibility to find out and deal with. You’ve already done more than enough.Rematch.You deserve the better for your family!!

JJ Host Mom July 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm

We rematched with our first au pair 8 months in. Similar situation: I didn’t have any experience with au pairs, so I didn’t know what to expect, so I just kept trying to make it work. Finally there was an extreme situation that pushed us into rematch. We ended up losing a couple thousand dollars, but it was worth it. This is not a good au pair. There are great ones out there. Make a backup childcare plan, cut this one loose, and move on.

anonamomma July 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

@ the OP – please keep us posted

Erna July 16, 2011 at 4:32 am

Hosting an AP should be a great experience for the children AND for the parents. They are there to make balancing work and parenting easier and the children deserve the best!

All au pairs get depressed at some point, because the ‘au pair adventure’ is NOT what agencies advertise it to be. I hated my HP (they looked down on me, even made hurtful comments), but I was always polite and willing to communicate with them. Language classes and transportation took up 85% of my monthly allowance (leaving little for cultural experiences and recreation) and they didn’t inform me beforehand that the child had AFS (which I wasn’t qualified and prepared for).

I had to constantly remind myself what a great effect my actions could have on the child and so, went through a massive attitude change every now and again to straighten myself out. This was emotionally exhausting, but looking back, I can honestly say that I was the perfect au pair and had an enormously positive effect on the child.

I don’t know what is troubling your AP and clearly she doesn’t want to sort it out or fix her bad attitude. Perhaps it is time for her to move on to a different family. She is actually breaking some Au Pair rules and should get kicked off the program.

sock July 16, 2011 at 8:03 am

Something might have set her off. It might have been some little thing, like maybe you came home late one night, or even two nights in a row, and instead of talking about whatever is bothering her, she’s internalized everything and is getting back at you by being passive aggressive.

When I was an AP, whenever I started getting really frustrated with my HF (whether it was legitimate or I was just annoyed) I know that I would start coming up with things in my mind- ie, ‘THIS is why they only chose young girls to work for them, they know they can take advantage easily, THIS is why they only chose girls from far away countries, they know they won’t leave,’ etc.

Now that I’ve got some perspective, it changes how I see the situation. Many a situation can be resolved just by talking about it, but I didn’t learn that lesson until I stopped working for them. I think some of my justifications have roots in the truth, but the bottom line is that they were justifications for me being pissed off.

Maybe try to come straight at her. Don’t sugar coat anything, just ask her right away, “Do you have a problem, and do you want to talk about it?” I don’t really know. :/ It’s a bad situation all around. Good luck.

NorCaMom July 17, 2011 at 11:41 am

The big red flag for me is the phone. What if you truly had an emergency one of those times that she didn’t answer? Not answering or having the phone handy, repeatedly, during working hours is completely unacceptable.

That would be enough for one warning for me – which has already passed with your AP. To me – time is up. Rematch.

NewHostDad July 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm

We’re new host parents with very similar situation. AP did a fine job of caring for our kids but has passive aggressive attitude issues with host mom. 6 months in as well and finally decided enough was enough. Had a long honest meeting with her, addressed DIRECTLY each and all of the issues that had been bothering us. We didn’t need or want apologies, explanations or contrition, just to address it and make the issues known to her was the point. The next item addressed was how we expected things to change or we would rematch. You’ll have to be ready to follow through.

What we got was 100% different attitude adjustment, 1 month so far and going. She is now respectful and tries to figure out what is needed to be successful. Hopefully it works out well for you.

Calif Mom July 19, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Good for you! I would just caution that you stay on top of things; don’t let the weekly meetings slide. It’s really like managing a not-great employee at work. Put them on a performance improvement plan, set them up for success but hold them accountable.

I hope things stay on good track for you!

NJMom July 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

You are bending over backward and being WAY too nice. (The good news is that you will be a great HM to a much more deserving AP in the future.) The not answering the phone is 100% UNACCEPTABLE in my book for so many reasons, especially the fact that your kids are very young and you are paying for the phone for that you can check in on them during the day. They are your kids and you are paying her to care for them. I wouldn’t give this another 6 months. I know this is your first AP experience but there are much more pleasant and grateful AP’s out there just waiting for your family. Give one of them a chance.

1stTimeHostMom July 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Wow! thanks for the great responses. For those who feel I should be in the throws of rematch, I do see your perspective (as I am feeling it). I did check my contract and I will loose significantly. I am not reaching out to my LCC. Any contact with her has been what I have initiated (including my issues), so I decided to not even take this approach. In fact, we have made a decision that we do not think this agency has held to their obligation to both my family and our AP (that is another post!)

The past two weeks we have changed our approach. I have had to travel intermittently(completely unusual for me) so my husband has become the main communicator with me being the one coming and going. Before my travels, I stated that this is how things need to be and listed the issues/ to do’s and not to do’s. My husband completely backed it up and reinforced things, no if, ands or buts! week one went well. Phones answered. No car issues and “most” children related tasks completed around the house. She is taking her vacation as planned (regardless of what her plans are) and I have back up childcare in place. There has been an almost unpleasantly, pleasant attitude this week, so I am airing on the side of caution in case our push came to her plan to exit after this “vacation”.

Being that we will be in month 7 any day now, I am going take more control. I am going to do some of the strategies mentioned, like unexpected check in’s, review of a daily/ weekly list, my continuation of check in’s 2-3 times per week via call or text.

I lOVE the idea of a performance review! I am going to do that when she comes back from vacation. I think she has finally embraced being in the US and may be planning to find another family and I am her reference! (we think she is going to look for another area/family during her vacation time) This will give me a chance to “spell out” the attitude issues and the concerns we have about her performance. I think some posters helped me realize that she is being manipulative and lazy when it comes to her share of the resposibilities. I guess I did not figure a young lady would come to our home and treat us like ALL decisions are hers and not “ours” as a unit. Naturally I will rematch if there is a safety issue and I was pretty clear about this to her.

We are unanimous that we will not extend and I will take the advice to discuss this when the time is right so we do not and fuel to the fire. However, I do not think she is interested in staying with us. I will keep you posted after she returns. I do think there are going to be some changes, however, if past behavior predicts future….I have no clue what will happen!

For those wondering why I have been so patient and giving the benefit of the doubt; I think I let my professional role (probally yet another post) get in the way of my ability to take charge in this situation being my first AP. I work with adolescents in a counseling role and I truly try to shape their behavior, however, as my collegues have told me…..your AP is not your client and your not obligated to keep “working” on her issues. I am going to stick to a plan, so if you have good one send it my way! Also, another question…..How do I not become jaded when choosing a new AP? I do not want this experience to taint the next…(maybe this is another post, I will search it)

Thanks again and I will keep you posted!

Calif Mom July 21, 2011 at 10:51 pm

You WILL treat your second search for an au pair differently; this is a good thing. It’s because we all learn as we go, thank goodness!

(I had a high-risk preg after my first normal one; that experience was totally different, and so, too, will your search for your next au pair.)

You will probably fight the last battle too strongly, and find different things that you wish you had ‘held out’ for.

That’s my big advice: don’t give an inch on your “must have” list. Don’t talk yourself into an au pair if you have even a hint of a yellow flag waving in the corner of your eye when you read her profile. Don’t feel like you have to justify a bad gut feeling; just click the NO button and move on.

I am the LAST host mom you want advising you on how to pick a good one from the regular process. But I know all about having a great experience after a rematch, and extending with those au pairs, so I feel confident in saying that you absolutely can find a good thing after a manipulative relationship.

But you will never be buoyed by that crazy optimism, sunshine and roses again, either. Part of you will be wary. And that’s okay. Your relief will be all the greater when the new au pair turns out to be honestly nice, and loves your kids and is someone you actually WANT to talk to when she comes home from the gym, like I just had a lovely conversation with our au pair, and we jointly discussed the best schedule for next week so that everyone’s needs are met, in these dark throes of the too-hot summer. It was just so nice to not be trying to be done in the kitchen before our au pair came home so I could avoid having to talk to her.

It can be really nice, and your kids’ needs can be met. Some even help with dishes, honest!

There are lots of ideas on this blog about how to interview, both strategies and specific questions. I’d say my biggest blunder is being too generous in spirit, not wanting to write someone off (which it sounds like may be your bugaboo, too, as a professional counselor of immature people!) and so taking on au pairs for the wrong reasons, trying to do for them what no one did for me when I was a kid.

Here’s the thing: unless you’re a SAHM, I haven’t found a way to have the emotional energy or just plain time in the day for that approach. You need a grown-up, even if she’s a young one. You need to not worry about your au pair’s emotional health–at least not overly much, and you certainly can’t fix her relationship with her own mom!

The new sheriff in town approach you describe above is your best bet. I wish it were guaranteed to work, but this is a relationship and you can’t control it. All you can do is stack the odds in your favor and give it your best shot. And then be decisive when it isn’t working, and move on. Sorry to sound callous, but this is experience talking.

Good luck, and please do keep us posted!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 22, 2011 at 6:59 am

I write in my handbook, “You are an adult in this house because I won’t have a child looking after my children.” It seems to work. They’ve all had their moments, but it hasn’t been teenage rebellion, it’s been young adults making honest mistakes as they move forward independently without their parents telling them what to do.

1stTimeHostMom July 23, 2011 at 10:02 am

that it what it feels like, teenage rebellion. I feel I have someone on my hands that really doesn’t want to hear anything from anyone.

Reflecting back to my matching process I was intrigued by her sweetness and projected maturity, however, she is an only child of a divorced couple who both generously provide for her. Her world has never been outside of what she needs and wants, and apparently was used to getting it. With that said, I think she is completely oblivious to her attitude and behavior towards me and the family. Learning to “care” for others and be aware of your environment is not something that can be learned so quickly or with out suffering the consequences of unrecognizable behavior.

Because I have to be the mommy to my children I am feeling some resentment from her. She does not act like a princess (which is another post I read), however, I do feel that she is. I am sure her resentment is coming from her personal struggles of realizing that she really needs to be the caregiver when I am not present and that it is not always about her. Instead of talking to me about this, she is being passive aggressive. Honestly I would have no problem having conversations with her about how difficult it is to be an AP, and I have tried. I know as a HM I need to be supportive. About 3 months ago I did ask her if this job was too challenging and if she wanted to go home. She told me NO, that she liked the challenge of the work and really wanted to experience the US and that she wanted to make this work, however, I do think that this is when the passive aggressive behavior began looking back. I am going to revisit this conversation with her when she returns from her vacation and point out the fact that she still appears to be struggling, despite going through the motions.

I am reflecting back to something my father said to me when I was starting college and didn’t know what to do…..do you want to live, or exist? if you want to live, step up to the plate, accept was life has to offer (good and bad) learn and grow from it. If you want to exist, do nothing and sit back, fill your ears with your own complaints because no one else is going to want to hear it and don’t complain when you haven’t accomplished anything.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

That is wise advice that your father offered.

Carlos July 23, 2011 at 5:07 am

I’ve been thinking of this topic a lot because her attitude is SO FRUSTRATING!! I just don’t understand why is she acting like that… I’d be so angry at the point where you are now… lol!

Well.. I’m looking forward to hear what happened next with the decisions that you made…

NJMom July 21, 2011 at 6:52 am

Good for you to be proactive. The only concern you should have is if you think she is looking for other families while on vacation — presumably for extension year? — what would stop her from leaving you sooner than the 12 months? Just don’t be left in the lurch. We have all seen plenty of so-so AP’s manage to manipulate their way into a rematch. I hope I’m not borrowing trouble for you but I think other HMs will agree.

momto2 July 21, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Your AP’s personality and behaviors seem to mirror ours in so many ways. We are a little closer to the end of our year, but it has been a very odd 10 months with this one. We have hosted 4 other APs, 3 successfully, but we have never had such a communication problem with our APs, ever. She has honestly gone her entire year only voluntarily exchanging pleasantries like “good morning” and “good night” etc. We have tried to talk to her about her family and her friends, and school, meetings, travel, etc., but she responds that everything is “good” and that’s it. She is a hard worker, so that is not the issue. When she eats with us, she pitches in and cleans, and she has always done her chores and what-not, but doggone it, she will just not speak with us! She honestly feels like a complete stranger and we know absolutely NOTHING about her, or her friends. We’ve met one of them and that’s it.

This started after the “Honeymoon” period ended and we had to clamp down on her use of the car as a taxi for other APs who didn’t have transportation, and she became very passive aggressive. She would walk to her AP meetings and stuff just to avoid asking for the car, and show up at her meetings all hot and worn out like she was being victimized by cruel host parents. She would walk clear across the house to avoid us if she could, and she has not spent one weekend anywhere near us in months. (She typically doesn’t work them, but we usually do a lot of family stuff then).

We have tried sitting down with her and talking to her on 3 occasions about if she was unhappy and she kept saying everything is fine. We know she loves our children and they really like her too–her maturity is more along their levels, perhaps. The situation is bearable, but we knew this was not an extension candidate based on the immaturity and passive aggressive stuff, and just her overall flat demeanor and lack of personality. When we started talking to her about transition last week since it is 2 months out now, she was very flat and just sat there. Later, she told our kids she wanted to stay another year with us and we about fell over! We thought her bags were already packed! Clearly the communication in our situation was just not working. Any longer than the contract year would have put us over the edge.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 21, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I had a Chinese AP who almost fit your bill. We could not get much out of her and enlisted the assistance of our LCC, who is excellent, to see if she could break through. She had no interest in family activities, and we were surprised to find out after we told her we would not extend with us, that she considered us the “perfect” host family. Later, a Philippina friend explained to me that culturally she was unlikely to open up. While we did finish out our year with her, I was enormously relieved when we said goodbye. (We did our best not to undermine her ability to find another HF, as she was good enough with the kids. But she never did get a driver’s license here, so that cut her out of a plethora of extension opportunities.)

Still Horrified Au Pair July 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Ok first of all I agree with pretty much everything everyone else has said. You are obviously a lovely person and you by NO MEANS deserve to be so blantantly used.
I LOVE this website; as an au pair (especially as a new one) I find the information this website provides to be a invaluable resource to me. But I am constantly stunned by the terrible stories i read. Who are these the horrible girls? I just honestly don’t understand how you can come into someone else’s home and treat them with such disrepect. I disagree that it is cultural or due to immaturity, these girls (or guys, i guess, I just haven’t yet read any horror stories about mannies) are simply bad people. Like this one. I am sooooo sorry that you got such a rotten girl for your first time and I really hope that you know that we are not all like this.
Ok now I am going to go through your letter:
Putting your kids toys away IS HER JOB. not doing it is UNACCEPTABLE.
Using YOUR car and having guests in YOUR house is a PRIVILEGE NOT A RIGHT, and by expecting you to refill the gas and let her friends stay over all the time, she is TAKING ADVANTAGE OF YOU. which of course is UNACCEPTABLE. Stop filling it up for her and if that doesn’t work stop letting her use the car, if she needs to go somewhere she can get a ride from one of these friends she’s always having in your house.
The questions are wierd but maybe she’s just curious. Also these questions prove that communication issues aren’t because she can’t speak Englih or she’s shy. She’s not shy. I’m shy, I recognize shy. She isn’t shy, she’s a b***h.
Again it doesn’t matter how old she is; she is not immature, she’s mean. and she is going to be just as bad when she’s 50 as she is now at 24. I am 19, but I have known since I was little even if you don’t like someone everyone desreves to be treated with respect and kindness; I was never taught this, it’s just simple common sense. Basic human decency is not something that you grow into it, if she doesn’t have it she doesn’t have it.
The facebook thing is sooo incredibly APPALLING that I can hardly believe it. I would stop letting her take pictures of your kids (and let them know not to let her take their picture) and I’d report her to facebook as they may be able to take the pictures down. Honestly for me this would be enough reason for a rematch. It’s UNBELIEVABLY dishonest. UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!!!
The vacation thing is again wierd but not like a big deal unless she is expecting to get a “make-up week”. Btw what does IMO mean?
The dishwasher thing is TOTALLY wierd. I agree that it maybe laziness, or that since she knows that you like it and she obviously doesn’t like you she doesn’t want to do anything that makes you happy. It is also possible that she resents the actual thank you, like she felt somehow offended that you felt the need to verbally thank her (like in a “I’m not a child I don’t need your graditude” way) or maybe she thought that that was your way of passive-aggressively asking her to unload the dishewasher more often so she’s not doing the dishes at all to passive-aggressively get you back for your imagined offence.
The fact that she won’t answer your calls when SHE KNOWS that you know she’s screening you is RIDICULOUS. It is NOT her phone it is your phone since YOU are PAYING for it. I don’t think that blocking outgoing calls is a good idea (for saftey reasons) but what I would do is stop paying for the calls that aren’t work related. You have the call log, so she can’t argue with you on how much she owes you.
In conclusion this girl is BAD NEWS and you and your childern deserve SO MUCH BETTER.

P.S. Earlier I posted under “Horrified Au Pair” and though I will probably continue to be horrified by the AWFUL situations some of you poor women find yourselves in I will now be posting under the name “APUSA” [which stands for Au Pair U.S.A. (although if you say it as a word it’s kinda pretty lol)]

1stTimeHostMom July 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

IMO, means in my opinion. Fortunately the car, friends staying over and cleaning up the toys have been easier topics to address and they have been. However, it is the attitude that has followed since I had to point out my unhappiness with these areas.

I have asked several times for her not to post pictures of my kids. Because I am blocked from her page, I cannot tell if she is doing it. Another AP who became her friend told me she is doing so, however, she recently returned home so I am not sure if it is continuing now. Doing these “things” (passive aggressive behavior) to me is hurtful as someone who has opened my home and personal life to a young stranger.

Being an AP is hard work, however I feel we are generous people and give ample opportunity for our AP to have the best of both worlds….working hard and playing hard. Since we have four children I have tried to compensate for the work load. I only work 4 days a week. My AP only works those 4 days, no evenings, no weekends, no curfew, a cell phone, generous food allowances, a private 2 room suite with private bath and use of a car at all times. So my expectations of committing to work are serious in that a schedule is a schedule, especially if I already arranged childcare for the week my AP is going on vacation, and the task list I have for duties during the day is important to me (only child related tasks). If she feels offended that I “thanked” her for completing tasks that normally someone would be responsible for no matter where they lived, she would have no right to act indifferently towards me. As others have said to me, she can go home if she does not want to be responsible for anything during her time her.

I would never want to make an AP feel as if they were “raising” my children or doing ” all” the work, which clearly is not the case here, however, I have an AP because I want more than just a babysitter. I want a role model for my children and a functioning “unit” in my home, otherwise I can find a babysitter who I do not have to provide amenities to and not have in my personal life.

I know that I am a first time HM, but to those AP’s that are our there reading, please do not assume that your HF is going to treat you like an indentured servant. Do not start off your year with “I am not going to do these things” or with the attitude that “I am only a babysitter” because it will cause resentment in the home. Families want some support as they are willing to offer support too. It is a give and take relationship. No HF wants to feel like a doormat and that they are being used for a place to sleep and eat so an AP can make friends and travel. Believe me, you can have the best of both worlds no matter what your friends have told you or the stories you have read. Our situation here is not ideal, however it is bearable. The unfortunate thing is no one is getting the full benefits of the experience here and it is a shame (HF or the AP).

I have been on the fence about trying this again next year, however, I do not want one experience to predict our future. My children (and an AP) can clearly benefit from us hosting again. I will keep you posted.

aupair25 July 24, 2011 at 11:37 am

hi.. i would definitely go on rematch… When the hf/AP doesn’t work there is not much you can do to work things out. A couple of months ago i went through rematch cause i was having issues with my host mom..(I am 26 years old) i was 5 months when i asked for my rematch and even though I pushed back several times the rematch cause i was felling so bad of leaving the kids i had to do it.. cause even when my host mom was really respectful to me.. she never made me feel like home… she was a divorced hm.. so was just me and her with the kids and she never respected my schedule at nights but if i had most weekends off… If you do ask for the Rematch…please don’t change your nice attitude with your new au pair.. is not her fault you had such a bad experience with the one you have… just make the rules clear from the beginning…Now I am with my new family (HM divorced as well).. and from the beginning i was told that the car was only for using it for the kids or i had to ask permission to use for something else, no guests while the kids were home and i had to give notice with days in advance, and that i had to be home at night 9 hours before i had to wake up the next day (curfew) … and sometimes i work even up to 12 or 13 hours per day sometimes cause is summer and she has too many work events…and i work almost 3 Saturdays or Sundays a month, but believe me.. I don’t care doing it.. Cause i do feel like home.. and part of the family even when i’m still working on bonding with the kids… If i Didn’t ask for my rematch i would still feeling miserable and sad…. and frustrated… As you must feel with this AP… I’m sure there is a GREAT AP that deserves and want to be in you lovely and caring home.

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